Top 15 Roman Movies That Bring Ancient Rome to Life

"Top Roman Movies That Bring Ancient Rome to Life"

Ancient Rome has always been a hub of intrigue! From Gladiators to Warriors, to Kings and Princesses: the documentation of empires built and fallen. Films about Ancient Rome are one of the most exciting genres of historical dramas.

15 Best Roman Movies

Cleopatra 1963

Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Pamela Brown

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra is etched in our minds forever.

It retells the legends and history around Cleopatra and how she becomes the Queen of Egypt. Caesarion the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar poses threat to the Roman Senate. The sensual visuals enfolding on the screen truly take you back to Caesar and Mark Antony’s times.

Pompeii 2014

Cast: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

IMDb Rating:5.5/10

Imagine 2012 but set in Ancient Rome starring the beloved Jon Snow (Kit Harrington); here playing Milo! Sounds amazing, right?

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, it follows the skilled gladiator Milo during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which had molten the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. The gladiators, the inhuman slavery, and the romance alone make it an exhilarating watch.

Gladiator (2000)

Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed.

IMDb Rating: 8.5/10

This Ridley Scott film starring Russell Crowe as the eponymous Gladiator is a fan favorite. Maximus is greatly admired by the emperor Marcus Aurelius as he had won against the barbarians. Maximus was given the title of Protector of Rome by the king. All was fine till Commodus murders the king and Maximus’s wife and children. 

Quo Vadis (1951)

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

Cast: Robert Taylor Deborah Kerr Leo Genn, Peter Ustinov

A roman general falls in love with a war prisoner called Lygia. If that was not dangerous enough, it is set in one of the most erratic periods of Roman history: King Nero’s reign. The grandiose imagery of ancient Rome directed by Mervyn LeRoy will take you down a time warp.

Titus 1999

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Osheen Jones, Alan Cumming

IMDb Rating:7.1/10

Starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, this is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Ancient Roman Tragedy. 

Directed by Julie Taymor, it follows the Roman senate after the death of Caesar. Concerning issues of rape, murder, greed, and lust it is one of the most gravely beautiful films set in ancient Rome.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)

Cast: Zero Mostel Jack Gilford Phil Silvers Buster Keaton

IMDb Rating:6.8/10

Yet another story from the tumultuous empire of King Nero: Pseudolus is a slave in the house of Senex and our cunning protagonist. There is no moral barrier he won’t transgress to earn his freedom and he finally finds a way! In your typical comedic fashion, there is a lot of slapstick comedy, disguises, and failed passions. When Pseudolus tries to orchestrate the betrothal of his master’s son Hero and Philia, things go hilariously wrong. 

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

IMDb Rating:8/10 

cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle

Written by the comedic trio Monty Python, this film set in ancient Rome has a unique sense of humor. Our eponymous character Brian is Jewish and shares a birthday with none other than Jesus! A lot of misunderstanding and mix-ups lead to Brian being held as the lord. Dashed with biblical puns and does a reimagination of a Pontius with a speech impediment. 

Spartacus (1960)

Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov

IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

This Kubrick masterpiece is set in ancient Rome and chronicles the story of Spartacus. This Roman epic is set right at the epoch of Roman Republic corruption where slaves are the major and exclusive source of labor. One such pioneering slave is Spartacus, who is an acclaimed gladiator and wants to earn freedom for himself and others like him. This story is a historical drama about the violent suppression of the Roman slave revolt

Satyricon (1969)

Cast: Martin Potter, Hiram Keller,Max Born, Salvo Randone

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Satyricon is an adaptation of a Latin play of the same name. Again set during the rule of King Nero, the film feels like science fiction because of its unapologetic debaucherous explores. Federico Fellini is one of the greatest Italian filmmakers, and the open exploration of homosexuality, politics, and human relationships is the least fascinating aspect of this masterwork. Fellini famously said in an interview that he is examining ancient Rome as if they shared the “customs and habits of the Martians”. In signature Fellini style the film is sprinkled with glimpses of brothels, absurd parties, and a faithless world.

Agora (2009)

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac

IMDb Rating:  7.1/10

This film traces the aftermath of the historical burning of the Alexandrian Mouseion (library). The film tells the story of Hypatia, set in 391 AD. It was really unusual for her to be a respected scientist, astronomer, and teacher in the Roman Empire. Especially ensuring the conflict between the Christians and the Pagans. Hypatia who is a Pagan scientist naturally believes that the earth is spherical and moves about the sun, which defies Christianity. It is an exceptionally great film with burning passions and a beautiful ending.

Centurion (2010)

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Noel Clarke

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

This film chronicles the violent suppression and colonization of the British (back then a mix of different pagan tribes) by the Romans. The Romans reach an impasse at the land of the Picts as they are skilled guerrilla warriors. All Romans are defeated except Centurion who is taken in as a war prisoner. Etain on the other hand is a Celtic soldier who had witnessed her parent’s gruesome death at the hands of the Romans. Following the tensions between the British and the Romans in the ancient world, this film is a stunning yet gorey watch. 

The Passion Of The Christ

Cast: Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci , Maia Morgenstern, Sergio Rubini.

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

This incredibly gorey film by Mel Gibson is considered by many to be his magnum opus. The violent savagery that Jesus was subjected to was humanized for the first time. The religious aspect of it dissipates thus, as it is a simple tale of a man who got caught up in political semantics. The wrongful trial, the penetrative speech of redemption, and some beautiful creative choices that Gibson makes a captivating watch.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 1925

Cast: Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, Myrna Loy, May McAvoy.

 IMDb: 7.8/10

 This is not only a cinematic classic of ancient Rome but of cinema itself.  Fred Niblo’s silent film starring Ramon Novarro and May McAvoy this silent film follows the story of two childhood friends: Ben-Hur and Messala. Messala who grows up to be an officer of the Roman tribute, locks and separates the Jewish prince from his family. This silent film following Ben-Hur’s struggle and meeting with Jesus is a must-watch for lovers of cinema.