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The Film

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Before the Battle of Carthage fight, Proximo is seen complaining, to no avail, about how the gladiators are being set up — and expected to be — slaughtered by the mismatch. Is he trying to protect his investment? Or is he genuinely concerned about his gladiators? The all-out giggle he gives when Maximus and company end up winning adds to the question.
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  • Awesome Music: The epic score by Hans Zimmer and chanting by Lisa Gerrard. Do the math. Of special note is the beautiful and tear-jerking end credits song, "Now We Are Free".
  • Better on DVD: The DVD includes several deleted scenes that add to the story, such as a scene where we learn that Commodus is selling off Rome's grain stores to pay for the games, and another scene where Commodus has two innocent praetorians executed because Maximus is still alive (explaining why Quintus refused to give him a sword during the climactic battle).
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • The battle in Germania includes a sound clip of 19th-century African war chants from the film Zulu as a Shout-Out. It can be jarring if you're familiar with the other film.
    • The gladiator wearing a bull carcass. Even with the Artistic License – History in effect this is quite out there.
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  • Complete Monster: Commodus is the vile heir to the throne of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, driven to rage at his father's plans to turn Rome back into a republic and appoint General Maximus Decimus Meridius as regent instead of Commodus. Killing his father, Commodus frames Maximus and tries to order the death of the general and his family, resulting in Maximus's wife and young son being murdered. A megalomaniac, Commodus, as Emperor, cripples the Senate's authority and keeps the populace distracted with fine food and gladiator games. When the people begin to rally behind the return of Maximus, Commodus tries to put down the potential revolution by having Maximus killed in the arena. When this fails, Commodus leads the bulk of Maximus's sympathizers into a trap, killing them, and plans to personally kill Maximus in the ring, shifting the battle in his favor by wounding Maximus before their fight. Commodus flies into a rage upon learning his sister was aiding Maximus and demands she sleep with him to provide him a "pure" heir and threatens to kill her child—his nephew—if she does not become his personal Sex Slave. So disgusting are Commodus's actions that even when he is disarmed in combat with Maximus, his own personal guard refuses to aid him.
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  • Consolation Award: While Russell Crowe's Maximus is impressive and has plenty of fans who love his Oscar win, many thought he only won Best Actor to compensate his loss for The Insider the year before (and the compensation cycle made an even better Crowe performance that followed to lose to Denzel Washington in Training Day).
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Commodus, partly due to his more nuanced real world history for those aware of it... and partly due to being played by the intensely attractive Joaquin Pheonix.
  • Genius Bonus: A couple for history buffs.
    • Before the battle with the Germanic tribes at the beginning of the movie, Quintus' remark that "a people should know when they're conquered," is very ironic to anyone who knows that Rome never ultimately managed to completely conquer Germania.
    • When he first meets him in the arena (before realizing who he is), Commodus tells Maximus that his nephew "insists you are Hector reborn... or was it Hercules?" The real-life Commodus believed he was the reincarnation of Hercules.
    • The slave trader mentions he bought the Numidian from a salt mine in Carthage. According to (a much later) story, when Romans conquered Carthage, they plowed the earth and salted it so nothing would grow there.
    • Maximus names his horses Argento and Scatto, which are Latin for "Silver" and "Trigger". This is an extremely convoluted reference to The Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers, whose horses were called that, respectively.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Since Pirates of the Caribbean came out the epic soundtrack of Gladiator brings to mind the quirky antics of Jack Sparrow more than the epic deeds of Maximus. note 
    • Richard Epcar provided ADR for this Joaquin Phoenix film. Years after the film, Epcar voiced the Joker in several different video games and Joaquin Phoenix won an Oscar for playing the Joker.
    • All three lead actors - Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielson - would go on to play major characters in various DC films... so the final battle scene is basically Superman's dad killing the Joker while Wonder Woman's mom watches.
    • Richard Harris, who portrays the humble emperor Aurelius here, would then portray the tyrannical dictator Sulla in Julius Caesar as one of his final on-screen roles. Both characters end up dying 30-40 minutes in.
  • It Was His Sled: Maximus dies.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Are you not entertained?!"
    • "AM I NOT MERCIFUL?!?"
    • "It vexes me. I'm terribly vexed."
  • Moral Event Horizon: Commodus crosses this either with the murder of his father, the Emperor, or with the the brutal murder, rape, crucifixion and other off-screen atrocities committed against Maximus' wife and small son, who is ridden down by horses. Commodus only goes downhill from there, first by threatening to kill his own nephew unless his sister becomes his sex slave, and finally by fatally stabbing Maximus before turning him loose in the arena.
  • Narm Charm:
    • The first fight in the Colosseum — the reenactment of the Battle of Carthage — is intercut with shots of Commodus giggling and making silly faces. It's kind of hilarious.
    • Commodus yelling "AM I NOT MERCIFUL?!" is very over-the-top, but that doesn't make it any less terrifying.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Tigris. An elite-gladiator with a Cool Mask helmet who gives Maximus a tough fight before being defeated. He even survives, thanks to Maxie granting him mercy. He's easily one of the most memorable characters in the film, despite only showing up once.
    • This leads to BRIAN BLESSED as the coliseum spectator who shouts "Maximus the Merciful!"
  • Signature Line: Say it with us: "Are you not entertained?!".
  • Signature Scene:
    • Maximus taking down his opponents at the gladiatorial arena and repeatedly asking the crowd if they aren't entertained.
    • The moment that Maximus reveals his identity to Commodus while also making it clear that he'll get his vengeance no matter what.
  • Translation Convention: English for Latin, as it's expected for main characters. Yet in the battle scene with the Germanic barbarians, their leader howls in German something of cutting the Romans into dog food ("Hunde Futter"). Little is known of the Primitive Germanic language of 2nd century CE, but it definitely wouldn't sound like Modern German.
  • Win the Crowd: The Trope Namer, and the first battle likely did just that for the audience.
  • Woolseyism: In Spain, it is expected to render Roman-era locations in the original Latin or latinized form, both in history texts and media. This became a problem when it came to translate Maximus's birthplace, Trujillo. The modern name would sound terribly anachronistic, but the Latin name (Turgalium) would mean nothing to a Spanish audience because it isn't well known. The dubbing studio chose to replace this with nearby Emerita Augusta (modern Mérida), which is well known to Spanish audiences as a city that was founded as a settlement for Roman war veterans, some two hundred years before the events of the film. As a result, a Spanish audience would be likely to see Maximus as coming from a long line of Roman military, and consider Commodus's betrayal even greater.

The Novel


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