Gladiator (2000) Screenplay Analysis

Gladiator (2000), written by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson, is a classic epic starring Russell Crowe. Let’s analyze the screenplay.

Script Formatting Notes

  • Draft Read: “Second Draft”
  • Type: Spec
  • Page Count: 121
  • Reading Speed: Medium
  • Setting(s): Roman Empire, Rome
  • Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple months
  • Genre(s): War, Epic, Adventure
  • Theme(s): War, Vengeance, Classism, Religion
  • Protagonist Change: Significant

Overall Thoughts

Let’s start with the most bizarre part of the script. It’s so subtle you might miss it. On Page 65, the writers describe the Roman Colosseum:

It is a breathtaking sight. Monolithic Albert Speer like columns of light shine up from the Colosseum…

Albert f’ing Speer. Yes, the writers of Gladiator used Albert Speer’s name to describe architecture. Not even just using his last name Speer, if he were so widely known, but including his whole name as otherwise the sentence’s meaning would not be so obvious.

For those that don’t know, Albert Speer was a Nazi, found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is one of the worst human beings in history. Using his name in a screenplay about Ancient Rome, to even suggest that he is some sort of important architect, is bananas. Even stranger, there’s a whole section on Wikipedia that talks about Nazi imagery in the final film.

Putting aside that truly bizarre line, let’s move on to the script. The story is epic. A general, Maximus, in line for the throne becomes a slave and then fights his way to become a hero to the people of Rome, essentially hoping to reform or topple Rome. And the screenplay maximizes conflict and emotional intensity at every corner. For example, instead of just having Maximus become a slave, his family is also killed.

The writers do a great job of expressing emotions through character movements, and action lines. Much of the time the dialogue isn’t all that necessary, because we understand the inner feelings of each character. Or, in the rarer cases where we don’t understand their feelings, the writers do a great job of keeping the suspense, only revealing the character’s general attitude at the last moment.


See above.

One important note is that this version of the script has a different ending than the final movie. In this version, Maximus takes Lucius and rides off into the sunset (literally). In the movie, he dies in a sword fight but also kills the villain. The movie ending, combined with Hans Zimmer’s score, is far better.


Maximus and Commodus, the villain, are examples of excellent character creation and their conflict near-perfect screenwriting. One note of confusion though; Commodus often comes across as awkward, yet he is also described as a fighter almost at the level of Maximus, who himself is leagues ahead of everyone else. In theory, Commodus’ strength makes him a more powerful villain, but it comes across as somewhat odd; do we expect out-of-touch Commodus to have the mental resiliency and focus of a world-class fighter?

Dialogue & Pacing

I didn’t take any notes on dialogue.

The pacing builds to the climax. In this version of the script, that’s Maximus commandeering his troops and overtaking Rome. The entire script is relatively fast-paced, even if there are some slower dialogue-heavy scenes.

Emotional Impact

It’s an impactful script because the premise is strong and the hero is likable. He’s likable because he’s relatable, a person devoted to his craft. Except, realizing he’s been taken advantage of, he switches from fighting for Rome to fighting to defeat Rome. It’s like a lawyer fighting for the system and then fighting against it (see A Civil Action (1998)). Or a sports star signing for a small club with a strong history instead of a large faceless one that’s flush with cash (one can dream, right?).

Best Part of The Script

The fights are epic, even though they are not described in much detail. That’s understandable because it came down to direction, cinematography, and editing to make them truly great in the final film.

There are some other Colosseum scenes that are brutal too. On Page 68, there is a description of a group of Christians being devoured by tigers. Christianity is another theme present in the script, although its overall inclusion seems too prevalent to ignore but not exactly relevant to the final story. Odd.