If you’re looking to see some of the top movies under the IMDb “Ancient Rome” or “Roman Empire” classifications, which ones should you see?
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Fans of historical dramas will find a lot to like in Ancient Rome. The stories of this time period, like the popular series Vikings or the mythical realm of Game of Thrones, include a lot of gory conflicts and power struggles, despite the lack of magnificent costumes. Rome and Spartacus are two of the best current series based on the Roman Empire, and there have been other blockbuster Roman-themed films since the Golden Age of Hollywood. Even though Cleopatra is one of the most well-known historical epics, it’s not the finest, according to IMDb.
Cleopatra, on the other hand, only manages to place 12th on IMDb’s list of the best ancient Rome and Roman Empire films, despite the fact that the majority of the best are classics that date back to the 1920s. Due to 300’s lack of setting in Rome (despite a 7.6 rating), several Christ films enter the list even though they aren’t actually set in Rome. This is likely because the Roman Empire featured so heavily in these films.
1. Quo Vadis (1951) 7.2
It’s a real Hollywood spectacle, this MGM epic about a Roman general who falls in love with a woman who has converted to Christianity, and it’s one of the all-time greats. While some of the aspects may seem exaggerated to modern viewers, this was a tremendous hit with audiences in the ’50s. In addition to being a box office hit, Quo Vadis received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.
2. The Passion of the Christ (2004) 7.2
IMDb’s high rating of this hotly debated picture comes as a bit of a surprise, given how polarizing it was when it was released. An anti-Semitic charge has been leveled at this Mel Gibson-directed picture, which deals with Jesus Christ’s final hours before he is crucified and killed. (This is not Gibson’s first brush with anti-Semitism criticism.)
Because the picture is so violent, it can elicit powerful feelings from viewers, which may be why it ranks so well on IMDb despite the fact that the story of Jesus Christ is visually appealing.
3. The King of Kings (1927) 7.3
With a running period of nearly two hours and forty minutes, this picture is one in a trilogy of silent films by filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille depicting the life of Jesus Christ. The trilogy as a whole is really epic. For a time when most films were less than an hour long, it’s no surprise that these flicks received so much attention.
Length was not an issue for critics and spectators, and schools were even allowed to let out early so students could go see the movie. A century after its release, modern viewers may not be as enthusiastic about The King of Kings, but it’s still worth seeing for anyone who like silent films.
4. Julius Caesar (1953) 7.3
Marlon Brando leads in this rendition of Shakespeare’s play, which won an Oscar for best picture. The picture is a great Hollywood classic and a favorite of the reviewers. Best Actor and Best Picture were both nominated for Julius Caesar, but neither won. Art Decoration was the only category in which it was recognized with a gold statuette.
There are still many people who believe this film to be an excellent depiction of the play, but it doesn’t quite measure up to some of the more current versions that re-write the language to make it more accessible. This black and white classic will appeal to admirers of old films rather than those who favor updated remakes of the Bard’s work. ‘Black and White’
5. The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976) 7.6
The Roman Empire (and the violence that comes with it) is not typically considered normal material for children’s films, therefore this Asterix picture is the only one to make the list. The Twelve Tasks of Asterix was not a great success when it was released, but it has since become a cult favorite. Asterix and Obelisk take on twelve labors for Ceaser, just like Hercules, in this film set in the Roman Empire.
6. The Dacians (1966) 7.8
With a unique concentration on Domitian’s Dacian War, this IMDb video about the Ancient Romans stands out amongst its contemporaries. Battles and intrigues (including an adopted son, who is divided between his birthplace and where he was brought up) between the Dacians and Romans are depicted in the story.
Additionally, this film is Romanian and less well-known than the majority of others. However, this film demonstrates one of the problems with IMDb’s rankings. Some lesser films may rank highly because the reviews are limited to lovers of the film or the specific sub-genre (in this case, ‘Swords and Sandals’) on an aggregate site like this one.
7. Spartacus (1960) 7.9
So it’s no surprise that Spartacus rated so highly on the list of the top movies set in Ancient Rome. Film director Ridley Scott has done a wonderful job of bringing to life the narrative of a slave insurrection headed by Spartacus.
With a star-studded ensemble that includes Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis under the direction of Stanley Kubrick, it is a great success. After winning four Oscars and a host of other accolades, the picture has become a staple of popular culture.
8. Ben-Hur (1959) 8.1
With its themes of love, betrayal, and power as well as the Roman fascination with slavery, Ben Hur is an epic tale in the tradition of Spartacus. Additionally, Ben Hur is noted for breaking numerous records, including the number of Oscars it won (11), as well as the sheer magnitude of the production. A vast arena had to be built for the filming of the “chariot race.” The amount of resources, manpower, and artistry that went into making this picture and others like the sea battle are astounding, especially in light of the short period of time that they were produced. Because of its vast size and awe-inspiring backstage anecdotes in Ben Hur, the film has been the subject of urban legends (such as the supposed death of one of the stuntmen during a race).
9. Life Of Brian (1979) 8.1
When it comes to films set in Ancient Rome, the majority of them are epics that feature a lot of drama and bloodshed, but in Life of Brian, Monty Python manages to have some fun with the period. A man who is mistaken for Jesus Christ is the subject of this religious comedy, and Monty Python-style laughter ensues. For a film set in Ancient Rome to have ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ in its soundtrack, it’s no surprise that it sparked controversy when it was released.
10. Gladiator (2000) 8.5
Gladiator, a Ridley Scott epic starring Russel Crowe, tops the IMDb list. Actor Russell Crowe portrays Maximus, an ex-Roman general who was kidnapped and imprisoned by the harsh Emperor of Rome, on a vengeance expedition. An astounding five Oscars were bestowed upon the film for its production value as well as its performances, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Ryan Gosling. All of the classic elements of a Roman epic are here, from the epic battles and arena scenes to the love story with the traitor and the stirring conclusion.