Critics Consensus

Featuring terrific performances and epic action, Kubrick's restored swords-and-sandals epic is a true classic.



Total Count: 56


Audience Score

User Ratings: 77,995
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Movie Info

Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is a rebellious slave purchased by Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), owner of a school for gladiators. For the entertainment of corrupt Roman senator Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier), Batiatus' gladiators are to stage a fight to the death. On the night before the event, the enslaved trainees are "rewarded" with female companionship. Spartacus' companion for the evening is Varinia (Jean Simmons), a slave from Brittania. When Spartacus later learns that Varinia has been sold to Crassus, he leads 78 fellow gladiators in revolt. Word of the rebellion spreads like wildfire, and soon Spartacus' army numbers in the hundreds. Escaping to join his cause is Varinia, who has fallen in love with Spartacus, and another of Crassus' house slaves, the sensitive Antoninus (Tony Curtis). The revolt becomes the principal cog in the wheel of a political struggle between Crassus and a more temperate senator named Gracchus (Charles Laughton). Anthony Mann was the original director of Spartacus, eventually replaced by Stanley Kubrick, who'd previously guided Douglas through Paths of Glory. The film received 4 Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Ustinov. A crucial scene between Olivier and Curtis, removed from the 1967 reissue because of its subtle homosexual implications, was restored in 1991, with a newly recorded soundtrack featuring Curtis as his younger self and Anthony Hopkins standing in for the deceased Olivier. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Kirk Douglas
as Spartacus
Laurence Olivier
as Marcus Licinius Crassus
Jean Simmons
as Varinia
Tony Curtis
as Antoninus
Peter Ustinov
as Lentulus Batiatus
John Gavin
as Julius Caesar
Nina Foch
as Helena Glabrus
Herbert Lom
as Tigranes
John Dall
as Glabrus
Charles McGraw
as Marcellus
Joanna Barnes
as Claudia Marius
Paul Lambert
as Gannicus
Robert J. Wilke
as Guard Captain
Bob Wilke
as Guard Captain
Nick Dennis
as Dionysius
John Hoyt
as Caius
Dayton Lummis
as Symmachus
Lili Valenty
as Old Crone
Jo Summers
as Slave Girl
Autumn Russell
as Slave Girl
Kay Stewart
as Slave Girl
Lynda Williams
as Slave Girl
Louise Vincent
as Slave Girl
Vinton Haworth
as Metallius
Hallene Hill
as Beggar Woman
Leonard Penn
as Garrison Officer
Sol (Saul) Gorss
as Slave Leader
Charles Horvath
as Slave Leader
Gil Perkins
as Slave Leader
Bob Morgan
as Gladiator
Reg Parton
as Gladiator
Tom Steele
as Gladiator
Aaron Saxon
as Gladiator
Wally Rose
as Gladiator
Otto Malde
as Roman General
Valley Keene
as Soldier
Tap Canutt
as Soldier
Joe Canutt
as Soldier
Brad Harris
as Soldier
Jerry Brown
as Soldier
Buff Brady
as Soldier
Cliff Lyons
as Soldier
Anthony Hopkins
as Marcus Licinius Crassus (some scenes, 1991 restoratio
Ted de Corsia
as Legionnaire
Arthur Batanides
as Legionnaire
Bob Stevenson
as Legionnaire
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Critic Reviews for Spartacus

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (3)

Audience Reviews for Spartacus

  • Jan 15, 2015
    An underappreciated Kubrick effort. This is the epic that you just want to keep going and keep going and keep going. The entire cast is tremendous especially Kirk Douglas in his "career role".
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 07, 2013
    Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus is, in many ways, a remarkable achievement. Centered on the slave rebellion that threatened Rome, Spartacus is a true swords-and-sandals epic. The performances, the script, the set design, the costumes, everything comes together to make a finely executed period piece. What makes Spartacus work the most is the exceptional cast, all of whom inject the film with an undeniable sense of life, charm, and even whit. Especially impressive was Laurence Olivier, whose nuanced portrayal gave us a sort of antagonist that was ahead of his time, complex in his machinations. He was matched well by Kirk Douglas, but also Charles Laughton, whose grounded presence and affable nature contrast against Olivier's dark intensity, making for an especially interesting dynamic. The script is also intelligently written, penned by one of the famed Hollywood 10 (writers blacklisted during the McCarthy-era). It provides us with great dialogue, and fills the story with interesting characters. This is not to say there's no clichés to be found, I found the romance rather contrived (as was very common for this time period), but its overall tone and end note represent a notable departure from other films of that era. Spartacus has largely aged well. The action scenes are still impressive to today, and its world building more than rivals films of today, with an un-paralleled scope. The film's romantic elements are a bit dated, and the film does get dragged down from time to time in its own melodrama, but all-in-all, it more than holds its own to any epic of today. 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2012
    An early Stanley Kubrick masterpiece. Dispite doesn't present very much the style of the filmmaker. Fresh.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 13, 2012
    "Spartacus" isn't necessarily a Kubrick essential, seeing how it lacks many of his trademarks and signatures that are famous today, but it is still a fantastic sword-and-sandals epic made for a mainstream audience (even though its blacklisted screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, caused many of the post-McCarthy period to discourage people from seeing the film.) Clocking in at just over 3 hours, the film beautifully chronicles the rise and efforts of gladiator/slave Spartacus to bring the value of freedom and morality to a Rome full of spoiled politicians and aristocrats. However, the film does have some noteworthy layers of moralizing that elevate it beyond your average epic. Though the film ends on a rather bleak (and realistic) note, it delivers its messages of the importance of values such as dignity or honor, especially by concentrating its sights on two snobby members of the privileged Roman elite, Senator Gracchus and slave trader Batiatus, making two remarkable and rather unexpected character archs. All the while this serves as a great allegory on the actual state of the US during McCarthyism (the famous "I'm Spartacus!" scene) and offers plenty of religious symbolism with crucifixion and martyrdom. The cinematography does its job even if it will occasionally seem a bit stifled, considering Kubrick shot most of this film in a studio. The music itself was very forgettable; I can't understand why North was given so much acclaim for his score. It's just standard "epic" noises being cranked out by an orchestra, and the only leitmotif that was moderately touching, the romance between Spartacus and his lover, is run to the ground. Despite these quirks "Spartacus" still emerges as an extraordinary 1960 epic film given to us by the master Stanley Kubrick. Since his identity as a rising great director was marked by the commercial success of this film, it's definitely worth watching even if you're not into 3-hour long epics.
    Edward S Super Reviewer

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