"Gladiator" was a period piece whose climactic scenes take place in the Colosseum in Ancient Rome. It is one of the films that made Russell Crowe a household name. The movie went over well at the box office, making more than $450 million during its run. A survey of critical reviews found reviewers considered the film "generally favorable." Additionally, this movie took home five Academy Awards. The film is also noteworthy as it was the final film of British actor Oliver Reed, who died during filming.
The film opens with Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) leading his armies against Germanic Barbarians, ending a long war with a brutal military conquest. This earns him the respect of the emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), who privately names Maximus his heir, enraging the prince, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). This leads Commodus to assassinate his father before Maximus can become publicly known as heir. Commodus orders Maximus executed, his family murdered, and his estate burned. Maximus escapes execution, but is devastated when he finds his wife and son's corpses. Maximus is so exhausted that slave traders are able to abduct him.
Victory in the Games
Maximus is sold in North Africa, where Proximo (Reed) purchases him. Proximo trains Maximus as a gladiator. With his military background, Maximus makes a name for himself as a gladiator, and Proximo travels with him to Rome to fight in the Colosseum before the Commodus. After Maximus wins a battle pitched against him, the crowd falls in love and Commodus demands the gladiator's name. Maximus reveals himself, and because of the crowd's roaring approval, Commodus cannot kill him.
Maximus Versus Commodus
Commodus seeks to have Maximus killed in the arena, pitting him against ever stronger foes. Maximus continues to vanquish them, winning greater and greater popularity. Commodus fears Maximus' popularity, and will not have him killed outside the ring. At the same time, Maximus makes contact with his former soldiers and the emperor's sister, Lucilla, who vow to support him in rebellion against Commodus. Unfortunately, the plot is found out, and several key players are executed.
Commodus stages a match between himself and Maximus, and has Maximus fatally wounded before the match. The wound is concealed by Maximus' armor. However, despite his injury, Maximus overpowers and kills Commodus. Maximus then falls to his injuries. In the final scene, Maximus is reunited with his wife and son in Elysium, the pre-Christian Roman heaven.
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