Fans of Ancient Roman or Ancient Greek eras are historical buffs that may like these periods of antiquity for one reason or another. But it’s undeniable that the attraction to stories that happened during those times is a huge pull for fans. What more if the stories are around men who fought against all odds, in the name of several factors: freedom, honor, fame, or even life. Such is the plot we can see from the story of the Gladiator film.
This 2000 film is directed by legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott. It stars Russell Crowe in this career-defining role of Maximus Decimus Meridius, a former ranking military officer who became a slave. And in becoming one, he was thrust into the arena of the fighting gladiators. There’s greed, revenge, power play, and upholding honor in this film.
Aside from the gladiator narrative, we could also get a glimpse of life during these Roman times. And there are many other character-driven narratives much like it. So take a historic leap back in time and watch these movies like Gladiator.
Perhaps nothing parallels our featured film more than this one. Whether you’re watching the 2016 version of Ben-Hur or the original award-winning 1959 epic, the story basically remains the same. And you’ll see why it’s here in our list of movies like Gladiator.
The story centers on a Jewish nobleman named Judah Ben-Hur, who existed during the Roman Empire’s reign. He has a Roman brother adapted into the family. At first, they grow up as friends. But adulthood forces his brother Messala to think of other things that corrupted their brotherhood bond.
Part of that bond is joining the Roman army and fighting alongside with them. That also includes a fallout happening with the brothers. It’s a layered tale of personal, political, and military elements intertwined, much like our featured film here.
Go watch the original first, just for that famed chariot race. Then race back to the more modern version to see what they did better (or not). Compare and contrast!
Another heroic character within the oppressive Roman Empire world is Spartacus. This one is based on a real-life person about a slave who led an uprising against their oppressors.
This 1960 classic stars Kirk Douglas in the title role. He is the slave that is forced to do the unthinkable, but refuse to do so. In fighting, treating women, and doing servitude, there’s a kind of personal rebellion happening within him.
And this is why the story is in our list of movies like Gladiator. Nobel in stature and heart, the enslaved man rises above his oppressive state. Go watch it to see what happens next!
Looking at Ancient Greek now, Troy is one film that earns its spot here in our list of movies like Gladiator. The 2004 war film is about a host of characters found in The Iliad. There’s Achilles (played by Brad Pitt), Agamemnon (played by Brian Cox), Paris (played by Orlando Bloom), Hector (played by Eric Bana), and of course the character of Helen (played by Diane Kruger).
The story covers the events that happened during the Trojan War. There’s also the love aspect there featuring Helen and Paris, which kinda caused the war in a way. The story largely takes place within and near the ancient city of Troy.
Directed by action film director Wolfgang Petersen, this film is indeed an adventurous spectacle to watch. If you’re a fan of ancient war films, historical drama, and men in togas or similar wardrobe, then watch this sword-and-sandal flick for fun!
Another Ancient Greek-laden film is the 2004 opus by master director Oliver Stone called Alexander. This one is based on the life of Alexander The Great, the King of Macedonia and the great military general of the time.
Colin Farrell plays the title role here, toga and all. Stone unraveled the humanity and the background of the great general, who is shown with a wife and a male lover. It’s okay to have that, since they are open about sexualities during those ancient times. What great times, huh!
And that is where the comparison lies as to why this is in our list of movies like Gladiator. A great man is sometimes the object of ire and ridicule, but Alexander was able to persist. Watch what happens with his story in this filmic adaptation.
Michael Fassbender has played the most interesting roles of the past decade, and you can count a Roman Empire officer in that list. He plays the title role in Centurion, a 2010 film about a leader who went to many battles but is assumed as missing.
This is in our list of movies like Gladiator because there is indeed a direct correlation here. The character of the centurion, Quintus Dias, is indeed the son of a well-known gladiator. Quintus was a second in command of a fort that was overtaken by the enemy. And that is when his very interesting story begins. Watch this if you can!
Perhaps the most popular of these ancient wars saga is the innovative film 300. Directed by Zack Snyder, this film made him a Hollywood household name due to his very stylistic way of depicting the ancient wars and the warriors.
The 2006 film is about the story of how the brave King Leonidas, ruler of Sparta, went to war with the Persian Army. The thing is, he only had 300 soldiers with him, while the enemy had around 300,000. What’s a king to do?
The very stylish film is both fantastic and epic. The surreal look of the film gave it such an edgy feel to it, that it looks like it was directly lifted from its source material inspiration. This is based on a graphic novel created by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.
And this film is on our list of movies like Gladiator because, like Maximus, Leonidas had that fierceness and ferocity to battle it out, no matter what the outcome. Go watch this one – it’s a requirement!
7. Quo Vadis
For a truly epic action-pack retelling of Roman Empire antics, look no further than the classic film Quo Vadis. The 1951 epic is directed by Mervin LeRoy, in the grand tradition of MGM during that era in Hollywood.
This film is in our list of movies like Gladiator because it centers on a Roman army official who has the biggest conflict of all. Robert Taylor stars as Marcus Vinicus, the Roman officer who finds himself falling in love with a woman named Lygia, played by Deborah Kerr. The problem is, this was that time when Emperor Nero was outright persecuting Christians. And Lygia is a Christian.
So what’s a Roman army officer to do now? See for yourself why Quo Vadis was a phenomenal hit of the 1950s!
If it’s intrigue you want with your Roman Empire story, complete with political mudslinging and personal revenge storylines, then look no further than Titus.
This 1999 film is the first film to be directed by visually innovative filmmaker Julie Taymor. The material is based on William Shakespeare’s play called Titus Andronicus. It’s a heavy material full of major conflicts familiar to audiences of today.
Titus is in our list of movies like Gladiator because it also centers on a noble man who gets conflicted by external events in his life. Titus Andronicus is a Roman general poised to succeed Emperor Caesar upon his death. But his refusal triggers a chain of events that makes today’s revenge films seem pale in comparison!
Leave it to Shakespeare to sow the deepest of intrigues and the finest of narratives. Go watch this film adaptation now!
9. The Last Legion
If it’s a mixed empire you seek, The Last Legion might prove useful for that kind of interest. This 2007 film stars Colin Firth who plays Aurelius, an important Roman general of a certain legion. This takes place during the time that Romulus Augustulus becomes the new emperor of Rome.
The film is in our list of movies like Gladiator because it, too, has very intricate characters and interesting storylines. This one even crosses legends. The story largely takes place in the western part of the Roman Empire. Stories of British lore are also included here, in particular the role of future King Arthur and the legendary Excalibur sword. It’s very interesting to see. Go watch it now!
10. The Fall of the Roman Empire
The so-called “sword and sandal” genre of Hollywood – which qualifies all of the films here in our list of movies like Gladiator – is solidified by the existence of The Fall of the Roman Empire.
This film has it all: murder, overthrowing leaders, poisoning, defying leaders, betraying lovers. It’s got all the recipes of the ancient era stories. This one takes place during the rule of Marcus Aurelius and the rule of his son Commodus. While the former maintained the grandeur of the empire, the latter led it to its descent – or so historical accounts go.
Watch this intriguing tale, if only to be mesmerized by Sofia Loren, who plays Lucilla here. Go watch!