To the majority of people throughout history in America, one of the best types of film to see was the sweeping epic. Ben Hur and films of this nature were huge. They had a cast of thousands, with action and drama mixed perfectly. These films were magnificent in their scope and production. Because of the expense of these films the studios have, for the large part, have moved away from them. Ridley Scott's Gladiator signaled the successful return this type of film making. A war film with the drama of love, virtues, and political ambitions, Gladiator is an epic movie that is not characterized by one genre but rather multiple ones.
The film starts out after the winning a major battle against the Germanic peoples of the north. Emperor Marcus Aurelius (played by Richard Harris) asks his commanding general Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) to succeed him and then to end the corruptness of the kingdom by returning power to the Senate of Rome for the good of the people. When Marcus Aurelius discloses his plan of succession to his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) he kills his father in order to ensure his inheritance and orders the execution of Maximus. Maximus, however, escapes to Spain, where he is enslaved and trained by Proximo (played by Oliver Reed) to be a gladiator. When Commodus orders one hundred days of gladiatorial games to commemorate the memory of Marcus Aurelius, Maximus disguised as "the Spaniard" heads for Rome along with Proximo's other slaves. Ultimately, Maximus triumphs in the Coliseum and fulfills his destiny as "the general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, and the gladiator who defied an emperor." Commodus wounds a chained Maximus and then insists on combat in the Coliseum, but Maximus triumphs, kills Commodus, and then dies of the wounds originally inflicted by Commodus. Before he dies he orders that Rome be returned to the people as a fulfillment of the wishes of the late emperor Marcus Aurelius.