Hercules in popular culture

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U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt depicted as the infant Hercules grappling with the Standard Oil Company

Hercules (Greek Heracles) is a mythological hero known for his strength and far-ranging adventures. He is one of the most commonly portrayed figures from classical mythology in the popular culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. For earlier cultural depictions, see Hercules.


Italian, 1950s–60s[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Sword and sandal § Hercules series (1957–1965).

A series of nineteen Italian Hercules movies of the "Sword and sandal" film genre were made in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The first and most successful of these was Hercules, starring Steve Reeves. Other actors who played Hercules in these films were Gordon Scott, Kirk Morris, Mickey Hargitay, Mark Forest, Alan Steel, Dan Vadis, Brad Harris, Reg Park, Peter Lupus (billed as Rock Stevens) and Michael Lane. The films are listed below by their American release titles, and the titles in parentheses are the original Italian titles with English translation.

  • Hercules (Le fatiche di Ercole / The Labors of Hercules, 1957) starring Steve Reeves
  • Hercules Unchained (Ercole e la regina di Lidia / Hercules and the Queen of Lydia, 1959) starring Steve Reeves
  • Goliath and the Dragon (La vendetta di Ercole / The Revenge of Hercules, 1960) starring Mark Forest (this Hercules film had its title changed to Goliath when it was distributed in the U.S.)
  • Hercules Vs The Hydra (Gli amori di Ercole / The Loves of Hercules, 1960) co-starring Mickey Hargitay & Jayne Mansfield
  • Hercules and the Captive Women (Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide / Hercules at the Conquest of Atlantis, 1961) starring Reg Park (alternate U.S. title: Hercules and the Haunted Women)
  • Hercules in the Haunted World (Ercole al centro della terra / Hercules at the Center of the Earth) 1961 (directed by Mario Bava) starring Reg Park
  • Hercules in the Valley of Woe (Maciste contro Ercole nella valle dei guai / Maciste vs Hercules in the Vale of Woe) starring Frank Gordon as Hercules, 1961
  • Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (Ulisse contro Ercole / Ulysses vs Hercules) starring Mike Lane, 1962
  • The Fury of Hercules (La furia di Ercole / The Fury of Hercules) starring Brad Harris, 1962 (alternate U.S. title: The Fury of Samson)
  • Hercules, Samson and Ulysses (Ercole sfida Sansone / Hercules Challenges Samson) starring Kirk Morris, 1963
  • Hercules vs Moloch (Ercole contro Molock / Hercules vs Molock) starring Gordon Scott, 1963 (a.k.a. The Conquest of Mycenae)
  • Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (Ercole l'invincibile / Hercules the Invincible) starring Dan Vadis, 1964. (This was originally a Hercules film retitled "Son of Hercules" for inclusion in the U.S. syndicated television package The Sons of Hercules).
  • Hercules vs The Giant Warriors (il trionfo di Ercole / The Triumph of Hercules) starring Dan Vadis, 1964 (alternate U.S. title: Hercules and the Ten Avengers)
  • Hercules Against Rome (Ercole contro Roma / Hercules vs Rome) starring Alan Steel, 1964
  • Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun (Ercole contro i figli del sole / Hercules vs the Sons of the Sun) starring Mark Forest, 1964
  • Samson and His Mighty Challenge (Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus: gli invincibili / Hercules, Samson, Maciste and Ursus: The Invincibles) starring Alan Steel as Hercules, 1964 (a.k.a. Combate dei Gigantes or Le Grand Defi)
  • Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon (Ercole contro i tiranni di Babilonia / Hercules vs the Tyrants of Babylon) starring Rock Stevens, 1964
  • Hercules and the Princess of Troy (No Italian title) starring Gordon Scott, 1965 (a.k.a. Hercules vs the Sea Monster) --- This U.S./ Italian co-production was made as a pilot for a Charles Band-produced TV series that never materialized & it was later distributed as a feature film.
  • Hercules the Avenger (Sfida dei giganti / Challenge of the Giants) starring Reg Park, 1965 (This film was composed mostly of re-edited footage from the two 1961 Reg Park Hercules films.)

A number of English-dubbed Italian films that featured the Hercules name in their title were never intended to be Hercules movies by their Italian creators.

  • Hercules Against the Moon Men, Hercules Against the Barbarians, Hercules Against the Mongols and Hercules of the Desert were all originally Maciste films in Italy. (See "Maciste" section below)
  • Hercules and the Black Pirate and Hercules and the Treasure of the Incas were both originally Samson movies in Italy. (See "Samson" section below)
  • Hercules, Prisoner of Evil was originally an Ursus film in Italy. (See "Ursus" section below)
  • Hercules and the Masked Rider was actually originally a Goliath movie in Italy. (See "Goliath" section below)

None of these films in their original Italian versions involved the Hercules character in any way. Likewise, most of the Sons of Hercules movies shown on American TV in the 1960s had nothing to do with Hercules in their original Italian versions.

Other films[edit]


Video games and pinball[edit]

  • Hercules (1979), Popularly considered to be the largest pinball machine made, Hercules was an oversized pinball machine released by Atari.[1]
  • The Return of Heracles (1983) is a video game designed by Stuart Smith and released for Atari 8-bit and Commodore 64 computers. It is a turn-based adventure/rpg designed around the Twelve Labours of Heracles, though you could play as any or all of several characters including Pegasus and Achilles. Its design is similar to Smith's earlier game Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
  • Hercules is the title character of the Hercules no Eikō series (1987-2008)
    • Glory of Heracles (2008), a video game for the Nintendo DS, in which you play a boy who lost his memories but is believed to be Heracles. Along his journey, he finds that others have also lost their memories and also believes they are Heracles. The game's story plot does not reflect the actual story of the mythology.
  • Disney's Hercules (1997), based on the animated film of the same name.
  • Herc's Adventures (1997) is a comedy adventure-role-playing video game on the PlayStation where you must complete many tasks, many of which are not actually credited to Hercules anywhere else (such as slaying Medusa).
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (2000), based upon the TV series of the same name. Released to Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color. The game pits Hercules against his evil half-brother Ares.
  • Empire Earth (2001) features a character named Hierakles in the first mission of the Greek campaign, where he is the chieftain of an Anatolian tribe who must lead his people to Thessaly before the winter season sets in.
  • Hercules (as Heracles) is a hero character in Age of Mythology (2002) and Age of Empires: Mythologies (2008) for the Nintendo DS.
  • In the Japanese visual novel Fate/stay night (2004) as well as its anime adaptation, Hercules appears as one of seven heroic spirits summoned to fight in the Holy Grail War. He has twelve lives to represent the twelve labors he underwent for immortality.
  • Heracles: Battle with the Gods (2006) is a Nintendo DS & PlayStation 2 game where he must free Pegasus from the clutches of his uncle the evil god Poseidon.
  • DragonFable (2006) by Artix Entertainment features a parody of the 12 labours in the form of a quest chain set by a chicken/cow god named Zeuster.
  • Rise of the Argonauts (2008), a video game for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Hercules appears as one of Jason's Argonauts during the game, as a NPC party character.
  • God of War III (2010), Hercules is a boss character and half-brother of the main character Kratos. He is portrayed as sinister and jealous of Kratos, possibly a result of being infected by the evils of Pandora's Box, believing Kratos was Zeus' favored son, comparing Kratos' tasks to have been more intense than Hercules' Twelve Labours. Hercules fights Kratos to claim the throne as God of War, which was left vacant after Zeus stripped Kratos of his powers, declaring it his thirteenth unofficial and final labour. Kratos, however, kills him and acquires the Nemean Cestus, a pair of fist gauntlets that Hercules acquired from the Nemean Lion. He then appeared in the prequel God of War: Ascension (2013) in its multiplayer mode as a boss on the level, Forum of Hercules. He was voiced by Kevin Sorbo, who "reprised" the role from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Hercules was originally set to appear in God of War II and to be voiced by Cam Clarke, but was cut early in the game's development.
  • Smite (2014), a video game in which he is known as the "Champion of Rome". He is depicted as a tall broad-shouldered man in his thirties with a tiny head and a humongous club. He also has another appearance, called a 'skin', which allow players to battle as a buff Kevin Sorbo with a beard and make exaggerated jokes about sorbets.


  • In author Kevin Given's novel Last Rites: The Return of Sebastian Vasilis. Thor/Hercules is an immortal that was struck by lightning several times and is now a special needs immortal that refers to himself as "The Greek god Thor." While in ancient Greece he was revered as Heracles and then in Norway he was worshipped as the thunder god which has led to his confusion about the past.

Comic books[edit]

Main article: Hercules (comics)


  1. ^ http://ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=1155

See also[edit]