#20. Gladiator : Fresh off of 1999’s hugely successful “The Insider,” Hollywood resident “bad boy” Russel Crowe returned with Gladiator. By the time Gladiator was released, Crowe had already established himself as one of the preeminent actors in Hollywood, but it was here that he became a household name. Directed by Ridley Scott, Gladiator was both a commercial and critical success garnering a vast number of accolades, including Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Crowe).
Set during the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ rule, Gladiator tells the story Maximus (Crowe), a general in Marcus Aurelius’ army who is chosen by Aurelius to be his successor as Emperor of Rome. Commodus (played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix), as the son of Aurelius learns the news and needless to say, does not take it well. In a jealous rage he murders his father, becomes Emperor of Rome and sets out to establish his power by murdering Maximus and his family. Maximus escapes only to be captured by a slave owner. As fate would have it, Maximus finds himself back in Rome, but as a slave-turned-hero, fighting for his life in the Colosseum as a gladiator.
In many ways, Gladiator is a modern interpretation of some of the great movies of the 1960s such as Spartacus. Although it is loosely based on historical events, its not meant to be a history lesson. Rather, its a story about a hero, portrayed quite ably by Crowe. The cinematography is top notch and the casting is excellent, particularly with Phoenix playing foil to Crowe the hero. As one of my favorite movies of any decade its a definite must-see; action movie buffs and Crowe fans alike will enjoy.