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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 late '50s and early '60s is known as Peplum. note  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 that followed them, pepla tend to star non-Italian, Anglophonic leading actors (if they're actors at all) alongside an Italian supporting cast. If an Anglophonic lead could not be secured and they had to cast a fellow Italian, he'd take on an English pseudonym - Sergio Ciani, for example, became Alan Steel. These movies also tended 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. The term "peplum" can also refer to a second wave of Italian fantasy films that came out in the 1980s, though not all of these were Sword and Sandal movies, instead being Sword and Sorcery films overtly modeled on Conan the Barbarian (1982). Sandals or not, the '80s pepla tended to be grimmer, more violent, and sleazier than their relatively family-friendly forebears.

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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 and Sorcery, on which the name is based (or vice versa). Strictly speaking, the two genres are distinguished by Sword and 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 (as seen in the more Conan-inspired sword and sandal films of the '80s), especially when mythology gets involved, but it is usually existing mythology based directly on Hellenic tradition.

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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 (within those regions, at least) 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 some 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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Classical Mythology 

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

Films - Animation

Films - Live-Action

  • Clash of the Titans (1981)
  • Clash of the Titans (2010)
  • Colossus and the Headhunters. The "Colossus" of the title is actually the recurring Italian character Maciste, who didn't have much name recognition in the United States, and whose name was considered too hard to pronounce, prompting the Market-Based Title, though in the English dub, his name is still Maciste, with "Colossus" as simply a nickname. When it appeared later on Mystery Science Theater 3000, his name was misheard as "My Cheesesteak".
  • 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, 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, and is said to have kicked off the Italian peplum wave. A few of the Reeves films - including the original - would later appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which got a lot of mileage out of this kind of movie.
  • Hercules (1983), starring Lou Ferrigno. Followed by a sequel in 1985.
  • Hercules (2014), starring Dwayne Johnson, based on Hercules: The Thracian Wars.
  • Hercules and the Captive Women (also known as "Hercules And The Conquest Of Atlantis"). Introduced British bodybuilder Reg Park as Hercules, who travels to a proto-fascistic Atlantis to prevent the prophesied destruction of all Greece. Was also featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
    • Hercules In The Haunted World (or Hercules in the Centre of the Earth) - Another with Reg Park as Herc. Director Mario Bava, best known for his very stylized horror movies, brings kind of a Dark Fantasy tone to this movie, with a very vivid depiction of the Underworld. Christopher Lee, another horror icon, plays the villain.
    • Hercules, Prisoner of Evil was marketed as the third in the Reg Park-as-Hercules trilogy, but is actually another Dolled-Up Installment, as its original Italian title translates better to Ursus, Terror of the Kirghiz. As you can guess from that title, Reg's character wasn't originally supposed to be Hercules (and isn't even really the hero of the movie; it's mainly about his younger brother), and it's set in Central Asia (specifically, what is now Kirghizstan) during the time of Pax Mongolica. The American distributor figured that the setting would be exotic enough that most viewers wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
    • Hercules the Avenger. Hercules (Park again) travels to the Underworld, mostly via Stock Footage from Captive Women and Haunted World, to save his son Xanthus, whose mind has been stolen by the wicked earth goddess Gaia. Meanwhile, a fellow demigod - Gaia's son Anteus, a rival for the title of World's Strongest Man, but only when he's touching the ground - has assumed Hercules' name back in the land of the living and is terrorizing the people of Syracuse.
  • The Steve Reeves version of Hercules may have jumpstarted the peplum boom, but it was itself inspired by the 1954 movie Ulysses, an adaptation of The Odyssey starring Kirk Douglas.
  • Hundra - based on the myth of the Amazons
  • Immortals
  • Jason and the Argonauts
  • The Legend of Hercules
  • The Loves of Hercules - starring Mickey Hargitay as Hercules and his real-life wife Jayne Mansfield as the loves (yes, plural). One of the Hotter and Sexier entries into the genre. Was also featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Minotaur
  • My Son The Hero
  • Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger - mainly an "Arabian Nights" Days movie, but has elements of this genre, with Sinbad traveling to Greece to recruit the alchemist Melanthius for his journey. The movie takes a lot of its fantasy elements from Greek myths as well, most specifically the concept of Hyperborea.
  • Troy

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • Atlantis
  • Helen of Troy (2003)
  • Hercules
  • The Storyteller: Greek Myths
  • Herc-Xenaverse:
  • 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. Mostly notable for its above-average creature effects by Carlo Rambaldi, who would go on to work on Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.)
    • 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)

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons' Fifth Edition book Mythic Odysseys of Theros provides rules and setting notes for playing in a Classical Myth-inspired world.

Theatre

Video Games

Web Comics

Western Animation

    Biblical Epics 

Films

Live-Action TV

Theater

Western Animation

Other

    Ancient West Asia / Egypt / Middle East (non-Biblical) 

Comic Books

Films

Literature

Live-Action TV

Theatre

Video Games

Western Animation

    Ancient Greece 

Comic Books

Films

Literature

  • 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.

Video Games

    Ancient Rome 

Comic Books

Films - Animation

Films - Live-Action

Literature

Live-Action TV

Theater

Video Games

Western Animation


Alternative Title(s): Sword And Sandals

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