Heroic and Hot – the Men from Sword and Sandals

Russell Crowe in Gladiator

Sword and Sandals films have always been a great way to display a leading man’s pecs, abs and heroism. Historic accuracy is a little shaky in these films but hey, it’s entertainment. Exotic tales from the ancient world, pretty girls scampering about in gossamer drapery, great big he-men wielding swords and best of all, there is always baddies and goodies and they are, like old Westerns, clearly delineated. None of this modern moral ambiguity stuff.

I took a small boy to see Gladiator when it first came out. He was a little preoccupied with what flavour his next Lifesavers would be, but as soon as Russell Crowe shouted ‘Unleash hell!’ he forgot his sweets and was transfixed, as was I.

Troy, with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana, despite all the glistening torsos, was nowhere near as successful. And Centurion, with Michael Fassbender looking like he’d prefer to be in a sex addiction movie than wandering around in a British bog, was watchable. Fassbender is always watchable, as was Tony Curtis in Spartacus and Charlton Heston in Ben Hur. But Gladiator stands the test of multiple viewings over the years, great story well told, beautiful to look at and Russell Crowe in the lead. Perfect.

Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas in Spartacus

Eric Bana in Troy

Michael Fassbender in Centurion

Brad Pitt in Troy

Richard Burton in Cleopatra

Charlton Heston in Ben Hur

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