A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gladiator is a 2000 movie in which Russell Crowe plays a Roman general who is betrayed by a power-hungry emperor's son and must survive as a gladiator. This is a very violent movie. A woman and child are brutally tortured, killed, and crucified mostly offscreen, and their charred feet and ankles are shown. People are sliced up, burned, and decapitated. Blood is constantly being shed. Tigers are killed by swords. There are references to rape and incest. We see an exposed male backside. A character is said to have "moaned like a whore." We hear "bitch" and "s--t." Overall, while a very loose interpretation of what actually happened in the earliest years of the reign of the tyrannical Emperor Commodus and the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire, the movie does explore the theme of stoicism and how it helped Maximus to survive tremendous hardships as he continued to live by the motto "strength and honor."
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What's the story?
In 180 AD Rome, the aging Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) watches as Maximus (Russell Crowe), his most trusted general, fights the barbarians in Germania in a terrible, bloody battle. The emperor's son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), wants to succeed his father, but Caesar doesn't think he has what it takes. When Aurelius chooses Maximus to lead the people back to democracy, Commodus kills his father before the Senate hears about Maximus, then orders the execution of Maximus and his family. Maximus escapes, is captured, is sold into slavery, and becomes a gladiator. To confront Commodus, he must win enough fights to be called to Rome. Meanwhile, Commodus finds ways to distract the populace while he disables the Senate. The only one he trusts is his sister, Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), who pretends to support him to protect her young son.
Is it any good?
GLADIATOR is a movie of such astounding scope and sweep and such masterful storytelling that it makes its storyline seem classic rather than clichéd. Breathtakingly sumptuous visuals credibly recreate the world of Rome in 180 AD, a world of unimaginable reach and power. Director Ridley Scott stages the fight scenes brilliantly, each more inventive and gripping than the last. The results are something like a deranged computer game, with new peril coming literally from all sides. Fellow gladiator Juba (Djimon Hounsou) explains the appeal of the fights when he says that fear and wonder are a powerful combination.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why some people are drawn to watch other people battle. What's the appeal of movies like this?
There are many historical inaccuracies in this movie. Why do you think the filmmakers decided to tell a fictional account of the Roman Empire instead of sticking to the facts?
What do you think would be the challenges in bringing to life the Roman Empire circa 180 AD?
- In theaters: May 5, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: August 19, 2003
- Cast: Connie Nielsen, Joaquin Phoenix, Russell Crowe
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 155 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence and some sexual references
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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