• A historian awards
    a dismal grade for its historical accuracy during one big battle sequence.
  • The historian praises the Stanley Kubrick epic, however, for its depiction of how the Roman army organized before battle.
  • Kubrick worked across a variety of genres and made a handful of true classics, making it a challenge to name
    his best movie.



A historian analyzes a battle scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, awarding it a low grade for its historical accuracy. Released in 1960, Spartacus remains one of Kubrick’s most acclaimed and beloved films. The historical epic stars Kirk Douglas in the title role as a gladiator who leads a rebellion against the Roman Republic, with one particularly epic battle taking place between Spartacus’ rebel forces and the organized Roman army.

In a recent video for Invicta, historian Dr. Roel Konijnendijk analyzes this battle sequence from Spartacus, finding it lacking when it comes to historical accuracy.

The historian shares praise for the sequence’s early moments as the Roman army moves into battle formations, but shares some harsh criticism regarding how completely the actual fighting deviates from reality. Check out Dr. Konijnendijk’s full comment below as well as his score for the film out of 10:

“So this movie has a really ambitious depiction of what the advance of a Roman legion into battle would look like. We have these accounts from the Republican period, from mainly the second century B.C., of Roman legions marching into battle in three lines. In the front you have the young warriors, then behind them is the more experienced ones with more expensive equipment, and at the back you have the spearmen, who are sort of the old veterans…

“That three line formation is what you’re seeing depicted here. We are told that they would advance into battle in a sort of checkerboard formation… and then as they march into battle, we don’t really know what happened next. Somehow, these armies would fight with coherent front lines…

“This scene shows one solution, where basically the theory is that these formations as they approach into battle essentially broaden out. They stretch out from the deeper formations in which they advance to a thinner but broader formation so that they close those gaps and form a cohesive front line, which then advances into battle as the line behind them starts to do the same.

“This is a great example of a director really paying attention to the source material and trying to reconstruct it as best he could in terms of the approach of the Roman army. He’s done a really good job of depicting that… but then when it comes to the actual fighting, it’s a brawl. It’s once again just a big mess of dudes who are absolutely performing in no particular order, not operating tactically, each man for himself…

“It’s so aggravating, like you almost did it… When it comes down to it, they just think it’s more exciting to show a bunch of guys milling around, slashing whoever appears in front of them… and in the end everybody dies because battles don’t look like that…

“Points for effort at the beginning… after that point, two out of 10. Just complete nonsense.”


Every Stanley Kubrick War Movie, Ranked

Stanley Kubrick was an outstanding director who is praised for his impact to multiple genres of film, with war films being one of his most revisited.

Is Spartacus Stanley Kubrick’s Best Movie?

Why It’s So Hard To Pick Just One

Kubrick is widely regarded as one of the best and most meticulous directors to have ever worked in Hollywood. The reviews for Spartacus were glowing at the time, and the movie has largely remained a a beloved classic. Douglas’ performance is a major highlight, as are the movie’s themes regarding slavery and freedom. Even though they may not be historically accurate, the battle scenes, too, were essentially unparalleled at the time.

While Spartacus remains beloved, Kubrick has also given audiences some other truly remarkable films. Before Spartacus, for example, Kubrick released Paths of Glory, a grim portrait of World War I. In the 1960s, Kubrick would also helm the likes of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the latter of which remains one of the most iconic science fiction movies ever. made.

A Clockwork Orange is also a notable Kubrick movie, as is horror classic The Shining, which remains a touchstone of the genre. The likes of Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut are also widely beloved. Naming Kubrick’s best movie will, of course, be a matter of personal preference, but the director has arguably one of the most impressive and influential filmographies of any director to have ever lived, not to mention one of the most varied across genres. Naming Spartacus his best, then, could come down to how one values the historical epic over other genres.

Source: Invicta


Release Date
October 6, 1960

Dalton Trumbo , Howard Fast , Peter Ustinov

Kirk Douglas , Laurence Olivier , Jean Simmons , Charles Laughton , Peter Ustinov , John Gavin , Nina Foch , John Ireland

197 Minutes

Main Genre

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