A list of the best films set in Rome may be found on the website Rotten Tomatoes. Check out these movies, some of which feature stunning cinematography.
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There are a few periods in history that instantly come to mind for a filmmaker when thinking of “history.” A few popular examples include Victorian England, World War II-era Europe, and Ancient Rome. The lives of emperors, gladiators, and even simple folk have piqued the interest of screenwriters, directors, and performers alike since the advent of filming in the early 1900s. Considering that the Bard himself wrote extensively on the subject, it’s hardly unexpected.
Sword and sandal or “peplum flick” movies have had a number of box office failures in the Ancient Roman historical genre, commonly known as “sword and sandal.” With the decline in popularity of Rome and Roman things, big investments in such productions are no longer viable. Things were different in the past, though, when sets were sound stages and studios maintained a dedicated “Ancient Roman” props storage area. According to Rotten Tomatoes, these are the best Roman-set films of all time.
It was updated by Kristy Ambrose on the 10th of April 2021: Ancient history will never go out of style, no matter how many different interpretations there are. Classical culture will always hold an allure for us despite the abundance of modern amenities and gizmos. Part of the reason for the continued fascination in the city of Rome is the fact that so much of what we know about the Roman Empire is still preserved in the form of ruins, records, and an actual livable metropolis. Because they’re classic Hollywood blockbusters from another era, these films tend to take themselves too seriously because of that. This is why we’ve added some fantasy and comedy to the lineup.
1. Centurion (2010) – 61%
Centurion, despite being set in the Roman era and starring Roman actors, is actually set in Britain. Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender), a centurion of the Ninth Legion, is portrayed by Fassbender in the second century.
And Olga Kurylenko, who plays Brigantes warrior Etain, is there to help him exact revenge on the Romans, who killed her family. Even though the picture received generally positive reviews from critics, it failed to recoup even half of its $12 million production budget, making it a complete failure.
2. Cleopatra (1963) – 63%
To the ancient world it is a powerful shock delivered by one of Elizabeth Taylor’s most iconic appearances, roles, and performances. Cleopatra, played by Richard Burton and Rex Harrison, is as stunningly gorgeous as she is cunning, and she changes the course of history by seducing Marc Antony and Julius Caesar.
No Shakespeare, but it is one of the finest instances of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s truest silver screen form. Despite the fact that it made a lot of money, it almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox.
3. Titus (1999) – 68%
Anthony Hopkins stars as Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus in this film adaption, which is directed by the acclaimed stage and screen director Julie Taymor. For the most part, Titus is situated in the real Roman city of Rome, even though it occasionally defies Shakespeare’s historical realism.
With Jessica Lange and Alan Cummings as Tamora, the Goth Queen and Saturninus, the Emperor of Rome, Hopkins is joined on-screen. A $25 million production that only grossed $3 million in theaters and was met with mixed reviews has now become a cult classic.
4. Asterix and Obelix: Mansion of the Gods (2014) – 71%
It’s easy to overlook thatAsterix and Obelix: Mansion of the Godsis a story that illustrates the most prevalent type of Roman subjection, and believe it or not, that wasn’t often force. When it comes to enslaving the people of their empire, the Romans relied on cultural immersion, economic coercion, and political influence as their most effective tools.
Asterix and Obelisk, who are used to fighting the Romans on the battlefield, face an intriguing challenge as a result of this change. How do they resist the temptations of money, extravagance, and glamor?
5. Gladiator (2000) – 76%
This Ridley Scott masterpiece, which earned $460 million at the box office and five Academy Awards, including best picture, is perhaps the most well-known of all Ancient Rome films. To put it another way, the “Gladiator effect” sparked an interest in Roman literature and history that has persisted to this day.
As Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman general sold into slavery by the brutal Emperor Commodus, Russell Crowe starred in Gladiator (Joaquin Phoenix).
Script contributions from Crowe included a line about the soil on his family farm being “black like [his] wife’s hair,” which he penned himself.
6. Satyricon (1969) – 78%
Ancient Rome is depicted in episodic and imaginative fashion, with little regard to historical fact. Atmosphere is overblown to fit the similarly wonderful time period that covered Emperor Nero’s tumultuous rule.
Storytelling is broken up into nine separate episodes that each focus on a different character as they try to rekindle their relationship with their young love interest. An appropriate format for this surreal film, which relies heavily on mystical surrounds and a suspension of belief.
7. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1966) – 85%
In comparison to other Rome-set films, this one is a little unique. As a musical comedy, that’s a given from the outset. Zero Mostel plays Pseudolus, a slave who tries to earn his freedom by helping his master win the heart of the girl next door, based on the works of Roman comedy playwright Plautus.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forumis the perfect movie for those who need a vacation from the violence and guts ofGladiatorandCenturion, but aren’t quite ready to leave Ancient Rome behind. Fans of Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics will be singing along to the tunes for days.
8. Ben-Hur (1959) – 86%
The original 1925 silent film, which was redone in 2016, is itself a rework of this classic movie. An exiled Jewish prince (Charlton Heston) who is sold into Roman slavery grows to be a renowned charioteer (Stephen Boyd) and vows vengeance on the Roman citizen Messala (Stephen Boyd).
Ben-Hur was the most costly film ever filmed, with a $15 million budget, at the time of its premiere. The filming of the epic sequences necessitated the use of more than 20,000 extras, 200 camels, and 2,500 horses. As a result, the film made $146 million at the box office, making it just behind Gone with the Wind as the second highest-grossing film of its time.
9. Quo Vadis (1951) – 88%
MGM is often credited for saving the company from bankruptcy with this epic historical drama, which tells the narrative of the Roman Empire’s conflict with Christianity and how early Christians were treated. Walter Pidgeon narrates the film with the help of Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Genn, and Peter Ustinov, who also star (Funny Girl, Forbidden Planet).
With a gross of $21 million off a production budget of $7 million, it was a commercial and critical success. Initially, critics were more taken with the film’s epic breadth and scale than with its filmmaking or narrative merits, but it doesn’t seem to matter now.
10. TIE: Barabbas (1962) – 89%
Barabbas presents the account of Barabbas, a New Testament historical figure, in the form of a religious epic. For a change, this picture was filmed on location in Rome and Verona, Italy, featuring elaborate set pieces like a gladiatorial fight and an actual solar eclipse crucifixion.
Actors Arthur Kennedy and Anthony Quinn portray Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, and Joseph of Arimathea, the man who cared for Jesus’ body after he was crucified. At the box office, the film brought in $2.9 million and was well reviewed by both historical and contemporary critics.
11. TIE: Cabiria (1914) – 89%
Cicero’s military campaign in Northern Africa and the siege of Syracuse are all featured prominently in the lone silent film on this list, Cabiria, which takes place during Hannibal’s Second Punic War.
This film is credited by Martin Scorsese with being the first of its kind in the epic genre. If he’s right, Cabiria is the spiritual ancestor of films likeBen-Hur andGladiator. At the 1914 premiere, it was the first picture to be shown on the White House grounds in front of President Woodrow Wilson, and it was restored and re-released at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
12. Spartacus (1960) – 93%
Starz’s television series Spartacus has made Spartacus’ story well-known to a new generation of viewers. However, he first appeared on screen in Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 picture of the same name, which was written by Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted screenwriter.
President John F. Kennedy personally crossed picket lines in order to see the picture, which helped to halt the practice of blacklisting filmmakers who had been tagged as communists or communist sympathizers. This is possibly more interesting than the story it portrays.
13. Julius Caesar (1953) – 95%
Julius Caesar has been the subject of numerous films, including two starring Charlton Heston in the 1950s and 1970s. Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Mark Antony, based on Shakespeare’s theatrical play of the same name, takes the #1 spot on the list of greatest movies of all time.
Reviews of the film have been overwhelmingly good, describing the betrayal and assassination of Julius Caesar by his colleagues and friends. The actors’ and director’s personal issues hampered production, and sets from Quo Vadis, which came out two years prior, were reused.
14. Life of Brian (1979) – 95%
Life of Brian, one of Monty Python’s finest films, has the resources and writing of a major motion picture. Furthermore, it is the most authentic portrayal of life in a Roman province ever depicted in a Hollywood movie. The movie is set in Judea, a Roman province, and features a playful yet realistic depiction of life under Roman control. While the satire isn’t always lighthearted, it’s not always amusing when it comes to Roman and Judean tyranny.
It’s legal for men to attend stonings, but does it mean women can’t?
Even if we can’t show that Pontius Pilate spoke with a lisp, we also can’t prove that he didn’t.
15. The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) – 100%
The Fall of the Roman Empire, released in 1963, is primarily characterized by its use of spectacle, drama, political intrigue, and a desire for power. This is the kind of film that makes movie buffs mourn the passing of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Ridley Scott’s reduced version for contemporary audiences, which also deserves a spot on our list, gives an insight of how the business has changed. Gladiator was a good movie, but it wasn’t this good.
This film is essentially a historical epic in its purest form, tracing the rise and fall of Rome’s finest era. Alec Guinness and Christopher Plummer, among others, give magnificent performances, showcasing the empire’s splendor in all its beautiful technicolor glory.