Maximus Decimus Meridius
Played by: Russell Crowe
Dubbed by: Marc Alfos (European French), Salvador Delgado (Latin American Spanish)
A Roman general who Commodus betrayed for refusing to serve him. Commodus also had his family killed, and he ended up sold as a slave. Then Proximo bought him, had him train as a gladiator, and his exploits in the arenas of North Africa brought him to Rome.
- Animal Motifs: Horses are frequently associated with him throughout the film.
- Canines, early in the film he fights with a dog and has a wolf head carved into his armor.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: He is originally a General of the Roman army.
- Awesome McCoolname: With actual justification due to the Roman system of cognomina, or titles/official nicknames. His given name is Decimus (at one point his family name is given as Aelius), Maximus was a common cognomen used by many other Real Life renowned Roman commanders, and Meridius probably refers either to past conquests in the South or his Spanish heritage (technically the names are in the wrong order, and should be Decimus Aelius Maximus Meridius). In English, he would possibly be Decimus Aelius the Great, Conqueror of the South.
- Badass Boast: Has several, he is a Roman general after all. The most famous one is: "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the north, general of the Felix Legions. Loyal servant to the true Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."
- Badass in Charge: He used to be a General and is the de-facto leader of the other gladiators.
- Beard of Sorrow: Grows one after losing his family.
- Call to Agriculture: All Maximus wanted was to go home and harvest his crops before he was dragged into Roman politics.
- Cincinnatus: Marcus Aurelius has him picked as his successor for this reason.Marcus Aurelius: Will you accept this great honor?Maximus: With all my heart, no.Marcus Aurelius: Oh, Maximus. That is why it must be you.
- Combat Pragmatist: He is a soldier, so his combat training is centered around killing his enemies quickly and efficiently. But this isn't as entertaining, so Proximo convinces him to start putting on a better show.
- Crusading Widower: His wife and kid were both killed by Commodus' men.
- Dark Is Not Evil: He is constantly clad in black armor/fighting gears throughout the film. Since he's essentially being cast as a "heel" in most of his battles, the people in charge of the tournaments are obviously trying to invoke an in-universe Dark Is Evil.
- Dashing Hispanic: Since he hails from the Roman province of Hispania and is referred to as "The Spaniard" at the start of his gladiatorial career. Even though he doesn't look the part, he is certainly motivated by revenge in true Inigo Montoya's fashion.
- Determinator: When it comes to getting his revenge, Maximus will not back down.
- Doomed Moral Victor: Despite being a noble general who was Marcus Aurelius' preferred heir to the throne, Commodus ends up killing his father to ascend to the throne instead, leaving Maximus to die. While Maximus ultimately succeeds at stopping his tyranny, he dies from a wound previously inflicted by Commodus right after he returns Rome back to the people.
- A Father to His Men: He is greatly admired by his troops, and becomes one with his fellow gladiators, many of whom had previously served with him in the army.
- Four-Star Badass: As a General, he is still quite capable in single combat, besting even the greatest gladiators of his time, as well as Commodus despite the latter rigging the match by stabbing him before the fight. In larger fights, he's even able to rally several former soldiers in the ring with him into an ad-hoc army to beat the odds stacked against them.
- Foreign Wrestling Heel: The ancient version of it. In his first battle, where he's set up to lose, he's given the title "Spaniard" just so the Romans in the audience will hate him.
- Game-Breaking Injury: Double Subversion. Commodus stabs him before their fight so he can be at an advantage, but Maximus is so badass that he beats him anyway. Though he still dies from the injury.
- Genius Bruiser: He is an intelligent and badass fighter.
- Guttural Growler: He has a very gravelly voice.
- Heartbroken Badass: After his family's death.
- The Hero: He is the main character of the story.
- The Hero Dies: He succumbed to to the wounds caused by Commodus' cheap stab at the back. But not without killing him first.
- Mr. Fanservice: Russell Crowe was quite handsome back then. He also has a lot of Shirtless Scene.
- Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: The younger villain is Commodus.
- Outliving One's Offspring: In virtue of being a Crusading Widower.
- Protagonist Title: He is the titular Gladiator.
- The Red Baron: "The Spaniard", his nickname which he is referred to at the start of his gladiator' career.
- Refusal of the Call: He turns down Marcus Aurelius' plea that he be the one who makes Rome a Republic again.
- Soldier vs. Warrior: He starts the movie as a Roman general, before being forced out of the Roman army and eventually gets sold into slavery as a gladiator. At first, Maximus' efficient fighting style is unsatisfying to audiences until he's told to fight with more style. However, he still uses his military knowledge, turning a historical reenactment that should've ended as a defeat for his side into a win.
- Together in Death: With his wife and son at the end.
- Tranquil Fury: When facing Commodus.
- We Used to Be Friends: He and Commodus were basically blood-brothers. Emphasis on were.
Lucius Aurelius Commodus
Played by: Joaquin Phoenix
Dubbed by: José Gilberto Vilchis (Latin American Spanish)
The insane son of Marcus Aurelius and the new emperor of the Roman Empire after he killed his father. He has Maximus' family killed for refusing to serve him, causing Maximus' quest for vengeance.
- 0% Approval Rating: During his fight with Maximus, the crowd is audibly cheering for Maximus and booing any time Commodus gets the upper hand. Not only that, but when Maximus disarms him, Quintus not only refuses to give him a sword, but orders the guards to sheathe their swords, who follow his order rather than the Emperor's.
- Adaptational Dye-Job: The historical Commodus was blond, here he is portrayed with black hair like the previous screen portrayal in The Fall of the Roman Empire.
- Agent Peacock: Always dresses to impress and has a fighting style based more on grace and agility than brute strength.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The real Commodus did partake gladiatorial fights, and got killed by a gladiator, but not in the Coliseum.
- Ambition Is Evil: His sheer ambition is enough to lead him to do very terrible things.
- And Your Little Dog, Too!: He has Maximus' wife and son murdered in retaliation to him being chosen as his father's successor, and threatens Lucius when he realizes Lucilla betrayed him.
- Arch-Enemy: To Maximus after he had his family murdered.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: He's the Emperor of Rome and although not as good as Maximus, he's pretty nifty with a sword.
- Big Bad: He is the main antagonist of the story.
- Berserk Button: Loses his temper when Lucius says he wants to be a gladiator like Maximus and calls him "the savior of Rome."
- BrotherSister Incest: One sided in his part.
- The Caligula: Commodus' mood-swings and murderous behaviour make him appear to be very unstable. To say nothing of his crush on his sister.
- Chekhov's Skill: Towards the beginning, Maximus watches him train in sword-fighting.
- Dark Is Evil: Much of his wardrobe is black, except in his showdown with Maximus, when he wears white armor.
- Determinator: Surprisingly. He has his mind utterly set on killing Maximus & establishing a legacy and nothing will get in his way.
- Dirty Coward: He stabs Maximus prior to their showdown so that he can be at an advantage. He still loses.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: This is the main factor why he keeps getting more evil as the movie goes on.
- The Emperor: Obviously.
- Evil Former Friend: Downplayed. He greets Maximus as an old friend, reminisces about their past a little, and jovially acts as the general's guide to Rome's power players; his overtures are one-sided and Maximus, while never rude, is deferential and a little distant. By the time Commodus' FaceHeel Turn is complete, their friendship is forgotten, if it ever really existed at all.
- Evil Uncle: He acts like a straight Cool Uncle to Lucius at first. But when the kid reveals he worships Maximus instead, he threatened his sister that he'll harm Lucius.
- Evil Virtues: He admits to his father that he lacks conventional virtues, but has some of his own such as:
- Ambition, which in his words "drives him to excel" — by usurping his father.
- Resourcefulness, by quickly getting rid of his political rivals with efficiency.
- Courage, though not conventionally. Under the right circumstances, he displays bravery but is otherwise a Dirty Coward.
- Devotion to his family, which is depicted as an unhealthy obsession to his sister whom he forces to be his concubine.
- Fatal Flaw: Envy. He deeply resents his loved ones' affection for Maximus and spends the entire movie seething over the general-turned-slave's ability to win the approval and respect that Commodus craves, from both his family and the people of Rome.
- Faux Affably Evil: While he can be nice and polite at times, he quickly reveals himself to be a bloodthirsty monster.
- Hate Sink: He is a depraved scumbag with no redeemable qualities.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: The real Commodus was no saint, but his onscreen counterpart is utterly detestable.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: During his final duel with Maximus, he hides a knife in his armor which his uses before the duel to backstab him to gain the advantage and later brandishes when he is disarmed and Quintus and his praetorians refuse to offer theirs. Maximus turns this knife on him to kill him.
- Incest-ant Admirer: Lusts for his sister and forces her to be his Sex Slave when he loses it. She doesn't feel the same way.
- I Just Want to Be Loved: He craved the paternal love and approval that his father only gave to Maximus, and the sex and intimacy that his sister only gave to Maximus.Commodus: "I would butcher the whole world if only you would love me!"
- Light Is Not Good: He is constantly clad in white outfits throughout the film. Obviously, this also counts as White Shirt of Death. Since Commodus is attempting to seem like a pure, beloved hero to all of Rome, dressing in white is his attempt to invoke Light Is Good.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: While he's a cowardly sociopath, he does put down the gladiator rebellion, arrests all of his political critics and kills Maximus.
- Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: The older hero is Maximus.
- Self-Made Orphan: He kills Marcus Aurelius after being informed he won't succeed him.
- Slave to PR: Despite having Maximus surrounded by Roman soldiers, and wanting very much to see him dead, Commodus is forced to yield to the demand of the crowd and let him leave the arena alive.
- Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: He's very sensitive about being admired and adored by others.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Zig-Zagged. At first, Commodus is loathed by everyone in Rome, but he gains their favor through the gladiator games, but once Maximus arrives, he loses them again.
- Villainous Breakdown: Has one during his final battle with Maximus. Even though he's rigged the fight in his favor Maximus is still beating him. After the Praetorians turn on him and leave him to fend for himself, he reveals his dagger and goes after Maximus even though his plan was to humiliate Maximus in a fair fight. He's so desperate he resorts to blatant cheating.
- Villain Has a Point: He makes fairs points early on that the people of Rome don't care about the Senate or the war with barbarians, they only want to see "the greatness of Rome." Unfortunately, he uses that to propel the gladiator games and distract them from his tyranny.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: All he wanted was his father's love and respect. When he didn't get those, things went From Bad to Worse.
- We Used to Be Friends: He and Maximus were basically blood-brothers. Emphasis on were.
- Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Delivers a nasty one to Maximus when he narrates his wife and son's murder in vivid details.
Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla
Played by: Connie Nielsen
Dubbed by: Pilar Escandón (Latin American Spanish)
Marcus Aurelius' daughter and Commodus' sister whom he lusts after. She is also young Lucius' mother and a former love interest to Maximus.
- BrotherSister Incest: One sided in Commodus' part. He ultimately forced her to be his Sex Slave. Fortunately, Maximus killed him soon after.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: The real Lucilla was much less noble than her onscreen counterpart, trying to usurp Commodus himself before being executed.
- Old Flame: To Maximus.
- Sex Slave: After her plot with Maximus is discovered by Commodus, he threatens to kill Lucius unless she bears him a pure-blooded heir, even if she refuses through suicide. Thankfully, Commodus is killed by Maximus before she has to sleep with him.
- Spared by the Adaptation: As noted above she predeceased Commodus (by several years in fact).
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: She had feelings for Maximus years ago, feelings that had not vanished completely. When they meet again, tension is built around them though it ended up in nothing. The original script had a sexual scene between them but it was written out because it didn't fit well in Maximus' vengeance.
- Widow Woman: Her husband's been dead for years before the story began.
Played by: Richard Harris
Dubbed by: César Arias (Latin American Spanish)
The former Emperor of Rome. He was Commodus and Lucilla's father, and a parental figure to Maximus. He wanted to restore Rome to a simple Republic instead of a growing Empire, which would cost him his life at the hands of his own son.
- A God I Am Not: When Commodus offers to sacrifice 100 bulls to celebrate his victory in the war, he tells him to "save the bulls" and that Maximus is the one to be honored.
- Didn't Think This Through: Yes, tell your son, who's dreamed of succeeding you all his life, that he won't do it after all, without any witnesses or record of your decision. He did tell Maximus and Lucilla, but it would have been his son's word against theirs; and once Commodus succeeds his father, he has power of life and death over both of the former.
- Do Not Call Me Sir: He asks that Maximus not address him as Caesar and converse with him "as men."
- Fatal Flaw: He thought too highly of Commodus, even when he himself admitted he was too corrupt to succeed him. He falsely assumed "Commodus will accept my decision" when both Lucilla and Maximus know very well that he would not. He was wrong.
- The Good King: An aging Emperor that years of battle taught him that a big Empire was nothing worth for and seeked to bring back the nation to the people.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: The real Marcus Aurelius had no compunctions about Commodus succeeding him as Emperor, having named his son as Caesar note as early as 166 CE, 14 years before his death, and made him co-emperor in 177 CE, three years before his death. This also means he wasn't planning to restore the Republic either.
- The Philosopher King: One of the main historical proponents of Stoicism. Maximus says a few of his own real-life quotes and his writings are still used today.
- "Well Done, Dad!" Guy: He tells Commodus "Your faults as a son is my failure as a father."
Played by: Oliver Reed
Dubbed by: Miguel Ángel Ghigliazza (Latin American Spanish)
A former gladiator too that was freed by Marcus Aurelius who turned lanista (gladiator trainer and owner) in North Africa. He bought Maximus and made him fight as a gladiator.
- Catchphrase: "Shadows and dust." Also his "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner towards the end.
- Death by a Thousand Cuts: Roman soldiers repeatedly stabbed him In the Back.
- Face Death with Dignity: He calmly made a "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner before his death.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lampshaded by Maximus.Maximus: Are you in danger of becoming a good man, Proximo?Proximo: Hah!
- Only in It for the Money: "I did not pay good money for your company. I paid it so that I might profit from your death."
- Retired Badass: He used to be a gladiator.
- Sacrificial Lion: He's killed during Commodus' repression of the would-be rebellion after undergoing some character growth and developing a good relationship with the title character
Played by: Djimon Hounsou
A Numidian slave and gladiator. He becomes Maximus' closest friend.
- Fire-Forged Friends: With Maximus and Hagen but mostly with Maximus as they share a background of being a father and husband and being sold as slaves.
- Lonely Together: "I had a wife, and a daughter. I do not think I will ever see them again."
- The Watson: His connection to Maximus is driven through a series of intimate moments in which he asks the mostly-quiet hero questions about his past, which serve to help the audience better understand Maximus.
- Talking Down the Suicidal: "Why do you not fight? We all have to fight." As they are chained together. This seems to snap Maximus out of it.
- You Are Not Alone: Juba is by Maximus' side through his entire recovery, and each moment of Maximus' existential despair shifts to a moment of intimacy with Juba.
Played by: Derek Jacobi
An honest Roman senator, unlike the rest of his comrades.
Played by: Tomas Arana
A Roman legatus that was Maximus' second-in-command during the Germanic Wars.
- Badass Cape: Wears this as part of his typical garb.
- Bodyguard Betrayal: Of the Betrayal by Inaction variation, as his refusal to assist Commodus during his final battle seals the mad emperor's fate.
- The Dragon: He is Commodus' action man after his coronation.
- Fantastic Racism: He is openly contemptuous of the Germanic tribesmen fought in the opening, sneering that they should have learned by now continuing to fight Rome is pointless.
- The Lancer: To Maximus towards the beginning.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: He aids Commodus because he occupies the throne.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: A scene cut from the theatrical version shows Commodus forcing him to execute several of his own innocent soldiers, which goes a long way toward explaining his decision to turn on the Emperor in the end.
- Number Two: He used to be Maximus' second-in-command when he was a general.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Just because he works for Commodus doesn't mean he's happy about it. He definitely won't go out of his way to assist him during a duel.
- Praetorian Guard: He leads it.
- The Fettered: He values honor above loyalty. When Commodus is disarmed in the final battle against Marcus, he cries out to Quintus for a sword. Quintus refuses. When Commodus calls out to the men nearby to throw him a sword, they almost do, until Quintus orders them to sheathe their swords, forcing the emperor to continue the honorable battle unaided.
Played by: Ralf Moeller
A Germanic slave and gladiator. He bonds well with both Maximus and Juba.
- The Big Guy: He towers both Maximus and Juba, and he has the most muscle mass out of all of Proximo's gladiators.
- Fire-Forged Friends: With Maximus and Juba. Even when Maximus told him that he fought the Germanic tribes, Hagen does not judge him from his past actions and remained close allies.
- Sacrificial Lion: He dies during Maximus' escape attempt.
Played by: Spencer Treat Clark
Lucilla's young son and Commodus' nephew. He greatly admires Maximus when he arrives at the Coliseum.
- Children Are Innocent: An energetic kid that has Maximus as his idol and imitates his fighting style. He also wants to be a great Emperor.
- I Have Your Wife: After finding out Lucilla was part of the plot against him, Commodus essentially tells his sister her son will die if she does literally anything to displease him.
- Morality Pet: He seems to be the only character Commodus shows genuine affection towards.
Played by: David Hemmings
The main announcer of the Coliseum.
- Large-Ham Announcer: As the Coliseum's announcer and the silly looking red haired wig, he has to be grandiose when introducing spectacular battle recreations.
Played by: Tommy Flanagan
Maximus' main servant.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: He gets some scars between Maximus' expulsion and the games, due to Flanagan's real-life Glasgow Grin.
- Non-Action Guy: During the Germanic wars, all he did was serving Maximus in his tent. He mostly serves Maximus as a harbinger or butler.
- Sacrificial Lion: He gets executed during Maximus' escape attempt.
- Undying Loyalty: To Maximus.
Played by: David Schofield
A Roman senator that collaborates with Commodus.
- Corrupt Politician: He aids a tyrant and madman to consolidate his power in detriment of the Roman Senate.
- Karma Houdini: He disappears late in the story and we don't see him receive any punishment for his scheming and corruption.
- The Evil Genius: He's the one who advises Commodus on how to deal with his enemies, using the example of a sea snake that lets its enemies nibble from it to lure them into confidence before striking.
Tigris of Gaul
Played by: Sven-Ole Thorsen
An fearsome and undefeated gladiator from Gaul.
- An Ax To Grind: As a Weapon of Choice.
- Animal Motif: Tiger, obviously.
- Cool Helmet: He has a tiger-shaped metal helmet the visor of which doubles as a Cool Mask.
- Dual Wielding: Wields both an axe and a sword at the same time.
- Punch-Clock Villain: So far as he's concerned, he's simply fighting another match when facing Maximus.
- Retired Badass: He'd been retired for 5 years before being summoned to battle Maximus.
- Save the Villain: Despite Commodus' insistence, Maximus spares his life.
The Germanic Chieftain
Played by: Peter Francis-Wemyss
The leader of the Germanic army the troops of Marcus Aurelius fight in the battle at the beginning of the film.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: He meets his demise when several legionaries overwhelm him and stab him with their gladiuses.
- Decapitation Presentation: He had the Roman emissary beheaded and shows his head to the Romans as an intimidation maneuver, then throws it in the mud.
- Drop the Hammer: Between this and Carry a Big Stick. In combat, he wields what appears to be an improvised war hammer consisting of a wood branch with a stone attached to its end.
- Large and in Charge: He's quite a large and imposing figure compared to his men.
- Pelts of the Barbarian: He's covered in fur.