Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, Connie Nielson
Synopsis: General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe), has just won a battle over Germanic barbarian hordes when he is visited by Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). The dying emperor asks one last thing of Maximus and that is for his to become the leader of Rome after he dies and give the Republic back to the Senate. This decision however, comes as a shock to his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), who was planning to succeed him as Emperor. In a fit of rage Commodus kills his father before he can tell anyone else that Maximus is to be the new Emperor. Commodus acts as if nothing has changed and assumes command and he demands Maximus’ loyalty then and there to which he refuses, Maximus and his family are sentenced to death. Maximus is able to escape execution but when he reaches his home he finds both his wife and son murdered. Exhausted and starving he is picked up by a traveling caravan that sells slaves and animals, they treat his wounds in an attempt to sell him. While recovering he meets Juba (Djimon Hounsou) a Nubian hunter that was captured months earlier and they become fast friends. Maximus and Juba are sold to Proximo who buys them in order to train them as gladiators. It is not long before Maximus is dominating the arena with his superior fighting skills earning the moniker “The Spaniard”, quickly winning the favour of the crowd. Proximo and his men are invited to Rome to join in a month long celebration honouring the late Marcus Aurelius moving Maximus ever closer to Commodus. When it is clear to key members of the Senate and his sister Lucilla (Connie Nielson) that Commodus is out of control they ask Maximus to help them giving him a chance at his revenge.
Trivia: Contrary to rumor, Enya didn’t record any music for the soundtrack of this film. The song simply sounds like something she would have recorded. The song, and in fact much of the soundtrack, was composed and sung by Lisa Gerrard. The real-life Commodus was in fact the only Roman Emperor in history to fight as a gladiator in the arena. However, he did it several times, not just once. Also, he was not killed in the arena but was strangled in his dressing room by an athlete named Narcissus.
Why I think you should see this: This movie has the honour of being the first DVD I ever owned as a kid and I have watched it many times since. A couple of years ago I checked out the extended cut which is about 16 minutes longer and while it isn’t way better it just adds a little more and makes it that much more complete. By far the best collaboration between Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe who tried to recreate the magic with Robin Hood but fell just short. Just a great film that is definitely worth a gander.