Spartacus Parent Guide
One man can make a difference.
Parent Movie Review
The Douglas Dynasty (that grew to include Kirk’s sons Michael, Eric, Joel and Peter) was already well established when Kirk Douglas was given Howard Fast’s novel Spartacus by one of the vice presidents of his film company, Bryna Productions. Douglas optioned the book and Universal eventually agreed to finance the film. It became the studio’s highest grossing film until the release of the 1970 movie Airport. The production also received six Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars including one for Peter Ustinov as a best supporting actor.
The story focuses on the central historical character of Spartacus (played by Kirk Douglas), a Thracian gladiator who, along with other escapees, helps sparks the Third Servile War in the Roman Empire.
Despite living in the salt mines since he was a boy, Spartacus has a sense of morality that seems out of place in his circumstances. Later, after being forced to become a gladiator under the tutorage of Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), the young man learns fighting skills that he uses when the gladiators at the school stage an uprising.
At first he and the fugitives are considered to be a mere annoyance. But bit-by-bit they gain more support as they cross the country pillaging Roman estates and freeing slaves. Spartacus becomes the leader and slowly his fame—or infamy—spreads across the Italian Peninsula.
As the Roman Senate becomes increasingly concerned with the insurgents, they send out their armies to quell the rebellion. However, the political maneuvering for control in the capitol proves to be almost as fatal to the empire as the slave uprising.
The film sports an impressive cast of Hollywood heavyweights of the time. Along with Douglas and Ustinov, Laurence Olivia stars as the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus who tries to seduce his young male slave played by Tony Curtis. The scene was deleted when the film’s first released, but has since been restored. John Gavin stars as Julius Caesar and British actress Jean Simmons plays Spartacus’s lover Varinia.
The epic saga, directed by Stanley Kubrick (who went on to direct films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shinning and Eyes Wide Shut), offers a bloody look at the brutality of the Romans with depictions of battles, stabbings and decapitation. In one scene a limb is hacked off, and numerous other gory injuries and weapons are shown.
While the film depicts the internal conflict that eventually contributes to the overthrow of the Roman Empire, it doesn’t conclude with the seemingly obligatory happy ending. Rather the movie raises questions to be discussed about social classes, entertainment (gladiators fighting to the death for the amusement of the rich) and the universal human desire for freedom.Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons. Running time: 197 minutes. Theatrical release October 7, 1960. Updated July 17, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is Spartacus rated Not Rated? Spartacus is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: Slaves are beaten, whipped and knocked out. One man faints from the exertion. A character falls over a cliff to his death. Slaves are forced to become gladiators: They spar at a training facility and repeated scenes of combat are shown. Two wealthy couples pay to have gladiators fight to the death. A character is stabbed to death and blood splatters across the characters. A dead man is hung in the slave quarters as a deterrent to other rebels. A fight breaks out and characters are attacked with weapons. One man is drowned in a pot of boiling liquid. Characters are stabbed during the uprising and blood is shown on the knife. Gladiators free themselves from their Roman guards and then loot a town. A character is shown with whip marks on his back. A couple of characters force two Romans to fight in the ring and goad them on with fire. A soldiers’ camp is started on fire. A man is threatened with a knife at his neck. Some blood is seen. Soldiers are run over with burning logs and thrown into a fire. A character’s arm is cut off during battle. Brutal battle scenes depict others being run through with a sword, decapitated or stabbed with bloody effects. The gory and mutilated dead bodies of humans and animals litter the battlefield. Hundreds of characters are crucified along a road leading to Rome. A man kills his friend to save him from crucifixion. A man commits suicide.
Sexual Content: Women slaves are sent to the gladiators’ cell for sexual pleasures. A woman undresses while a man watches her: We see her bare back and shoulders while other men watch from above the cell. A woman goes skinny-dipping and some brief shots of bare buttocks and breasts are seen. A man admits he likes women a lot and loves having many female slaves in his home. A married couple begins kissing—leading to implied sex. Roman men are shown in a bathhouse. A Roman general tries to seduce his male slave. (This scene was originally cut from the film but restored in later releases.) A woman announces she is pregnant out of wedlock. A man takes another man’s wife and hopes to seduce her.
Language: Infrequent mild profanities are used.
Alcohol / Drug Use:Characters drink or are shown with drinks on several occasions, including before a big battle. A man appears to be drunk in one scene.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
More parents' guide for Spartacus after the break...
Spartacus Parents' Guide
How does Spartacus feel about his lack of education, especially when it comes to his role as leader of the uprising? What things does he admire about the young poet that joins their band? Why does he say there is value in singing as well as fighting? How can education help prepare you for the future? Do you think it is important to study a wide variety of subjects?
Why are the Romans as concerned about killing the legend of Spartacus as they are the man? How do martyrs give strength to their cause?
Why is the bond between the slaves so strong in this story? What common goal do they share? What sacrifices do they make for one another? How does the slave brotherhood strengthen their resolve? How can strong bonds in a family, workplace or team help contribute to the success of the group?
How is the decadence of the Romans portrayed? What does this film say about the disparity between the classes? Can that message be applied to our society today? What signs of uprising do we see today?
The most recent home video release of Spartacus movie is October 6, 2015. Here are some details…Home Video Notes: Spartacus
Release Date: 6 October 2015
Spartacus releases to home video with the following extras:
- I Am Spartacus: A Conversation with Kirk Douglas
- Restoring Spartacus
- Archival Interviews
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage
- Vintage Newsreels
- Image Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
Related home video titles:
In 1954, Kirk Douglas starred in the Walt Disney movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He later appeared as wealthy, cantankerous cattle rancher in The Man From Snowy River. Douglas was motivated in part to make the movie Spartacus after losing out on the role of Ben Hur to Charlton Heston.