Good Historical Action Hero Movies?
March 18, 2005 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Normally, I'm not a big fan of historical or period films, but lately I've been enjoying a few. Recently, I watched Braveheart and Gladiator, and now I'm wondering if anybody has any suggestions. I do enjoy epics, and I don't mind older films, so any ideas would be welcome. What historical hero movies do you recommend?
posted by MrZero to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Spartacus [beats the tar out of Gladiator] and Lawrence of Arabia.
posted by sciurus at 8:25 AM on March 18, 2005

Ben Hur
posted by veedubya at 8:30 AM on March 18, 2005

Rob Roy is one of me favorites. Tim Roth, as Archibald Cunningham, plays a most vicious antagonist
posted by brheavy at 8:30 AM on March 18, 2005

Ben Hur is great, and sciurus's picks. Also, I, Claudius was great but that was a miniseries.

A lot of the old Errol Flynn swashbucklers are good too, and semi-historical.
posted by amberglow at 8:30 AM on March 18, 2005

Running Man
posted by Witty at 8:33 AM on March 18, 2005

Also Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, if you like ships and high adventure.
posted by brheavy at 8:34 AM on March 18, 2005

Seconding brheavy - Rob Roy was a damn good movie. If not for Braveheart coming out right around the same time, I think it would have done better.

Brotherhood of the Wolf was also quite a lot of fun... period horror + cool fight scenes.

Last of the Mohicans? I remember it as being pretty enjoyable.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:44 AM on March 18, 2005

The Patriot is pretty good., and Last of the Mohicans is a good suggestion.
posted by stovenator at 8:53 AM on March 18, 2005

Caligula is a hoot, too.
posted by amberglow at 8:55 AM on March 18, 2005

The Mission, with DeNiro - about Jesuits in S.America.

The Name of the Rose, with Sean Connery and the young Christian Slater - murder mystery in an abbey.
posted by brheavy at 9:08 AM on March 18, 2005

Lawrence of Arabia
posted by xammerboy at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2005

If you fancy something a bit offbeat, I recently enjoyed Restoration, in spite of the lukewarm reviews.
posted by Decani at 9:37 AM on March 18, 2005

Master & Commander was great.

I'd also recommend Kurosawa's Seven Samurai if you haven't seen it.

This is a great question, one of those where, although I bet I never would have thought to ask it myself, I can't wait to see all the answers now that someone has.
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:43 AM on March 18, 2005

Barry Lyndon by Kubrick, period exactitude, adventure, anti-heroism, humor, drama. You've got to have the patience for it and be in the right frame of mind, to let it play out and wash over you. If you can it will make braveheart and gladiator (especially) look like the tripe that they are. (Fun tripe, that I like, but organ meat none the less.)
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:46 AM on March 18, 2005

I absolutely second The Mission. Music by Ennio Morricone, Robert DeNiro.

Dr Zhivago, The Marriage of Maria Braun (postwar Germany), Babette's Feast (amazing food), Barry Lyndon (Thackeray as it should be done, with no redeeming characters, unlike Nair's failed attempt), Elizabeth, Chunhyang (Korean epic)--shit. I just saw the "action hero movies" in the title. Let me think a little more.
posted by scazza at 9:48 AM on March 18, 2005

The Vikings (the one with Ernest Brognine and Kirk Douglas; not the one with Lee Majors.), Swashbuckler, Taras Bulba (though that's kinda hard to find, and bit too much love story), and absolutely top of the list should be The 13th Warrior.
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:57 AM on March 18, 2005

DOH! Make that Ernest Borgnine.
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:58 AM on March 18, 2005

Wow, a lot of great answers already!

I'd add Troy which I recently viewed and liked immensely. Eric Bana was absolutely marvelous as Hector. Pretty boy Brad Pitt was okay as the conflicted Achilles, but overall the movie really works. I don't know why it got trashed in the reviews.
posted by Lactoso at 9:58 AM on March 18, 2005

The Right Stuff
posted by vito90 at 10:00 AM on March 18, 2005

Lagaan (Colonial India and cricket, amazing), Orlando (lots of time periods, a war, very witty), Hero.
posted by scazza at 10:04 AM on March 18, 2005

Great suggestions so far. Gandhi is one of my personal favorites and features bit parts by lots of people I didn't remember from the first time I saw it, like John Ratzenberger, Daniel Day-Lewis and Candace Bergen.

A lot of people (the Academy included) liked Patton (though I wasn't too fond of it myself).

Strongly second Elizabeth, have a soft spot for Braveheart (despite Mel) and hated The Patriot.
posted by widdershins at 10:17 AM on March 18, 2005

Probably the most hardcore historical epic I've ever seen was Ran. I watched it with two friends of mine and during one of the 'clashing army' scenes one of my friends had to leave the room. Bloody, aye, bloody indeed.

On the flipside, probably the most ridiculous historical 'epic' of all time is The Conqueror. John Wayne as Genghis Khan, anyone?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:35 AM on March 18, 2005

I second the amazing Ran.

(Troy probably got bashed in the reviews for having nothing to do with the original story and going about an hour too long. Movies don't have to be a history text, but there were some embarassing decisions made [Yurts? Battle scenes having no discernable structure, other plot points that I won't ruin for those who haven't seen it, and Helen was a disappointment]. They, at least, distracted me.)
posted by scazza at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2005

The Horatio Hornblower shows on A&E, the ones with Ioan Gruffudd, are good fun.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2005

I second the A&E Hornblower series. Actually better than the Gregory Peck movie.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero (the Jet Li one, not the Dustin Hoffman one, although that's not bad, just not period) are both good.

Since someone thinks The Right Stuff is period, I'll throw in Run Silent, Run Deep and On the Beach.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2005

Charge of the Light Brigade
Cross of Iron
The Great Escape
Gangs of New York
The Right Stuff
The Sand Pebbles
A Bridge Too Far
Henry V (the Ken Branagh one)
Lawrence of Arabia

Dramatizations of actual events:
Breaker Morant
Chariots of Fire
Fat Man and Little Boy
The Dam Busters
In Cold Blood
The Lion in Winter
The Madness of King George
Rabbit-Proof Fence
Judgment at Nuremberg
The Sea Wolves
posted by joaquim at 12:47 PM on March 18, 2005

"The Mask of Zorro" with Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Anthony Hopkins was surprisingly great, and had a nice bit to do with colonial California history. I've heard "El Cid" is good, too, but I haven't seen it yet.

And I gotta give shout-outs to the historical heroine pix: Elizabeth, Gone With The Wind, Anna Karenina, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Cleopatra, and others I'm probably forgetting...

Why has no one made a great Bouaddica movie yet?
posted by Asparagirl at 1:12 PM on March 18, 2005

The Duellists
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:14 PM on March 18, 2005

Glory and A Bridge too Far.
posted by timyang at 1:27 PM on March 18, 2005

The Man Who Would Be King
Jeremiah Johnson
Little Big Man
Tom Horn
Quigley Down Under (seriously—it's surprisingly good)
posted by bricoleur at 1:59 PM on March 18, 2005

And King Arthur, which may be more in your line if you're looking for stuff like Braveheart and Gladiator. Stellan Skarsgård as Cerdic the Saxon is priceless. "Hmmmm..."
posted by bricoleur at 2:06 PM on March 18, 2005

Awesome. I knew that the answers to this would be a pleasant surprise by the time I checked in. The best part is that this has reminded me of a number of movies that I know I wanted to see, but have forgotten. If I weren't so lazy, I would mark each of these as a best answer!
posted by MrZero at 2:50 PM on March 18, 2005

I tried to resist, but I just have to say: "Braveheart" and "The Patriot" are both shameless, revisionist, prejudice-driven tripe.

Sorry. I did try.
posted by Decani at 5:01 PM on March 18, 2005

Off the top of my head I’d add...

Spartacus (if you liked Brave Heart, see this!)
At Play in the Fields of the Lord
The Hill
Vanity Fair
Elmer Gantry
Full Metal Jacket
The Lion in Winter (god I love this film!)

Some good comedies...

Little Big Man
History of the World: Part 1
The Great Dictator
Modern Times
The General

And Akira Kurosawa is always a safe bet. To name just a few...

Kumonosu jô (aka Throne of Blood)
Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai)
posted by Neosamurai85 at 5:09 PM on March 18, 2005

Must fight urge...


Well, I did try.
posted by Neosamurai85 at 5:12 PM on March 18, 2005

Full Metal Jacket.
posted by juv3nal at 8:52 PM on March 18, 2005

No - I recommend Spartacus!

So, so sorry.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:36 AM on March 19, 2005

Red Dawn
posted by Witty at 5:57 AM on March 19, 2005

The Last Samurai
posted by vito90 at 8:53 AM on March 19, 2005

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