There is something innately appealing when watching films based off on Greek mythology. You don’t have to be a historian to learn to appreciate movies about ancient gods and goddesses. At most, the idea that they are real and exist somewhere in this universe is what drives the interest.
Ancient Greek myths, for many centuries, have been great source of movie concepts because of their attractive storylines. They can be about tragic love stories between a mortal and a mythical immortal, the demigods, fantastical wars between good and evil, magical monsters, superhuman strengths, about men and women with unexplainable powers, or stories about the pantheon of deities that live on Mount Olympus.
Greek mythology, in a sense, is a set of stories about the gods, goddesses, heroes, and rituals of Ancient Greeks. It was part of the religion in Ancient Greece which explained the lives and origins of the gods and humanity and where they go after death.
Greek society best retold these stories orally through prose and in magnificent sculptures and buildings, some of which still exist to this day. The Greek mythology figures mostly featured include Zeus, Athena, the Titans like Atlas, Apollo, Hercules, Venus, Poseidon, Hera, and Aphrodite. Through the passage of time, these stories eventually gave a face to these figures and thereafter adapted into movies. There are a lot of these films, timeless and modern, but only some captured global audiences, which you will find below.
This film packs testosterone and machismo from its stellar cast of male stars the likes of Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, and Sean Bean. Although one woman, Helen (Diane Kruger), proved to rule them all with her cunning ways that ultimately led her to be known as the famous Helen of Troy.
This is a war/action film based on the love story of Iliad by Greek poet Homer. It tells of the battle between the kingdoms of Troy and Sparta, which began the moment Trojan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) fell in love with Helen, the wife of Spartan king Menelaus. She runs away to Troy leaving the king furious.
Of course, nothing good ever comes out of a love triangle especially when both are willing to fight for the woman. In this case, Menelaus’ brother King Agamemnon stages the now-infamous Trojan War on the pretext of his brother’s fury. He could care less for the romance, but for maintaining his reputation as the great defeater of every Greek army.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen — Screenplay: David Benioff— Cast: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox, Garrett Hedlund, Sean Bean— Run Time: 2h 43m
Gerard Butler really catapulted himself to Hollywood stardom in this blockbuster movie about the war between Spartans and the Persian “God-King” Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). He plays King Leonidas, who leads 300 ironclad men with his meme-inspiring battle cry of “This is Sparta!”
The story is not strictly historical in context. After all, it is based on Frank Miller’s 1998 comic book series. Lump that in with CGI, men in torso-bearing costumes, and great action, then you have yourself an instant pop-culture classic.
Director: Zack Snyder — Screenplay: Kurt Johnstad, Michael B. Gordon — Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro, David Wenham— Run Time: 1h 57m
Clash of the Titans (2010)
From playing a paraplegic in Avatar, Sam Worthington ditches the wheelchair for a chance to fight evil gods in this modern narrative of the life and battles of the demi-god son of Zeus, Perseus. In his quest to avenge the death of the mortal family who raised him, he must face the wrath of the god of the underworld, Hades.
But one thing led to another as he realizes his true identity and is forced to battle the Titans and prevent the release of the Kraken in order to save the world.
Director: Louis Leterrier— Screenplay—Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi — Cast: Gemma Arterton, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, Sam Worthington, Alexa Davalos, Mads Mikkelsen, Luke Evans, Izabella Miko, Liam Cunningham, Nicholas Hoult, Ian Whyte— Run Time: 1h 46m
Rarely will you find an animated adaptation of Greek mythology that appeals to viewers, but this 1997 take from Disney deserves a mention because it is a great introduction into the mythos for children. The story, of course, focuses on the titular character, the demigod son of Zeus. He possesses godlike strength unaware of his lineage. But when told of his immortal heritage, he must conquer his fear and test his might to become a true hero.
He travels to Mount Olympus with his winged-horse friend Pegasus and his trainer Phyl, a satyr. There he battles monsters, the evil god Hades, the Titans, and showed great sacrifice in the name of love.
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker —Screenplay—Ron Clements, John Musker, Don McEnery— Cast: James Woods, Danny DeVito, Charlton Heston, Susan Egan, Tate Donovan, Josh Keaton, Rip Torn— Run Time: 1h 33m
Wrath of the Titans (2012)
This sequel to the 2010 Clash of the Titans takes place ten years after Perseus has defeated the Kraken. He is now a single father to his 10-year-old son Helius and living a quiet life as a village fisherman. But he cannot ignore his calling when he learns of the power struggle between gods and the Titans. The gods are losing control over the Titans and their leader Kronos, father of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, who they have left to rot in Tartarus.
Hades and Ares have switched allegiance and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The longer he stays in captivity, the Titans grow stronger with his siphoned powers. Perseus enlists the help of Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon’s son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy) on a quest to rescue Zeus from the underworld.
Director: Jonathan Liebesman— Screenplay: Dan Mazeau, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick—Cast: Liam Neeson, Rosamund Pike, Ralph Fiennes, Sam Worthington, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, John Bell, Lily James, Kathryn Carpenter— Run Time: 1h 39m
This Greek mythology film takes place thousands of years following the defeat of the Titans by the gods. But a new threat looms awakened by the greedy King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). He unleashes a new evil on ancient Greece in his quest to get his hands on a powerful weapon forged by the Greek god Ares— the Epirus Bow.
Zeus (Luke Evans) secretly chooses Theseus (Henry Cavill) to lead the fight against King Hyperion and prevent him from retrieving the weapon powerful enough to release the Titans. He finds help along the way from Ares (Daniel Sharman), Athena (Isabel Lucas), and Poseidon (Kellan Lutz).
Director: Tarsem Singh— Screenplay: Charley Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides—Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto, John Hurt, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, Joseph Morgan, Peter Stebbings, Daniel Sharman, Isabel Lucas, Kellan Lutz, Steve Byers, Romano Orzari— Run Time—1h 50m
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
This film was hotly anticipated because it was based off on the first book on a series about the demi-god Percy Jackson and Greek mythology from Rick Riordan. Sadly, the written word did not translate very well into the silver screen. It was still well-received by fans of the books and of Greek mythology, especially since it revolves around the adventures of a teen hero.
Percy grew up believing he is a mortal who suffers from dyslexia. But he soon realizes that his learning disability carries a greater purpose, one that would lead him to discover his ties to the Greek gods, especially to his father Poseidon.
He battles minotaurs and Hades, helps put a stop to the war between the gods, and amazingly obtains the lightning bolt of Zeus. All these he achieved with the help of his newfound friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of the goddess Athena, and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a satyr and Lord of the Wild.
Director: Chris Columbus— Screenplay: Craig Titley— Cast: Rosario Dawson, Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan, Alexandra Daddario, Logan Lerman, Kevin McKidd, Steve Coogan, Brandon T. Jackson, Jake Abel, Sean Bean, Melina Kanakaredes, Catherine Keener— Run Time: 1h 58m
Wonder Woman (2017)
This film is based on William Moulton Marston’s animated version about the Amazons, legendary female warriors in Greek mythology. The story centers on Diana (Gal Gadot), the Roman name for Artemis, the Greek goddess of wilderness, hunt, and fertility.
It treks her legendary background as a woman with superhuman strength who fought to stop World War 1 after American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashed on their home on Themyscira island, created by the Olympian gods to protect humanity. Diana is convinced that Ares, the God of War, is behind the conflict so she sets on a journey with Steve to the mortal world in search of the enemy, who may be posing as one of the mortal men.
Director: Patty Jenkins— Screenplay: Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder, Jason Fuchs—Cast: Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Chris Pine, Lucy Davis, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, Lilly Aspell— Run Time: 2h 21m
Dwayne “Th Rock” Johnson plays the powerful Hercules in this movie adaption of Steve Moore’s Radical Comics of the same name. It follows the demigod after he has endured his 12 labors and the death of his family. Turning his back on the gods, he resorts to a life as an assassin-for-hire and finds solace in bloody battles.
He finds camaraderie in six dark, world-weary souls because of their love for fighting. But Hercules starts to question his purpose when the King of Thrace Lord Cotys (Sir John Hurt), hires them to train men to become the greatest army of all time. He realizes thereafter how much he has fallen from grace when he learns that they are working for a ruthless leader and that they are fighting for evil reasons.
Director: Brett Ratner— Screenplay: Ryan J. Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos— Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Irina Shayk, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell, Rebecca Ferguson, Joe Anderson — Run Time: 1h 38m
The story of Alexander the Great and his many exploits. It follows eight years of his battles as he conquered ninety percent of the world by the age of 25. He led his army against the Persian Empire, to the west of Egypt, and finally to East India.
The film focuses on his miles of sieges and his relationship with his friend and battle mate Hephaistion (Jared Leto.) Alexander the Great helped paved the way for Greek culture to invade many countries thanks to his conquests. He paved the way for the expansion of the Roman Empire prior to his death from illness at the age of 32.
Director: Oliver Stone, Wilhelm Sasnal, Anka Sasnal— Screenplay: Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle, Laeta Kalogridis— Cast: Colin Farrell, Jared Leto, Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, David Bedella, Christopher Plummer— Run Time: 2h 55m
Οh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
This film is set in 1930s Mississippi during the Great Depression and loosely based on Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey.” It tells the picaresque adventures of three escaped convicts, Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), and Pete (John Turturro) as they search for a hidden treasure.
They escape a chain gang, cops pursuing them, and along the way meet strange characters from Greek mythology. Among them are the blind prophet Tiresias, sirens, a cyclops, and Penelope and her suitors, albeit in their modern form. This film takes great liberty in its movie adaptation of Homer’s literary work and did so in a hilarious, captivating, and clever way.
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen— Screenplay: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen— Cast: George Clooney, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Chris Thomas King, Charles Durning—Run Time: 1h 47m
300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
This sequel to the Zack Snyder original takes place after mortal-turned-god Xerxes defeated Leonidas’ 300. This time, he has his eyes set on conquering Athens and his path leads him to Greek General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton).
The general relies on his naval fleet to defend the city from the invading Persian forces led by Xerxes and Artemisia (Eva Green). But the enemies outnumber them both on land and on the sea. General Themistokles is forced to make an alliance with the oligarchic Sparta whose power lies on its superior infantry troops.
Director: Noam Murro— Screenplay: Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, David Wenham, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, Jack O’Connell, Peter Mensah, Ben Turner— Run Time: 1h 42m
Percy Jackson and The Sea of Monsters (2013)
The first film in the movie adaptation of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series may not have been widely received by fans of the books. But it still birthed to a sequel, which this time sees the demigod titular character and his new friends Clarisse, Grover, Annabeth, and his half-brother Tyson on a perilous journey to the Sea of Monsters.
They have to save their dying safe heaven, called Camp Half-Blood, and the only way to do this is to use the powers from the magical Golden Fleece. But they would have to fight their way through a giant cyclops guarding it. Likewise, on the side, they also have to battle evil forces and reveal the identity of an unexpected traitor living within their midst. The movie may not have been a commercial success but it was still entertaining enough, especially for children who want a creative approach to learning about Greek mythology.
Director: Thor Freudenthal— Screenplay: Marc Guggenheim—Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Logan Lerman, Jake Abel, Brandon T. Jackson, Nathan Fillion, Leven Rambin, Douglas Smith, Stanley Tucci, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Anthony Head— Run Time: 1h 46m
A movie adaptation of Euripides’ Elektra comes the story of vengeance. Three daughters who have lived in exile after their father was usurped as a king and then murdered, vow to exact an eye-for-an eye revenge.
It is almost a silent movie that begins with a summary treatment devoid of dialogue. Yet, it is cunningly produced using body language. It tells a story about rage, anger, heartbreak, and guilt through powerful soundtrack and captivating acting.
The film was widely acclaimed for its cinematic greatness it even bagged the Best Film Award at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film in 1963. This Greek-language film is the first installment of Michael Cacoyannis’ Greek tragedy trilogy, with sequels The Trojan Women in 1971 and Iphigenia in 1977.
Director: Michael Cacoyannis— Screenplay: Michael Cacoyannis— Cast: Irene Papas, Giannis Fertis, Aleka Katselli, Takis Emmanuel, Manos Katrakis, Eleni Karpeta, Afroditi Grigoriadou— Run Time: 1h 50m
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
If you’re looking for a movie adaptation of Greek mythology that involves action and a series of gods, then this is for you. Hera, Zeus, Hermes, Hercules, and Triton are just some of the mythical figures featured in this classic film.
Based on the poem The Argonautica by writer Apollonios Rhodios, the story follows the titular hero as he leads a team of intrepid adventurers on a quest to retrieve the legendary Golden Fleece on the far side of the world so he can use its power to free his homeland from a tyrant ruler.
Spurred by the advice of Pelias, he assembles a sailing crew of the finest men in Greece for a voyage toward Colchis. Queen of the Greek gods Hera protects them along the way but their journey is not with its challenges as they battle a hydra, harpies, a giant Talos, and a skeleton army.
Director: Don Chaffey— Screenplay: Jan Read, Beverly Cross— Cast: Honor Blackman, Patrick Troughton, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Todd Armstrong, Laurence Naismith, Niall MacGinnis, Michael Gwynn, Douglas Wilmer, Nigel Green— Run Time: 1h 44m
This last installment of Michael Cacoyannis’ Greek trilogy follows the story of Euripides’ play Iphigeneia at Aulis. It tells of the tragic story of King Agamemnon and Clytemnestra’s daughter Iphigenia who is ordered by the goddess of the hunt Artemis to be sacrificed at the expense of her father’s mistake.
King Agamemnon accidentally killed a sacred deer while hunting for food for his troops. As punishment and in order to appease the gods before he goes to battle, he has to sacrifice his daughter but on the pretext of marrying her off. This film won several awards including the 1978 Belgian Femina Award and the Best Film Award at the 1977 Thessaloniki Film Festival. Tatiana Papamoschou, who played the titular character, also won the Best Leading Actress Award.
Director: Michael Cacoyannis— Screenplay: Michael Cacoyannis— Cast: Tatiana Papamoschou, Kostas Kazakos, Irene Papas, Kostas Karras, Hristos Tsagas, Panos Mihalopoulos, Dimitri Aronis— Run Time: 1h 7m
This enchanting movie based on Greek mythology is based on the story of Jason and the Argonauts from fabled Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini. This time the focus is on the powerful sorceress Medea, who helped Jason on his quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece from a barbarian land that worships it as a god.
It tells of her wrath, jealousy, and revenge after Jason breaks his promise to marry her. Upon his return home and showered with admiration from his peers, he totally forgets Medea and married a Corinthian princess instead. Medea decides to follow him to Greece where she was cruelly banished instead.
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini— Screeplay: Pier Paolo Pasolini — Cast: Maria Callas, Massimo Girotti, Laurent Terzieff, Giuseppe Gentile, Paul Jabara, Luigi Barbini— Run Time: 1h 58m
Based on the tragic play from Sophocles, the story follows Antigone as she defies a king’s orders for the sake of her deceased brother finding peace in the afterlife. Her brothers Eteocles and Polynices, the two sons of the late King Oedipus, both die in battle in their quest to take over the throne of the Seven-tailed Thebes.
The new king, her uncle Creon, orders that her brother Polynices should not have an honorable burial and should be left as food for the crows. But Antigone decides to bury him herself and as punishment, Creon sentences her to be sealed alive in a tomb but she hangs herself inside. Haemon attempts to kill his father the king before he commits suicide. Learning of her son’s demise, Eurydice also kills herself living Creon alone.
Director: Yorgos Tzavellas — Screeplay: Yorgos Tzavellas — Cast: Irene Papas, Manos Katrakis, Maro Kodou, Nikos Kazis, Ilia Livykou, Tzavalas Karousos Giorgos Vlahopoulos, Giorgos Karetas, Thodoros Moridis — Run Time: 1h 33m