Top 10 Films About Ancient Civilizations

June 2, 2011
Everyone has their favorite film based on ancient times. Whether it's the battle scenes, the drama, the characters, or just the sheer setting of the film, you can often feel like you're lost in another time and in another place. In case you're no film buff, read on to see what the Top 10 Films About Ancient Civilizations are.

Source: Touchstone Pictures

10. Apocalypto (2006)

Depicting the downfall of the Mayans, Apocalypto takes you through the violent struggle of Jaguar Paw, a tribesman who survived a village slaughter by a pack of raiders. During the slaughter, Jaguar Paw places his pregnant wife and son in a safe place, but he is then captured by the raiders and marched across a large Mesoamerican jungle for sacrifice. He breaks free and journeys back to find and save his family, while his captors are in hot pursuit. The story is illustrated through strong, violent visuals and through the life of a man who refuses to be bound by fate.

Source: 20th Century Fox

9. Cleopatra (1963)

With an estimate budget of nearly $295 millionin today's currency, Cleopatra is one of the most expensive movies ever produced. In fact, Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1 millionalone to star as the Egyptian queen in the film, and that was the highest sum of money paid to any female actress at the time. Cleopatra's fate is unfolded in this film as she uses tensions in the Egyptian Kingdom and Roman Empire to consolidate power and rule once and for all. The movie combines the issues of politics with love to demonstrate Cleopatra's goals, successes, and failures in her life.

Source: 20th Century Fox

8. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Set during the Crusades of the 12th century, Kingdom of Heaven follows the life of a French blacksmith, Bailan, who travels to Jerusalem to discover God's will and save the city from Muslim forces who seek to reclaim the Holy Land as their own. Riddled with moral complexity and filled with stunning visual effects, this is a well-crafted film that narrates the intense struggle between two dominant religions and the struggle of a man in between them.

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

7. Excalibur (1981)

A fantasy film that leaves no stone unturned, Excalibur illustrates the life of the legendary King Arthur. From when Arthur first draws the sword Excalibur from the stone to when he wields it during the final battle with his knights against Mordred and Morgana, the action in this film is blended almost perfectly with philosophy. Filmed in beautiful areas of Ireland featuring real Norman castles, this film was nominated for an Academy Award in 1982 for Best Cinematography.

Source: DreamWorks

6. Gladiator (2000)

There's nothing like a warrior who is out for revenge for himself, and justice and freedom for his people – and that's just what Gladiator delivers, topped with phenomenal performances from a great cast. General Maximus Decimus Meridius is robbed of his family and title, finding himself fighting for his life as a gladiator in Roman arenas. As his superior combat skills leave him winning battle after battle, he finds himself gaining the attention of the public and getting closer and closer to confronting Emperor Commodus once and for all - the man who took his life from him.

Source: Picturehouse Entertainment

5. Mongol (2007)

Who wouldn't want to see a film depicting the rise of the ruler of the largest contiguous empire of all time, Genghis Khan? Combine great storytelling with epic battle scenes and you get a film called Mongol. The life of Genghis Khan as a young boy, something that often shrouded in mystery, is brought to life in this cinematic adventure, where we see tons of bloodshed, betrayal, and bravery.

Source: Summit Entertainment

4. Red Cliff (2008)

It's amazing how great a film can be when it's based solely on one battle alone - more importantly the Battle of Red Cliffs (208 – 209 AD) in ancient China. The film shows this decisive battle in all its glory, which was at the very end of the Han Dynasty, just before the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. Red Cliff is directed by legendary Hong Kong director John Woo, who creates colorful characters and introduces an intriguing plot that together build a spectacular story.

Source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

3. Quo Vadis (1951)

Latin for "whither goest thou?" (or "where are you going?" in plain English), Quo Vadis tells the tale of Roman General Marcus Vinicius, who falls in love with Lygia, a Christian slave. Ancient Rome's corrupt Emperor Nero, being opposed to Christianity, takes delight in burning Rome and effectively places the blame on the Christians there, ordering them to be executed immediately. Marcus and Lygia become the center of Nero's vicious attacks and fight for their lives, as well as for a chance to have Nero overthrown. The film's great production is only shadowed by a spectacular performance of the cast.

Source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

2. Ben-Hur (1959)

What can you say about a film that scooped 11 Academy Awards? Starring Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur is one of the most successful films to come out of Hollywood. Ben-Hur, a wealthy Jewish prince, is wrongly arrested and enslaved on a warship by his powerful friend, Messala. As Ben-Hur grows up he goes through many trials and tribulations, becoming stronger and eventually a successful chariot racer. After winning races at an unbelievable pace, he finally gets a chance for a final race against his captor, who was once his friend. No other film could clearly define the word "epic."

Source: Universal Pictures

1. Spartacus (1960)

It's one thing if an Empire faces a revolt, but it's another thing when it's by gladiators, who are trained and ruthless killers. Spartacus is a slave gladiator who falls for a girl named Varinia (a slave from Brittania) and turns on his owners. As Spartacus marches from town to town in Italy, more and more slaves join his cause and wreak havoc against the Roman Empire. The Empire's great military might aims to crush this slave rebellion and sends its troops to battle, leaving you with one of the most spectacular cinematic masterpieces you've ever seen.

What are your favorites? Comment below and let your voice be heard!