Directed by Stanley Kubrick • 1960 • United States
Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons
Stanley Kubrick took the sword and sandals epic to new heights with this thrilling pop-culture touchstone. A commanding Kirk Douglas delivers his most iconic performance as the eponymous gladiator, whose love for a beautiful slave (Jean Simmons) inspires him to lead a violent rebellion against the decadent Roman Empire (the excesses of which are memorably embodied by Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, and Peter Ustinov). The colorful script by Dalton Trumbo—adapted from a novel by fellow blacklist victim Howard Fast—turns the story of might vs. right into a subversive commentary on McCarthy-era America and helped to end the blacklist when the screenwriter received credit for his work after years of being forced to hide behind pseudonyms.