When a Roman general is betrayed by the emperor's son and his family murdered, he is sold into slavery as a gladiator and plans his vengeance.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by David Franzoni, John Logan, William Nicholson
Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen,
Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi,
Tommy Flanagan, Tomas Arana
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Actor (Russell Crowe),
Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Joaquin Phoenix),
Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography,
Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer),
Best Art Direction
It's tough not to enjoy Gladiator, the film that brought both Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix to the A-list. It's roughly the same exact story as Braveheart and just as fictional, which is probably part of the reason I like it so much. Gladiator is a revenge flick set against the backdrop of Ancient Rome during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and then his son Commodus, played fantastically by Phoenix. A well-respected Roman general named Maximus is named protector of Rome by Marcus Aurelius himself, but is promptly exiled and declared the enemy by Commodus after he kills his father. From there, the movie just gets better as it evolves into an old-fashioned swords 'n sandals adventure.
Russell Crowe excels as Maximus, earning every karat of that Oscar gold. He's a protagonist that's fun to root for because he has vengeance in his heart. The fight scenes in the gladiator pits are expertly choreographed, especially the one with the tigers. Ridley Scott's direction helps make the film as memorable as it is exciting, from the political struggles to the battles for glory. The build-up to the inevitable showdown between Maximus and Commodus is a lesson in brilliant storytelling and the chemistry between Crowe and Phoenix in these scenes is palpable.
Gladiator sets itself apart from later films like 300 and the various Hercules reboots. It has a heartfelt story of honor and courage keeping it afloat. With every swing of the sword, you understand Maximus's fight to reclaim Rome for the people. It's truly a beautiful film that rightfully deserves the title of Best Picture, as its stayed consistently great for over a decade now.