War Movies Set During the Roman Empire: A List

 Rome

It’s time once more for a little list. This time it’s a topic that I’m not only quite familiar with but also a topic that I enjoy a lot.

From  a purist point of view the movies on this list are not strictly speaking war movies but I have decided a while back that there is not much fun in being a purist. The only movie on the list that I have reviewed so far is Centurion. But reviews for Rome, Gladiator and King Arthur are upcoming. King Arthur is one of my favourite movies of all time although it is not on my Top 10 War Movies list because, despite what I just said, the list is reserved for “proper” war movies. I equally like Gladiator a great deal but I wasn’t impressed with Centurion. Not at all. I haven’t seen The Last Legion but have a feeling it it is the weakest movie on this list.

  • Ben Hur (US 1959) directed by William Wyler, starring Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, Martha Scott
  • Spartacus (US 1960) directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton
  • Cleopatra (US 1963) directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, George Cole
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire (US 1964) directed by Anthony Mann, starring Alec Guinness, Sophia Loren, Stephen Boyd, Christopher Plummer, Omar Sharif
  • Caligula (US/IT 1979) directed by Tinto Brass, starring Malcolm McDowellPeter O’TooleHelen Mirren
  • Gladiator (GBR/ USA 2000) directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed (see my review)
  • Imperium: Augustus (GE/ITA/ FRA/ ESP/ AUT/ GBR 2003 TV) dirceted by Roger Young, starring Peter O’Toole, Charlotte Rampling, Vittoria Belvedere, Benjamin Sadler
  • King Arthur (USA/UK/Ireland 2004) directed by Antoine Fuqua, starring Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Til Schweiger, Ioan Gruffudd, Ray Winstone, Ray Stevenson,Mads Mikkelsen
  • Rome (US/ GBR 2005, TV series) directed by Carl Franklin, John Maybury and others, starring Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson
  • Empire (US 2005, TV Mini series) directed by John Gray, Kim Manners and Greg Yaitanes, starring Satiago Cabrera, Vincent Regan, James Frain and Emily Blunt
  • The Last Legion (US/ GBR/ FRA 2007) directed by Doug Lefler, starring Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, Thomas Sangster (my review)
  • Centurion (GBR 2010) diercted by Neil Marshal, starring Michael Fassbender, Andreas Wisniewski, Dave Legeno, JJ Feild (here is my review of Centurion)
  • The Eagle (UK/US 2011) directed by Kevin Macdonald, starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland (here is my review)
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31 thoughts on “War Movies Set During the Roman Empire: A List

  1. tuulenhaiven says:

    The Last Legion isn’t very good, if I remember correctly, but it’s not the worst movie ever. I am looking forward to your review of King Arthur, because I didn’t like it very much and I’m curious about what you think. I saw it awhile ago though. Probably time for a re-watch. I can’t believe I still haven’t seen Gladiator…!

  2. rtm says:

    LOVE, LOVE Ben-Hur, my favorite swords & sandals film of all time. I had no idea Mads was in King Arthur. So many great European actor in that one, I need to see that again.

    • I really need to watch Ben Hur. I think I saw the beginning or part of it when it was on TV around Christmas when I was a child. Until this day it is on TV every Christmas. Mads Mikkelsen is one of the reasons why King Arthur is one of my favourite movies. Or rather the combination of actor + role.

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    Of the one’s I’ve seen:
    Ben Hur – A+ IMO the greatest movie ever made
    Spartacus – A+ one of my favorite movies
    Gladiator – B+ overrated
    King Arthur – C
    Rome – A extremely entertaining
    Centurion – C- pulpy

    Here are a few others off the top of my head:
    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – B Roman comedy
    I, Caligula (BBC miniseries) – A soap opera about the naughty emperors
    Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Starz series) A trashy and gory and sexy fun

    • I meant to include the Spartacus series (I probably will do so later on). It certainly is trashy but quite entertaining. I don’t think you can rate anything trashy with an A? Unless you want to make another type of point but surely then it has nothing to do with the movie. I mean, come on, rating Gladiator B and King Arthur C but Rome and Spartacus A? You gotta be kidding? What the heck is IMO?

      • warmoviebuff says:

        IMO = in my opinion
        I am not kidding.

      • Eriksson says:

        I don’t mean to intrude this late, but i think he meant Spartacus (1960) rated A+. Gladiator is certainly better then the series Spartacus blood and sand.

      • You can comment any time you like, it is always welcome. It’s actually nice to get comments on older reviews.
        Maybe he meant Spartacus the movie. I hope so, I haven’t seen it so I don’t know whether it is justified but I watched a few episodes of the series Spartacus and think Gladiator is much better.

      • Take away the gratuitous sex scenes (strictly for reveiwing purposes only :) ) and the entire Spartacus TV series is pretty poorly written, cliched and apart from the excellent John Hannah pretty pisspoor acting as well not to mention an extreme overuse of the ‘300’ blood splatter effect.

        And I say that as a huge fan of the series. Enjoy it for what it is – just some awesome over the top violent and sexy fun. It aint bloody Shakespeare ;)

        but come on…Maori Celts…WTF?!?!

      • We all need some guilty pleasures. That’s what it seems to be.

  4. Nice List. By the way here is my Top 10 War Movies of all time – http://moviescrunch.com/top-10-best-war-movies-of-all-time Cheers :)

  5. France says:

    What an amazing movie…AND a great ending to one of the best franchises ever made!

  6. Ian says:

    Possibly wrong, but maybe not, King Arthur a US film?I think not. Also find it funny that the others that are listed as US films, had in the main roles mostly British actors. Disappointed that you pick Ben Hur above Gladiator, I would have put them the other way around, maybe left BenHur out altogether and popped in one by Vic Mature in on of the millions of Italian movies in which he starred in this genre.

    • I had to check, King Arthur is a co-production, US, UK, Ireland)- I amended it, thanks.
      I didn’t pick Ben Hur over Gladiator, I haven’t even seen it, to be honest.
      Or not since I was maybe 5 years old and my father watched it on a Sunday afternoon. I put them in chronological order. Ben Hur seesm to have been one of the first. I love Gladiator and King Arthur.

  7. VII Legion says:

    What about The Eagle? It came out last year. I thought it was pretty good, and it is centered around a Roman Legion.

  8. […] If you want to watch more movies set during the Roman Empire here’s my list: War Movies Set During the Roman Empire. […]

  9. historyonfilm says:

    I am not a big fan of Ben-Hur, aside from the insane chariot race, but I totally agree with warmoviebuff about Spartacus: Blood and Sand. It is trashy and drenched with blood, but so much fun and good history.

  10. Rome left Spartacus in the dirt, beaten and abused in terms of production, acting, writing, sets and costumes and historical ‘feel’ for the period. Its just a shame it cost so much to make that they stopped makingit after 2 seasons :(

    • Really? It was that expensive? I will rewatch the first seasons when I get a chance.

      • Yep, the official reasons for axing the show was the production costs of the huge set in Italy they had made up.

        “HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht announced in a July 2006 news conference that season two of Rome would be its last, citing the fact that the series (called “notoriously expensive” by Broadcasting & Cable) had been developed under a two-year contract with the BBC that would have been difficult for the BBC to extend due to the series’ cost.” – from Wikipedia.

        Sad, as it was a brilliant series.

      • I didn’t get into it properly as I stopped after episode four but I could see I would like it.
        It’s really sad sometimes that very good shows are stopped after a little while.

  11. Len says:

    I have all of the above movies in my collection. They are all fantastic productions in their time periods. One movie that is never mentioned is Empire about Julius Caesar’s. I rate this in the top 15 of your list. One other that is missing is Calligula a must be, especially for the perversive content that over-reached the period’s morals. It created quite a stir in it’s time.

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