“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.