Since the advent of the moving picture, the medium has been used to retell the lives of famous historical figures. One such figure, Julius Caesar, has been represented on screen time and time again.
Caesar’s frequent representation in film and television arguably lies as much in the success of Shakespeare’s eponymous play as it does in the Ancient Roman ruler’s historical significance. Regardless, modern entertainment has helped assure that he has remained a household name.
Here are 10 films and television series from the last 70 years that feature the character of Julius Caesar.
1. Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) — Film
Directed by Gabriel Pascal and staring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains in the title roles, this British production — in glorious Technicolor — is based on a 1901 play by George Bernard Shaw, who also adapted it into the screenplay.
The film was reportedly beset by tragedy and near-tragedy, with bombs falling nearby the set and Vivien Leigh suffering a miscarriage after slipping on the studio floor during filming.
Despite its lavish production values, Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction, and high US earnings for a British film, Caesar and Cleopatra was considered a stateside box office failure.
2. Julius Caesar (1950) — Film
The first version of Shakespeare’s play with sound, this stylish, low-budget US production was directed by David Bradley and includes a young Charlton Heston as Mark Antony.
3. Julius Caesar (1953) — Film
Another Shakespeare adaptation, Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed a star-studded cast featuring Marlon Brando, John Gielgud and James Mason. It was a critical success and received a number of nominations and awards.
4. Spartacus (1960) — Film
Produced by star Kirk Douglas’ production company and directed by Stanley Kubrick, this historical epic garnered awards and was a commercial success. It is notable for its heavyweight cast and role in ending the Hollywood blacklist.
5. Cleopatra (1963) — Film
Another Mankiewicz direction, this time based on historical literature. At the time Cleopatra was the most expensive film production to date. It stars Elizabeth Taylor in the title role, with Rex Harrison as Caesar and Richard Burton as Antony. The film won 4 Academy Awards.
6. Julius Caesar (1970) — Film
Stuart Burge directed this first adaptation of Shakespeare’s play in colour, which returned Charlton Heston to the role of Antony he’d played 20 years before. The cast was rounded out by John Gielgud as Caesar and Jason Robards as Brutus.
The film was both a failure with critics and at the box office.
7. Julius Caesar (1979) — Television Series
For those who prefer faithful BBC productions to Hollywood glitz, Herbert Wise of I, Claudius fame, directed this instalment of the BBC’s Shakespeare series.
8. Caesar (2002) — Television Miniseries
This historical drama was directed by Uli Edel for the American TNT network and stars Jeremy Sisto, Richard Harris, Christopher Walken and Chris Noth.
9. Empire (2005) — Television Miniseries
America’s ABC network filmed this miniseries on location in Rome and southern Italy, though it is not considered to be very historically accurate.
10. Rome (2005 – 2007) — Television Series
A true historical drama of epic proportions, this joint production between the BBC, HBO and Italy’s Rai Fiction spared no expense, including faithful reproductions of Ancient Rome in the Italian countryside. It has been praised for its historical authenticity, high production values and simultaneous grit and splendour.
Rome garnered many awards and nominations, including several Emmys.