Cleopatra Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Sibling rivalry stirs tensions among world powers in 48 B.C. After defeating Pompey, Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) follows the fallen foe to Egypt where the Roman conqueror discovers a battle brewing between the sibling rulers of the country. Ptolemy (Richard O’Sullivan) has ousted his sister Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) and assumed sole possession of the throne.
But when Caesar meets the disposed Cleopatra he is inclined to take her side and eventually helps her rid the kingdom of her younger brother. Charmed by her beauty and her unquenchable thirst for power, Caesar decides to stay on in Egypt rather than return to his wife in Rome. In the meantime, Cleopatra is crowned Queen of Egypt and gives birth to Caesar’s son. She names him Caesarion with the hope he will one day rule the Roman Empire.
When Caesar finally returns to Italy, his insatiable hunger for supremacy puts him at odds with the Senate and leads to some nasty political backstabbing. Caesar’s cohort, Marc Antony (Richard Burton), is equally taken with Cleopatra when she makes a spectacular entrance into Rome with her son. After Caesar’s demise, Antony becomes the object of desire for the Egyptian royal and so forms another power couple.
At 192 minutes, this epic, Oscar winning tale of intrigue and power-mongering could easily have been two films—one focusing on Cleopatra’s adulterous relationship with Caesar and the other following her romance with Antony—since the male characters often seem to be the center of focus rather than the title character. Instead, this lengthy and often lumbering story gives a Hollywood summation of this well known figure’s affairs of the heart and a substantial unveiling of Taylor’s figure (which is only partially concealed at times with the scantiest of coverings).
While the jury is out on the historical accuracy of the movie, Cleopatra showcases filmmaking in the days of huge productions and massive casts. One of the costliest films ever made, Cleopatra nearly ruined 20th Century Fox when its original budget of $2 million swelled to $44 million—an amount equal to over $300 million in today’s dollars (50 years later).
And unfortunately, while the film went on to become the top-grossing film of 1963, it never gained the critical acclaim the studio anticipated. That may be due in part to the dialogue, which is often overwrought and delivered with unconvincing ceremony. And despite Taylor and Burton’s off-screen love affair, their characters lack the emotional tension and chemistry we expect between lovers. The movie seems more concerned with spectacle than substance and it’s hard to justify what drives these men to sacrifice career, reputation and even life to win Cleopatra’s affections.Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison. Running time: 192 minutes. Theatrical release June 12, 1963. Updated July 17, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is Cleopatra rated G? Cleopatra is rated G by the MPAA - after it was re-issued in 1971
Violence: Though little actual warfare is seen, military takeovers, assassinations and attacks are discussed and briefly shown. The decapitated head of a man is taken out of a jar and presented as a gift. An army burns their enemy’s ships and part of the town including important historical records. Weapon use includes spears, swords and hand-to-hand combat with some blood shown. Corpses and injured soldiers are seen on the battlefield. Dead bodies are cremated. A man is executed. Another man stabs himself with a sword after his servant refuses to kill him. A character attempts to poison another and as a result dies from poisoning herself. A man and woman argue and slap one another. He pushes her to the ground. A man deserts his soldiers. Ships attack one another with cannons. A woman slashes objects with a knife. Characters poison themselves.
Sexual Content: Characters engage in veiled and sexually suggestive dialogue. A naked woman lies on her stomach on a bed with only a towel covering her buttocks. A couple kisses passionately. A woman begins to undress in front of a man. The man places his hand on her breast and later the couple is seen in bed together. A character becomes pregnant out of wedlock. During a huge dance sequence several performers wear scanty clothing. One woman has only small coverings on her breasts. Other female characters in the court wear scanty or revealing clothing. A man is shown in the tub. Other characters are shown bathing with some brief nudity revealed. Themes of adultery and infidelity are included.
Language: The script contains a brief profanity, some name-calling and some sexual dialogue.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An oracle prophesies about the future using a powder that appears to have hallucinogenic properties. Characters drink on rare occasions. Characters use poison.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
Cleopatra Parents' Guide
What motivates Cleopatra to seek power even at the cost of others’ lives? Did she see her two love interests as more than a way to achieve greatness? How did rulers use marriage and other relationships to build their empires?
How does this film showcase the different techniques used in moviemaking?
Although Marc Anthony and Cleopatra’s relationship ends tragically, it is still considered one of the most famous love stories of all time. Does this film give sufficient reasons for that to be so? Are relationships considered more genuine if they end in tragedy? How does the story of Romeo and Juliet compare with this one?
Check here for a brief look at the history of Cleopatra’s time:
Here is a list of the Academy Awards Cleopatra either won or was nominated for: Best Art Direction (won); Best Cinematography (won); Best Costume Design (won); Best Visual Effects (won); Best Picture (nominated); Best Actor (Rex Harrison) (nominated); Best Film Editing (nominated); Best Original Score (nominated); Best Sound Mixing (nominated)
The most recent home video release of Cleopatra movie is May 28, 2013. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Cleopatra: 50th Anniversary
Release Date: 28 May 2013
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Cleopatra is releasing to home video on Blu-ray.
- Cleopatra Through The Ages: A Cultural History
- Cleopatra’s Missing Footage
- Fox Movie Channel presents Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman
- Commentary with Chris Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky
- The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence
- Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood
- The Fourth Star of Cleopatra
- Fox Movietone News: Archival Footage of the New York Premiere and Archival Footage of the Hollywood Premiere
- Commentary with Chris Mankieqicz, Tom Mankiewicz, Martin Landau and Jack Brodsky
- Theatrical Trailers
Related home video titles:
Elizabeth Taylor’s film career ran from 1942 until 2001 and included such diverse roles as those in Little Women (1949) and The Flintstones (1994). The biographies of other female rulers have also been adapted to the big screen in Elizabeth The Golden Age, The Queen and The Young Victoria.