Saladin (1963)


Saladin is a 1963 Egyptian war drama film directed by Youssef Chahine, and was written by Yusuf Sibai, based on the novel by Naguib Mahfouz.

After Saladin’s victory over the King of Jerusalem, a peace treaty is signed between them, but the commander of the Crusader army, Renaud de Chatillon, slaughters a group of pilgrims going to Mecca. Saladin then decides to take revenge.

Also known as El Naser Salah el Dine (original title), Saladin the Victorious (world-wide English alternative title), Saladin and the Great Crusades (TV title, US), and Sultan Saladin (West Germany).


The movie depicts the events of the Third Crusade. What happened during those events is that after Saladin reclaimed Jerusalem, the European powers led by King Richard of England, Emperor Barbarossa of Germany and King Phillip Augustus of France joined together to reclaim it and return it to Christian hands. This resulted in the war between the Europeans and Saladin, which lasted for three years before a truce was made between Saladin and King Richard, allowing Saladin to keep the land while Christians could freely enter Jerusalem.

When the movie came out, it came at a time when Egypt was free of colonial rule and was released between two wars with Israel. Due to this, the Egyptian government was trying to promote its ideals, with the leader at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, being the representative of it. Saladin in many ways references and parallels Nasser as like the president, the movie Saladin pushes forth the ideal of a Pan Arab unity as all Arabs are united in the movie in fighting the European powers, which is no better portrayed then in the line “My dream is to see an Arab Nation under one flag, hearts united and free of hate.” This is also portrayed well with Issa, who’s a Christian Arab, yet chooses to fight alongside Saladin and his army. Similarly, it also has an anti-colonialism message as the European powers are trying to subjugate the Arab lands under their rule, but they resist and successfully manage to peacefully resolve the war. This is shown in showing the bronze Arabs pulling siege towers at the head of the Crusader army, the Arabs represent those who remain in oppression under imperialistic rule while the mechanical siege towers represent the war-like machines that were present in the battles Egypt fought for their independence.


The story of Saladin (Ahmed Mazhar) portrays the title character, ruler of the kingdoms surrounding Jerusalem, during the events of the Third Crusade. The film starts with Jerusalem, which is under the authority of the Christians of Europe, having its Muslim pilgrims slaughtered by the Christians in the holy lands. Saladin upon hearing this news seeks the reclamation of the holy lands in a short, almost impossible campaign. He succeeds in taking back Jerusalem, which leads the powers of Europe to organize the Third Crusade with the combined forces of the French king (Omar El-Hariri) and the German emperor under the leadership of Richard the Lionheart of England. Saladin succeeds in preventing the recapture of Jerusalem, and in the end negotiations between himself and Richard (whom Saladin admires as the only honourable infidel leader) leave the Holy Land in Muslim hands.

The movie also has a subplot involving Christian Issa El Awam (Salah Zulfikar), and the Crusader Louisa (Nadia Lutfi) portraying the title characters. At the beginning, both first meet when Issa accidentally comes upon her when she’s taking a bath, and after he turns away waiting for her to get dressed before he takes her prisoner due to being a Crusader, she shoots an arrow at him and escapes. Eventually, after Issa in turns spares her life twice, Louisa chooses to give up her arms as a Crusader and becomes a nurse. This leads to the two falling in love and marrying each other, with Louisa choosing to remain in Jerusalem with him.


  • Ahmed Mazhar as Saladin.
  • Salah Zulfikar as Issa El Awam.
  • Nadia Lutfi as Louisa de Lusignan.
  • Hamdi Geiss as King Richard I (Richard the Lion-Heart).
  • Leila Fawzi as Virginia, Princess of Kerak.
  • Mahmoud El-Meliguy as Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat.
  • Tewfik El Deken as Prince of Acre.
  • Umar El-Hariri as King Philip of France.
  • Zaki Tulaimat as Duke Arthur.
  • Laila Taher as Queen Berengaria.
  • Ahmed Louxor as Raynald of Châtillon.
  • Fattouh Nchati as Guy of Lusignan.
  • Ibrahim Emara.
  • Mohamed Hamdi.
  • Mohamed Abdel Gawad.


The budget was enormous at this time in Egypt, reaching 120,000 L.E. The poster was created by Egyptian artist Mohamed Ragheb.


  • It was entered into the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival in July 1963.
  • The film was restored to its original running time of 186 minutes from the original negative by the Cineteca di Bologna and was shown at Il Cinema Ritrovato in June 2019.
  • Saladin is one of the Top 100 Egyptian films.
  • The film is considered one of the most important Arabic movies of all time, although some viewers took issue with the film’s historical inaccuracies.
  • It is also infamous for a production mistake showing a military officer wearing a wristwatch.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Youssef Chahine.
  • Producer(s):
    • Youssef Chahine … producer.
    • Asya Dagher … producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Mohamed Abdel Gawad … (writer).
    • Youssef Chahine … (screenplay).
    • Abderrahman Charkawi … (screenplay).
    • Youssef El Sebai … (story).
    • Najeeb Mahfouz … (novel) (as Naguib Mahfouz).
    • Ezz El Dine Zulficar … (as Ezzel Dine Zulficar).
  • Music:
    • Angelo Francesco Lavagnino.
  • Cinematography:
    • Wadid Sirry.
  • Editor(s):
  • Production:
    • Lotus Films Internacional.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Isotta Film (1965) (Italy) (theatrical).
    • Tamasa Distribution (2018) (France) (theatrical).
    • Arab Film Distribution (1998) (USA) (VHS).
    • Mr. Banker Films (2020) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Schröder Media (2015) (Germany) (DVD).
  • Release Date: 25 February 1963.
  • Running Time: 194 minutes.
  • Rating: TV-MA.
  • Country: Egypt.
  • Language: Arabic.

Video Link(s)

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