GLADIATOR: Strength and Honor | FCC 107

Using strength and honor to gain the victory over death is a heavy Christian theme in Ridley Scott’s classic film GLADIATOR. Join us as we discuss this theme and so much more on this episode of the Finding Christ in Cinema podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap
  • 00:05:32 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:53:24 – Christian Themes in GLADIATOR
  • 01:33:47 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
  • 01:44:11 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:50:44 – Lightning Round 
  • 01:57:23 – Upcoming

Strength and Honor to Be a Gladiator

The old Caesar Marcus Aurelius is fading away, and he’s afraid that the only legacy he will have left behind is a power-hungry son and a corrupt Rome. The Senate – a noble idea at first – has become a buyer’s market, his citizens have become the mob, and the new Caesar Commodus is wheelin’ and dealin’ his way into those same corrupt paths.

It’s for this reason that Marcus calls on his loyal and faithful servant Maximus to take his place after he’s gone. He asks Maximus to give the power back to the Roman people and stamp out the corruption that is crippling the state. Unfortunately, Maximus denies the request, and Commodus soon becomes the new Caesar. And because Maximus will not extend his loyalty to Commodus, the latter gives the orders to execute the former. Maximus escapes his execution, but his wife and his son aren’t so lucky.

This image from GLADIATOR shows Russell Crowe as Maximus in Elysium.

Maximus mourns the loss of his family, and he longs to rejoin them as quickly as possible. He isn’t quite ready, though, to give up fighting for what he knows Marcus Aurelius wants. Even though Maximus has been bought and sold into the gladiator trade, he still commands the loyalty of the Roman Army.

He even has the trust of Marcus’s daughter Lucilla, who is in cahoots with Gracchus, one of the only – if not the only – good Senators left. As much Maximus wants to join his family in Elysium (the Roman version of “Heaven”). he still feels the need to fulfill Marcus’s wish for Rome.

Maximus has honor on his side, and he has plenty of strength, too. Whether on the battlefield or in the Coliseum, he commands those around them, and they know that he will not let them fall. Not only do the nobles honor Maximus, but his soldiers do, too, thus giving him the communal strength he needs to lead his followers to victory.

So when it all comes down to Commodus versus Maximus – even if he dies in the process – Maximus gains the victory over corruption. And, as the last frames of the film show Maximus rejoining his family in Elysium, he gains the victory over death.

This image from GLADIATOR shows Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus.In some ways, Maximus is like Jesus. Maximus’s mission from Marcus was two-fold: give the power back to the people and end the political corruption. Jesus’s mission was similarly two-fold, as described in Mark 1:39: “So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons” (NLT).

By preaching in the synagogues, Jesus watered his listeners with the truth and love which groups like the Pharisees were usurping from them – giving those people back their power. The other side of Jesus’s mission was to defeat those demons and proclaim God victorious over them, just like Maximus won the victory over his opponents in the Coliseum

In other ways, Maximus is like the Apostle Paul. Maximus wants to join his family, but as he tells Juba, “not yet.” He doesn’t want to leave yet because he doesn’t want to leave the mission unfinished. Instead, Maximus decides to stay the course and see the mission through to the end.

In the same way, Paul had a homesick longing, too. He wanted his suffering to end so that he could be in Heaven like his “friend” had been (though plenty of scholars believe that the “friend” of which Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians is actually himself). However, he also knew that he served a missional God and that God was not finished with him yet, so he persevered – just as we are encouraged to do.


Key Texts

Philippians 1:20 NLT

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 NLT

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is a graduate student pursuing his Master in Theatre Arts degree with Regent University. He is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. You can find him live-tweeting his favorite movies on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever or posting poetry and unsolicited opinions at thebookofbrenden.com
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  • Philip Heard

    Good job on a great movie guys! Gladiator has been an all-time favorite of mine for years, currently #12 in my Precarious Top 20. I think it has been held in lower esteem by some critics because it’s not complicated enough, or a bit too accessible for their taste. I’m of the opinion that it’s a great story, and Shakespearean to a degree that had the old Bard written it himself centuries ago it would fit right in with his other works and be quite the timeless classic.

    One aspect of the film that we easily connect to is the story of revenge. I think that the idea of vengeance comes naturally to us and is so appealing because of our innate sense of justice. We want to see wrongs righted, and the wicked to get their just desserts. But this is often our flesh speaking. In my life, I have found the taste of justice to be bitter and unfulfilling, even somber. When I am really right and someone else is really wrong, and they get their consequences, it doesn’t make me happy- it’s often a sad thing to see.
    Ezekiel 33:11 says “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but prefer that the wicked change his behavior and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil deeds! Why should you die, O house of Israel?’”(NET)
    When Maximus finally kills Commodus, there is no pleasure or glee in it, no celebration of death. Especially since everyone sees the price paid for it, the death of Rome’s savior. While society should seek justice and consequences for wrong doing, we need not celebrate the suffering that the guilty endure. Taking pleasure in that is damaging to our own souls, and not in keeping with the mercy and grace we are called to in Christ.

    Love the show guys, keep up the good work! #muhweeladgimli

    PS- At my signal, unleash Helen Keller!

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