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Ancient sculpture showing the goddess Athena wearing a peplum

Sword and sandal movie is a movie genre. They have an ancient Greek, Roman, or Biblical setting. Sometimes called "peplum" movies from the garment worn by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

The central character in these movies 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.

These 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 often thought peplum movies were poor stuff. They treated them with contempt. Italian director Vittorio Cottafavi called the genre "Neo-Mythology".[1] 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.

References[change | change source]

  1. Winkler, Martin. 2007. Troy: from Homer's Iliad to Hollywood Epic Wiley-Blackwell. p. 14.