The Russell Crowe Blockbuster Epic On Netflix That Never Gets Old

By Robert Scucci | Published

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We have just over a year before we can witness the epic historical drama that is Gladiator 2, so we thought it was time to give you crash course on 2000’s Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. This iconic Ridley Scott-directed film is largely responsible for the resurgence of epic historical films like Troy, 300, and Exodus: Gods and Kings, and is considered to be not only one of the best films of the 2000s but one of the greatest historical epic films ever made.

Russell Crowe’s epic Gladiator is streaming on Netflix

If you’ve never seen Gladiator, or simply want a refresher, we strongly suggest firing up your Netflix queue, and watch Russell Crowe’s best performance.

Gladiator centers on Russell Crowe’s General Maximus Decimus Meridius, a seasoned veteran of the Roman army who has won over the respect of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Given Maximus’ loyalty to the state, Marcus Aurelius tells Maximus that he wants him to succeed him as emperor, as he thinks his son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), is unfit to rule.

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When Commodus finds out that he will not inherit the throne that he believes to be his birthright, he murders his father and has Maximus imprisoned.

Maximus doesn’t go down without a fight, and he kills his captors before heading home to his family, but they’ve already been crucified by the Praetorian Guard. Russell Crowe’s emotional delivery shows us a man who has lost everything, and Maximus is then captured by slavers who sell him to Proximo, a gladiator trainer.

It doesn’t take long for Maximus to see a rise in popularity because of his superior combat skills, and under Proximo’s guidance wins over crowd after crowd before meeting Commodus once again after a match and declaring vengeance.

The chemistry between Russell Crowe’s Maximus and Joaquin Phoenix‘s Commodus is simply electric in Gladiator.

The chemistry between Russell Crowe’s Maximus and Joaquin Phoenix‘s Commodus is simply electric in Gladiator. Not only did Crowe’s performance elevate him to leading man status in Hollywood, Phoenix became a force to be reckoned with after delivering such a powerhouse performance as the film’s primary antagonist.

The film’s ending, which is both triumphant and tragic, sends us off with hope, and Gladiator performed so well both critically and commercially that we wondered if we’d ever see a sequel.

Russell Crowe’s performance in Gladiator won him an Academy Award for Best Actor, and the film also won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Visual Effects. Upon its release, Gladiator grossed over $503 million worldwide against its reported budget of $103 million.

Gladiator currently boasts an 80 percent critical score against an audience score of 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

On the critical front, Gladiator currently boasts an 80 percent critical score against an audience score of 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics overwhelmingly agree that Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix were instrumental in reviving the “sword-and-sandal” genre that hasn’t had a significant impact in the entertainment industry since the 1960s.

In other words, Gladiator expertly highlights themes like revenge, violence as spectacle, masculinity, and stoicism in a way that is palatable for a mainstream audience, making it a significant piece of cinema that is still celebrated to this day.

There Is A Gladiator 2 Planned Without Russell Crowe

An unfortunate reality that we have to deal with, however, is that Russell Crowe will not be making an appearance in the upcoming sequel. Though previous iterations of Gladiator 2 would have made it possible for him to reprise the role of Maximus Decimus Meridius through flashbacks or afterlife sequences, director Ridley Scott decided to keep the story grounded in historical fiction rather than having a fantasy element.

gladiator 2

But just because Russell Crowe will not be in the Gladiator sequel doesn’t mean that we won’t have another epic historical drama on our hands. The story for Gladiator 2 will pick up 25-30 years after the first film left off, and center on Lucius (Paul Mescal), Commodus’ nephew. In addition to Paul Mescal’s lead role, the cast will include Denzel Washington, Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi, and Pedro Pascal in supporting roles.

Filming for Gladiator 2 commenced in June 2023, but was suspended in July due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, which just saw its resolution on September 27. If all goes according to plan, the highly-anticipated sequel will be slated for a November 2022 2024 release.

And all sources indicate that it will be worth the long wait. In the meantime, we strongly suggest that you witness Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix at their absolute best by watching Gladiator again as soon as the opportunity presents itself.