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comparing and contrasting historical movies

Historical Movies

Ancient Egypt
Land of the Pharaohs (1955) 105 min, NR
Dir. Howard Hawks, With Jack Hawkins and Joan Collins.
Fictional account of the building of the Great Pyramid

The Scorpion King (2002) 92 mins, PG-13
Dir. Chuck Russell, With Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), Steven Brand, and Michael Clark Duncan
Story set in Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt (pre-pyramids)

Biblical Epics/Ancient Israel
The Ten Commandments (1956) 220 mins, G
Dir. Cecil B. DeMille, With Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and Anne Baxter.
Famous epic production of the biblical account of the Exodus

Abraham (1994) (TV movie) 175 mins, NR
Dir. Joseph Sargent, With Vittorio Gassman, Richard Harris, and Barbara Hershey.
Story of the first Hebrew Patriarch

The Prince of Egypt (1998) 98 mins, PG
Dir. Brenda Chapman, With (voices of) Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, et al
Animated version of Exodus

One Night with the King (2006) 123 mins, PG
Dir. Michael Sajbel, With Tiffany Dupont, Luke Goss, and John Noble
Retelling of the story of Esther, set in the Persian Empire

Ancient Greece
The Trojan Women (1971) 109 Min, NR
Dir. Michael Cacoyannis, With Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and Irene Papas
Based on an ancient Greek play, tells the story of the Trojans after the conquest of the city by the Greeks

Troy (2004) 163 mins, R
Dir. Wolfgang Peterson, With Brad Pitt, Erica Bana, and Orlando Bloom
Based on Homer’s “The Iliad”

Alexander (2004) 175 mins, R
Dir. Oliver Stone, With Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins, and Rosario Dawson
King of Macedonia’s conquest of the Persian Empire and most of the known world

300 (2006) 117 mins, R
Dir. Zack Snyder, With Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, and David Wenham
The Battle of Thermopylae, an important turning point in the Greek-Persian Wars

Clash of the Titans (2010) 106 mins, PG-13
Dir. Louis Leterrier, With Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, and Ralph Fiennes
Fantasy more than history, depicts a cycle of stories from Greek mythology
Roman Empire
Cleopatra (1999) TV mini-series, 177 mins, NR
Dir. Franc Roddam, With, Timothy Dalton, Billy Zane and Rupert Graves
The most famous Egyptian queen. There is also a 1963 version starring Elizabeth Taylor

Gladiator (2000) 154 mins, R
Dir. Ridley Scott, With Russell Crowe.
The end of Marcus Aurelius’ rule and political instability which followed under Commodus

Julius Caesar (2002) TV mini-series, 240 mins, PG-13
Dir. Uli Edel, With Jeremy Sisto, Richard Harris, Christopher Walken
Caesar’s rise to power in the army, his victories in Gaul, and his return in triumph to Rome

Warrior Queen (2003) 98 mins, PG-13
Dir. Bill Anderson, With Alex Kingston, Steven Waddington, and Emily Blunt
Portrays the Celtic queen Boudicea as she leads the native Britons into rebellion against Rome

Spartacus (2004) 174 mins, NR
Dir. Howard Fast, With Goran Visnjic, Alan Bates, and Angus Mcfadyen
Slave revolt in Rome, led by a former gladiator

The Eagle (2011) 114 mins, PG-13
Dir. Kevin Macdonald, With Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, and Donald Sutherland
Roman legions in Britain and a look at the Pictish tribes living north of Hadrian’s Wall

Life of Christ
Jesus (1979), 117 mins, G
Dir. John Krish and Peter Sykes, With Brian Deacon as Jesus.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) 168 mins, R
Dir. Martin Scorcese, With William Dafoe as Jesus.

The Passion of the Christ (2004) 127 mins, R
Dir. Mel Gibson, With Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, and Maia Morgenstern

The Nativity Story (2006) 101 mins, PG
Dir. Catherine Hardwicke, With Keisha Castle-Hughes, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Oscar Isaac

Early Christian/Late Antiquity
Quo Vadis? (1951) 171 min , PG
Dir. Mervyn LeRoy, With Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov
Epic costume drama about Nero’s rule and the early Christians

Peter and Paul (1981) TV movie, 198 mins, NR
Dir. Robert Day, With Anthony Hopkins, Robert Foxworth, Raymond Burr
About Saints Peter and Paul as leaders of the new, fiercely-opposed religion of Christianity
St Patrick: The Irish Legend (2000) TV movie, 100 mins, NR
Dir. Robert Hughes, With Patrick Bergin, Luke Griffin, and Alan Bates
Life of the man who converted the Irish to Christianity

Agora (2009) 127 mins, R
Dir. Alejando Amenábar, With Rachael Weisz, Max Minghella, and Oscar Isaac
The rise of Christianity in Roman-ruled Egypt and the life of Hypatia

The Barbarian/German Influence
Attila (2001) TV mini-series, 177 mins, UR
Dir. Rick Lowry, With Gerard Butler and Tim Curry
Leader of a Germanic tribe, Attila threatens to invade the city of Rome itself

King Arthur (2004) 126 mins, PG-13
Dir. Antoine Fuqua, With Clive Owen, Stephen Dillane, and Keira Knightley
Re-sets the familiar medieval legends of Arthur and company as Romano-British people following the withdrawal of the legions from Britain

Tristan + Isolde (2006) 125 mins, PG-13
Dir. Kevin Reynolds, With James Franco and Sophia Myles
Based on famous cycle of medieval romances, set in the Early Middle Ages among the Celts and Britons

The Last Legion (2007) 102 mins, PG-13
Dir. Doug Lefler, With Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchen
The end of Roman rule in Britian and the withdrawal of the legions

Beowulf (2007) 115 mins, PG-13
Dir. Robert Zemeckis, With Ray Winstone, Crispin Glover, and Angelina Jolie
Retelling of the famous Anglo-Saxon epic poem

Byzantium and Islam
The Last Roman (1968) 92 mins, NR
Dir. Robert Siomak, With Welles, , Syliva Coscina, and Lang Jeffries
Presents the struggle of the daughters of the Gothic king Theodoric for power after his death, and the conquest of their kingdom in Italy by the Byzantine general Belisarius

Mohammad, Messenger of God (1977) 180 mins, PG
Dir. Moustapha Akkad, With Anthony Quinn and Irene Pappas
In accordance with Islamic law, Muhammad is not actually shown on screen, and neither he, nor most of his relatives are allowed to speak. Thus, Muhammad’s uncle is the central character.

Feudalism/ Knighthood
The 13th Warrior (1999) 102 mins, R
Dir. John McTiernan; With Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif, and Diane Venora
Fictional story that combines elements from the travel writings of Ahmad ibn Fadlan (tenth-century Arab who serves as ambassador to the Russian Vikings from the Caliph of Baghdad) with themes and plot points from the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) 90 mins, PG
Dir. Terry Gilliam, With Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Eric Idle
Spoof of generic conventions of medieval movies – a comedy

Kingdom of Heaven (2005) 144 mins, R
Dir. Ridley Scott, With Orlando Bloom, Eva Geen, and Liam Neeson
A look at the political problems in the Holy Land between the Second and Third Crusades

Sword of War (2009) 139 mins, NR
Dir. Renzo Martinelli, With Rutger Hauer, Raz Degan, and F. Murray Abraham
Rebellion against the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa

Ironclad (2011) 121 mins,R
Dir. Jonathan English, With Paul Giamatti, Jason Flemyng, and Brian Cox
Rebellion against King John in thirteenth-century England

High Middle Ages: Europe
El Cid (1961) 184 mins, NR
Dir. Anthony Mann, With Sophia Loren, Charlton Heston, and John Fraser
Depicts the medieval Spanish epic poem “El Cid”, and shows the dynamic culture of medieval Iberia

Genghis Khan (1965) 124 mins, UR
Dir. Henry Levin, With Omar Sharif, Stephen Boyd, James Mason, and Telly Savalas.

Joan of Arc (1999) TV movie, 140 mins, UR
Dir. Christian Duguay, With Leelee Sobieski, Chad Willett, and Jacqueline Bisse,

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) 158 mins, R
Dir. Luc Besson, With Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, and Rab Affleck

High Middle Ages: England and Scotland
Becket (1964) 148 mins, PG-13
Dir. Peter Glenville, With Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton
Story of the infamous murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, on the orders of the English King Henry II

The Lion in Winter (1968) 135 mins, PG
Dir. Anthony Harvey, With Katherine Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, and Anthony Hopkins
Depicts the dysfunctions of the Angevin royal family in twelfth-century England

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) 138 mins, PG-13
Dir. Kevin Reynolds, With Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Christian Slater

Ivanhoe (1997) TV mini-series, 270 mins, NR
Dir. Stuart Orme, With David Barrass, Ralph Brown, and Jimm Chisholm
Retelling of Sir Walter Scott’s famous story, set in twelfth-century England

First Knight (1995) 132 mins, PG-13
Dir. Jerry Zucker, With Sean Connery, Richard Gere), Julia Ormond
Adaptation of the Arthurian legends to the High Middle Ages

Braveheart (1995) 177 mins, R
Dir. Mel Gibson, With Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, and Patrick McGoohan
Conflict between the Scots, led by William Wallace, and the English, led by King Edward I

Robin Hood (2010) 140 mins, PG-13
Dir. Ridley Scott, With Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, and Matthew Macfadyen

Pillars of the Earth (2010) TV mini-series, 60 mins per episode, TV-MA
Starring Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and Matthew Macfadyen
England during the civil war between Stephen and his cousin Matilda; focuses on the building of a cathedral

Religion and Religious Life
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1973) 121 mins, PG
Dir. Franco Zeffirelli; With Graham Faulkner, Judi Bowker, and Alec Guinness
Dramatization of the life of St Francis of Assisi

The Sorceress (1987) 97 mins, UR
Dir. Suzanne Schiffman; With Tchéky Karyo, Christine Boisson, and Jean Carmet
Screenplay was written by a professional medieval historian, based on a 13th-century text about a Dominican inquisition in southern France

Stealing Heaven (1988) 108 min, R
Dir. Cliver Donner; With Derek de Lint, Kim Thomson, and Denholm Elliott
WARNING: This is a HIGHLY explicit account of the sexual as well as romantic love story between Abelard and Heloise; don’t watch if you are offended by explicit content.

Anchoress (1993) 108 mins, UR
Dir. Chris Newby, With Natalie Morse, Gene Bervoets, and Toyah Willcox
Set in the early Middle Ages, about a young woman who chooses to the religious life of an anchoress

Renaissance/Reformation
The Return of Martin Guerre (1982) 111 mins, UR
Dir. Daniel Vigne, With Gerard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye, and Maurice Barrier
Based secondary source written by historian Natalie Zemon Davis, it explores the issues surrounding the trial of an imposter in 16th century southern France – Try to get the version with subtitles, not the dubbed one!

A Man for All Seasons (1988) TV movie, 120 mins, UR
Dir. Charlton Heston, With Charlton Heston, Vanessa Redgrave, and John Gielgud
Story of death of Sir Thomas More, chancellor to King Henry VIII. More was later made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) 145 mins, PG-13
Dir. Ridley Scott, With Gerard Depardieu, Armand Assante, and Sigourney Weaver
Columbus’ voyages and the impact on the indigenous peoples

Elizabeth (1998) 124 mins, R
Dir. Shekhar Kapur, With Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, and Christopher Eccleston
The early years of the reign of Elizabeth I in England

Luther (2003) 123 mins, PG-13
Dir. Eric Till, With Joseph Fiennes, Bruno Ganz, and Peter Ustinov
Portrays the events leading up to Luther’s “95 Theses” and the Diet of Worms

The Conclave (2006) 100 mins, UR
Dir. Christophe Schrewe, With Manu Fullola, Brian Blessed, and James Faulkner
About the papal election of 1458, complete with corruption and the power-grabs of the Borgia family

Black Death (2010) 102 mins, R
Dir. Christopher Smith, With Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, and Carice van Houten
Depicts first outbreak of the plague in England in 1348

 
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