It’s the second century A.D., and the Roman Empire has prospered under a succession of excellent leaders for more than 150 years. But when Emperor Marcus Aurelius dies, his son, Commodus, takes the throne. And over the course of his reign, he succumbs to a madness that will make him a formidable ruler. But it also inspires one of Hollywood’s most memorable villains.
In May 2000 director Ridley Scott released the movie Gladiator, a historical epic set during Roman times. Plot-wise, the story follows Maximus Decimus Meridius, a fictional general, as he is enslaved and reduced to fighting in Rome’s arenas. And it’s all thanks to the machinations of the evil Emperor Commodus.
In Gladiator, Commodus is portrayed as a politically ambitious psychopath who murders his own father in a fit of rage. And throughout the movie, he is continually depicted as an unstable, sadistic ruler, ordering brutal deaths, threatening the life of his young nephew and even fostering incestuous feelings towards his sister.