I know that you are a man of your word, General. I know that you would die for honor, for Rome,      

                     for the memory of your ancestors. But as for me? I'm an entertainer.


General Maximus Decimus Meridius leads the Roman army to victory against germanic barbarians in the year 180 AD, ending a prolonged war and earning the esteem of elderly Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Although the dying Aurelius possesses a son, Commodus, Aurelius decides to appoint temporary leadership to the morally-upstanding Maximus, with a desire to eventually return power to the Roman senate. Aurelius informs Maximus and offers him time to consider before informing Commodus, who murders his father. Declaring himself the emperor, Commodus asks Maximus for his loyalty, which he refuses, realizing Commodus's involvement in the emperors death. Commodus orders Maximus's execution and dispatches guards to murder Maximus's wife and son. Maximus escapes his execution and races home only to discover his family's charred and crucified bodies in the smoldering ruins of his villa. After burying his wife and son, a grieving Maximus succumbs to exhaustion and collapses on their graves.

Slave traders find Maximus and take him to Zucchabar, a rugged province in North Africa, where he is purchased by Proximo, the head of a local gladiator school. Distraught and nihilistic over the death of his family and betrayal by his empire, Maximus initially refuses to fight, but as he defends himself in the arena his formidable combat skills lead to a rise in popularity with the audience. As he trains and fights further, Maximus befriends Hagen, a germanic barbarian, and Juba, a Numidian hunter, the latter becoming a close friend and confidant to the grieving Maximus, the two speaking frequently of the afterlife and Maximus's eventual reunification with his family.

In Rome, Commodus reopens the gladiatorial games to commemorate his father's death, and Proximo's company of gladiators are hired to participate. In a recreation of the Battle of Zama at the Colosseum, Maximus leads Proximo's gladiators to decisive victory against a more powerful force, much to the amazement of the crowd. Commodus descends into the arena to meet the victors and is stunned to discover Maximus as the leader of Proximo's gladiators. The Emperor, unable to kill Maximus because of the crowd's roaring approval for him, sulks out of the arena. As the games continue, Commodus pits Maximus against Tigris of Gaul, Rome's only undefeated gladiator, in an arena surrounded by chained tigers with handlers instructed to target Maximus. Following an intense battle, Maximus narrowly defeats Tigris and awaits Commodus' decision to kill or spare Tigris. As Commodus votes for death, Maximus spares Tigris, deliberately insulting the Emperor and garnering the audience's approval. His bitter enemy now known as "Maximus the Merciful," Commodus becomes more frustrated at his inability to kill Maximus or his ascending popularity while his own shrinks.

Following the fight, Maximus meets his former servant Cicero, who reveals that Maximus's army remains loyal to him. Maximus forms a plot with Lucilla, Commodus' sister and Senator Gracchus to reunite Maximus with his army and overthrow Commodus. Commodus however, suspecting his sister's betrayal, threatens her young son and forces her to reveal the plot. Praetorian guards immediately storm Proximo's gladiator barracks, battling the gladiators while Maximus escapes. Hagen and Proximo are killed in the siege while Juba and the survivors are imprisoned. Maximus escapes to the city walls only to witness Cicero's death and be ambushed by a legion of Praetorian guards.

Concluding that legends born in the Colosseum must die there, Commodus challenges Maximus to a duel in front of a roaring audience. Acknowledging that Maximus's skill exceeds his own, Commodus deliberately stabs Maximus with a stilleot before the battle and conceals the wound beneath his armor. In the arena, the two exchange blows before Maximus rips the sword from Commodus's hands. Commodus pulls a hidden stiletto and renews his attack, before Maximus beats him into submission and kills him. As Commodus collapses in the now-silent Colosseum, a dying Maximus begins seeing his wife and son in the afterlife. He reaches for them, but is pulled back to reality by the Praetorian prefect Quintus, who asks Maximus for instructions. Maximus orders the release of the Proximo's gladiators and Senator Gracchus, whom he reinstates and instructs to return Rome to a Senate-based government. With that, Maximus collapses, and Lucilla rushes to his aid. After being reassured that her son is safe and Commodus is dead, Maximus dies and wanders into the afterlife to his family in the distance. Senator Gracchus and Proximo's gladiators carry Maximus' body out of the Colosseum. Later that night, a newly freed Juba buries Maximus' two small statues of his wife and son in the Colosseum.






Copyright(c) 2007 - 2025. All rights reserved

 War Movies Home

watch the trailer



Movie Script

Directed by Douglas Wick
Produced by Douglas Wick
David Franzoni
Branko Lustig
Written by David Franzoni
John Logan
William Nicholson
Starring Russell Crowe
Joaquin Phoenix
Connie Nielsen
Oliver Reed
Richard Harris
Derek Jacobi
Djimon Hounsou
Ralf Moeller
Music by Hans Zimmer
Lisa Gerrard
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) May 5, 2000
Running time 154 mins.
Language English
Budget $103,000,000







     War Movies Home