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  • Writer's pictureJFS the Reviewer

Gladiator 20th Anniversary review


The movie premiered on May 1st in Los Angeles, California before it was released in the United States on May 12th and in the United Kingdom on May 12th. The film was directed by the legendary Ridley Scott, who directed such films as Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Legend (1985), Thelma & Louise (1992), Black Hawk Down (2001), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), the Martian (2015), and many others.

The film was produced by Douglas Wick, Branko Lustig, and David Franzoni, who also wrote the story for the film. And was also involved in writing the movie Amistad (1997), King Arthur (2004), and the rumored possible Gladiator 2 movie.

The film also stars Russel Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, the late Richard Harris, and many other great actors.

The film is 155 minutes long with a budget was $103 million dollars and made back $460 million dollars. The film was also inspired by Daniel P. Mannix’s 1958 book Those About to Die (formerly titled The Way of the Gladiator).


The story for the film focuses on Russel Crowe’s character Maximus Decimus Meridius, who was a general of the Roman Empire and planned to retire once the war ends. However, he is framed by Joaquin Phoenix’s character Commodus, the son of the emperor of Rome for murder. Maximus manages to avoid death, but when he returns home he finds his wife and son have been murdered by the Roman soldiers under Commodus’ orders.

Maximus is later found and sold as a slave to fight as a gladiator. Maximus is told that if he wins enough fights, he can get to Rome to perform in front of the emperor himself. So, the story soon focuses on Maximus earning the love and trust of the people so he can go to Rome to not only overthrow him from power, but also kill Commodus.

Despite how long the movie is, its well-paced. The first part of the story starts off with a big fight scene before it slows down to give time for the characters to be introduced to the people before we see what the plot will be about. The second part of the story is where we see Maximus in his fights against other gladiators, earning the love from the movie, the respect from the gladiators, and the hate from Commodus. The fight scenes pick up the pace in this chapter and help keep you interested.

The third act is where we get the final confrontation between Maximus and Commodus. Despite how long it took to get to this moment, they still did a good job keeping me interested and wanting to see Maximus finally get his revenge. Despite Commodus doing all he can to have the advantage in his fight. The film ends in a sad, but in triumph, and ends perfectly.

To the point I am glad the rumors of them wanting to bring back Maximus for a sequel was put to rest. So, if they do go through with a sequel it will have to be with another character.


Russel Crowe’s performance in the film was well done and has us believe not only is he a bad ass, but someone who could command an army, is honorable, and is someone you are rooting for. My only problem is the way he talks is basically how he always talks in a lot of his films. If you pay close attention you will know what I mean.

Joaquin Phoenix did a good job portraying the cowardly but also evil Commodus who wanted the love from his father and prove himself to him. But his father favored Maximus and it made Commodus despite him. His actions makes you hate him, but in a good way. Its like a bad guy on a wrestling show, he gives off a lot of heat to the point that the people not only want to see him get his ass kicked, but you want the hero he has wronged be the one to do it.

It really shows what an amazing actor Joaquin Phoenix is and I believe over looked his performance after this film until Joker came out to remind us of his great skills as an actor.

Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, and many of the other actors in this movie did an amazing job with their role, especially Djimon Hounsou who plays Maximus’ friend and close ally. I loved his performance in Amistad, Blood Diamond, and looking forward to his role in the upcoming A Quiet Place Part II and the King’s Man, which is a prequel to the Kingsman movie.

The only flaw I have is that there were some characters in the movie that you aren’t invested much in and are just there just for plot related.

Setting, Music, and history:

The setting for the film isn’t completely CGI…okay sometimes. For example, the city of Rome looks CGI and when the arena at times look CGI too. However, the rest look real because they built the set and made sure it looks good. The arena floor is a good example and how they set everything up for the audience in attendance.

The fight scenes were done well, and it looks like they took time to make sure they got it done right. There are times when they do get bloody, which is why when they show it on television, they do try not to show those scenes. There are times when you can tell it isn’t the real actors involved in the fighting, but it shot in a way that keeps you from noticing this too much. I didn’t appreciate how they used the tigers though.

Yes, they did use the tigers for a fight scene, but obviously they aren’t going to have them be literally used when the actors are around. My problem though is when they have the chains around the tigers’ neck and have to pull on them. Yes, I know that’s how they do it to keep the animal from hurting someone, but it made me feel a little uncomfortable about it. But that’s just a minor problem and it didn’t hurt the film at all.

The music is the best part of the movie, especially for certain scenes where the music works. It doesn’t rely on bands playing the songs or having rock music being played. The songs were made by Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer. Both did an amazing job with their work. The songs playing at the right time and are enjoyable to listen to every time I listen to it.

The only complaint I did have was just the history part of the movie. Yes, I know that in these sorts of movies they will take liberties with the history. But as someone who is becoming a history a teacher, I do have an issue with so many errors in the film. One good example from what I got from people is the gladiator fights and how bloody they were back then.

In reality, gladiator fights were tamed. They were not fought to the death, it was rare for someone to die, and it was treated more like a wrestling show. The gladiators were trained to incapacitate their opponents and have them surrender. Killing was forbidden and the emperor rarely even had any of them put down.

Final Thoughts:

Gladiator is an amazing film that even 20 years later still holds up. It is a revenge drama story where we see our hero looking for revenge against the man who took his family away and will not join his family in the afterlife until then. It does have some minor flaws, but it is still a good film.

It has a good story, an amazing cast, and music you can listen to whenever you want. It is an enjoyable film that you can watch with friends or loved ones. It is not a film I recommend watching with your kids, but it is a film that will be fun to watch.

It is a film that I believe even ten years from now will still be an enjoyable film. Now, if you don’t have the patience for a film that is over two hours then this is not the film for you then. However, if you are interested in these sorts of films, then I recommend checking it out. And let us hope if they do go through with a sequel that it should be more of a prequel to the movie instead of an actual sequel.


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