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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Centurion (2010): A little bit of Gladiator, King Arthur and 300

When I started this blog I wanted to stick to war movies in the strict sense of the term only but now I feel I am in the mood for more liberties. A few months back I would not have included Centurion but now I do. I would not have mentioned Gladiator, King Arthur or 300 either. (If I did, King Arthur would be high up in my Top 10, probaly even making Black Hawk Down step down.)

Be it as it may, to compare Centurion (a British movie by the way) to those above mentioned movies is very unfortunate for it because it is not up to the comparison, I’m afraid. Nevertheless it is  entertaining. However, compared to the three others, Centurion is super gory. And there are a lot of very combative warrior women in it. By the way, Dominic West, from The Wire,  is in this one too but he is not the main character. He stars as General Vilnius. Michael Fassbender has the leading role as the Centurion Quintus Dias. The German actor Fassbender could already be seen in 300, Inglourious Basterds and The Devil’s Whore, to name but a few of his movies.

The year is 117 AD. The Roman Empire stretches from Spain to Egypt and as far as the Black Sea in the East. Only Britain is fighting off its invaders. The Empire is stopped by the savagely fierce Picts.  Centurion Quintus Dias is the only survivor of a Pictish raid. He joins the legendary Ninth Legion of General Vilnius who is on a mission to erase the Picts and their leader Gorlacon from the face of the earth. When they are ambushed and the general is captured Quintus Dias is left alone with a small platoon far behind enemy lines. They first attempt to free their general and after this the real hunt begins. Led by a female warrior tracker (Olga Kurylenko), surnamed she-wolf, who has been mutilated by Romans in her youth and sworn to destroy each and every one of them, the Picts hunt them relentlessly. Without the help of a Pictish outcast, said to be a witch, they would not stand a chance but even so, they are soon highly decimated and in great trouble.

As said before, Centurion is really gory. It reminded me of Gladiator because of the battles in the woods. Of King Arthur because of the way they flee and are hunted,  because of the scenerey, mountains and snow and  also because of the female warriors. Same for 300. A little group outnumbered by a fierce enemy. The end however is quite different from the other three.

As I already said, it is not as good as the other three mentioned movies, since it is not  heavy on psychology and the Picts are shown as savages whereas we are led to believe the Romans were faultless,  but it is an  entertaining watch with loads of  battle and fighting scenes.

For a change the trailer is quite true to the movie.