1 Year, 100 Movies: #81 Spartacus (1960)


For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Spartacus is an epic movie on a grand scale directed by Stanley Kubrick. It is about a Thracian gladiator -Spartacus, who was one of the slave leaders in the Third Servile War- a slave uprising against the Roman Republic. It’s impossible to cover such a massive story in a few short words, but I’ll try.

As a slave, Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is trained as a gladiator along with fellow slaves. They are being bred to perform for larger Roman audiences. The men try not to make personal relationships since they could one day fight one another to the death- but nevertheless connections are made. None more potent than Spartacus and the slave girl Varinia (Jean Simmons). When some noblemen arrive at the training center and demand a fight to the death the results plant a seed of unrest among the slaves. After the noblemen leave, the slaves take control of an opportunity to revolt and take over the training facility- overpowering the guards to take to the hills and their freedom. They join up with other runaways and their numbers soon swell to form a large army. Spartacus clearly emerges as the leader of the cause. His deep love for Varinia and his longing for freedom drive the film.

Spartacus goes on to lead the slaves in the Third Seville War- the last in a series of unsuccessful and unrelated slave rebellions against the Roman Republic. It was however, the only one to have repeated successes- and to supposedly threaten Rome itself. I’m clearly skimming over much of the movie- but this part of the movie involves Crassus, an aristocrat, senator and general of Rome played by Laurence Oliver who is a complex and ambitious character, commissioned by the senate to put down the slave revolt. Eventually he is successful- and Spartacus, likely knowing what will be the inevitable, goes into battle anyway. Although many of the slave army was slain, there was still hope and defiance till the end. The survivors all claim to be Spartacus in his stead, showing loyalty and respect to the end, but sealing all of their fates. Crassus has the survivors, including Spartacus, crucified along the Apian Way- the road leading back into Rome. Varinia finds Spartacus there on the road as she is escaping to freedom and he is able to see her and his newborn son and knows that at least his son will be free. It’s a real master accomplishment of acting, truly heartbreaking.

The entire movie is a really fine example of directing, acting, set design and costume. It’s a truly intriguing story and a visual masterpiece from beginning to end and I highly recommend it.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:



One response to “1 Year, 100 Movies: #81 Spartacus (1960)

  1. I love Spartacus! This film is the reason why I never really liked Gladiator – this film is so much more epic, the characters are way more interesting, and it’s a lot better on the eyes.

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