The central character in a peplum movie is usually a muscular hero like Hercules or Samson. He wears a short peplum and battles monsters, despots, and evil queens. This oil-slicked, nearly-nude hero is rewarded at the end of the movie with the cheers of his people, clan, or tribe — and the hand of a lovely princess.
Peplum movies were mostly made in Italy. Italian moviemakers modelled peplum movies on the big budget Hollywood epics like Spartacus. The genre was very important in Italian moviemaking from 1957 to 1965, but was shoved aside in 1965 by the "Spaghetti Western".
Critics thought peplum movies were pretty poor stuff. They treated them with snooty contempt. Italian director Vittorio Cottafavi called the genre "Neo-Mythology".. Charlton Heston's Ben-Hur (1959) and Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra (1963) are generally considered big-budget sword and sandal movies that mark the end of the genre.
- Winkler, Martin. 2007. Troy: from Homer's Iliad to Hollywood Epic Wiley-Blackwell. p. 14.