These are my TOP 5 Swords & Sandals Movies. The term was coined in reference to a series of movies during the 1950-1960’s that came out of Italy. These “Peplum” were designed like Spaghetti Westerns to compete with the similar titles coming out of Hollywood at the time. It was used by film critics as a derogatory term for these movies, however over the years it has been more commonly used to reference all films with this type of story setting.
With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some films that are part of a genre (and some that are not) that is not always looked upon favourably. However, if like me you enjoy some good old swords, sandals and carnage, then this list for you… well except for one of them.
Simply the best movie Arnold ever made. It has everything going for it and he was never able to recapture the glory shown here. Also, you have a great villain in James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom. While it is not accurate to the stories it’s based on, it does get some of the characters personalities correct and it’s fun.
Anvil of Crom (the main theme) makes this one of the best soundtracks out there for any film. Basil Poledouris does an amazing job on the score. It is all at once inspiring and dramatic, giving everything done on screen that truly “epic” feel required.
This is probably my all time favourite samurai movie. A friend turned me on to it years ago saying it has some the most amazing sword fights on film. The fights are not the flashiest filmed but they convey the truth behind sword fights. They are brutal. It’s also a great film and should be on more “must see” lists.
The final fight in the snow is some of the best sword play I have ever witnessed on film and is also one of the most beautifully shot sequences. It is truly something to behold. I know others will talk about Seven Samurai or others but to me, this is a true masterpiece.
One of my early entries into both sword and sandal films but also the Three Stooges. Sure, it may not seem like their best work, but I have a real soft spot for this one because it was my first. Tons of fun with good comedy mixed throughout. I also LOVE that as they travel back in time that of course Americans and ancient Greeks spoke the same language. Gotta love 60’s Hollywood.
I have also always wondered if Oliver Stone & John Milius, who wrote Conan, got inspiration for Conan‘s slave wheel scene from this movie when Schuyler Davis is stuck on a slave galley and forced to row. In this scene we see the meek Davis grow into a muscle bound Hercules. See what I mean? Makes you wonder.
My first introduction to Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop motion. This movie has action, romance, heroes & villains and probably one of the most famous stop motion fight scenes in film history. A classic example of old Hollywood movie making on display and is one of the best examples of this genre.
Back in May, when Ray passed away, the first thought I had was about this movie. Consequently, most images posted of him or his work involved either this film or Clash of the Titans, his two best known works. I saw Jason in a rep theatre when I was young and was so captured by the skeleton sequence I wanted to go to Hollywood right then. It is that magical.
Zack Snyder has come under a lot of heat by some for his latest film, myself included. However, his second film, which translates Frank Miller’s classic comic of the same name showed his ability to impress visually. It has non stop action and gore and sex splashed throughout the flick and lead to many imitators in Film & TV. Still, it does it’s job quite well and is always visually impressive.
Like I have already mentioned, this film, like many of Snyder’s other works, has it’s detractors. But unlike his other films, the original source material had many of the “questionable” scenes already in it. Regardless, the film overall still manages to do what many thought not possible. Accurately film a comic book for the mass audience to enjoy. It’s ability to straddle the line between the source and the film world is rather impressive and something Snyder does well.
So there it is, my list. There are so many more that I could have added but I wanted to go with what I think of as the best representatives of the genre. If you are looking for something to watch this weekend give one of these a try.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!