"You know, it's possible, Octavian, that when you die... you will die without ever having been alive."
— Mark Antony
The film that nearlykilled20th Century Fox, Cleopatra was released in 1963 and starred Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. It chronicles the tale of Cleopatra, Pharaoh of Egypt, and her long reign over her country. In the beginning, she romances Julius Caesar, and tries to gain her place in the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, the Ides of March happen, and Cleopatra's dreams hit a roadblock. So, she turns her attention to Mark Antony, who eventually falls to the army of Octavian.If you are looking for information about the actual Cleopatra, see UsefulNotes.Cleopatra VII.
Cleopatra features examples of the following tropes:
The Alcoholic: In the second part of the movie, there is hardly a scene where Mark Antony is not drinking. This is Harsher in Hindsight given Richard Burton's problems with alcohol.
Epic Fail: Mark Antony's "brilliant" decision to branch into naval warfare at Actium.
Epic Movie: One of the biggest. It cost $44 million to make, which, adjusted for inflation, would be $310 million in today's dollars. This figure has only been topped (and even then, just barely) by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End — 44 years later. To put it into perspective: it remains the only movie to be the highest-grossing film of its year and still lose money. It would have had to become the third most successful film of all time just to break even.
Forgiveness Requires Death: Very literal. The girl who offered Cleopatra a poisoned drink begs her forgiveness. Cleopatra grants it, then makes her drink it. Also a Moment of Awesome.
Cleopatra was very probably genuinely offering her forgiveness, when you think about it. I'm sure the quick, relatively painless death from the poison was a gentler way to go than the one the law would reserve for someone who tried to assassinate the Queen.
Memento MacGuffin: Cleopatra had a necklace made with only coins of Caesar, which she says she always wears. Mark Antony tears it off.
Monumental Damage: Cleopatra is furious when Caesar's troops accidentally burn down the famous Alexandrian Library.
This includes the baffling part where Sosigenes refers to various books being burned, such as the manuscripts of Aristotle, and the... Testament of the Hebrew god, which he refers to as the Book of Books? When did a Greek philosopher in Egypt convert to Judaism?
Shown Their Work: The film, although no stranger to Hollywood History, is remarkably respectful of Classic sources. Many colourful and dramatic episodes (Cleopatra rolled in a carpet, Caesar killed near Pompey's monument, Mark Antony covering Brutus' body with a cloak) are directly lifted from Suetonius, Plutarch, and other ancient writers. Many historical events, place-names and figures are mentioned in the movie, raising its educational value.
Stealth Insult: A lot. For example, Cicero quips "Finally I've seen the real extent of Egyptian wealth" (implying that Cleopatra has bribed Roman senators to let her into Rome).
Straight for the Commander: Mark Anthony attempts this in the final sea battle against Octavian. He sails his ship right at Octavian's flagship because even if he loses the battle, killing Octavian will still win him the war. It fails because Octavian is not actually on his flagship and is instead on another ship away from the fighting.
Succession Crisis: Who should take up Caesar's name and power, Mark Antony or Octavian?
Tag Team Suicide: Antony and Cleopatra, followed by her maids Iras and Charmian.
Villain Protagonist: All three main characters (Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony) are portrayed as scheming, power-hungry politicians and brutal warlords, caring nothing for the masses under their rule and seeking only personal gain.