Spartacus movie review (1960)

Spartacus is a 1960 movie about the Third Servile War in the 1st century B.C. (73-71 B.C.) which was a major slave revolt led by a man called Spartacus. The movie features real historical characters such as Marcus Licinius Crassus (played by Laurence Oliver) who was the richest man in Rome and said to be the richest man ever in the history of mankind, Julius Caesar (played by John Gavin) in his young years and of course Spartacus (played by Kirk Douglas).

The movie introduces us to the world of slavery in antiquity. It starts with slave trader Lentulus Batiatus (played by Peter Ustinov), also a real historical figure, who is looking to purchase slaves at a Roman mine. We get a taste of the harsh working conditions that slaves faced in these mines. The movie then takes us to a gladiator school where slaves are trained to become gladiators. A riot breaks out at the school and slaves escape to later form an army of gladiators.

The Spartacus movie accurately shows life in Rome in the 1st century B.C.

Spartacus accurately shows aspects of Roman life in the 1st century B.C. including the Roman Senate where senators are alarmed by Spartacus' advances and multiple victories against Roman armies, a Roman bath where Crassus and young Caesar discuss the threat of this slave army and the splendid villa of Marcus Licinius Crassus. Throughout the movie there are nice shots of the city of Rome and of the Roman Forum and it can be said that the special effects were quite good for their time.

spartacus 1960
Varinia in the Appian Way showing Spartacus his son

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Eventually Crassus is given full powers by the Roman Senate in order to defeat the army of Spartacus. The army of gladiators faces the large, incredibly well-organized and efficient Roman army and is crushed. At the end of the movie, slave trader Lentulus Batiatus is looking to buy new slaves following Spartacus' defeat. Then an incredible sight: that of thousands of slaves being crucified by the Appian Way including Spartacus, something that really did happen back in 71 B.C.. The movie ends with a touching scene: Spartacus' wife Varinia shows the crucified Spartacus his son and tells him that he will be free.

Universal Studios' most profitable movie ever until the early 70s

Overall, Spartacus is one of the best Ancient Rome movies ever made and according to us among the best movies of all time because of its historical accuracy, great acting (the choice of actors couldn't have been better) and decent special effects. The movie was extremely popular back in the 1960s. It was actually Universal Studios' most profitable movie ever until the early 70s! Interestingly, the screenwriter Dalton Trumbo had been blacklisted (during America's witchhunt of communists in the 1950s) and President JFK ended the blacklisting after watching the movie.

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