Sometimes you feel like watching a Tarantino film. Other times you might be in the mood to watch Back to the Future for the 412th time. And then there are times, after reading TMZ and hearing about Russell Crowe hurling a telephone at someone, you get the itch to watch a gladiator movie. And if you are, here are five to consider …
No, it’s not director Ridley Scott’s best film (we’d argue Alien (1979) or Blade Runner (1982) would top the list), but Gladiator is by far his best gladiator movie. Stripped down you can argue it’s just a B-grade revenge flick, but Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, and Djimon Hounsou were all solid in their roles — enough so to lead the film into five Academy Award wins. And that’s in spite of numerous goofs and mistakes, which you can see in the video above. Of course, the success also helped bring back mandals, spawn a host of Gladiator games and pave the way for other “sword and sandals” films like 300 (2006) thereafter. So we have plenty to be grateful for. Well, except the mandals.
Although there were gladiator films before its release — one of the better ones being Demetrius and the Gladiator (1954), which we’ll discuss next — many people consider Spartacus the OG gladiator film. Starring Kirk Douglas, the plot centers on a Thracian slave (Douglas) who feels he is too good for servitude because some people have such high opinions of themselves. He’s sentenced to become a gladiator and even worse, forced to wear granny panties as he fights for his life. Eventually, Spartacus leads a scantily-clad army against the Roman Empire. Any more and we’d spoil the movie, so we’ll leave you with a cliffhanger — the rebellion is either successful or it’s not. Despite being more than 50 years old, Spartacus still holds up more than 50 years later. Watch it.
Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)
A sequel to 1953’s The Robe, which you probably never saw, Demetrius and the Gladiators represents one of the few instances where the second installment is superior to the original. (Aliens, Terminator 2, and The Empire Strikes Back are three other examples.)
Starring Victor Mature Demetrius, a former slave and born again Christian, the plot narrative follows his journey in the Roman arena. Warning: some things look and sound dated, such as, well, the sets, costumes, voice dubs, and just about everything else, but the film is worth a look.
Gladiators 7 (1962)
As the trailer shows you, the film’s star Richard Harrison (Darius) is built and well-groomed. Having a tidy beard is a plus in gladiator movies. Anyway, Darius is the son of a prominent Spartan who is implicated in the escape of five Gladiators, and his punishment for the crime is to fight for his life in the imposing Roman Arena. Will he find freedom, or will he find himself wearing a goofy robe and bleeding to death? If you watch it, you’ll find out. (Hint: it’s one of those two options.)
The Arena (1974)
Admittedly, it’s not a very strong film, but it’s entertaining enough and there is plenty of nudity. The premise: Pam Grier is an enslaved woman hell-bent on fighting for her freedom. During the course in which she seeks to break free we encounter a handful of sex scenes and reasons for the characters to get naked amid the action. Fun fact: according to Wikipedia, the world’s most trusted news source, the movie was also called Naked Warriors.
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