20 Reasons Why I Love ‘Gladiator’ 20 Years Later

Disclaimer: spoilers. Duh.

#1 For the honour

This movie wasn’t the first story where I’ve picked up the idea that doing something good for some moral reasons (and I was way too young in 2000 to see that everyone’s idea of ‘good’ or ‘moral’ is different), but it was the one which drove it home for me. I can trace a lot of my own beliefs back at this stupid, overinflated movie. Still love it.

#2 One person army

I truly believe that the only character to be able to take on Maximus in a fight and live to tell the tale is Ammar ibn Khairan. I’m weird that way.

#3 Major character death I actually appreciate

I hate movies where the main character dies at the end. During the past two decades, I’d often wondered why, of all things, I still love it in this movie. Is it beacuse of ‘where’ he went afterwards? Or beacuse of the way the other lead characters react to it? Or because it was 2000 and I was really young? It remains a mystery.

#4 Not Yet

Aaaaand now I’m going to cry just replaying the scene in my mind.

#5 The ludus camaraderie

Nope, I didn’t learn that word from the movie. I remember it from Spartacus, the same as the rest of us. But I wouldn’t have even thought of seeing Spartacus if not for this movie (especially because it has certain types of violence I strongly dislike seeing). And people from all walks of life thrown together through their personal misfortunes and bonding in such an awesome way still does it for me.

#6 One good man

What did we say about crying? (Actually, nothing was said.)

#7 Gracchus

Am I the only one who thinks he was gay? Or is it as obvious as I think it is? Anyway, loved the character, loved the actor, and dammit this movie was good.

#8 Richard Harris

I don’t hate Michael Gambon, per se. But Richard Harris, for me, just had what it took to fall in love with a character, any character. Sure, there’ve been good mentors out there before and after his Marcus Aurelius, but not that many I can think of apart from Ben Kenobi. Which says a lot in itself. Twenty years later, there are still not enough really old mentors in movies out there, people who are as frail as old age makes most of us be. It’s such a shame, actually.

#9 Dead Commodus

Bwahahahahahahaha.

#10 People who can’t have what they want

Let us pause for a second and try to figure out how exactly is that supposed to be a plus? I must have been in a really strange mindset when first creating this list.

#11 Glory of Rome

Or, among other things, that scene when they return, triumphant, to Rome itself. On another note, I can’t say I had a thing for ancient Rome before 2000, but I most certainly (still) do now. Not all of us would claim that Gladiator has great CGI by current standards, but in 2000, I’ve seen in three times at really good cinema halls, and all the effort they put into it was so worth it. It would be really fun to see a possible parallel alternate reality in which I didn’t see this movie when I did, and to find out whether I would have a) chosen Art History for a major in college and/or b) started writing historical fantasy altogether!

Yes. Movies are that important.

#12 Lisa Gerrard & Hans Zimmer

I’ve actually tried playing their most famous tune from the movie, Now we’re free, on my ukulele a few weeks ago for this. It was fun, but not easy. This soundtrack was among the first ones I was to ever own on CD (I had a few before on casette, too, heh), and remains among the small number of physical copies of music I still own! The soundtrack was groundbreaking, for me. It still is. It will probably stay that way, thank you very much.

#13 The colours

If I tried watching it, like, this week or this month—which has been suggested, by my loveliest of partners, and politely declined because I haven’t got the brainpower—I’d probably disregard most of it as bad filters. But, in my memory, each and every shade of this glorious cinematographic experience is priceless.

#14 The snot

I’m aware people have made fun of the scene (and the movie in general because of that scene), but to me it’s a genuine plus. It’s something you don’t see all that often in high budget movies—humans being human.

#15 The sign of your gods (Will that not anger them?)

The answer, I’ve found decades later, is that sometimes you have to anger your gods to survive.

#16 The dirt ritual

Do I really need to explain this one?

#17 The armour

Since I haven’t watched it in a while—choosing instead to replay it in my mind—it is quite possible that Gladiator’s armour and costumes (well… maybe less) wouldn’t stand up to my (and the movie industry’s) current standards. Still, the physical iconography of the movie was, and still is, something to behold.

#18 Because of the side characters

Too many to mention, even apart from those I’ve already listed here, but each and every one of them have probably influenced my life in a way, over the years. Sure, I prefer the good ones. But still… the lessons by the bad ones were duly noted, too.

#19 Because of his love for his family

Full disclosure: I’ve got a few fandom tattoos, but not the one I’ve been dreaming about for ages—the one inspired by this movie. And I could’ve chosen all sorts of things to tattoo from the movie, but for the past few years since I’ve started collecting body art, I keep going back to the scene with Maximus’ prayer for his family. Sure, it’s corny. Yup, also campy. And all other sorts of things. It is, also, precious to me. (And that’s another story, of another movie, for another day.)

#20 Because it’s been twenty years…

…and I still haven’t found a movie to blow my mind quite as much. I’ve loved a lot of them, sure. (More recent examples of movies I’ve lost my shit over were Fury Road and Endgame.) But I’m not sure I’ll write a list like this for any of them, twenty years in. We’ll see.

But not yet. Not yet.