Recommended movies/documentaries of Ancient eras?

Dec 2016
123
Spain
Hi

I've just finished the TV show I, Claudius (1976) and I end up feeling sad about Claudius death, probably the only one with Augustus that caused to me some empathy. An excellent TV show, very engaging but I felt sorry for Claudius, the way everybody treated, but at the same time good to know about his achievements.

I am now looking for other movies/documentaries/TV series depicting Ancient or Classical eras with fair historical accuracy about Rome/Greece/Egypt/Israel. I am almost new to these movies, that's the reason I am looking for your opinion and advice.

Thank you in advance.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
"I, Claudius" pretty much stands alone in the category of good ancient-era historical fiction. Though if Monty Python's "Life of Brian" counts, that's fabulous! In all honesty, I pretty much gave up on "historical" movies after the travesty of "Gladiator", and the bits I've seen since then have been even worse. Not just that they are crimes against history, they're crappy movies!

For documentaries, I really haven't seen many recent ones, but I haven't heard many good reviews. Most are blatant sensationalism or push some modern agenda, or just flat-out wrong. There are some excellent older ones, such as Building Caesar's Bridge, Roman Bath, David McCauley's Roman City, etc. There was also a series called "What the Romans Did for Us" which was excellent.

Sorry, wish I could tell you something better!

Matthew
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,158
Australia
You've gone and spoiled it by watching I Claudius first. Everything else you watch from now on will be a disappointment in comparison.
 
Oct 2011
553
Croatia
Anything Monty Python. Even their comedies are more historically accurate than many "serious" historical movies, as long as you filter out things that are obviously there for sake of being fun (e.g. "mud farmers" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail).
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
The HBO series Rome isn't half bad.
I only made it through about 5 episodes, and didn't see anything historical. The script was awful, the casting was nonsensical, the action made Baby Jesus cry. Don't remember much else, so I guess the therapy has helped...
 
Jun 2018
544
New Hampshire
I only made it through about 5 episodes, and didn't see anything historical. The script was awful, the casting was nonsensical, the action made Baby Jesus cry. Don't remember much else, so I guess the therapy has helped...
HBO's Rome struck me as softcore pornography which I found to be quite appalling. It added nothing of substance to the storyline, and made the series virtually unwatchable.
 
Feb 2011
1,203
Scotland
There was the BBC production 'The Cleopatras' in 1983 about Ptolemaic Egypt. Much research, effort, makeup and strong cast went into it but it's still best remembered for the topless court maidens. No formal DVD has been released but I found two companies offering a DVD transferred from VHS.
The Cleopatras DVD - Full TV Series 1983
The Cleopatras DVD - 1983 TV Show

I Claudius was of course superb; Claudius pretty much brought about his own demise; also sadly, that of Narcissus. At least we get to see he survives death, so it's not as sad as it might be. His plans fail, though.

Re Rome/Israel, there was the 1981 miniseries Masada, with memorable music by Jerry Goldsmith. Main star was Peter O'Toole. DVD available and reasonably historic, if fictionalised.

It's not in your interest hitlist, but BBC produced a whole swathe of Tudor-period costume dramas in the early 70s. They were well researched and mostly quite historical. At this period, Spain does feature.
Shadow of the Tower - Henry VII
Henry VIII and his Six Wives- Henry VIII, Keith Michell.
Elizabeth R - Elizabeth I, Glenda Jackson
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
...Re Rome/Israel, there was the 1981 miniseries Masada, with memorable music by Jerry Goldsmith. Main star was Peter O'Toole. DVD available and reasonably historic, if fictionalised...
Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten about Masada. The original miniseries had a lot of great characters, and some bits that I just loved. From a hardware/costuming perspective, not nearly as historically accurate as the producers claimed! Some of the combat scenes were just painful to watch. But the real problem was the continued harping about Vespasian dealing with the "opposition party" in Rome, and the reluctant soldier Silva always hoping to reach a "negotiated peace". Not just "No" but NO WAY. Not a chance. That is so completely the opposite of everything that Rome was, that it's practically quantum.

To add to that, when I found the show on video, it was shortened down to movie length! And most of what got cut out were the good characters that had made the original show worth watching in the first place. I was really peeved. No idea if the whole thing is available these days or not.

Matthew