Gladiator is a 2000 epic historical action 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. It stars Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Ralf Möller, Oliver Reed (in his final role), Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, John Shrapnel and Richard Harris.
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.
In AD 180, Hispano-Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius intends to return to his 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 restore the Roman Republic. Commodus, upon hearing this, murders his father.
Commodus proclaims himself the new emperor and asks Maximus for his loyalty, but Maximus refuses. Maximus is arrested by the Praetorian Guard and is told that he and his family will die. He kills his captors, although not without injury, and rides for his home near Trujillo, where he finds his home destroyed and his family murdered. Maximus buries his wife and son, then collapses from his injuries. He is found by slavers who take him to the city of Zucchabar in the Roman province of Mauretania Caesariensis, where he is sold to a gladiator trainer named Proximo.
Although reluctant at first, Maximus fights in local tournaments and befriends two other gladiators: Juba, a Numidian; and Hagen, a German. His military skills help him win matches and gain recognition from other gladiators and the crowd. Proximo reveals that he was once a gladiator who was freed by Marcus Aurelius, and advises Maximus that he must “win the crowd” to win his freedom. When Commodus organises 150 days of games, Proximo takes his gladiators to fight in Rome’s Colosseum.
Disguised by a masked helmet, Maximus debuts in gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum as a Carthaginian in a re-enactment of the Battle of Zama. Unexpectedly, Maximus 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 show himself and give his name; Maximus reveals himself 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 named 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; he is called “Maximus the Merciful” by the crowd. Angered at this outcome, Commodus taunts Maximus about his family’s deaths, but Maximus turns and walks away.
Maximus discovers from Cicero, his ex-orderly, that his former legions remain loyal. Lucilla, Commodus’s sister; Gracchus, an influential senator; and Maximus meet secretly. Maximus will escape Rome, join his soldiers, 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 the people’s approval, Commodus challenges Maximus to a duel in the Colosseum. He stabs Maximus before the match to gain an advantage. Despite his injuries, Maximus disarms Commodus, whom the Praetorian Guard refuse to aid. Commodus then produces a hidden knife, which Maximus drives into Commodus’s throat, killing him. Maximus succumbs to his wounds. Before he dies, he asks for political reforms, for his gladiator allies to be freed, and for Senator Gracchus to be reinstated. Maximus’s friends and allies honour him as “a soldier of Rome”, at Lucilla’s behest, and carry his body out of the arena, leaving the dead Commodus behind.
Juba visits the Colosseum at night and buries the figurines of Maximus’s wife and son at the spot where he died. Juba promises to see Maximus again, “but not yet”.
- 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.
- The film received generally favourable 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 grossed $457 million worldwide, making it the second highest-grossing film of 2000.
- The film won multiple awards, including five Academy Awards at the 73rd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor for Crowe, Best Costume Design, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.
- It also received five 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 swords ‘n’ sandals genre and rekindling interest in entertainment centred around ancient Greek and ancient Roman culture.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Ridley Scott.
- Producer(s): Douglas Wick, David Franzon, and Branko Lustig.
- Writer(s): David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson.
- Music: Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard.
- Cinematography: John Mathieson.
- Editor(s): Pietro Scalia.
- Production: Scott Free Productions and Red Wagon Entertainment.
- Distributor(s): DreamWorks Pictures and Universal Pictures.
- Release Date: 01 May 2000 (Los Angeles).
- Running Time: 155 minutes.
- Country: UK and US.
- Language: English.