Historical epics are always a high budget affair, from sprawling landscapes to huge battlefield scenes, and high octane action set pieces, with a bit of the fantastical sprinkled in the mix. Movies like Gladiator have all of these and even more, and that’s why we’ve created a list of 15 movies just like the 2000 historical epic.
Gladiator, which features Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, follows the story of Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman general who is betrayed by Phoenix’s Commodus, the son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius is murdered by his own son, who goes on to take his place on the throne, and starts off his reign by banishing Maximus to slavery. Maximus has no choice than to redeem himself by becoming a gladiator with the aim of avenging his family’s death, and also the memory of the emperor.
One of 2000’s most successful and critically acclaimed movies, Gladiator was the second highest grossing film of the year behind Tom Cruise’s behemoth action franchise Mission: Impossible 2. Couple that achievement together with the five Academy Awards won by the movie, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe, and you have a classic sword-and-sandal hit, the likes of which we have rarely seen since. If you are a fan then here are 15 Movies like Gladiator we guarantee you’ll also enjoy.
List of Movies like Gladiator
1. Braveheart (1995)
Braveheart, similar to movies like Gladiator, is centered on a strong male protagonist. This time it’s William Wallace, a Scottish warlord who leads a revolution in his country against England, motivated by the murder of his love interest. He leads an army to fight against the English Army, advancing onto their territory battle after battle, all culminating in a climactic conclusion.
Released in 1995, Braveheart ticks all the boxes for a classic historical epic. Just like Gladiator it swept everywhere during award season, winning Best Picture and Best Director at the 68th Academy Awards. While it does take some liberties in terms of historical accuracy, this is still one movie that you oughta give a watch.
2. Ben Hur (1959)
A historical epic to end all epics, Ben-Hur was one that influenced the likes of movies similar to Gladiator. At more than 60 years old, it’s still the benchmark that historical epics are judged by and for good reason to. At the time of filming, Ben-Hur had the largest budget of any movie ever, as well as one of the most impressive, expensive and largest sets ever built.
This epic follows the story of a rich Jew, who gets in trouble with a Roman officer, who he happened to be friends with while growing up. It produced one of the most legendary action sequences with its chariot race. There’s just a lot to see and admire about this movie, and you should check out this classic whenever you have the chance.
3. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
In The Last of The Mohicans, we are told a story about a Native American tribe that has slowly but gradually been dwindling in numbers. This tribe lives in peace and harmony with the British colonists, until one day, when a British colonel’s daughters are kidnapped, and Uncas, a Mohican, has to go head first into danger to rescue them, and maintain the peace.
In the same vein with films similar to Gladiator, The Last of The Mohicans is a rip roaring adventure that is a bit loose with history, but makes up for it with its quality writing and action. The Last of The Mohicans is one of those movies which elevates its source material even further instead of diminishing it, so if you were a James Fenimore Cooper’s book, then you should check this out.
Also Read: Movies like The Prestige
4. 300 (2006)
The movie that all but shot Zack Snyder into the limelight. 300’s distinct visual style, cinematography, color palette and editing, makes it one of the more memorable action movies of the 2000s, and one of the better entries in the historical epic genre since movies similar to Gladiator.
300 is set in 480 B.C., a time in which there is a war raging on between Persia and Greece. Leonidas, who is king of the small but formidable city of Sparta, Greece, leads an army of just 300 out to fight against the massive army of Persians. If not for anything, you have to check it out for its unconventional visual style. Check it out in the trailer above!
5. The Last Samurai (2003)
The Last Samurai features Tom Cruise, as Nathan Algren, an American Regiment Captain, who gets into contact with some samurai warriors in 19th century Japan. He is asked to help train the newly formed Imperial Japanese Army for a businessman who wishes to use them in stopping a rebellion against the current Japanese emperor.
This movie has been praised for the true to life portrayal of Japan, with Japanese critics deeming it as miles ahead of any other American movie which is set in Japan or has attempted to showcase its culture. The Last Samurai in a big turn of events for a Hollywood movie, was actually a bigger hit in Japan than in the U.S. If you love films similar to Gladiator, then you’ll love this.
6. Shogun (1980)
Shogun is an American historical epicthat follows the story of an English explorer, loosely based on a real life navigator by the name of William Adams. This explorer journeys to Japan in 1600 and grows so much in power and influence, and so quickly that he is given the position of shogun, a high ranking military position.
Quite similar to movies like Gladiator, and maybe more to the previous one on this list due to its Japanese setting, Shogun was a groundbreaking TV movie, recording a good number of firsts for American television, especially in the aspect of violence, nudity, and language. If you want to see it all for yourself, then make sure to check this one out.
7. Spartacus (1960)
We’re back to the early days of cinema with Spartacus, a 1960s historical epic similar to movies like Gladiator. Spartacus follows the rebellious Thracian Spartacus, who starts off as a slave, and a gladiator in training under a trainer named Batiatus. He leads a rebellion with other slaves in the trainer’s custody, with the aim of leading them to freedom.
Based on the 1951 novel of the same name, Spartacus is one of the many historical epics that came off the back of the mammoth success that was Ben-Hur. This movie was also directed by a fledgling Stanley Kubrick, so if you want to see what he had going on prior to The Shining, then this is the movie for you.
8. Troy (2004)
Few movies have as epic a premise as Troy. With a star-filled cast, which sees Brad Pitt play Achilles, Troy is based on Homer’s Iliad, one of the oldest pieces of literature in existence. This epic follows the story of the Trojan War, the invasion of Troy by the Greek army, and the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon, all of which are spurned by the decision of one man to steal a King’s wife.
It’s a hugely entertaining watch with some powerful performances by Pitt and Eric Bana, who plays Hector. Its battlefield scenes and one on one fights are a joy to watch, and it more than deserved its nomination for Best Costume Design at the 77th Academy Awards. There’s no doubt those particular scenes will live long in your memory should you decide to give it a watch. Try it out if you’re a fan of movies similar to Gladiator.
Also Read: Movies like The Godfather
9. Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld (2008)
From Achilles and Hector, we move to another legend of the Iliad in Odysseus. Odysseus, who left his home of Ithaca for ten years to fight in the Trojan War, didn’t get to go home after it was all over. Instead he spent another ten years fighting different foes and overcoming different challenges all for the chance to get home.
This movie tells the story of this part of Homer’s Iliad in a simple and grounded way, although it is a bit restrained by its visual effects. It has some good performances in terms of acting, especially from Vosloo who plays Odysseus. If you like epic action adventure films like Gladiator, you should get something from this.
10. The Patriot (2000)
The Patriot is one of the more memorable historical epic films similar to Gladiator. It follows the story of Mel Gibson’s Captain Benjamin Martin, an American colonist who is reluctant to start a war with Great Britain. He has no choice in the end but to join in the Revolutionary War, alongside his son Corporal Gabriel Martin, played by Heath Ledger.
Serious work was put into maintaining historical accuracy in The Patriot, especially in the setting, sets and costume design. All intended to showcase the true atmosphere of the years of the Revolutionary War. Mel Gibson shows off his acting chops on this movie and Heath Ledger gives a hint of the greatness that lied in wait for him a few years down the line.
11. Outlaw King (2018)
In recent years there seems to have been an attempt to revitalize the historical epic genre, and one of the movies that has tried to is Outlaw King. A straight to Netflix movie which is based around the Scottish Wars of Independence, the plot follows the Scottish King Robert the Bruce as he leads his troops to rebel against the rule of Edward I
It has a similar premise to a movie previously seen on this list, Braveheart, although the events of this movie takes place some years after. Outlaw King has some great big budget battle scenes, although it has been criticized for not being as historically accurate as it could be. The action is where it’s at though, so if you like movies like Gladiator, check this out on Netflix.
12. Pompeii (2014)
Pompeii is set in the city of the same name, a city which is located close to a volcanic mountain called Mount Vesuvius. This historical epic is similar in terms of scale and pacing to films like Gladiator. It features Game of Thrones’ very own Kit Harington as Milo, a gladiator who falls in love with a merchant’s daughter.
Things all seem to be coming to a head, until something happens which trivializes all the political tussles and class struggles, Mount Vesuvius erupts and threatens to wipe out the entire city. Pompeii is entertaining with some memorable action sequences, from its gladiator battles to its chariot chases through the city.
13. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is an epic action-adventure and a retelling of the legend of King Arthur. In this version of this story, Arthur has grown up far from the crown in the slums of the city without knowing who he is, as his father was murdered by Jude Law’s Uncle Vortigern.
King Arthur tries out a more modern style compared to movies like Gladiator. Charlie Hunnam gives a vibrant and cheeky performance as Arthur, and the movie on a whole is filled with entertaining set pieces. Check out this movie if you’re looking for something a little bit different.
14. Medieval (2022)
Medieval follows the story of Jan Žižka, a Bohemian army general who up till this point never lost a battle in his life. The movie is set just before the Hussite Wars of the 15th century, and shows how Jan built such a legendary reputation for himself in Warcraft and battle tactics, a reputation that still holds true till today.
This English language Czech historical epic is a visual spectacle with lots of intense fight scenes similar to films like Gladiator and Braveheart. It’s a good look into a rarely explored era of European history, at least on the big screen. You’ll find yourself wanting to read all about this time once you’re done watching this.
15. The Last Duel (2021)
Jean de Carrouges is a legendary knight in The Last Duel. This movie is set in medieval France, and is based on the 2004 book of the same name authored by Eric Jager. This movie follows the story of Carrouges as he challenges his friend to a duel after Carrouge’s wife accuses him of raping her.
It’s a tale of vengeance, violence, and justice, in the same vein as many films similar to Gladiator. The movie is split into three chapters, giving us different perspectives into the events of the movie. The Last Duel contains some real powerhouses in the likes of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Adam Driver, with the directorial reins taken by the legendary Ridley Scott.
Here are some movies like Gladiator that didn’t quite make the list but you can watch regardless:
- Excalibur (1981)
- The Eagle (2011)
- Centurion (2010)