Released in 1940 from Warner Bros. Pictures, The Sea Hawk is considered by many to be the best of Errol Flynn's swashbuckling films. It has also been targeted as one of the Anglo-centric films of the early part of the 20th century that promoted England as the good guys and Spain as the bad guys during the age of exploration. Such portrayals are no longer seen as politically correct.
Errol Flynn is Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, a British privateer. He is basically one of a group of pirates commissioned by Queen Elizabeth to attack and harrass the Spanish Navy. It is a less expensive option than building a fleet that can match that of Spain. Thorpe is cocky and self-assured and will take his own ship against any flying the flag of Spain. His cockiness gets him in trouble with the Spanish ambassador, played with underhanded evilness by Claude Rains. Spain's plan is to prevent England from having anything resembling a naval defense so that they can build the Spanish armada and attack, therefore reigning supreme in the new world. To help in their plan, they enlist one of Queen Elizabeth's chief advisors, Lord Wolfingham to convince the queen to disband the sea hawks because they are likely to provoke war with Spain.
Along the way, Captain Thorpe and his crew are captured during a raid and put to service manning the oars of a spanish galleon. Errol Flynn's sidekick Alan Hale, once again providing the comic relief as Flynn's right hand man, has a few noble turns. The Spanish ambassador's niece, played by Brenda Marshall, becomes Flynn's love interest, causing the plot to thicken. Flora Robson is a highly effective Queen Elizabeth, preferring to surround herself with beauty to detract from her own lack thereof, and having a secret passion for Captain Thorpe and his actions. Her interaction with Thorpe's pet monkey makes the movie worth watching for that alone.
Returning in disguise after leading his men to take over the galleon they were imprisoned on, Captain Thorpe works to alert the queen and then engages in a memorable swordfight with Lord Wolfingham. As expected, he exposes the secret plans of Spain, uncovers the turncoat Wolfingham (killing him in the process) and gets the girl in the end. The final speech by Queen Elizabeth, contrived as it might be, regarding the need to build a fleet to oppose the armada, adds a fulfilling touch at the end.
Red wine would be your drink of choice for this film. Use old style, 16th century wine glasses.