At the turn of the millennium, Russell Crowe was hardly a complete unknown, but he arguably hadn’t yet proven himself as genuine leading man material. He was excellent in classic crime thriller L.A. Confidential, and landed an Academy Award nomination for Michael Mann’s 1999 drama The Insider, but he was still seeking a role that would take his career to the next level.
He found that and then some in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, which proved to be so popular that it spawned an entire wave of imitators, with the big budget historical epic suddenly back in fashion having lain dormant for decades. Crowe’s Maximus infiltrated popular culture almost instantly, and you know you’ve made it when your character becomes widely and mercilessly parodied across all forms of media.
The bruising epic drama was hardly your typical awards season contender, but it nonetheless went on to land five Academy Award wins from twelve nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor, shooting Crowe to the very top of the Hollywood A-list in the process.
Gladiator remains an eminently watchable and massively entertaining swords-and-sandals story, with Netflix subscribers clearly agreeing after it’s spent the last few days steadily climbing up the most-watched list, as per FlixPatrol.