Gladiator (2000 film)

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A man standing at the center of the image is wearing armor and is holding a sword in his right hand. In the background is the top of the Colosseum with a barely visible crowd standing in it. The poster includes the film's title and credits.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRidley Scott
Screenplay by
Story byDavid Franzoni
Produced by
CinematographyJohn Mathieson
Edited byPietro Scalia
Music by
Distributed by
Release dates
  • May 1, 2000 (2000-05-01) (Samuel Goldwyn Theater)
  • May 5, 2000 (2000-05-05) (United States)
  • May 12, 2000 (2000-05-12) (United Kingdom)
Running time
155 minutes[2]
  • United States[3]
  • United Kingdom[4]
Budget$103 million[5]
Box office$460.5 million[5]

Gladiator is a 2000 epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott and written by David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson. The film was co-produced and released by DreamWorks Pictures and Universal Pictures. DreamWorks Pictures distributed the film in North America while Universal Pictures released it internationally through United International Pictures. It stars Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Ralf Möller, Oliver Reed (in his final role), Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, John Shrapnel, Richard Harris, and Tommy Flanagan. Crowe portrays Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus, the ambitious son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus becomes a gladiator and rises through the ranks of the arena to avenge the murders of his family and his emperor.

Inspired by Daniel P. Mannix's 1958 book Those About to Die (formerly titled The Way of the Gladiator), the film's script, initially written by Franzoni, was acquired by DreamWorks and Ridley Scott signed on to direct the film. Principal photography began in January 1999, before the script was completed, and wrapped up in May of that year, with the scenes of Ancient Rome shot over a period of nineteen weeks in Fort Ricasoli, Malta. The film's computer-generated imagery effects were created by British post-production company The Mill, who also created a digital body double for the remaining scenes involving Reed's character Proximo due to Reed dying of a heart attack during production.

Gladiator premiered in Los Angeles on May 1, 2000, and was released theatrically in Australia on May 4, the United States on May 5 and in the United Kingdom on May 11. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the acting (particularly Crowe's and Phoenix's performances), Scott's direction, visuals, screenplay, action sequences, musical score and the production values. It was a box office success, grossing $187.7 million in the United States and $457 million worldwide, making it the second highest-grossing film of 2000. The film won multiple awards, including five at the 73rd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor for Crowe, Best Costume Design, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. It also received four BAFTA Awards at the 54th British Academy Film Awards for Best Film, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design and Best Editing. Since its release, Gladiator has also been credited with reinventing the sword-and-sandal genre and rekindling interest in entertainment centered around the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, such as the television series Rome.

In 2021, Scott officially announced that writing had begun on a sequel to the film, which would formally enter development after the completion of his Napoleon biopic.[6]


In 180 AD, Hispano-Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius intends to return home after he leads the Roman army to victory against the Germanic tribes near Vindobona on the Limes Germanicus. Emperor Marcus Aurelius tells Maximus that his own son, Commodus, is unfit to rule and that he wishes Maximus to succeed him, as regent, to help save Rome from corruption and restore the republic. Upon hearing this, Commodus murders his father.

Commodus proclaims himself the new emperor, asking Maximus for his loyalty, but the latter refuses. Maximus is arrested by the Praetorian Guard and is told that he and his family will die. He kills his captors and, wounded, he rides for his home near Trujillo, only to find his wife and son crucified. Maximus buries them, then collapses from his injuries. Slavers find him, and take him to the city of Zucchabar in the Roman province of Mauretania Caesariensis, where he is sold to gladiator trainer Proximo.

Maximus reluctantly fights in local tournaments, his combat skills helping him win matches and gain popularity. He befriends two other gladiators: Hagen, a German; and Juba, a Numidian. Proximo reveals to Maximus that he was once a gladiator who was freed by Marcus Aurelius, and advises him to "win the crowd" to win his freedom.

When Commodus organises 150 days of games to commemorate his father's death, Proximo takes his gladiators to Rome to fight in the Colosseum. Disguised in a masked helmet, Maximus debuts in the Colosseum as a Carthaginian in a re-enactment of the Battle of Zama. Unexpectedly, he leads his side to victory, and Commodus enters the Colosseum to offer his congratulations. He orders the disguised Maximus, as leader of the gladiators, to reveal his true identity; Maximus removes his helmet and declares vengeance. Commodus is compelled by the crowd to let the gladiators live, and his guards are held back from striking them down.

Maximus's next fight is against a legendary undefeated gladiator, Tigris of Gaul. Commodus has arranged for several tigers to be set upon Maximus during the duel; Maximus, however, prevails. Commodus orders Maximus to kill Tigris, but Maximus spares his opponent's life; to that crowd chanted "Maximus the Merciful". Angered at this outcome, Commodus taunts Maximus about his family's deaths, but the latter turns and walks away.

Maximus discovers from Cicero, his ex-orderly, that his former legions remain loyal. He meets in secret with Lucilla, Commodus's sister; and Gracchus, an influential senator. They agree to have Maximus escape Rome to join his legions, topple Commodus by force, and hand power back to the Roman Senate. Commodus learns of the plot when Lucilla's son, Lucius, innocently hints at the conspiracy. Commodus threatens Lucilla and Lucius, and has the Praetorian Guard arrest Gracchus and attack the gladiators' barracks. Proximo and his men, including Hagen, sacrifice themselves to enable Maximus to escape. Maximus is captured at the rendezvous with Cicero, where the latter is killed.

In an effort to win back public approval, Commodus challenges Maximus to a duel in the Colosseum. He stabs Maximus in the lung before the match to gain an advantage. Despite his injuries, Maximus disarms Commodus, who demands a sword. Disgusted by his advantageous attitude, the Praetorian Guard refuses to aid him. Commodus produces a hidden knife, but Maximus overpowers him and drives the same knife into Commodus's throat, killing him. Before Maximus succumbs to his wounds, he asks for political reforms, for his gladiator allies to be freed, and for Senator Gracchus to be reinstated. As he dies, he has a vision where he reunites with his wife and son. His friends and allies honor him as "a soldier of Rome", at Lucilla's behest, and carry his body out of the arena, leaving the dead Commodus behind.

That night, Juba visits the Colosseum and buries figurines of Maximus's wife and son at the spot where he died. He promises to see Maximus again, "but not yet".


  • Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius: A Hispano-Roman legatus forced into becoming a slave who seeks revenge against Commodus. He has earned the favor of Marcus Aurelius, and the love and admiration of Lucilla prior to the events of the film. His home is near Trujillo in today's Province of Cáceres, Spain. After the murder of his family he vows vengeance.
  • Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus: The amoral, power-hungry, embittered son of Marcus Aurelius. He murders his father when he learns that Maximus will hold the emperor's powers in trust until a new republic can be formed.
  • Connie Nielsen as Lucilla: Maximus's former lover and the older child of Marcus Aurelius. Lucilla has been recently widowed. She resists her brother's incestuous advances, while protecting her son, Lucius, from her brother's corruption and wrath.
  • Oliver Reed as Antonius Proximo: An old, gruff gladiator trainer who buys Maximus in North Africa. A former gladiator himself, he was freed by Marcus Aurelius and becomes a mentor to both Maximus and Juba. This was Reed's final film appearance, as he died during the filming. In the original film script, Proximo was supposed to live. Richard Harris, who was later cast as Marcus Aurelius, was considered for the part.
  • Derek Jacobi as Senator Gracchus: A member of the Roman Senate who opposes Commodus's rule and an ally of Lucilla and Maximus. In the original film script, Gracchus was supposed to die.
  • Djimon Hounsou as Juba: A Numidian tribesman who was taken from his home and family by slave traders. He becomes Maximus's closest ally and friend, and inspires Maximus to bring down Commodus for the greater good before he joins his family in the afterlife.
  • Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius: The old and wise emperor of Rome who appoints Maximus, whom he loves as a son, to be his successor, with the ultimate aim of returning Rome to a republican form of government. He is murdered by his son Commodus before his wish can be fulfilled.
  • Ralf Möller as Hagen: A Germanic warrior and Proximo's chief gladiator who later befriends Maximus and Juba during their battles in Rome. He is killed by the Praetorian Guard during Maximus's attempted escape from Rome.
  • Tommy Flanagan as Cicero: Maximus's loyal servant who provides liaison between the enslaved Maximus, his former legion based at Ostia, and Lucilla. He is used as bait for the escaping Maximus and eventually killed by the Praetorian Guard.
  • David Schofield as Senator Falco: A patrician, a senator opposed to Gracchus. He helps Commodus to consolidate his power.
  • John Shrapnel as Senator Gaius: A Roman senator allied with Gracchus, Lucilla, and Maximus against Commodus.
  • Tomas Arana as General Quintus: A Roman legatus, commander of the Praetorian Guard, who betrays Maximus by allying with Commodus. In the extended version, Quintus sees the mad side of Commodus when he is forced to execute two innocent men. Quintus later redeems himself by refusing to allow Commodus a second sword during the latter's duel with Maximus, and promises to honor Maximus's last wishes.
  • Spencer Treat Clark as Lucius Verus: The young son of Lucilla. He is named after his father Lucius Verus, who was co-emperor until AD 169. He is also the grandson of Marcus Aurelius. He idolizes Maximus for his victories in the arena.
  • David Hemmings as Cassius: The master of ceremonies for the gladiatorial games in the Colosseum.
  • Sven-Ole Thorsen as Tigris of Gaul. The only undefeated Gladiator, was brought out of retirement by Commodus to kill Maximus.
  • Omid Djalili as a slave trader.
  • Giannina Facio as Maximus's wife.
  • Giorgio Cantarini as Maximus's son, who is the same age as Lucilla's son Lucius.
  • Adam Levy as Condemned Officer.[7]


Development and pre-production[edit]

Gladiator was based on an original pitch by David Franzoni, who wrote the first draft.[8] Franzoni was given a three-picture deal with DreamWorks as writer and co-producer on the strength of his previous work, Steven Spielberg's Amistad, which helped establish the reputation of DreamWorks. Franzoni was inspired by Daniel P. Mannix's 1958 novel Those About to Die, and he chose to base his story on Commodus after reading the ancient Roman Historia Augusta. In Franzoni's first draft, dated April 4, 1998, he named his protagonist Narcissus, a wrestler who, according to the ancient sources Herodian and Cassius Dio, strangled Emperor Commodus to death.[9]

Several dead men and various scattered weapons are located in a large arena. Near the center of the image is a man wearing armor standing in the middle of an arena looking up at a large crowd. The man has his right foot on the throat of an injured man who is reaching towards the crowd. Members of the crowd are indicating a "thumbs down" gesture. The arena is adorned with marble, columns, flags, and statues.
Pollice Verso (Thumbs Down) by Jean-Léon Gérôme, the 19th-century painting that inspired Ridley Scott to tackle the project.

Ridley Scott was approached by producers Walter F. Parkes and Douglas Wick. They showed him a copy of Jean-Léon Gérôme's 1872 painting entitled Pollice Verso (Thumbs Down).[10] Scott was enticed by filming the world of Ancient Rome. However, Scott felt Franzoni's dialogue was too "on the nose" (lacking subtlety) and hired John Logan to rewrite the script to his liking. Logan rewrote much of the first act and made the decision to kill off Maximus's family to increase the character's motivation.[11] Russell Crowe describes being eager for the role as pitched by Parkes, in his interview for Inside the Actors Studio: "They said, 'It's a 100-million-dollar film. You're being directed by Ridley Scott. You play a Roman General.' I've always been a big fan of Ridley's."[12]

With two weeks to go before filming, the actors complained of problems with the script. William Nicholson was brought to Shepperton Studios to make Maximus a more sensitive character. Nicholson reworked Maximus' friendship with Juba and developed the afterlife thread in the film, saying, "he did not want to see a film about a man who wanted to kill somebody."[11] The screenplay faced many rewrites and revisions, with several actors providing changes.[13] Crowe questioned every aspect of the evolving script and strode off the set when he did not get answers. According to a DreamWorks executive, Crowe "tried to rewrite the entire script on the spot. You know the big line in the trailer, 'In this life or the next, I will have my vengeance'? At first he absolutely refused to say it."[14] Crowe described the script situation: "I read the script and it was substantially underdone. Even the character didn't exist on the pages. And that set about a long process, that's probably the first time that I've been in a situation where the script wasn't a complete done deal. We actually started shooting with about 32 pages and went through them in the first couple of weeks."[12] Of the writing and filming process, Crowe added, "Possibly, a lot of the stuff that I have to deal with now in terms of my 'volatility' has to do with that experience. Here was a situation where we got to Morocco with a crew of 200 and a cast of a 100 or whatever, and I didn't have anything to learn. I actually didn't know what the scenes were gonna be. We had, I think, one American writer working on it, one English writer working on it, and of course a group of producers who were also adding their ideas, and then Ridley himself; and then, on the occasion where Ridley would say, 'Look, this is the structure for it – what are you gonna say in that?' So then I'd be doing my own stuff, as well. And this is how things like, 'Strength and honor,' came up. This is how things like, 'At my signal, unleash hell,' came up. The name Maximus Decimus Meridius, it just flowed well."[12]

Maximus' habit of rubbing soil before each fight references the attachment and affection to his former life as a farmer.[15] In a conversation with Marcus Aurelius, Maximus says the fecund soil of his farm is "black like my wife's hair".[15] Crowe wrote the speech himself, drawing on his feelings of homesickness for his own farm.[15]

In preparation for filming, Scott spent several months developing storyboards to develop the framework of the plot.[16] Over six weeks, production members scouted various locations within the extent of the Roman Empire before its collapse, including Italy, France, North Africa, and England.[17] All of the film's props, sets, and costumes were manufactured by crew members due to high costs and unavailability of the items.[18]


The film was shot in three main locations between January and May 1999. The opening battle scenes in the forests of Germania were shot in three weeks in the Bourne Woods, near Farnham, Surrey, in England.[19] When Scott learned that the Forestry Commission planned to remove a section of the forest, he persuaded them to allow the battle scene to be shot there and burn it down.[20] Scott and cinematographer John Mathieson used multiple cameras filming at various frame rates and a 45-degree shutter, creating stop motion effects in the action sequences, similar to techniques used for the battle sequences of Saving Private Ryan (1998).[21] Subsequently, the scenes of slavery, desert travel, and gladiatorial training school were shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco, just south of the Atlas Mountains over a further three weeks.[22] To construct the arena where Maximus has his first fights, the crew used basic materials and local building techniques to manufacture the 30,000-seat mud brick arena.[23] Finally, the scenes of Ancient Rome were shot over a period of nineteen weeks in Fort Ricasoli, Malta.[24][25]

In Malta, a replica of about one-third of Rome's Colosseum was built, to a height of 52 feet (15.8 meters), mostly from plaster and plywood (the other two-thirds and remaining height were added digitally).[26] The replica took several months to build and cost an estimated $1 million.[27] The reverse side of the complex supplied a rich assortment of Ancient Roman street furniture, colonnades, gates, statuary, and marketplaces for other filming requirements. The complex was serviced by tented "costume villages" that had changing rooms, storage, armorers, and other facilities.[24] The rest of the Colosseum was created in computer-generated imagery using set-design blueprints and textures referenced from live action, and rendered in three layers to provide lighting flexibility for compositing in Flame and Inferno software.[28]


Men in white robes with the Colosseum in the background.
Several scenes included extensive use of computer-generated imagery shots for views of Rome.

British post-production company The Mill was responsible for much of the computer-generated imagery effects that were added after filming. The company was responsible for such tricks as compositing real tigers filmed on bluescreen into the fight sequences, and adding smoke trails and extending the flight paths of the opening scene's salvo of flaming arrows to get around regulations on how far they could be shot during filming. They also used 2,000 live actors to create a computer-generated crowd of 35,000 virtual actors that had to look believable and react to fight scenes.[29] The Mill accomplished this by shooting live actors at different angles giving various performances, and then mapping them onto cards, with motion-capture tools used to track their movements for three-dimensional compositing.[28] The Mill created over 90 visual effects shots, comprising approximately nine minutes of the film's running time.[30]

An unexpected post-production job was caused by the death of Oliver Reed of a heart attack during the filming in Malta before all his scenes had been shot. The Mill created a digital body double for the remaining scenes involving his character Proximo[28] by photographing a live-action body double in the shadows and by mapping a three-dimensional computer-generated imagery mask of Reed's face to the remaining scenes during production at an estimated cost of $3.2 million for two minutes of additional footage.[31][32] Visual effects supervisor John Nelson reflected on the decision to include the additional footage: "What we did was small compared to our other tasks on the film. What Oliver did was much greater. He gave an inspiring, moving performance. All we did was help him finish it."[31] The film is dedicated to Reed's memory.[33]

Historical authenticity[edit]

The film is loosely based on real events that occurred within the Roman Empire in the latter half of the 2nd century AD. As Ridley Scott wanted to portray Roman culture more accurately than in any previous film, he hired several historians as advisors. Nevertheless, some deviations from historical fact were made to increase interest, maintain narrative continuity, and for practical or safety reasons. Scott also stated that due to the influence of previous films affecting the public perception of what ancient Rome was like, some historical facts were "too unbelievable" to include. For instance, in an early version of the script, gladiators would have been carrying out product endorsements in the arena; while this would have been historically accurate, it was not filmed for fear that audiences would think it anachronistic.[34]

At least one historical advisor resigned due to these changes. Another asked not to be mentioned in the credits (though it was stated in the director's commentary that he constantly asked, "where is the proof that certain things were exactly like they say?"). Historian Allen Ward of the University of Connecticut believed that historical accuracy would not have made Gladiator less interesting or exciting, stating, "creative artists need to be granted some poetic license, but that should not be a permit for the wholesale disregard of facts in historical fiction".[35][36]


  • Marcus Aurelius was not murdered by his son Commodus; he died at Vindobona (modern Vienna) in 180 AD from the Antonine Plague. The epidemic, believed to be either smallpox or measles, swept the Roman Empire during his reign.[37]
  • There is no indication Marcus Aurelius wished to return the Empire to a republican form of government, as depicted in the film. Moreover, he shared the rule of the Empire with Commodus for three years before his own death. Commodus then ruled alone from that point until his death at the end of 192 AD.[38]
  • The film depicts Marcus as defeating the barbarians in the Marcomannic Wars. In reality, the war was still ongoing when Aurelius died; Commodus secured peace by a treaty with the two Germanic tribes allied against Rome, the Marcomanni and the Quadi, immediately after his father's death.[39]
  • The character of Maximus is fictional, although in some respects he resembles the following historical figures: Narcissus (Commodus's real-life murderer and the character's name in the first draft of the screenplay);[40] Spartacus (who led a significant slave revolt in 73–71 BC); Cincinnatus (519–430 BC) (a farmer who was made dictator, saved Rome from invasion, then resigned his six-month appointment after 15 days);[41][42] and Marcus Nonius Macrinus (a trusted general, Consul in 154 AD, and friend of Marcus Aurelius).[43][44][45]
  • Although Commodus engaged in show combat in the Colosseum, he was not killed in the arena; he was strangled in his bath by the wrestler Narcissus. Commodus reigned for over twelve years, unlike the shorter period portrayed in the film.[46][47]
  • In the film, Lucilla is portrayed as a lone widow of Lucius Verus with one son, also named Lucius Verus. While Lucilla was the widow of Verus and also had a son by that name, their son died young, long before the reign of Commodus, and Lucilla remarried Claudius Pompeianus soon after Verus' death.[48] She had been married to him for 11 years by the time her brother became Emperor and her only living son during this time was Aurelius Pompeianus. The film omits Lucilla's other two children with Verus, Lucilla Plautia and Aurelia Lucilla.[48]
  • The character of Maximus had a similar career (and personality traits as documented by Herodian) to Claudius Pompeianus (a Syrian) who married Marcus Aurelius' daughter Lucilla following the death of Lucius Verus. It is believed Aurelius may have wanted Pompeianus to succeed him as Caesar, in preference to Commodus, but was turned down. Pompeianus had no part in any of the many plots against Commodus. He was not depicted in the film.[35]
  • Lucilla was implicated in a plot to assassinate her brother in 182 AD, along with her stepson by Pompeianus and several others. She was first exiled to the island of Capri by her brother, then executed on his orders later in the year.[49]
  • In the film the character Antonius Proximo claims "the wise" Marcus Aurelius banned gladiatorial games in Rome forcing him to move to Mauretania. The real Aurelius did ban games, but only in Antioch as punishment for the city's support of the usurper Avidius Cassius. No games were ever banned in Rome. However, when the Emperor started conscripting gladiators into the legions, the resulting shortage in fighters allowed lanistae such as Proximo to make "windfall" profits through increased charges for their services.[50]
  • In real life, the death of Commodus did not result in peace for Rome, nor a return to the Roman Republic. Rather, it ushered in a chaotic and bloody power struggle that culminated in the Year of the Five Emperors of AD 193. According to Herodian, the people of Rome were overjoyed at the news of Commodus dying, although they feared that the praetorians would not accept the new emperor Pertinax.[51]
  • 'Maximus Decimus Meridius' does not appear to be a usual personal name for ancient Rome. A more accurate name would be 'Decimus Meridius Maximus, as 'Decimus' is a praenomen and Maximus is a cognomen. 'Proximo' should be rendered as 'Proximus.' However, it wouldn't be usual for a man like Maximus to use three names, unless he belonged to an ancient aristocratic Roman family.


Costumes in the film are rarely historically correct. Some of the soldiers wear fantasy helmets. The bands wrapped around their lower arms were rarely worn. Their appearance is the product of a filmic stereotype whereby historical films depict peoples of antiquity wearing such bands. Although the film is set within the 2nd century AD, the Imperial Gallic armor and the helmets worn by the legionaries are from AD 75, a century earlier. This was superseded by new designs in AD 100. The legions' standard bearers (aquiliferi), centurions, mounted forces, and auxiliaries would have worn scale armour, lorica squamata.[52][53] The Germanic tribes are dressed in clothes from the Stone Age period.[54]

Reconstructed Roman artillery pieces are used to locate the most likely position of Roman artillery during the battle at the Harzhorn by firing marked projectiles into the historical impact zones.
Roman field artillery used in open battle was far more compact and transportable than shown by the film. But it was indeed capable of creating "killing zones" with a low chance of survival, as proven by tightly spaced impacts on a real battlefield.

The Roman cavalry are shown using stirrups. This is anachronistic in that the horse-mounted forces of the Roman army used a two-horned saddle, without stirrups. Stirrups were only employed in filming for safety reasons because of the additional training and skill required to ride with a Roman saddle.[50][55] Catapults and ballistae would not have been used in a forest. They were reserved primarily for sieges and were rarely used in open battles. Fire arrows and canisters fired from catapults were not used at any point in ancient history.[50]

Roman Emperors of the Principate generally avoided appearing like royalty and tried to keep up the pretense that Rome was still a Republic and as a result, their preferred title was Princeps Civitatis, First Citizen. Diocletian in 284 was the first emperor to drop this pretense.

The Praetorian Guards seen in the film are all wearing purple uniforms. No historical evidence supports this. On campaign, they usually wore standard legionary equipment with some unique decorative elements.[56]

In the bird's eye view of Rome when the city is introduced for the first time there are several buildings that did not exist at the time of Gladiator. For example, the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine is quite prominent, though it was not completed until AD 312.

Early in the story, Commodus regards a statue in his father's tent; the statue has no pupils, a trait commonly seen in fiction about the Roman Empire. In fact, most statues are thought to have had painted eyes and pupils at the time when they were created; it was only through the passage of time that the paint would have worn off, leaving the statues with their blank stares.


The film's plot was influenced by two 1960s Hollywood films of the sword-and-sandal genre, The Fall of the Roman Empire and Spartacus,[57] and shares several plot points with The Fall of the Roman Empire, which tells the story of Livius, who, like Maximus in Gladiator, is Marcus Aurelius's intended successor. Livius is in love with Lucilla and seeks to marry her while Maximus, who is happily married, was formerly in love with her. Both films portray the death of Marcus Aurelius as an assassination. In The Fall of the Roman Empire a group of conspirators independent of Commodus, hoping to profit from Commodus's accession, arrange for Marcus Aurelius to be poisoned; in Gladiator Commodus himself murders his father by smothering him. In the course of The Fall of the Roman Empire Commodus unsuccessfully seeks to win Livius over to his vision of empire in contrast to that of his father, but continues to employ him notwithstanding; in Gladiator, when Commodus fails to secure Maximus's allegiance, he executes Maximus's wife and son and tries unsuccessfully to execute him. Livius in The Fall of the Roman Empire and Maximus in Gladiator kill Commodus in single combat, Livius to save Lucilla and Maximus to avenge the murder of his wife and son, and both do it for the greater good of Rome.

Scott cited Spartacus and Ben-Hur as influences on the film: "These movies were part of my cinema-going youth. But at the dawn of the new millennium, I thought this might be the ideal time to revisit what may have been the most important period of the last two thousand years – if not all recorded history – the apex and beginning of the decline of the greatest military and political power the world has ever known."[58]

Spartacus provides the film's gladiatorial motif, as well as the character of Senator Gracchus, a fictitious senator (bearing the name of a pair of revolutionary tribunes from the 2nd century BC) who in both films is an elder statesman of ancient Rome attempting to preserve the ancient rights of the Roman Senate in the face of an ambitious autocrat – Marcus Licinius Crassus in Spartacus and Commodus in Gladiator. Both actors who played Gracchus (in Spartacus and Gladiator) played Claudius in previous films: Charles Laughton of Spartacus played Claudius in the unfinished 1937 film I, Claudius and Derek Jacobi of Gladiator played Claudius in the 1976 BBC adaptation. Both films also share a specific set piece wherein a gladiator (Maximus here, Woody Strode's Draba in Spartacus) throws his weapon into a spectator box at the end of a match, as well as at least one line of dialogue: "Rome is the mob", said here by Gracchus and by Julius Caesar (John Gavin) in Spartacus.

The film's depiction of Commodus's entry into Rome borrows imagery from Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1935), although Scott has pointed out that the iconography of Nazi rallies was itself inspired by the Roman Empire. Gladiator reflects back on the film by duplicating similar events that occurred in Adolf Hitler's procession. The Nazi film opens with an aerial view of Hitler arriving in a plane, while Scott shows an aerial view of Rome, quickly followed by a shot of the large crowd of people watching Commodus pass them in a procession with his chariot.[59] The first thing to appear in Triumph of the Will is a Nazi eagle, which is alluded to when a statue of an eagle sits atop one of the arches (and then is shortly followed by several more decorative eagles throughout the rest of the scene), leading up to the procession of Commodus. At one point in the Nazi film, a little girl gives flowers to Hitler, while Commodus is met by several girls who all give him bundles of flowers.[60]


The Oscar-nominated score was composed by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, and conducted by Gavin Greenaway. Zimmer was originally planning to use Israeli vocalist Ofra Haza for the score, after his work with her in The Prince of Egypt. However, Haza died in late February 2000, before she was able to record, and so Gerrard was chosen instead. Lisa Gerrard's vocals are similar to her own work on The Insider score.[61] The music for many of the battle scenes has been noted as similar to Gustav Holst's "Mars: The Bringer of War", and in June 2006, the Holst Foundation sued Hans Zimmer for allegedly copying the late Holst's work.[62][63] Another close musical resemblance occurs in the scene of Commodus's triumphal entry into Rome, accompanied by music clearly evocative of two sections – the Prelude to Das Rheingold and Siegfried's Funeral March from Götterdämmerung – from Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. On February 27, 2001, nearly a year after the first soundtrack's release, Decca produced Gladiator: More Music From the Motion Picture. Then, on September 5, 2005, Decca produced Gladiator: Special Anniversary Edition, a two-CD pack containing both the above-mentioned releases. Some of the music from the film was featured in the NFL playoffs in January 2003 before commercial breaks and before and after half-time.[64] In 2003, Luciano Pavarotti released a recording of himself singing a song from the film and said he regretted turning down an offer to perform on the soundtrack.[65]


Box office[edit]

Gladiator grossed $187.7 million in the United States and Canada and $269.9 million in other territories for a total of $457.6 million, against a production budget of $103 million.[66]

In North America, the film earned $34.8 million in its opening weekend at 2,938 theaters, topping the box office.[67] It remained number one in its second weekend grossing $24.6 million, and dropped to third place in its third weekend with $19.7 million behind newcomers Dinosaur and Shanghai Noon.[68][69]

Critical response[edit]

The performances of Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix garnered praise, and the two were nominated for Academy Awards, with Crowe winning.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Gladiator has an approval rating of 78% based on 205 reviews, with an average rating of 7.30/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ridley Scott and an excellent cast successfully convey the intensity of Roman gladiatorial combat as well as the political intrigue brewing beneath."[70] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score of 67 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[71] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[72]

The Battle of Germania was cited by CNN as one of their "favorite on-screen battle scenes",[73] while Entertainment Weekly named Maximus as their sixth favorite action hero, because of "Crowe's steely, soulful performance",[74] and named it as their third favorite revenge film.[75] In December 2000, Gladiator was named the best film of the year by viewers of Film 2000, taking 40 percent of the votes.[76] In 2002, a poll by British Channel 4 named it as the sixth greatest film of all time.[77] Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Are you not entertained?".[78] Michael Wilmington of The Chicago Tribune gave praise to Scott's direction, comparing the visual style of the film to that of Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner.[79]

Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars, criticizing the look of the film as "muddy, fuzzy, and indistinct." He also derided the writing, saying it "employs depression as a substitute for personality, and believes that if characters are bitter and morose enough, we won't notice how dull they are."[80] Camille Paglia called the film "boring, badly shot and suffused with sentimental p.c. rubbish."[81]


Gladiator was nominated in 36 individual ceremonies, including the 73rd Academy Awards, the BAFTA Awards, and the Golden Globe Awards. Of 119 award nominations, the film won 48 prizes.[82]

The film won five Academy Awards and was nominated for an additional seven, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Joaquin Phoenix and Best Director for Ridley Scott. It was the first movie to win Best Picture without winning either a directing or screenwriting award since All the King's Men at the 22nd Academy Awards in 1950. In 2003, Chicago became another Best Picture winner which did not win an Academy Award in either of these two major categories. Due to Academy rules, only Hans Zimmer was officially nominated for Best Original Score, and not Lisa Gerrard.[83] However, the pair did win the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score as co-composers.[84]


The film's mainstream success is responsible for an increased interest in Roman and classical history in the United States. According to The New York Times, this has been dubbed the "Gladiator Effect".

It's called the 'Gladiator' effect by writers and publishers. The snob in us likes to believe that it is always books that spin off movies. Yet in this case, it's the movies – most recently Gladiator two years ago – that have created the interest in the ancients. And not for more Roman screen colossals, but for writing that is serious or fun or both.[85]

The Cicero biography Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician and Gregory Hays's translation of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations received large spikes in sales after the release of the film.[85] The film also began a revival of the historical epic genre with films such as The Last Samurai, Troy, The Alamo, King Arthur, Alexander, 300 and its sequel 300: Rise of an Empire, Kingdom of Heaven, and Robin Hood (the last two were also directed by Scott).[86] The gladiator arena set piece from the 2002 film Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, which entered production shortly after the release of Gladiator, has been compared to the arena setting in the Scott film.[87][88][89]

The character of Maximus was placed 12th in the Total Film list of 50 best movie heroes and villains[90] and 35th in the Empire's 100 Greatest Movie Characters.[91] Maximus is also featured on 55c "Australian Legends" postage stamp series.[92] Russell Crowe attended a ceremony to mark the creation of the stamps.[92]

Home media[edit]

Gladiator was first released on DVD and VHS on November 21, 2000. Along with X-Men, both films generated $60 million in home video sales each in their first week.[93] By this point, Gladiator had already sold 1.8 million DVD units, making it the fastest-selling DVD release.[94] By January 2001, it would go on to break The Matrix's record for becoming the top-selling DVD release, selling 3.5 million copies.[95] With over 5 million copies sold, the film would hold the record for being the best-selling DVD title of all time until Shrek surpassed it later that year.[96]

The DVD has since been released in several different extended and special edition versions. Special features for the Blu-ray Disc and DVDs include deleted scenes, trailers, documentaries, commentaries, storyboards, image galleries, Easter eggs, and cast auditions. The film was released on Blu-ray in September 2009, in a 2-disc edition containing both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film, as part of Paramount's "Sapphire Series" (Paramount acquired the rights to the film when it bought the DreamWorks library in 2006).[97] Initial reviews of the Blu-ray Disc release criticized poor image quality, leading many to call for it to be remastered, as Sony did with The Fifth Element in 2007.[98] A remastered version was later released in 2010.

The DVD editions that have been released since the original two-disc version, include a film-only single-disc edition as well as a three-disc "extended edition" DVD which was released in August 2005. The extended edition DVD features approximately fifteen minutes of additional scenes, most of which appear in the previous release as deleted scenes. The original cut, which Scott still calls his director's cut, is also selectable via seamless branching (which is not included on the UK edition). The DVD is also notable for having a new commentary track featuring director Scott and star Crowe. The film is on the first disc, the second one has a three-hour documentary into the making of the film by DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika, and the third disc contains supplements. Discs one and two of the three-disc extended edition were also repackaged and sold as a two-disc "special edition" in the EU in 2005. The film was released on Ultra HD Blu-ray by Paramount Home Media Distribution on May 15, 2018.[99]


In June 2001, developments for a Gladiator follow-up began in the form of potential for either a prequel or a sequel, with David Franzoni in early negotiations to once again serve as screenwriter.[100] The following year, a sequel was announced to be moving forward with John Logan serving as screenwriter. The plot, set fifteen years later, included the Praetorian Guards rule Rome and an older-aged Lucius searching for the truth about his biological father. Franzoni signed on as producer, alongside Douglas Wick, and Walter Parkes.[101] In December 2002, the film's plot was announced to include prequel events regarding the parentage of Lucius, as well as sequel events depicting the resurrection of Maximus. Producers and Russell Crowe collaboratively researched extensively, ancient Roman beliefs regarding the afterlife.[102] By September 2003, Scott announced that the script was completed, while confirming that the story would primarily center around the secret son of Maximus, being Lucius.[103]

In May 2006, Scott stated that while development on the project continues, the exact story to the film has yet to be figured out. The filmmaker stated that all creative minds that were involved with Gladiator, are working on how to continue from where the story left off. Scott stated that Crowe had favored a fantasy element with bringing Maximus back to life, while saying that he believed a grounded historical-fiction approach was the better option. While he believes the film will not be made, he confirmed the plan to reveal that Lucius is the son of Maximus and Lucilla while comparing the necessity of a more complex script with the corruption of Rome in the potential sequel.[104] During this time, Nick Cave was commissioned to write a new draft of the script. It was later revealed to be written under the working title of "Christ Killer". Cave described the plot as a "deities vs. deity vs. humanity" story. The premise involved Maximus in purgatory, who is resurrected as an immortal eternal warrior for the Roman gods. In the draft, Maximus is sent to Earth and tasked with stopping the momentum of Christianity by killing Jesus Christ and His disciples, as their movement was gradually siphoning off the power and vitality of the ancient Pagan gods. During his tasked mission, Maximus is tricked into murdering his own son. Cursed to live forever, Cave's script included Maximus fighting amongst the Crusades, WWII, and the Vietnam War; with the ending revealing that in the modern-day time period, the character now works at The Pentagon. The script was ultimately rejected and scrapped.[105][106][107][108]

In March 2017, Scott revealed that the difficulties of reintroducing Maximus, when the character is deceased, had been resolved. The filmmaker expressed enthusiasm for the future of the project, while discussions with Russell Crowe to reprise his role were ongoing.[109] In November 2018, it was announced that Paramount Pictures is officially green-lighting the development of a sequel. Scott was in early-negotiations to once again serve as director, with a script written by Peter Craig. Scott will additionally serve as producer alongside Doug Wick, Lucy Fisher, Walter Parkes, and Laurie MacDonald. The project will be a joint-venture production between Paramount, Scott Free Productions, and Parkes/MacDonald Productions with Universal as a co-financing partner.[110] By June 2019, producers stated: "...we wouldn't touch unless we felt in a way to do it was legitimate." In their interview, they also revealed that the current script takes place 25–30 years after the first film.[111] The plot will center around Lucius.[112]

In April 2021, Chris Hemsworth approached Crowe with a proposal to become involved with the project, with intention to co-produce the film. While working together on Thor: Love and Thunder, the two actors shared additional ideas for the film.[113] By September 2021, Scott stated that the script was once again being worked on with his intention being to direct the sequel upon the completion of production on his current project, Napoleon.[114]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]