In 1981, Bernard Cornwell created the character of Sharpe. An officer that served in the Napoleonic Wars. He became a cult icon.
Filming began in 1991 and 1992 in the Crimea. Originally, Paul McGann was lined up to play the role of Richard Sharpe, as he closely resembled what Bernard Cornwell had envisaged Sharpe in the novels. However, when McGann broke his leg in a football game, he was replaced by Sean Bean and thus began a series of highly successful TV adaptations of Bernard Cornwell's novels.
Sharpe's Rifles aired on ITV in 1993. It was adapted by Eoghan Harris and directed by Tom Clegg. It's an adaptation of the novel of the same name and the plot is In 1809, Sir Arthur Wellesley (David Troughton), the commander of the British army fighting the French in Portugal, is saved from three pursuing French cavalrymen by Sergeant Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean). Wellesley rewards Sharpe with a field commission to lieutenant and command of the "chosen men", a handful of sharpshooters previously led by Rifleman Patrick Harper (Daragh O'Malley). The two men take an instant dislike to each other.
Wellesley has no money to pay his men; however, he has arranged for a loan from the Rothschild family. James Rothschild has set out from Vienna with a badly needed bank draft, but is overdue. Sharpe, his men, and a company under Major Dunnett (Julian Fellowes) are sent out to search for him. While Sharpe and his men are out scouting the terrain, the company is surprised and wiped out by enemy cavalry led by Colonel de L'Eclin (Malcolm Jamieson) and a man in dark civilian clothes (Anthony Hyde), with only Perkins and a gravely wounded Captain Murray as survivors.
The band takes refuge in a small cottage and Captain Murray succumbs to his wounds. Harper tells Sharpe that the men have decided that they want to go back; he and Sharpe end up fighting and are taken unawares by a band of Spanish guerrillas led by Commandante Teresa Moreno (Assumpta Serna) and Major Blas Vivar (Simón Andreu). Sharpe declares Harper a mutineer and joins forces with the Spanish guerrillas for mutual protection, since they are headed in the same general direction. Sharpe begins to bond with his men and also with Teresa. The guerrillas are protecting a chest; when Harper kills two French cavalrymen to save it, Sharpe frees him and drops the mutiny charge. Along the way, they encounter the Parkers, a Methodist missionary couple and their niece, whom they take under their protection.
Major Hogan, Wellesley's chief of military intelligence, shows up and orders Sharpe to assist Vivar with his mission to rouse the people. The Spaniard has brought a thousand-year-old family heirloom with him - the Gonfalon of Santiago or "Banner of Blood". Legend has it that Santiago (Saint James) himself will appear to defend Spain when the flag is raised over the chapel in the town of Torrecastro. Sharpe, Teresa, Vivar and their men attack and defeat the French garrison. Vivar crosses swords with the man in black, who turns out to be his own brother, the Count of Matamoros, and kills him. He then raises the flag. At the end of the battle, Colonel de L'Eclin is about to shoot an unarmed Sharpe, but is shot and killed by Rifleman Perkins. Sharpe rewards the young Perkins by making him a "chosen man". Hogan advises Perkins to decline the favour.
Sharpe reports back to Wellesley. When the general expresses his disappointment that Sharpe did not find Rothschild, Sharpe reveals that "Mrs. Parker" is the banker in disguise, to Wellesley's delight. Afterwards, Sharpe and Teresa make love, before she leaves to continue fighting the French.
The TV Movie ran for 100 minutes and has since been released on VHS and DVD.