A particular kind of Period Piece set in ancient biblical or mythological times, running the gamut from Heroic Fantasy to Historical Fiction. Movies set in The Roman Republic or The Roman Empire, or even in Ancient Grome, are usually included. Alternatively, it may be used to describe Fantasy Counterpart Culture equivalents in a secondary world.
The subgenre of low-budget Sword And Sandal Italian films of the '50s and '60s is known as Peplum. These films in particular tend to have the World's Strongest Man as the hero (often Hercules, but not necessarily). Much like the spaghetti westerns, peplum tend to star non-Italian, Anglophonic leading actors (if they're actors at all) alongside an Italian supporting cast. They also tend to get wildly different titles when released outside their home country, to the point where entire franchises can be fashioned out of what were originally stand-alone movies.
A classic Cyclic Trope, as Hollywood has regular periods of fascination with the era, and the trope was named by an early period of such films being popular, being a staple of The Golden Age of Hollywood.
Contrast Sword & Sorcery, on which the name is based (or vice versa). Strictly speaking, the two genres are distinguished by Sword & Sorcery having explicitly fantastic settings, typically a pseudo-Medieval European style Constructed World. Conversely, Sword And Sandal at least pretends to depict real-world historical settings, usually being set during classical antiquity in the Mediterranean regions. There is often some overlap though, especially when mythology gets involved, but it is usually existing mythology based directly on Hellenic tradition.
Some of these films may also be set in the Middle East or North Africa, but are differentiated from "Arabian Nights" Days by time period: that trope refers to works set in the Islamic Golden Age (during what was known as the Middle Ages in Europe), while this trope refers to works set much earlier.
Expect the landscape to resemble sand dunes and/or rural Spain throughout, making those sandals look more attractive.
The equivalent would be Wuxia for China, and Jidaigeki for Japan, in somes cases, though these Period Pieces may also include elements of The Middle Ages, or even later ages, that are absent in Sword And Sandal ones.
Compare Epic Movie.
- Hercules (1997) - Disney's entry into the genre
- Clash of the Titans (1981)
- Clash of the Titans (2010)
- Colossus and the Headhunters
- Goliath And The Dragon: Despite the Market-Based Title, this movie (known in its native Italy as La Vendetta di Ercole, or The Revenge of Hercules) is actually about Hercules, although even in the dub, he's not supposed to be the same Goliath as in the Bible, but a guy named Emilius that everybody calls Goliath because he's so big. The change was made so that it could be marketed as a sequel to the earlier Goliath And The Barbarians (see below under Ancient Rome), but it probably would have been easier to leave him as Hercules.
- Samson and His Mighty Challenge (a 1965 Italian film also starring Hercules, but Samson's in there too). Later Gag Dubbed as Hercules Returns.
- Helen of Troy (1956)
- Hercules (1958) and sequels. The first one, starring Steve Reeves, is the first movie to be called a "sword and sandal" one.
- Hercules In The Haunted World - Stands above most of its contemporaries mainly due to Mario Bava's strong, stylized visuals. Christopher Lee costars as the villain. As you might expect from a Bava/Lee teamup, this movie also has a few horror elements (particularly in its vivid depiction of the Underworld), making it a kind of peplum Dark Fantasy
- Hercules (1983), starring Lou Ferrigno. Followed by a sequel in 1985.
- Hercules (2014), starring Dwayne Johnson, based on Hercules: The Thracian Wars.
- Hercules Against the Moon Men, actually a Maciste film (see below under the Ancient Rome heading) repackaged for US distribution.
- Hercules and the Captive Women (originally "Hercules And The Conquest Of Atlantis")
- Jason and the Argonauts
- The Legend of Hercules
- The Loves of Hercules
- My Son The Hero
- The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, which seems heavily inspired by The Epic of Gilgamesh and involves fantastic versions of Ancient Africa and Ancient Rome.
- The novel War God by Tim Marquitz is a Deconstructive Parody of this genre. The antiheroes intend to rig a tournament about this by upping the violence and murder to make their Fake Ultimate Hero look good so they can clean up when he crashes and burns.
- Clark Ashton Smith's "Poseidonis" cycle of short stories, set in a not-completely-sunken Atlantis.
- David Gemmell's The Troy Saga is a Demythification imagining of The Trojan War
- Helen of Troy (2003)
- The Storyteller: Greek Myths
- Jason and the Argonauts
- L'Odissea ("The Odyssey") - The Italian-German-Yugoslav co-production starring Bekim Fehmiu, Irene Papas and a young Barbara Bach.
- Troy: Fall of a City
- The Sons of Hercules was a TV series that aired re-packaged, unrelated movies in this genre as if they were part of a single franchise, their respective muscular heroes all, as the title suggests, sons of Hercules, even though two of these movies, as listed below, had heroes who already were Hercules. They included such exciting titles as:
- Mole Men Vs. The Son of Hercules (actually Maciste, The Strongest Man in the World
- Triumph of the Son of Hercules (Triumph of Maciste)
- Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (Maciste vs. The Monsters, actually more of a 1 Million B.C. type movie)
- Venus Against The Son of Hercules (Mars, God of War)
- Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (Ulysses Against Hercules)
- Medusa Against the Son of Hercules (Perseus the Invincible)
- Son of Hercules in the Land of Fire (Ursus in the Land of Fire)
- Tyrant of Lydia Against the Son of Hercules (Goliath and the Rebel Slave)
- Messalina Against the Son of Hercules (The Last Gladiator)
- The Beast of Babylon Against The Son of Hercules(Hero of Babylon)
- Terror of Rome Against the Son of Hercules (Maciste, Gladiator of Sparta)
- Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (Hercules the Invincible)
- Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules (Soraya, Queen of the Desert, actually more of an "Arabian Nights" Days movie)
- Dungeons & Dragons' Fifth Edition book Mythic Odysseys of Theros provides rules and setting notes for playing in a Classical Myth-inspired world.
- Age of Mythology
- God of War
- Oedipus in my Inventory
- Rise of the Argonauts
- Titan Quest
- Warriors: Legends Of Troy
- The Prince of Egypt
- Joseph: King of Dreams
- The Bible (1966)
- The Big Fisherman - tangential
- Demetrius and the Gladiators - a sequel to The Robe
- Exodus: Gods and Kings
- Hail, Caesar! is not an example in and of itself, being set in 1950s Los Angeles, but its plot revolves around the filming of a Biblical epic called Hail Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ
- The Fourth Wise Man
- The Greatest Story Ever Told
- King David
- King of Kings
- Monty Python's Life of Brian - An Affectionate Parody.
- Peter and Paul
- The Robe
- Salome (1953)
- Samson and Delilah (1949)
- Sodom and Gomorrah
- The Ten Commandments (1923)
- The Ten Commandments (1956)
- The Prodigal (1955) - An adaptation of the parable of the Prodigal Son. The message was somewhat undercut by its marketing, which prominently featured the image of Lana Turner sexily draped across the idol of Astarte and making a pretty convincing case for being a heathen
- VeggieTales, but only in the episodes that reenact Biblical events, and huge liberties are taken, such as, you know, making David a talking asparagus and things like that
- Gods of Egypt - albeit with nominal Science Fiction elements through Ancient Astronauts.
- The Scorpion King series, a Spin-Off from The Mummy Trilogy, whose films have prologues set in this era.
- The 300 Spartans
- Alexander the Great (1956)
- The Colossus Of Rhodes, the first film directed by Sergio Leone.
- Gates of Fire
- Over the Wine-Dark Sea
- Hashire! Melos (Run, Melos!) - A short story by author Osamu Dazaki, based on an ancient Greek legend recorded by Hyginus. It's become a staple of Japanese media and adapted to anime, dorama, etc.
- Androcles and the Lion
- Brennus, Enemy of Rome
- Cabiria (Italy 1914), one of the first major film epics, set during the Second Punic War. Featuring the Breakout Character Maciste, who went on to be the hero of 25 movies between 1915 and 1927, always played by Bartolomeo Pagano, and was revived for a further 28 movies in the 1960s, played by a number of actors. Not all of Maciste's movies fit into this genre, however; many of them transplant the character to other settings and time periods, rarely with any explanation. As mentioned above, he even starred in a cavemen-and-dinosaurs movie.
- Hercules Against the Moon Men. Despite its English-language title, this is another Maciste movie. The distributor figured that Hercules had more name recognition than Maciste in the Anglophonic world
- Colossus and the Headhunters - Another Maciste movie.
- Caesar and Cleopatra
- Carry On Cleo — a parody of this trope, specifically Shakespeare's historical tragedies and the Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra film.
- The Eagle (2011)
- The Fall of the Roman Empire
- Goliath And The Barbarians (originally titled Il Terrore di Barbari, literally The Terror of the Barbarians), an old Steve Reeves movie loosely based on the Lombard invasion of Italy in 568 CE. It tells the story of a musclebound hero named Emiliano (Reeves), who must repel the invaders. In the English language release by American International Pictures, Emiliano was renamed to the more Roman and less Italian-sounding Emilius, but mostly called by the nickname "Goliath" (though he's not meant to be the Biblical Goliath). Although it was originally a standalone movie, AIP tried to make a franchise out of it by redubbing other peplum movies to be about Goliath/Emilius - namely Goliath And The Dragon (originally a Hercules movie, though one without Steve Reeves) and Goliath And The Vampires (a Maciste movie).
- Julius Caesar (1953)
- Julius Caesar (1970)
- King Arthur
- The Last Legion
- Spartacus — subverts just about all of the standard conventions of movies with a Roman setting. The crucifixion scene especially was very controversial.
- The Seven Magnificent Gladiators, which, at the title suggests, is The Magnificent Seven Samurai but set in Roman times. It stars Lou Ferrigno and Sybil Danning. Part of the peplum revival of the 1980s, following the success of Conan the Barbarian (1982) (not a peplum in its own right, but peplum-adjacent)
- Belisarius Series — set roughly at the time when The Roman Empire evolved into the Byzantine empire.
- Ben-Hur — Includes all the adaptations. Also counts as a Biblical Epic.
- Codex Alera: Though technically it doesn't take place in the Roman Empire, the setting is essentially built around a displaced Roman legion, and thus closely hews to ancient Rome.
- The Eagle of the Ninth
- The Last Days of Pompeii
- Marcus Didius Falco — A series of novels centering on a Private Detective during the reign of Vespasian.
- Masters of Rome
- Quo Vadis
- Roma Sub Rosa — Another Private Detective series, this time set in the late republic.
- Androcles and the Lion, an early Deconstruction
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum — An Affectionate Parody of this genre.
- Age of Empires — It starts in the Stone Age, but one of the main goals in any scenario is to upgrade your civilization to this trope. The Expansion, The Rise Of Rome, also fits here.
- Assassin's Creed Origins — The protagonist is Egyptian, but it still takes place towards the end of both Ptolemaic era Egypt and the Roman Republic.
- Centurion: Defender of Rome
- Circus Maximus — the first (and most likely only) racing game that exclusively utilizes chariots
- Empire Earth, similar to Age of Empires
- Rome: Total War and Total War: Rome II
- Ryse: Son of Rome
- Shadow of Rome — basically Metal Gear IN ANCIENT ROME!
- Spartan: Total Warrior — play as a Spartan fighting Romans.