Commodus as portrayed by Joaquin PhoenixOne of the much-praised CGI shots of Rome."Smile for me now brother!" Oscar-nominee Joaquin Phoenix adresses Oscar-winner Russell Crowe.

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Gladiator is a 2000 movie directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. It won five Academy Awards in the 73rd Academy Awards ceremony, including the prestigious Academy Award for Best Picture. more...

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Main cast

  • Russell Crowe - Maximus
  • Joaquin Phoenix - Commodus
  • Connie Nielsen - Lucilla
  • Richard Harris - Marcus Aurelius
  • Oliver Reed - Proximo
  • Derek Jacobi - Senator Gracchus
  • Djimon Hounsou - Juba
  • Spencer Treat Clark - Lucius Verus

Plot summary

A man by the name of Maximus Decimus Meridius (played by Russell Crowe) becomes one of the top generals in the Roman army. He leads his men to many victories and gains the support from the masses and even the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Because the emperor is very old, he decides to pass his power down to Maximus rather than his only son Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix). When Commodus catches word of what is about to happen, he decides to murder his own father Marcus Aurelius to acquire the position through default. At the same moment, he also orders his men to murder Maximus before he can claim his rightful position. Maximus escapes his fate only to find that both his wife and son have been murdered. Maximus then must start over and work his way up by fighting as a gladiator in various arenas. To gain success and power, he must appeal to the Roman people. His power and fame continue to grow until he finally reaches the Roman Coliseum and comes into contact again with his true enemy, Commodus. Maximus is tested both physically and emotionally, and he must avenge the death of his wife and son.


There are many important themes throughout the entire movie; however, the most significant theme is that heroic virtues end up winning in the end. Maximus loses everything sacred to him and falls into a low point of despair. Eventually, he must work his way up the ladder by fighting as a gladiator. This plays to the theme because through his strong virtues, he ends up gaining everything he once lost. By maintaining one's honor and using physical and mental skills, it is possible to conquer any task or problem in life.

Historical sources

The Roman emperors portrayed in the movie are Marcus Aurelius (played by Richard Harris), who ruled AD 161–180, and his son, the deranged Commodus, who ruled between 180–192, and scandalized Roman society by appearing in the Colosseum as a gladiator. The film's characterization attempts to reflect Marcus Aurelius's reputation for wisdom but does so by placing a modern democratic slant to his actions and beliefs. The representation of Commodus is extremely watered down, as Commodus was far more insane and bloodthirsty than he appears in the film. While Commodus was the only Roman Emperor to fight as a gladiator, he was not killed in the arena, as the film suggests. Gladiator also implies that "Rome was founded as a Republic" and that it returned to republicanism upon the death of Commodus, neither of which are true.


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