The functional ranges of movement of the knee were investigated in a group of patients with knee osteoarthritis (n=42, mean age 70 years) before, 4 months and at 18–24 months after total knee arthroplasty and then compared with age matched normal subjects (n=20, mean age 67 years). Flexible electrogoniometry was used to record the maximum flexion–extension angle, the minimum flexion–extension angle and flexion–extension excursions of both knees during eleven functional activities along with the active and passive knee joint range of motion measured using a manual goniometer. Over the eleven functional activities the patients pre-operatively exhibited 28% less knee joint excursion than normal age matched subjects. By 18–24 months following total knee arthroplasty only 2% of this deficit was recovered. Statistically this recovery was only significant in level walking, slope ascent and slope descent. A greater range of movement was measured in a non-weight bearing position than was used in weight bearing functional activity. It is concluded that total knee arthroplasty gives rise to little improvement in knee motion during functional activities and that functional range of movement of the knee remains limited when compared to normal knee function for a minimum of 18 months following operation.