Gladiator Movie Poster Image




Really excellent but really violent Oscar winner.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2000
  • Running Time: 155 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Very violent, many bloody battle scenes, many deaths. Main character's wife and child are burned to death offscreen.


References to rape and incest.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a very violent movie. A woman and child are brutally tortured and killed (mostly off-screen). People are sliced up, burned, and crucified. There are references to rape and incest.

What's the story?

In 180 AD Rome, the aging Caesar (Richard Harris) watches as Maximus (Russell Crowe), his most trusted general, fights the barbarians in Germania in a terrible, bloody battle. Caesar's son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) wants to succeed his father, but Caesar doesn't think he has what it takes. When Caesar 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, 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 story-telling that it makes its storyline seem classic rather than clichéd. Breathtakingly sumptuous visuals credibly re-create 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. Two thousand years later, little has changed. We may not pay to see people kill each other any more, but we pay to see them pretend to do so, and we pay to see them come pretty close in sports like boxing, hockey, wrestling, and football.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why it is that people are drawn to watch other people battle and what the appeal is of movies like this and full contact sports. Notice that, like Odysseus in the land of the Cyclops, Maximus will not use his name until he has done something he can be proud of. Why didn't Commodus just have him killed? Why did Commodus (a little like the WWF's Vince McMahon) decide to participate in the combat? What does it mean to "smile back" at death? Compare the lists of virtues claimed by Caesar and Commodus. Which are the most important? One of the movie's great challenges is making its world seem very different to us without making it impossible to identify with the characters. The story is told without any sense of irony or distance. Some older kids will have some good thoughts on how that is accomplished.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 5, 2000
DVD release date:August 19, 2003
Cast:Connie Nielsen, Joaquin Phoenix, Russell Crowe
Director:Ridley Scott
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:155 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence and some sexual references

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byfritzsky April 9, 2008

Great Movie

This is a great movie. It has a very good story and Russell Crowe is perfect as Maximus. However, it is extremely violent and I would only recommend it to someone who is mature and about 16 or older.
Kid, 12 years old June 20, 2011

Shouldn't Be R

Gladiator is a unique movie, but a somewhat predictable storyline. It's still a great movie, but you can anticipate the ending from the beginning. There is only one reason this is R...violence. There are bloody moments, some blood spurting, and slow motion violence. But, not enough to give the movie an R rating. I've seen worse PG-13 movies. Also (I don't know whether this will help you) Gladiator won Best Picture of 2000.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old September 16, 2009

awesome war/epic battle flick.

This is a great, but extremley violent epic battle movie. Another good movie I've reviewed.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Great messages
Great role models


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