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“Gladiator” revisited – 20th Anniversary Steelbook Edition

Updated: Oct 16, 2023


“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the north, general of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy; 2000; R for intense, graphic combat; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple (iTunes) (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: Commentary with director Ridley Scott and leading man Russell Crowe

RIDLEY SCOTT'S “Gladiator,” winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor, is a perfect example of how a 4K master (2.39:1 aspect ratio) provides a terrific home viewing experience.

For its 20th Anniversary, Paramount provides a Steelbook Edition and recycles the same top-notch 4K disc, which we considered one of the best of 2018. The original 35mm camera negative was remastered with superb results, and enhanced with (HDR10 & Dolby Vision), which makes a huge difference compared to the lesser Blu-ray version.

The 4K (disc & digital) includes the Theatrical Cut, (Scott's preferred version) and the Unrated: Extended Edition with 17 additional minutes seamlessly inserted throughout.

The 4K master has a darker palette, creating deeper black levels without losing fine detail in the shadows. Colors are also richer and fuller quickly apparent in the opening battle between Germanic tribes and Roman troops. Expansive reds, oranges and brighter highlights highlight the darkened landscape with fiery arrows and firebombs. Much of the war footage used several thousand extras in the dead of winter (only six hours of daylight) in the Bourne Woods of Surrey, England, which reduced the field of sharpness causing some shots to be fuzzy.

During the North African scenes where Maximus (Russell Crowe) is sold into slavery, the desert scenes reveal the six million more pixels per frame more readily. Wide shots receive the maximum benefit from foreground to background, replicating clarity of the human eye. Close-ups provide refined detail in Janty Yates’ Oscar-winning costumes. The only shortcoming is the Oscar-winning FX scenes of historic Rome, limited by computer technology of the day, have a slight loss of overall sharpness, a byproduct of filming on the Super 35 format. Scott selected the format for its camera and lens flexibility as opposed to the more expensive anamorphic Panavision format.

The film grain is pronounced as it should be – slightly larger from the Super 35 film source. Paramount/Universal 4K remastering job is one of the best from a Super 35 source, nearly equal to Sony's 2016 "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."


The audio has been remastered with the DTS: X format, pushing Hans Zimmer's Oscar-nominated score to your height speakers, while the Oscar-winning sound gets a real boost in environmental sounds to the Colosseum crowd cheering "MAXIMUS, MAXIMUS, MAXIMUS." Arrows zip from speaker to speaker during the opening battle.

(1) Russell Crowe won the Academy Award for Best Actor as Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius. Once Caesar's right-hand man, forced into slavery to become a gladiator. He fights for his life and revenge in every match. (2&3) Preparing for battle against the Germania soldiers. (4) Legendary actor Sir Richard Harris played Caesar Marcus Aurelius. Russell Crowe said during the commentary, "It's Harris' best performance in 30 years."



All of the bonus features from the 2018 4K Ultra HD set are included: two commentaries with Scott and Crowe, another with Scott, editor Pietro Scalia and cinematographer John Mathieson on 4K and Blu-ray; historical factoids popup during "The Scrolls of Knowledge" in both Blu-ray versions; 13 deleted scenes; "Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal" on the second Blu-ray has more than a hundred video clips detailing production to the Oscars; "Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator," a seven-part making-of documentary (standard-def) runs over three hours, and explores the $100 million gamble Scott and his production crew took to make the film; "Image and Design" is a five-part featurette covering production design, storyboards, costume design, photo galleries and a weapons primer with Simon Atherton; The Aurelian Archives provides the original nine-featurettes from the DVD.

— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer

(1) The Roman soldiers celebrate their victory. (2) General Maximus is on the run, as the 4K imagery provides added depth and richness to the rugged landscape filmed in Lone Pine, California. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are the backdrop. (3) Roman soldiers head toward Maximus' ranch in Spain. (4) Oliver Reed as gladiator entrepreneur Proximo.


(1) Maximus and Juba (Djimon Hounsou), his closet friend during his gladiatorial captivity. (2) Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) mocks Senator Gracchus (Derek Jacobi), in Rome's Senate. (3) Proximo talks about his days as a gladiator and being freed by Marcus Aurelius. (4) Maximus prepares to remove his helmet and show Commodus and the Coliseum crowd who he really is.


(1) Danish actress Connie Nielsen plays Lucilla, Caesar's daughter, and the target of her brother's unnatural obsession. Nielsen is fluent in English, German, Danish, Swedish, French, and Italian. (2) Mortally wounded, Maximus fights Commodus to the death in the Coliseum. (3) Lucilla rushes to Maximus' side. Janty Yates won an Oscar for costume design. (4) Maximus passes into the Afterlife to be with his wife and child again.


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