Top 10 Sword and Sandal Movies
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
These films feature muscle-bound heroes, exotic females, extravagant costumes, historical storylines and really, really long runtimes. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of "Jason and the Argonauts" on June 19th, 1963, http://www.WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 sword-and-sandal films. For this list, we've decided to skip the traditional Italian Peplum movies that define the genre, and have instead picked Hollywood flicks that fit the category. And, it goes without saying, but we've excluded movies that are pretty universally panned. So we apologize if you're a Brad Pitt ("Troy") or Colin Farrell ("Alexander") fan…
Top 10 Sword and Sandal Movies
These films feature muscle-bound heroes, exotic females, extravagant costumes, historical storylines and really, really long runtimes. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 sword-and-sandal movies.
For this list, we’ve decided to skip the traditional Italian Peplum movies that define the genre, and have instead picked Hollywood flicks that fit the category. And, it goes without saying, but we’ve excluded movies that are pretty universally panned. So we apologize if you’re a Brad Pitt or Colin Farrell fan…
#10 – “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958)
You gotta love this cheesy fantasy film, with its nostalgia value and creepy creatures. Introducing this type of exotic, Arabian Nights tale to the sword-and-sandal genre was Ray Harryhausen, the brilliant mind behind the stop-motion Dynamation in this and many other flicks on this list. Thanks to him, this B-movie’s dragons, Cyclops and fighting skeletons are convincing – at least, by 1958 standards.
#9 – “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962)
Called one of the greatest films ever, this movie defines the term “epic.” With the unyielding Middle Eastern desert as its backdrop, it combines the sensibilities of a biopic, war story and adventure film while relating the tale of unconventional and charismatic British Army man T.E. Lawrence during WWI. Unlike most sword-and-sandal flicks, there’s no farcical drama, exaggerated violence or exotic women, but that’s probably why it won so many Oscars.
#8 – “Julius Caesar” (1953)
You can’t beat Shakespeare and you can’t beat Brando. Put ‘em together and you’ve got an almost-perfect film, and a fine example of sword-and-sandal success. Stark, tense, and full of togas, this version exploits the stellar performances of its cast to stand out with its retelling of the betrayal of a Roman dictator. The battle scenes are good enough, but who’s watching Shakespeare for the action, anyway?
#7 – “Clash of the Titans” (1981)
Romance, riddles, a handsome hero, campy monsters – this movie’s got everything! While this story’s 2010 remake may be more effective by today’s guidelines, the visual trickery employed by Ray Harryhausen in this sword-and-sandal romp is nothing short of amazing. Assisted by his helmet, shield, sword and trusty steed Pegasus, Perseus represents good in the fight against evil, as he tries to win Andromeda’s heart and hand in marriage.
#6 – “300” (2007)
Based on a graphic novel rather than straight history, Zack Snyder’s cult hit has enough muscles for ten sword-and-sandal stories, and more than its fair share of visceral violence and clichéd dialogue. True to the genre, there’s an exotic female helping the story along; but the real glory goes to the Spartans as they battle the big bad Persians in the visually stunning and epic Battle of Thermopylae.
#5 – “The Ten Commandments” (1956)
This Cecil B. DeMille tour-de-force set the pace for all historical epics to follow, with top-of-the-line effects and a star-making Charlton Heston performance. A box office smash despite its 220-minute runtime, it traces Moses’ life from birth until he becomes the savior of the Hebrew slaves. Sometimes melodramatic and always grandiose, this Bible story is brought to life as only Hollywood can, inspiring the entire sword-and-sandal genre.
#4 – “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963)
Arriving at the height of the sword-and-sandal era, this Greek hero has to survive without computer-animated effects – and it’s fun to see the result. Yeah it’s cheesy, but this movie succeeds thanks to Ray Harryhausen’s extensive stop-motion animation and unique twist on traditional mythology. On his quest for the fabled Golden Fleece, Jason unites with other heroes like Hercules to fight magical skeletons in an epic, albeit campy, showdown.
#3 – “Spartacus” (1960)
After losing the lead in “Ben-Hur,” screen legend Kirk Douglas joined Stanley Kubrick’s star-studded project as the title gladiator. With all the honor, decadence and arena battles reserved for sword-and-sandal blockbusters, this Oscar-winning film bridges the gap between visually-stunning early genre efforts and more historically accurate later films by intelligently chronicling Spartacus’ revolt against slavery. Sure, it’s dated; but by bravely defying Hollywood convention, it earned its classic status.
#2 – “Ben-Hur” (1959)
To see the full potential of Hollywood spectacle, watch this sword-and-sandal masterpiece. By charting the tribulations of a persecuted Jew in the time of Jesus and his struggle for freedom and vengeance, “Ben-Hur” set records with its colossal budget and Oscar haul. Aided by expansive sets, thousands of extras and Charlton Heston’s performance, this pseudo-biblical story climaxes in one of the most iconic sequences in cinema history.
#1 – “Gladiator” (2000)
Inspired by many films on this list, Ridley Scott’s Oscar-dominating epic revitalized the genre with thrilling storytelling and brilliant CGI. After losing everything, Russell Crowe’s Maximus vents his frustrations inside the arena, and all the elements of a sword-and-sandal classic are there: betrayal, revenge, exotic beauties, brooding muscleman performing inhuman feats of strength, fights to the death. But it’s also a universal story, and that’s why it’s number one.
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