6 Movies About Ancient Rome That Don't Require a Toga
Ah, ancient Rome. Probably the most famous ancient civilization, and the one that many history experts agree would be most hospitable to modern people. It's not so different from our modern world: People go to work, eat at restaurants, and watch people kill each other for fun. If you're in the mood for a jaunt down ancient Roman way, check out these six movies about ancient Rome. But remember, no roamin'! Ha, just a little humor to lighten things up. You'll appreciate that more once you meet the lions.
We are of course only concerned with one of the three ages in this Buster Keaton comedy classic, featuring Buster competing for a woman with Wallace Beery across three disparate eras: Prehistoric times, ancient Rome, and the contemporary 20s. The scenes set in ancient Rome might not be historically accurate, but they are hilarious.
Buster Keaton wasn't the only artist who explored ancient Rome years after it had collapsed. One William Shakespeare was also interested in the subject, and his play "Julius Caesar" was turned into a star-studded MGM drama featuring people like Marlon Brando, James Mason, Edmond O'Brien, and Deborah Kerr. The themes of political intrigue and betrayal resonate no matter what time period you're in, and the ancient Roman setting is just icing on the dramatic cake.
It wasn't bad being an ancient Roman if you were rich, but what about the 99 percent? Spartacus was one of those, before he led an exciting and action-packed revolt against his Roman enslavers. Director Stanley Kubrick gives the battle scenes a fair dose of excitement, and star Kirk Douglas is as charismatic and fun to watch as ever as the noble slave-turned-warrior.
"The Fall of the Roman Empire"
Director Anthony Mann began his career making low-key psychological westerns, but he ended up almost as adept at making artful historical epics like this one. The cast includes Sophia Loren and Alec Guinness, and the long running time might make you believe you're witnessing the fall of the Roman Empire in real time. If you're in the mood, that might be a good thing.
"History of the World: Part I"
Historian Mel Brooks never got to make part II of his comedy "History of the World," perhaps because he ran out of comically oversized joints. But "Part I" includes a lengthy chapter on the Roman Empire - the movie's funniest gag takes place in this period, as "stand-up philosopher" Mel meets up with Jesus Christ and the disciples at the last supper. Mel just wants to get their drink orders, and in consternation he shouts "Jesus Christ!" Jesus replies, "what?"
Director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe brought back the sword-and-sandal trend in a big way in this smash hit about ancient Roman gladiators. They also had the help of a great historical villain in Commodus, played with relish by Joaquin Phoenix. The drama is classical and the fight scenes are bloody and brutal - just like ancient Rome itself.