10 Harsh Realities Of Rewatching Gladiator, 23 Years Later


  • Gladiator’s lack of a sequel for 20 years is bitter to remember, but Hollywood is finally picking up on the audience’s desire for more of the Roman empire and brutal fights to the death.
  • While Gladiator isn’t historically accurate, its lack of accuracy doesn’t diminish its entertainment factor. However, its cultural impact still resonates profoundly.
  • Gladiator’s flashy battle scenes may not be historically accurate, but the film’s focus on entertainment allows us to overlook the anachronistic weapons used.



It’s been 23 years since Gladiator first wowed audiences, and though it’s still an exemplary film, there are a few harsh realities that come with a rewatch. The story of Maximus is tragic, inspiring, and full of the bloody spectacle of the gladiators of ancient Rome are known for. This meant for a thoroughly entertaining film when Gladiator was released in 2000, but a good deal has changed since then. From the fact that Gladiator didn’t get a sequel in the works until decades later to various inaccuracies throughout the film, certain uncomfortable elements are likely to stand out to modern audiences.

Gladiator follows Maximus (Russell Crowe), a general in the Roman army who is favored by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) to be his successor. However, Marcus Aurelius’ son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), takes issue with this, murdering his father and Maximus’ family upon discovering Aurelius’ plans. This leads to the new emperor’s rival being a gladiator—and a rather good one at that. It’s a classic story of murder, love, and brutal spectacle, so it’s no surprise the film was a critical and box office hit. Now, 23 years later, a Gladiator 2 is finally in the works, inspiring many to rewatch the original. When they do, however, a few realities are likely to stand out.

10 A Gladiator Sequel Didn’t Happen Soon Enough

Maximus in his mask in Gladiator.

Sequels weren’t as prevalent in the 2000s as they are today, but fans still began requesting a Gladiator 2 from the moment that the first film climbed the charts. Of course, since Maximus dies at the end of the film, it would have to follow a different character, but there was plenty of room for that in Gladiator. It was the concept itself that audiences wanted more of since the Roman empire and the brutal fights to the death have always been topics of fascination. As of 2023, Hollywood has finally picked up on this need, and Gladiator 2 is in the works. However, when rewatching the original, the fact that a sequel didn’t happen 20 years ago is still bitter to remember.

9 Gladiator Is Far From Historically Accurate

Gladiator montage of characters.

The Roman Empire is a fascinating subject. The idea that such a massive, successful, and brutal civilization could fall to pieces is something of a real-world cautionary tale, and it has a firm grip on modern politics and entertainment. Unfortunately, a lot of what people think they know about it is false, and that is thanks, in part, to films like Gladiator. Though characters like Marcus Aurelius and Commodus are actual historical figures, their true lives were nothing like what was seen in the film. Ultimately, the fact that Gladiator isn’t historically accurate doesn’t hurt the entertainment factor, but the cultural impact is still profound.

8 Some Weapons In Gladiator Don’t Fit With The Time Period

Gladiator opening battle

The opening battle scene of Gladiator did a phenomenal job of grabbing audiences’ attention right off the bat. The film wasted no time jumping into the action, and the scene doubled as a way of showing just how effective a fighter and leader Maximus was. However, when it comes to the warfare issue, the creators of Gladiator didn’t seem to have spent much time on research. The film is set in 180 AD, which means the massive projectile weapons used during the battle wouldn’t have been invented yet. Still, they made for a flashy fight, and since the rest of Gladiator isn’t very focused on historical accuracy, we can overlook it.

7 The Incest Storyline Is Tame Compared To Modern Movie & TV

Gladiator what happened to Lucilla in real life

Back when Gladiator first hit the theaters in 2000, Commodus’ apparent sexual interest in his sister, Lucilla, was pretty jarring. Of course, it’s still enough to gross audiences out, but over the years, incest plots have become increasingly more common. It’s the easiest way to make a villain seem especially despicable, and every time it is done, the disturbing nature of the romance is taken up another level. Game of Thrones is a prime example of this, and since the incest plot carried on for several seasons, Commodus’ attraction toward his sister no longer seems so over the top.

6 Gladiator’s Filming Mistakes Are Easier To See Today


The televisions that audiences are watching Gladiator on today are far higher quality than the ones the film was initially intended for, which means several details that were easy to overlook have become glaringly obvious. There is a viral image that has been circulating the internet for years of an airplane flying over Maximus’ head, but this has long since been proven fake. However, there are other modern slip-ups throughout the film. For example, a cameraman wearing jeans can be seen watching Maximus fight at one point, and a small gas tank is seen inside one of the chariots the fighter tipped over.

RELATED: A Soldier In Jeans? 10 Gladiator Mistakes That Have No Place In Ancient Rome

5 Proximo’s CGI Resurrection Didn’t Get Enough Credit

Gladiator Proximo image

One of the more tragic aspects of Gladiator was the death of actor Oliver Reed, who played Proximo throughout the majority of the film. Unfortunately, he suffered a heart attack during filming and was unable to finish his role. Director Ridley Scott decided to use CGI and Reed’s likeness to complete the character’s scenes, and it was done so well that many didn’t even notice anything was off. Given the year Gladiator was made, the CGI work was extremely impressive. However, at the time, the switch out was considered a little disturbing. Now, audiences can appreciate the moment for what it is and lament the fact that the movie magic didn’t get enough credit.

4 Gladiator’s Musical Score Is Very Similar To A Massive Film Franchise


When watching Gladiator today, the anthem that plays while Maximus battles the chariot soldiers might sound more familiar than it did back in 2000. The song is nearly identical to the iconic theme of Pirates of the Caribbean, which saw its first movie released in 2003. Though famed composer Hans Zimmer worked on both films, he is only credited for writing Gladiator‘s “The Battle,” while Klause Badelt wrote “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean. The similarities may not have been noticed when the films were released, but the fact that Jack Sparrow’s story turned into a massive franchise changed this for today.

3 Maximus Is Too Strong To Be Realistic

A Gladiator montage image.

Maximus is the kind of hero that everyone wanted to be back in the 2000s. He was beloved by the crowd and virtually unbeatable, which pretty much anyone would want to claim. However, when rewatching as someone 23 years older, it’s far more evident that no one could be as good as Maximus. Single-handedly taking down chariots, tigers, giants, and dozens of soldiers at once isn’t realistic. Of course, heroes of impossible strength and ability are a staple of old Greek and Roman tales, so Maximus is a callback to such stories. Still, it’s disappointing to think we can’t grow up to be just like him.

2 Gladiator Being Over-Quoted Reduces Scenes’ Impact Today

Russell Crowe as Maximus in Gladiator

The best part about Maximus’ character is that, despite the audience’s love, he really didn’t care about pleasing anyone. This quality led to some of the best lines in the series as Maximus gave his famous speeches in Gladiator that challenged anyone and everyone. However, after 23 years of people yelling, “Are you not entertained?” the impact of the line is somewhat lessoned on a rewatch. Gladiator has been endlessly parodied over the years, to the point it’s hard to take the biggest moments of the film seriously. If only we could go back in time and hear and see them for the first time all over again.

1 Gladiator’s Impactful Themes Are Overlooked For Spectacle


Gladiator has gained a reputation for being a brutal film full of spectacle. Though this is true, to a point, it’s also an intelligent social commentary full of impactful themes. The film subtly references the various qualities of the Roman Empire that are often attributed to its rise and fall. The arenas are full of citizens eager to watch blood spilled, and the scenes of loaves of bread being launched into the crowd bring to mind the old phrase “panem et circenses,” meaning “bread and circuses.”

Additionally, the overarching theme is the power of the crowd. Maximus’ strength came from the love of the people, something Commodus didn’t have. This and more proves that Gladiator is more than a movie about guys chopping each other to pieces. Unfortunately, the spectacle of the action and blood means that the impactful themes and complex concepts are often overlooked.

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