The Best of Ancient Period Dramas 4000 BC – 500 AD

Image of Ancient Era Warriors and Gladiators

Ancient Era Films  4000 BC – 500 AD

The one nice thing about liking Period Drama is that the older it gets doesn’t matter. Because I have been viewing and collecting period drama films for over 40 years, I know I just love them all. I do not consider myself a good reviewer (I’m too biased) and believe I find something good in all of them. The following list is in no particular order. In essence, this is the bucket list of Ancient Era films for you to see. I will add to this list as I find or view them. Here, at least, are my Top Ten of Ancient Films and Television. Courtesy Period Drama.com

Major events of Ancient times:  Dinosaurs, Civilization began, Great Pyramids, First Olympics, Troy, Dynasties, Wars, Caesar, Rome, Pompeii, Attila,

Ancient Era gladiatorsGladiator 2000

A man robbed of his name and his dignity strives to win them back, and gain the freedom of his people, in this epic historical drama from director Ridley Scott. In the year 180, the death of emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) throws the Roman Empire into chaos. Maximus (Russell Crowe) is one of the Roman army’s most capable and trusted generals and a key advisor to the emperor. As Marcus’ devious son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) ascends to the throne, Maximus is set to be executed. He escapes but is captured by slave traders. Renamed Spaniard and forced to become a gladiator, Maximus must battle to the death with other men for the amusement of paying audiences. His battle skills serve him well, and he becomes one of the most famous and admired men to fight in the Colosseum. Determined to avenge himself against the man who took away his freedom and laid waste to his family, Maximus believes that he can use his fame and skill in the ring to avenge the loss of his family and former glory. As the gladiator begins to challenge his rule, Commodus decides to put his own fighting mettle to the test by squaring off with Maximus in a battle to the death. Gladiator also features Derek Jacobi, Connie Nielsen, Djimon Hounsou, and Oliver Reed, who died of a heart attack midway through production. Synopsis by Mark Deming Ancient times   

The Passion of the ChristThe Passion of the Christ  2004  (Ancient)

Synopsis by Andrea LeVasseur
Mel Gibson’s well-publicized production The Passion of the Christ concerns the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The dialogue is spoken in the ancient Aramaic language, along with Latin and Hebrew. In the Garden of Gethsemane near the Mount of Olives, Jesus (James Caviezel) is betrayed by Judas Iscariot (Luca Lionello). Jesus is condemned to death for blasphemy and brought before Pontius Pilate (Hristo Naumov Shopov), the Roman governor of Judea, for sentencing. The roaring crowd demand his death, so Pilate orders his crucifixion. Jesus is severely beaten and made to carry his cross up to Golgotha, the hill outside Jerusalem, where he is nailed to the cross. Romanian theatrical actress Maia Morgenstern plays Mary, Mother of God, and Italian superstar Monica Bellucci plays Mary Magdalene. Amid much controversy involving Gibson and various religious organizations, The Passion of the Christ received an international theatrical release in February of 2004. In March 2005, Gibson released an unrated version of the film, dubbed The Passion Recut, that eliminated five to six minutes of the most graphic scenes of flogging and crucifixion.   Click for Trailer

Great Love Story - Tristan and IsoldeTristan and Isolde 2006 (Ancient)

The film is set in Great Britain and Ireland, in the Dark Ages, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. Lord Marke of Cornwall plans to unify the peoples of Britain – Celts, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes – under himself as high king to resist Irish domination.

Most lords agree to this, as Marke is highly regarded and respected as a fair and courageous leader. The Irish king Donnchadh discovers this and sends troops to attack a Jutish castle where a treaty between the British tribes is being discussed. The raid claims the lives of the castle’s lord and his wife, but Marke manages to save their son, Tristan, at the cost of losing a hand. Feeling compassion for the young boy, whose father loyally supported him, Marke welcomes Tristan into his home and regards him as a son.

Nine years later, Tristan has grown into a fierce, courageous warrior whose loyalty to Marke is not that of a knight to his lord, but rather a son to his father. Tristan and other Cornish warriors launch an attack on an Irish slave caravan. Tristan fights Morholt, the champion and leader of the army of Donnchadh, whose lord’s daughter, Princess Isolde, has been promised to Morholt in marriage. Though Tristan kills Morholt and Donnchadh’s forces are overrun, he is severely wounded in the fight and believed dead, though he is in fact only suffering the effects of Morholt’s poisoned sword.

Tristan’s body is put out to sea on a funeral boat which eventually washes up along the shores of Ireland. He is discovered by Isolde and her maid, Bragnae, who administer an antidote that revives him. Bragnae insists that Isolde conceal her identity so Isolde tells Tristan her name is Bragnae and that she is a lady-in-waiting. Tristan and Isolde fall in love as she nurses him back to health. The two lovers must separate after Tristan’s boat is discovered. Tristan returns to Cornwall and receives a hero’s welcome. A confused but overjoyed Marke welcomes him back with open arms.

Plotting to defeat Britain, Donnchadh proposes a peace treaty, promising his daughter Isolde in marriage to the winner of a tournament. Tristan wins the tournament on behalf of Marke, unaware that “the prize” is the woman he fell in love with in Ireland. When he discovers the truth about Isolde, he is heartbroken to see her betrothed to Marke, but accepts it since the marriage will end “a hundred years of bloodshed.” …..more

 Life of King TUT, the bog kingTut 2015

TUT chronicles the life of one of history’s most extraordinary rulers, Tutankhamun, his rise to power and his struggle to lead Egypt to glory, while his closest advisors, friends and lovers scheme for their own nefarious interests.   It’s a tale of power, love, courage, and faith.

 Ben-Hur  1959

Synopsis by Hal Erickson   Hailed to be the quintesential adapation of this film.
This 1959 version of Lew Wallace’s best-selling novel, which had already seen screen versions in 1907 and 1926, went on to win 11 Academy Awards. Adapted by Karl Tunberg and a raft of uncredited writers including Gore Vidal and Maxwell Anderson, the film once more recounts the tale of Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), who lives in Judea with his family during the time that Jesus Christ was becoming known for his “radical” teachings. Ben-Hur’s childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) is now an ambitious Roman tribune; when Ben-Hur refuses to help Messala round up local dissidents on behalf of the emperor, Messala pounces on the first opportunity to exact revenge on his onetime friend. Tried on a trumped-up charge of attempting to kill the provincial governor (whose head was accidentally hit by a falling tile), Ben-Hur is condemned to the Roman galleys, while his mother (Martha Scott) and sister (Cathy O’Donnell) are imprisoned. But during a sea battle, Ben-Hur saves the life of commander Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), who, in gratitude, adopts Ben-Hur as his son and gives him full control over his stable of racing horses. Ben-Hur never gives up trying to find his family or exact revenge on Messala. At crucial junctures in his life, he also crosses the path of Jesus, and each time he benefits from it. The highlight of the film’s 212 minutes is its now-legendary chariot race, staged largely by stunt expert Yakima Canutt. Ben-Hur’s Oscar haul included Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for Heston, and Best Supporting Actor for Welsh actor Hugh Griffith as an Arab sheik.  The Best adaptation of Ben-Hur 1956

 King Arthur  2004

Synopsis by Mark Deming
An ambitious attempt to wed the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table with known historical facts of the era, this action adventure drama begins with the fall of the Roman Empire in 450 A.D. as Roman armies flee the British Isles. Arthur (Clive Owen), a heroic knight and devoted Christian, is torn between his desire to travel to Rome to serve his faith and his loyalty to the land of his birth. As England falls into lawlessness, Arthur throws in his lot with a band of knights who hope to restore order to their fair and pleasant land and hopes to win freedom for his comrades, among them Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Bors (Ray Winstone), and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson). In time, Arthur and his men join forces with Merlin (Stephen Dillane), a shaman whose band of renegade knights were often pitched in battle against Roman forces. Forming a united front as loyal Englishmen against the invading Saxon armies, Arthur, Merlin, and the brave and beautiful Guinevere (Keira Knightley) are determined to unite a sovereign Britain under one army and one king.

 The young Jewish girl, Hadassah, goes on to become the Biblical Esther, the Queen of Persia,One Night with the King 2006

Synopsis by Jason Buchanan
When a beautiful young slave girl learns that her people are about to fall victim to a horrible act of genocide, she will be forced to choose between realizing her wildest dreams or stepping into the pages of history to embrace her destiny in an epic tale of one young girl who rises from peasant to princess to claim the heart of a king. Esther was born an exquisite beauty, but her people have been enslaved by the most powerful kingdom on the planet and her parents executed before she ever had a chance to truly know them. Subsequently taken in by her kindly uncle, a royal scribe, Esther is soon spirited away to the royal palace to take her place in the king’s harem. Trouble is stirring in this ancient land, however, and when the queen, Vashti, is banished by the unknowing king, palace princes scramble for a position of power the desperate king determined to live up to, and ultimately avenge the battles waged by his father long ago. Now, as the wheels of destruction are slowly set into motion, a malevolent prime minister who has fallen into favor with the king soon begins to wield a frightening amount of power by calling for the death of Esther’s people. With time running out for her entire race, Esther must face her fears and be willing to lay down her life if she is to ever fully realize the plan that God has laid out for her.

Homer's sprawling tale of love and war in ancient Greece comes to the screen in all its grandeur in this epic-scale adventure. In 1193 B.C Troy 2004

Homer’s sprawling tale of love and war in ancient Greece comes to the screen in all its grandeur in this epic-scale adventure. In 1193 B.C., Paris, Prince of Troy (Orlando Bloom), has fallen in love; however, the beautiful woman who has beguiled him is Helen, Queen of Sparta (Diane Kruger), who is wed to King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). While Helen is hardly immune to Paris’ charms, this doesn’t blunt Menelaus’ fury when Paris steals her away from him. Menelaus’ brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox), the power-hungry king of the Mycenaeans, is eager to expand his empire through Troy to the lands of the Aegean Sea, and he uses Paris’ romantic slight against Menelaus as an excuse to wage an all-out war against the great walled city. Priam, King of Troy (Peter O’Toole), summons his armies, led by Prince Hector (Eric Bana), to meet the onslaught of Agamemnon’s forces, but while the great city has yet to yield in a battle, Agamemnon has a formidable ally — Achilles (Brad Pitt), a mighty and seemingly unstoppable warrior whose presence could tip the scales in Agamemnon’s favor. Sean Bean, Julie Christie, Saffron Burrows, and Rose Byrne highlight the film’s supporting cast. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

 a younger Batiatus (John Hannah) schemes to wrest control of his father's school for training and fine-tuning the bloodthirsty warriors that will represent their house in competition.Spartacus: Gods of the Arena  2011

This extension of the cable series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is actually a chronicle of events that took place prior to when the gladiator hero extraordinaire arrived on the scene. As the series begins, a younger Batiatus (John Hannah) schemes to wrest control of his father’s school for training and fine-tuning the bloodthirsty warriors that will represent their house in competition. It’s an on-going tale of glory, ambition, double-crossing and power grabs, with a heaping helping of sex and a gory complement of slow-motion slicing, dicing and pummeling.

  Gerard Butler stars as Spartan King Leonidas and Lena Headey plays Queen Gorgo. The massive army of the Persian Empire is sweeping across the globe, crushing every force that dares stand in its path.300  2006

Sin City author Frank Miller’s sweeping take on the historic Battle of Thermopylae comes to the screen courtesy of Dawn of the Dead director Zack Snyder. Gerard Butler stars as Spartan King Leonidas and Lena Headey plays Queen Gorgo. The massive army of the Persian Empire is sweeping across the globe, crushing every force that dares stand in its path. When a Persian envoy arrives in Sparta offering King Leonidas power over all of Greece if he will only bow to the will of the all powerful Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), the strong-willed leader assembles a small army comprised of his empire’s best fighters and marches off to battle. Though they have virtually no hope of defeating Xerxes’ intimidating battalion, Leonidas’ men soldier on, intent on letting it be known they will bow to no man but their king. Meanwhile, back in Sparta, the loyal Queen Gorgo attempts to convince both the skeptical council and the devious Theron (Dominic West) to send more troops despite the fact that many view Leonidas’ unsanctioned war march as a serious transgression. As Xerxes’ fearsome “immortals” draw near, a few noble Greeks vow to assist the Spartans on the battlefield. When King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors fell to the overwhelming Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae, the fearless actions of the noble fighters inspired all of Greece to stand up against their Persian enemy and wage the battle that would ultimately give birth to the modern concept of democracy. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

 

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