Ready your breakfast and eat hearty... For TONIGHT! WE DINE! IN HELL!!
— King Leonidas
is a heavily stylized Battle Epic
movie directed by Zack Snyder
, released in 2007 and based on
a 1998 comic miniseries
by Frank Miller
. It is based on real events
- the Battle of Thermopylae
in 480 BC during the Second Greco-Persian War
, as described by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus
. Miller was introduced to the Thermopylae story through a 1962 Sword And Sandal
movie version called The 300 Spartans
, which influenced him deeply as a child. The comic and film are extreme examples of historical movies being Very Loosely Based on a True Story
, as artistic license is liberally employed (more so in the film than in the comic).
A young, one-eyed Spartan soldier relates to a group of fellow soldiers how recent events came to pass
. King Leonidas of Sparta (Gerard Butler
) refuses to bow to the God King Xerxes'
demands for Sparta to submit to the vast power of the Persian Empire. Leonidas' visit to the deformed, elderly Ephors
and their Oracular Urchin
/Sex Slave brings worse news: Sparta cannot wage war against the armies of Persia on the eve of the sacred Carneia festival.
After much deliberation, Leonidas decides to defy the oracles' prophecies...sort of. He gathers three hundred of Sparta's finest soldiers (referring to them his "personal bodyguard") and marches them to the Hot Gates of Thermopylae, a narrow pass between the ocean and mountains. By rebuilding an ancient wall to bottleneck the vast Persian army, the superior fighting ability of the Spartans would conceivably make up for the small size of their army and give them a fighting chance at holding back the Persian Empire until Sparta's army can launch a full assault. Seven hundred or so other Greeks turn up as Leonidas and the 300 make their way to the Hot Gates, and a hideously deformed Spartan man
called Ephialtes also joins the convoy to ask Leonidas for a place on the battlefield (in exchange for information about an unguarded path that would leave the Spartans wide open to retaliation from behind). Leonidas refuses to accept Ephialtes into the fighting ranks — it would leave a weak point in their defense — and returns his attention to preparing for the battle.
In the meantime, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey
) tries to persuade the Spartan politicians to support Leonidas, but Theron — scarily played by Dominic West — is the most stubborn of the lot.
When the Persian Empire brings its forces down upon the Hot Gates, the battle goes exactly according to Leonidas' plan: the fighting skill and perfect defensive position of the Spartans prove to be too much for even the monstrous Persian army to handle. The kill count becomes obscenely lopsided in favor of the Spartans, and the only real problem occurs when Ephialtes sells his information to Xerxes for women, wealth, and a (horrible) uniform.
The film version of 300
is heavily stylized thanks to both its comic book roots and the story itself presented as a morale-boosting story told by Dilios
. While accurate in some historical aspects (mostly quotes), it is presented first and foremost as a visual Greek epic tale of glory, death, and how battling half naked is strategically superior
. Trying to justify or explain it is as futile as explaining why Matrix should face a court-martial for property damage
. Think of this as Sin City
(also by Frank Miller
) with gold and red instead of white and black...and with far fewer prostitutes.
A sequel film, 300: Rise of an Empire
, was released in March 2014.
These! ARE! TROPES!:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Both sides hack a lot of limbs and heads off quite cleanly like a hot knife through butter, despite having only iron weapons.
- Acoustic License: At the end of the film, the narrator is revealed to be talking to an army of over thirty thousand men. Somehow, the guys way in the back who are probably half a mile away, hear him perfectly fine.
- Adaptational Badass: Invoked slightly. The original comic was still filled with badasses but the movie version went straight into pure fantasy with monsters and combat feats that defy the laws of physics. The movie was more of a comic book than the comic book.
- Adaptation Expansion: The entire Gorgo subplot was created for the movie as were a few fight scenes depicting more fantastic elements (the orc-like monster, the giant rhino, etc.) Also, the Captain's son is a side character in the movie but only had a brief mention in the comic.
- Adrenaline Time: Used extensively. It's mocked in a number of the parodies of this film.
- Adult Fear: The terror in the Captain's voice when he realizes what's about to happen to his son is a very chilling sound that any parent can relate to.
- Aggressive Negotiations: What the "This is Sparta!!!!" scene amounts to.
- Almost Dead Guy: The kid that delivers a few lines and then dies in the hero's arms.
- Alternate DVD Commentary: If you love 300 and think it's awesome, you should check out the RiffTrax. If you hate 300 with the passion of a thousand nations of the Persian Empire, you should definitely check out the Rifftrax.
- Amazon Brigade: Gorgo's attitude and actions suggest that Leonidas wasn't kidding when he said he could march Sparta's women to Thermopylae instead of its men. Spartan women enjoyed more political power than in other Greek city-states, since their husbands were so often off at war.
- Armor Is Useless: Played so very straight; the Spartans in this movie do not wear anything except loincloths, helmets, and cloaks. They do discuss the purpose and importance of the Shield Wall, which would be an aversion of this trope if they actually bothered to use that strategy for longer than the first thirty seconds of fighting.
- Artistic License: As Frank Miller put it, he doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good story.
- Neither does Dilios, who is clearly embellishing the tale more with each retelling.
- Artistic License History: The movie is obviously not meant to reflect true history. In fact, historical records of the event are already believed to be rather sensationalized and greatly embellished. Zack Snyder and Frank Miller also drew inspiration from ancient artwork, which, much like Hollywood, glamorize battles of the past. Audiences have loved muscle-bound, half-naked supermen kicking the snot out of each other for a while. The embellishment is heavily implied as part of the Greek propaganda even during the film. On the other hand, Zack Snyder did state rather audaciously that the history presented in the film is "90% accurate, although the visuals are pretty crazy". However, none of these explain a few details:
- The Spartan soldiers' disdain for the Ephors and the supernatural in general. By ancient Greek standards, Spartans were exceptionally religious.
- The Spartan Ephors are transformed from the equivalent of five Senators who run Spartan government into deformed molester priests who betray their people.
- Sparta was run by two hereditary kings who held equal power and were in turn judged by the ephors. There were two royal families descended by the twin brothers Evrysthenes and Proklis, who were the leaders of the Dorians, a Greek tribe, who had invaded Sparta some 600 years before the Persian wars. Going to just one of them is pointless, and even if he did accede, he'd probably be branded a traitor and thrown out of the city immediately.
- Leonidas criticizes Athenians as "boy-lovers." Spartans were even more committed to pederasty, the relationship between adult men and adolescent boys, than the other Greek city-states. note
- Adultery was not shameful in Sparta.
- Slavery was outlawed in the Persian Empire, and Xerxes proclaiming himself a god would have been seen as heresy in the monotheistic Zoroastrian religion he followed.
- The Spartans on the other hand, far from a rural, freedom-loving society, were a minority (almost a military caste) who lived by continually and ruthlessly repressing the majority of the population, the helots. The latter were essentially slaves who worked the land to produce the food so that the former could spend all their time in oppressing them, and fighting other wars in between. During some periods, a Spartan could kill a Helot unpunished if he wanted.
- The historical Xerxes is depicted in ancient artwork as having a long beard and hair, wearing elaborate royal robes. If he had a lot of body piercings and made public appearances while nearly-naked he apparently did not allow anyone to do any sculptures of it.
- The doru spear, the primary weapon of Greek hoplites, was NOT thrown. Despite Leonidas and his men shown throwing theirs with ease, the doru spears were too heavy and too long to be thrown. Javelins would have been used instead for throwing, which were shorter and lighter.
- The largest derivation from historical context is that the film is that the only forces depicted for Greece is the 300 Spartan hoplites and an Arcadian skirmisher contingent that contributes for a small part of the battle. The real battle featured over 4000 (according to Herodotus, which is a lower estimate) troops on the Greek side. Even after Leonidas realized the Persians would flank them and ordered the other city-states' forces to retreat, 700 Thespians remained with the Spartan forces during their Last Stand to give the other forces more time.
- Ascended Extra: Queen Gorgo, a very minor character in the comics with not so much screen-time, is the Deuteragonist of the movie.
- Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: "Those in the rear cry, 'Forward!' Those in front cry, 'baaaaack!'"
- Autobots, Rock Out!
- Author Tract: Critics have argued a lot about whether or not the film is an allegorical author tract, whose tract it is, and who represents what.
- Awesome but Impractical: The war rhino is certainly quite impressive, but it gets killed by a well thrown spear before it even has a chance to reach the Spartan front line. Furthermore the war elephants, which the Spartans manage to push off the cliff. note
- Also, the Spartans not wearing body armor.
- Axe Crazy: Every other Greek believes the Spartans to be this. They aren't wrong...
- The Uber-Immortal is a literal example, as he wields an axe.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Stelios and Astinos.
- Badass: The story's goal is to essentially portray the Spartans as the biggest badasses of all human history.
- Badass Army:
- The Spartans, who are portrayed as suicidally infatuated with carnage and glory.
- Subverted by the Immortals, who were never defeated in Xerxes' army of a thousand nations, but become an army of mooks when they meet the Spartans.
- Badass Beard: Leonidas is the most prominent example.
- Badass Boast: There is a reason the term "laconic wit" was named for the Spartans. They had a deep cultural love for pithy, badass statements.
- As recorded/invented by Plutarch: Leonidas' laconic reply, "Come and get them!" when the Persians demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons. The original Greek, "Molōn labe", is the motto of the Greek I Army Corps, as well as the United States Special Operations Command Central.
- Another example, taken straight from Herodotus, is when the Spartans are warned that the Persian army is so great, its arrows will blot out the Sun. A Spartan soldier casually replies, "Then we will fight in the shade."
- Gorgo's reply to the messenger's query of why she dared to speak in the presence of men "Because only Spartan women give birth to real men" was something she said, although historically she said it to a visiting Athenean lady, not a Persian messenger.
- Leonidas alludes to his historical response during the conversation with the Persian Messenger. In reality, his actual response to the Persian's demands for "Earth and Water", was to politely inform them that they could "dig it out for themselves!" Then he threw them down the well!
- Leonidas asks the Arcadian soldiers what their professions are, then turns to his own men.
Spartans: [raise their spears] ARROOH! ARROOH! ARROOH!
Leonidas: You see, old friend? I've brought more soldiers than you did.
- On the first day of battle, after fighting off the first wave of enemies: "TODAY, NO SPARTAN DIES!" They succeed that day.
- Badass Cape: The Spartan army.
- Bald of Evil: Xerxes again.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: The Ephors are grotesque, lecherous and corrupt. Many of the villainous Persians are freakish and inhuman. Ephialtes betrays his fellow Spartans when they do not accept him for his deformity.
- The Berserker: The Uber-Immortal.
- Big Bad: Xerxes of course.
- Big Good: Leonidas of course.
- Black Dude Dies First: Messenger from Xerxes in the beginning of the movie.
- Blade Below the Shoulder: The Persian executioner has blades replacing his arms.
- Blatant Lies: "I thought to take a short stroll. These three hundred soldiers are my personal bodyguard." The counselors clearly know he is lying, but can't do anything about it.
- Note that the real life Spartan kings did in fact have a bodyguard of 300 men called the Hippeis. They were however the opposite of the men Leonidas took with him to Thermopylae: young men under 30 mounted on horses.
- Blocking Stops All Damage: The film takes this to parodic levels. Anything behind the shields is basically invulnerable.
- Blood Knight: The Spartans are history's definitive example of this. Throughout the film, we get to see that the rest of the Greek forces are somewhat terrified that the Spartans are enjoying themselves too much.
- Bloodless Carnage: Despite the viseral nature of the film, whenever a sword slashes an enemy blood goes everywhere but never hits the ground. It just disperses and never leaves a stain.
- Bottomless Pit: Where the Spartans threw the Persian messenger who demanded their surrender. It's supposed to be a well, and the scene based on the historcal account of the Spartans telling the emissary to dig out their tribute of earth and water themselves.
- Bowdlerise: Male genitalia appeared in the graphic novel, while all male characters wear at least their codpieces in the film.
- Chroma Key: All but one shot were done in a Montreal soundstage in front of a blue screen.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: 300 vs 1,000,000. There were a few thousand Arcadians but they get three seconds of screentime.
- Crucified Hero Shot: Leonidas assumes this pose as he faces a torrential downpour of arrows that kill him, and we eventually see his corpse in this pose.
- Cultural Posturing: Leonidas and Xerxes exchange proud statements about their cultures during their first meeting.
- Deadpan Snarker: Leonidas when he's not in large ham mood. An example would be, in response to Xerxes saying the two could share their culture if allied, "We've been sharing our culture with you all morning."
- Decapitation Presentation: As noted in the page quote, the Persian messenger tries to intimidate Leonidas with a sackful of the severed heads of those who refused his offer.
- Defiant Stone Throw: Leonidas' final attack is a purely symbolic gesture.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Spartans are portrayed overall as good guys, but the story still contains reminders of their bloodlust. It opens with one of them lovingly describing mass ritual infanticide (which actually happened, by the way).
- Den of Iniquity: Xerxes' royal pavilion, filled with drugged courtiers, freaks and all forms of sex. Xerxes throws such a swingin' party that even Baphomet shows up.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans. Only the hard...only the strong..."
- Determinator: The Spartans could count as a reconstructed example of this. They likely knew they couldn't defeat all the Persians. But in the end and historically, the victories they got inspired the other Greek states to unite against the Persians.
- Deus ex Machina: Subverted. The Spartans celebrate when a storm hits the Persian ships only for the rest of the fleet to arrive the next morningnote .
- Diagonal Cut: Horizontal, but the same effect.
- Disney Villain Death:
- The Persian messenger ends up being kicked into the well, shortly after the infamous dialogue between him and Leonidas.
- "Well, let's give them something to drink. To the cliffs!"
- Does Not Like Shoes: Although it's difficult to see due to the speed of the scenes, the Immortals go barefoot. Considering that one of them dropkicked a Spartan soldier while fighting, the lack of footwear could be a choice for more agility.
- Doomed Moral Victor: A 300-man bodyguard of those.
- Dual Wielding: The Immortals, whose main weapons are a pair of katana-like swords.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: The 300-man troop making a Last Stand against the Persians, while Leonidas hurls a spear at Xerxes, cutting his cheek open. "God-King" my ass!
- Leonidas standing alone and single-handedly facing an onslaught of arrows.
- Elite Mooks: The Immortals. They don't fare much better than regular mooks, but they are the first ones to kill Spartans.
- The Empire: The Persians.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: The legions of Xerxes are from all over the world (including Africa and Japan, apparently), and he even hires hunchbacks, which is Truth in Television, as the Persians had territory in the Middle East, parts of India (or at least Pakistan), and also ruled part of North Africa. The Greeks, however, were all... Greek.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Captain Artemis as "Captain".
- Evil Cripple: Ephialtes, the deformed, treacherous hunchback. While the deformities themselves were added by the adaptation, he's also portrayed more sympathetically than the classical myths show him as. He's depicted as a Spartan outcast who was only saved from being killed in his infancy by his compassionate parents. When he tries to offer his services to King Leonidas he is shot downnote , leading to a switch to the Persian camp that reads less like a Face-Heel Turn and more like a moment of Then Let Me Be Evil. In the sequel, he is deeply remorseful for his betrayal.
- Evil Is Bigger: Emperor Xerxes is a nine feet tall androgynous God-King, towering over both his opponent King Leonidas and his own men.
- Evil Laugh:
- The Persian emissary who bribed Theron and the Ephors to betray Sparta in exchange for Persian riches laughs diabolically.
- Evil Overlord: Persian King Xerxes is portrayed as this, becoming the evil God Emperor of an invading empire trying to bring the "freedom-loving Greeks" to bow down to him. The Immortals are outright stated to have served the "dark will" of Persian Kings for centuries. He rules his subjects through the lash and his divine power, and the fact that half of his warriors are monsters and dark sorcerors leaves no doubt about how evil his empire is.
- Evil Plan: The battle at Thermoplyae is triggered by Xerxes' desire to take over Greece.
- Evil Sounds Deep: They really lower Rodrigo Santoro's voice for Xerxes.
- Evil Wears Black: The Persian warrior elite known as the Immortals wear all-black uniforms with creepy silver masks. They're the most dangerous of all of Xerxes's warriors and are soon revealed to literally be monsters.
- Exact Words: The Persian emissary demands that Sparta give the traditional tokens of submission: Earth and Water. Leonidas complies by kicking the emissary down a well. In fact, his historical response before doing so was that they could "dig it out for themselves!"
- Leonidas tells Xerxes that before the battle is over, the world will know that even a God-king can bleed. During their Last Stand, Leonidas makes good on that promise.
- Eyepatch of Power: Dilios after losing his eye in the fighting.
- Eye Scream:
- Leonidas stabs the uber-Immortal in the eye with a spearhead.
- Dilios loses an eye during the fighting at the Hot Gates. He quips that it won't hinder him because "the gods saw fit to grace me with a spare."
- Face-Heel Turn: Ephialtes wanted to join the spartans but was turned down so he joined Xerxes instead.
- Faceless Goons: The Immortals all wear face-concealing silver masks. It turns out that what's underneath is actually much worse, since they're revealed as humanoid monsters with filed-down teeth when one gets his mask blown off by a Spartan.
- Fanservice: An army of muscle-bound men wearing little more than leather straps and loincloths, their bodies lathered with blood and sweat and grime after a long day of slaughtering their enemies, the gratuitous slow-mo that accentuates every hard line of their abs, biceps, and thighs... yeah.
- A Father to His Men: Leonidas as this exchange proofs:
Xerxes: It isn't wise to stand against me, Leonidas. Imagine what horrible fate awaits my enemies when I would gladly kill any of my own men for victory.
King Leonidas: And I would die for any one of mine.
- Faux Affably Evil: Xerxes fancied himself as "kind".
- Foreign Money Is Proof of Guilt: The fact that Theron had Persian coins on him when he died served to convince the assembly that he was a traitor.
- To clarify, Sparta used iron as currency while Persia (and everyone else) used gold and silver. Persian currency would be useless to Theron unless Persia conquered Sparta.
- Friend or Foe: The Uber-Immortal doesn't have trouble with throwing around his Persian handlers when he is liberated from his chains. In fact, his companions look more worried about him than the Spartans do.
- Genius Bruiser: Leonidas shows himself to be a shrewd tactician and leader in addition to being a badass front-line fighter. He also displays full proficiency in Laconic wit.
- Genre Blindness: Astinos should have been well-trained enough to know that hearing anyone crying out his name in terror would mean he was in imminent danger and take action accordingly. He loses his head for it.
- Giant Mook: At least two of them are fought in battle. The Persians also use elephants. 300 being what it is, they get pushed into the sea and are never seen again.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom:
- In the scene where the (black) emissary of Xerxes bribes the priests of the oracle; the emissary fades to a silhouette with only his eyes remaining, glowing white.
- Also, the eyes of the wolf Leonidas slays for his initiation.
- A God Am I: Xerxes fancies himself a god. The Spartans think this is hilarious.
- God Emperor: Xerxes, reflecting an fictional belief the ancient Persians supposedly had and explaining why the "making him bleed" bit was so dramatic. The real life Persians were mostly Zoroastrian and thus monotheistic, believing in the divinity of a single deity, Ahura Mazda, and not that of their king.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Leonidas and Gorgo.
- Have I Mentioned I Am a Dwarf Today?: It is very important that there is no doubt they are Spartans.
- Heal It With Fire: One of the soldiers uses a heated spearhead to cauterize the wound of a fellow soldier on the second night.
- He Didn't Make It: Extreme case. Almost none of the Greeks survived. Reinforced with the fact that Dilios was the sole survivor to return, making him the deliverer of the bad news.
- Hero Killer: Even though they are driven back (during their first encounter), once the Immortals show up, the Spartans start to die.
- The Hero Dies: Leonidas and all 300 Spartans, with the sole exception of Dilios.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The eponymous three hundred Spartans are doing this; they're under no illusion that they can actually win.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: The Spartans were not this heroic in real life.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: The Persians were not this villainous in real life.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Uber Immortal gets his head cut off by his own sword.
- Hollywood Costuming: The Spartans are dressed in loincloths save for their helmets and shields. This was based on the Greek fondness for athletic male figures in artwork, which fitted in well with Frank Miller's superhero comic background.
- Home Guard: The Arcadians are presented as such, having various professions and taking up arms when needed, in contrast to the Spartans, who take soldiering as their primary profession.
- And by "primary", we mean "only".
- Honor Before Reason: As Leonidas would put it:
Leonidas: "Never retreat, never surrender..." That is Spartan Law. And BY Spartan Law, we will stand and 'FIGHT!... and die...
- How Do You Like Them Apples?: Leonidas eats an apple while supervising his men, as they search through piles of dead enemy soldiers after a battle, killing any survivors they see.
- Hufflepuff House: The Arcadians who come help the Spartans.
Dilios: "Brave amateurs. They do their part."
- Hypocritical Humor: When Xerxes wants to negotiate:
Leonidas: [talking with his mouth full] Besides, there is no reason we cannot be civil, is there?
Artemis: [finishing off a wounded Persian] None, sire.
- I Like Those Odds: At the end, just before the Battle of Plataea, Dilios points out that though the Persians number 120,000, they are scared out of their minds. "The enemy outnumbers us a paltry three-to-one, good odds for any Greek!"
- Insistent Terminology: Leonidas is always referred to as being at the front regardless of his actual position, and always having 300 Spartans at his back even after some have been killed or left.
- Instant Oracle, Just Add Water: A meta-example. The oracle's surreal dancing was achieved by filming the actress underwater.
- Ironic Echo: "This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this."
- I Surrender, Suckers: At the end. They know it'll fail, but it's a cover for Leonidas to use his plan.
- It's What I Do: Leonidas explains to the Arcadians that despite having a numerically smaller force, he brought more soldiers then they did.
- Karma Houdini: We never see the Ephors punished for selling out their country. It might be presumed that, once corruption in the Senate was discovered, it could be traced back to them.
- Karmic Death: Queen Gorgo was awesome enough to shank Theron (by surprise) with a borrowed sword some time after he requires a sex-bribe from her, complete with the Ironic Echo mentioned above.
- Kneel Before Zod: Xerxes demands that Leondias kneel to him as part of his sign of submission. Leonidas replies that he's killed so many of Xerxes' soldiers that his knee is locked up.
- Large and in Charge: Xerxes is the biggest Persian and the emperor.
- Large Ham: 300 of them.
- Last Stand: For the 300 Spartans in this film and real life.
- Leave No Survivors
Captain: No prisoners!
Leonidas: No mercy!
- Like Reality Unless Noted: Averted, which many of the people criticizing the film were not aware of.
- Loin Cloth: This+Badass Cape=Spartan casual wear.
- Loophole Abuse: Leonidas legally cannot send his army to fight the Persians. So, he decides to just take a walk. To the Hot Gates. With 300 bodyguards.
- Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: According to Leonidas, it will also protect the soldier to my left. This is historically accurate, considering all the Spartans were trained as heavy-infantry hoplites who were specifically designed with the intention of being deployed in phalanx formations.
- Made of Iron:
- The Spartans don't need armor because their abs are harder.
- The Giant Mook that Leonidas fights during the Immortals' assault takes this to an even crazier level, casually removing a spartan sword stabbed all the way through the muscles of his upper arm and continuing without any real sign of discomfort or impaired ability.
- Made of Plasticine: The Persians go down easily.
- Major Injury Underreaction: "It's just an eye. The gods saw fit to grace me with a spare."
- McNinja: The Immortals look like ninjas with their black face masks and vaguely Japanese swords.
- Mistaken for Quake: The approach of the Persian army makes the earth tremble, and [captain guy] thinks for a moment an earthquake is happening.
- Monstrous Humanoid: A number of the Persons. The Immortals are visualized as some undefined race of humanoid monsters with killer teeth. The Persian executioner is an obese, terribly deformed bald man with blades for arms.
- Mooks: Every Persian.
- Mr. Fanservice:
- The Spartans. There's a reason why this movie is considered girl porn.
- There's a particular shot with Leonidas naked from behind, which means you can see his butt.
- Ms. Fanservice: Most of Lena Headey's and The Oracle's attire reveal more skin than clothe it.
- Mutual Kill: At the end, Captain Artemis is speared by a [[Mook Persian footsoldier]]. He grabs the shaft, brings it closer to him, and plunges his sword into the spearman.
- Narrator All Along: Dilios, in his role of retelling the story as a morale-boosting tale.
- Never My Fault: Ephialtes blames Leonidas for crushing his dreams of being a Spartan, despite the fact that Leonidas very patiently, and very kindly, explains to him that the reason that he won't let Ephialtes fight is because he can't hold his shield up, which will create a weak spot in the phalanx.
- Never Was This Universe: While Dilios' tale could be counted as pure exaggeration for the sake of drama, the last shot show's that Spartan's do dress like that for battle and fight as he describe it, instead of the barely straining explanations more serious historical experts keep giving about how the movie should really be done.
- No Indoor Voice: Gerard Butler screams about half his lines in the film. In the comic, Leonidas' dialogue is not drawn as yelling quite so often.
- Not Even Human: Used in one of the scenes where the Spartans are fighting the Immortals. A Spartan rips off an Immortal's mask to reveal that they're not human.
- No OSHA Compliance: Sparta's careless well design is asking for people to fall in.
- Off with His Head!: Astinos and the Uber-Immortal.
- One-Liner: Plenty. Stelios's "Then we shall fight in the shade," Leonidas's "This is SPARTA!", "Tonight we dine in Hell!", and "Come and get them!" The narrator Delios receives a slightly more subtle joke: When asked about his one eye, he replies, "It's only an eye. The gods saw fit to grant me a spare." Probably the most obvious one is Leonidas's comment that "There's no reason we can't be civilized" as his men butcher their wounded enemies. Spartans were expected to be able to express themselves in a concise, forceful and witty manner, which is where we get "Laconic humour."
- One Sided Battle: Three hundred Spartans and 700 Thespians versus several hundred thousand Persians. The Persians are overwhelmed in battle until the climax.
- Only Sane Man: Daxos the Arcadian is unnerved by the Spartans' axe craziness.
- Outscare the Enemy: A major theme.
Leonidas: You have many slaves, Xerxes, but few warriors. It won't be long before they fear my spears more than your whips.
- Dilios summation of one part of the battle;
: Those behind cry "Forward"! Those in front cry "BACK!
- Opening Monologue: Dilios describing The Spartan Way.
- Patriotic Fervor: Dilios' purpose in telling the story.
- Papa Wolf: The Captain completely loses it when his son is killed.
- Power Walk: Backed by the thumping anachronism of a track "Fever Dream."
- Praetorian Guard: The Immortals are the personal guard of Xerxes.
- Proud Warrior Race: Why are 300 Spartans more of a threat than ten thousand troops from other Greek cities? Because the other troops are bakers, potters, bankers, and other civilian professionals who've been conscripted into militia duty. The Spartans are something that had never been seen on Earth before: Full-time professional soldiers.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The iconic "This! IS! SPARTA!" is the former Trope Namer. Gerard Butler really went the Large Ham route with the role. The comic◊ did not have the emphasis, so this was something Butler added himself. He does the same for "Tonight! We dine! In hell!"
- Pyrrhic Victory: The Persians win in the technical sense but the tide has turned by the next battle.
- The Quisling: Ephialtes turns the tide of the battle in the Persians' favour by revealing a mountain pass that will allow them to outflank the Greek forces. The Persians also bribe the Spartan priests and a member of their senate to facilitate the Persian conquest.
- Rage Helm: The Immortals wear them.
- Rated M for Manly: To the extreme. Warning: this film will impregnate any non-protected viewers, be they men or women.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: While exaggerated to the point of absurdity, a surprising amount has at least a seed of truth in it:
- While their garb fell more towards Rainbow Pimp Gear and Bling of War than toward ninja-like garb, and the facemask they wore(which not all accounts mention) is described as more akin to a bandana or ski mask, the Immortalsnote were in fact the backbone of the Persian infantry. According to several accounts, when one of this units 10,000 soldiers was injured, killed, or fell ill he was immediately replaced. It should be obvious why 10,000 disciplined soldiers with deep reserves equipped with light armor and skilled in close combat specializing in mass formation assaults was one of the most feared military units in the ancient world.
- While not used during the invasion of Greece, the Persian army did utilize elephants in combat, always accompanied by handlers from their region of origin experienced in training them. Alexander the Great's historians make many mentions of their use as mobile siege towers, and he considered the best method of handling them to be essentially the manner depicted in the film- exploiting elephant's tendency to panic in battle to scare them off cliffs or through the ranks of soldiers behind them.
- At various times many historical armies also attempted to field other creatures, like rhinos, with about as much success as depicted in the film.
- The "sorcerers" wielding grenades actually reflect a real weapon of war in use at the time. While true "greek fire" and explosives would not be introduced until the middle ages, accounts of clay "grenades" filled with burning substances like oil, tar, and sulfur date back as far as records of Assyrian sieges in the 9th century BC.
- The part about the disgruntled traitor showing the Persians the path through the mountains? He was a poor rural resident of the area hoping to get some sort of reward by welcoming his new Persian overlords. In Greece calling someone an Ephialtes is akin to calling them a "Benedict Arnold" or a "Quisling", and is also a euphamism for nightmare.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: If you're not killing someone, then you fail Sparta forever. This was basically Truth in Television in Spartan culture, although it's exaggerated here. (Of course, we're not sure how accurate the historical accounts are, either.)
- Refuge in Audacity: Leonidas' plan to use Loophole Abuse to get around the fact he legally can't go to War. He's simply going for a walk, perhaps to the Hot Gates, whilst accompanied by 300 "Bodyguards"... What's illegal about that?!
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Artemis' response to his son's death provides the greatest example.
- Rousing Speech: Dilios gives a magnificent one to the combined Greek army at Platea just before the credits roll.
- Rule of Cool: The producer of the film is on record as saying, "I don't want anything in this film that isn't COOL."
- Sarcastic Clapping: After Queen Gorgo finishes her speech before the Spartan council, the corrupt Theron mockingly applauds her before he tries to discredit her to his colleagues with claims of adultery.
- Say My Name: Artemis does this, immediately followed by a Big "NO!" just before Astinos is beheaded.
- Scarpia Ultimatum: Theron's offer to Queen Gorgo goes like this: "Have sex with me and I will help you convince the senate to send reinforcements to your husband."
- Scary Black Man: Xerxes is portayed in this fashion, with Brazillian actor Rodrigo Santoro's skin having been darkened for the role.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Unlike the Spartans, most of the other Greek forces decide to withdraw when they discover they've been outflanked by the Persians, who have discovered the hidden goat-path and are moving to surround them.
- In the beginning of the film, there's an exposition where a nude young woman is basically molested by some of the ugliest creatures you've ever seen.
- Then, the above scene is reversed when The Mole goes to Xerxes and is tempted by Xerxes unleashing hordes of sex slaves to pleasure him, despite his deformed appearance.
- The Shadow Knows: In the destroyed village, when the young boy approaches Leonidas to tell him about the Persian attackers, his shadow's shape is that of a Persian Immortal.
- Shed Armor, Gain Speed: At the climax, Leonidas takes off his helmet and drops his shield to give himself the mobility needed for his final Defiant Stone Throw.
- Shirtless Scene: To put it mildly. Shirts are apparently outlawed for Spartan men. Shirtless Movie would be more accurate. The film actually tones this down from the comic, where Spartans can be seen casually chilling out in the buff. Which is accurate to real life.
- Shoot the Messenger: Almost a Running Gag; Persian messengers have a low life expectancy.
- The wedge formation the Spartans use at one point is from the earlier 300 Spartans movie which inspired Frank Miller.
- "Those behind cry Forward! Those in front cry Back!" is very similar to a line of the famous poem Horatius at the Bridge, which described a similar You Shall Not Pass event in Roman history.
- At the end, Captain Artemis is run through with a spear, but he drags himself along its length to kill the soldier who did it. As this doesn't appear in the comic, Snyder said this was a homage to King Arthur fighting Mordred in Excalibur, one of his favorite films.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: "This! IS! SPARTA!" is the most famous. Leondias gives plenty more.
- Smug Snake: Theron is so sure he has Gorgo and the senate under control. The look on his face when Gorgo shanks him is priceless.
- Sorry, Billy, but You Just Don't Have Legs: Sorry Ephilates, but you're too deformed to join the 300 Spartans.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Noted by Dilios as a valid tactic. He chastises Xerxes for sending his best men in while the Spartans are still fresh.
- The Spartan Way: Showcased in the beginning with Leonidas's upbringing: burtal sparring, surviving in the wild, killing a wolf with a sharp stick, etc.
- Stripperiffic: All the Greeks wear little. Xerxes, too.
- Stealth Insult: Leonidas' statement to Ephialtes after the latter's betrayal, "May you live forever," doesn't sound like an insult at first. It could be taken to mean that Ephialtes will never get the glory of an honorable death in battle. It could also mean that Ephialtes will always be remembered as a traitor. In fact, in modern-day Greece, "Ephialtes" carries the same connotation that calling someone a "Benedict Arnold" would in the US.
- Sword Fight: Leonidas vs Uber-Immortal.
- Take That: Leonidas gets one aimed at Ephialtes. As the latter faces the former whilst the Persians are about to attack, Leonidas tells him, "May you live forever." This implies that he intends that his betrayal should be remembered throughout the generations and because the Spartans valued death in combat highly. Leonidas essentially gave him the verbal equivalent of the finger. From Ephialtes' reaction, he takes it as such as well.
- Underestimating Badassery: Xerxes' massive ego causes him to learn this the hard way, realising far too late, that despite their reputation as savages, the Spartans are clearly stronger and far more intelligent than they let on. The fact that a token force of 300 individuals somehow are managing to hold out for over 3 days against an overwhelming force of 10,000 men... yeah. Made worse that he still doesn't realise that Leonidas' plan is clearly for the Spartans to go out performing a Last Stand, which will rally the rest of Greece into a furious horde against the Persian army.
- Un-Person: Xerxes threatens to do this to all of Sparta if Leonidas doesn't bow down to the King of Kings.
- Unreliable Narrator: The whole movie is Dilios telling a campfire story to boost morale, and as Frank Miller said, he doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. More specifically, he even narrates parts he wasn't even present for (the ending of the battle, for instance). In each campfire scene he's in a different location as well, implying he's been embellishing it more with every retelling.
- Unstoppable Rage: The Captain flies into one of these after his son is killed.
- Villainous Breakdown: Xerxes. In a most epic manner when Leonidas makes him bleed.
- Villainous Valor: The Persian herald who confronts the fully-armed Spartans at the pass and finds them building a wall mortared with the desecrated bodies of his countrymen fearlessly attacks the Greeks with nothing but a whip and, upon being literally disarmed still keeps his dignity while shouting about the prowess of the Persian army.
- Walking Shirtless Scenes: None of the Spartans are wearing very much for the entire movie.
- War Elephants: Used by the Persians, until they die of cliff.
- War Is Glorious: For the Spartans, it can't be otherwise.
- We Can Rule Together: Xerxes tries to tempt Leonidas multiple times with making him Warlord of all Greece answerable only to the God-King himself if Leonidas and his army join the Persian ranks.
- We Have Reserves: The general mood among the Persians is that due to the sheer size of their army they can afford to sacrifice plenty of their troops to beat the Spartans, sending in wave after wave that all end in utter defeat. Xerxes declares that he would gladly kill off his own men for victory; Leonidas counters that he would die for his own.
- Wet-for-Dry: he dance of the Delphi.
- Where Do You Think You Are?: Leonidas gently reminds the Persian messenger that things work a little differently in these parts.
- World of Ham: THIS! IS! THAT! KIND OF! MOVIE!!!
- You Have Failed Me: Xerxes orders a demonic executioner with saw blades for arms to decapitate one of his generals for failing to defeat the Spartans with a unit using primitive grenades.
- You Have No Chance to Survive:
By noon this day, you will be dead men.
The thousand nations of the Persian Empire descend upon you! Our arrows... will blot out the sun! Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.
- You Shall Not Pass: The Movie, basically. It's the purpose of the whole battle.