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Caligula (1979)

Caligola (original title)
Unrated | | Drama, History | 15 February 1980 (USA)
Details the graphic and shocking, yet undeniably tragic story of Rome's most infamous Caesar, Gaius Germanicus Caligula.


, (uncredited) | 1 more credit »


(original screenplay)
752 ( 209)

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From $4.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

2 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Teresa Ann Savoy ...
Guido Mannari ...
Giancarlo Badessi ...
Bruno Brive ...
Leopoldo Trieste ...
Livia (as Mirella Dangelo)
Rick Parets ...
Mnester (as Richard Parets)
Paula Mitchell ...
Subura Singer


The rise and fall of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula, showing the violent methods that he employs to gain the throne, and the subsequent insanity of his reign - he gives his horse political office and humiliates and executes anyone who even slightly displeases him. He also sleeps with his sister, organises elaborate orgies and embarks on a fruitless invasion of Britain before meeting an appropriate end. There are various versions of the film, ranging from the heavily truncated 90-minute version to the legendary 160-minute hardcore version which leaves nothing to the imagination (though the hardcore scenes were inserted later and do not involve the main cast members). Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


What would you have done if you had been given absolute power of life and death over everybody else in the whole world? See more »


Drama | History


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

15 February 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Caligula  »

Box Office


$17,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$8,669 (USA) (17 September 1999)


$23,438,120 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (R-rated) | (recut) | (re-release) | (original)

Sound Mix:

(re-release: 1999)| (original release)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The scene where Caligula gets a nervous breakdown during the thunderstorm was written by Malcolm McDowell himself. See more »


Naevius Sutorius Macro committed suicide in 38 AD after his arrest, and would not have been executed as depicted. See more »


[first lines]
Caligula: I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am a God.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Due to numerous pending lawsuits and settlements at the time of the film's release, no one is technically fully credited for writing and directing the finished film. See more »


Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Savage Vengeance (2007) See more »


Adagio Of Spartacus And Phrygia
Aram Khachaturyan
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

THE CLASH OF AN ARTIST AND A PERVERT: The Results Could Only Mean A Huge Disaster.
17 August 2004 | by (Denver, Colorado) – See all my reviews

What started out as a massive, haunting and disturbing look at the corruption of bureaucracy ended up as a mere flesh flick, consisting mainly of outtakes and only two types of opinions from the viewers; "this movie is crap" and the infamous "I love the sex in that movie! It gives an erection every time I see it." All of these travesties, and more, are a major insult to the many talents involved in this production of "Caligula."

From what one can tell, it would have been an excellent film. Malcolm McDowell gives a performance of a lifetime, portraying an Emperor whose dedication to exposing the senate for what they are, a corrupt bunch of spineless bastards, ultimately leads to his descend into madness. Helen Mirren gives an interesting performance as Caligula's seductive wife, Caesonia and Teresa Ann Savoy is great as the cute and sweet Drusilla, the only voice of reason in the time of madness. The supporting cast is also top notch. Sire John Gielgud gives an awesome portrayal a stoic Roman aristocrat Nerva and Peter O'Toole is a true jaw dropper as Tiberius, the old emperor, a completely mad sex addict, plagued with syphilitic lesions. The rest of the supporting cast are unknown Italian actors, except for the B-movie god John Steiner, who plays the two faced Longinus, Caligula's treasurer.

The much talked about sex in the film was never meant to be in any way arousing. If one looks closely, he can see that most of the nudity and sex is handled in a very clinical, unappealing fashion. Tinto Brass did an awesome job showing how the Ancient Rome was so used to perversity, that a few people romping in a corner was just not a big deal in those days. Same can be said about the gore and violence in the film.

From the small hints remaining in the film, "Caligula" was well on its way to become a moody piece of paranoia, corruption and deep character study. There are some truly chilling and atmospheric moments. For example, when Caligula puts on the royal ring, you can actually see him losing soul, thanks to Malcolm McDowell's awesome facial expressions. Also, there is a haunting scene of Caligula asking the dying Nerva, who lies in a bath tub filled with blood, about the afterlife. And the humorous scenes of Caligula "judging" a land dispute between two whiny senators and one where a Senator says he would give up his life to cure Caligula's to fever, only to realize that Caligula has excepted his proposition.

But sadly, none of the points I made can be seen to a naked eye. When Tinto Brass got fired, the film's producer, Bob Guccione (yes, *that* Bob Guccione), tried to splice the film together himself, although he had no idea what he was doing. What ended up was a pathetic mishmash of truncated and misplaced scenes, out takes, rehearsal footage and some dull extra sex inserts with the Penthouse Pets, shot by Bob himself after the filming has wrapped, designed simply to promote the magazine. All the important subplots and story lines were deleted, making the film lose most of its plot and meaning, the pace is ruined due to endless pauses and there are maddening zooms that are obviously just raw footage of camera operators adjusting the lens. The movie is simply unwatchable because it is mostly cut together from the blurry, shaky outtakes. In other words, Bob Guccione stole a masterpiece and turned it into his own little wet dream.

Everyone who dealt with this film disowned it after seeing the finished result and rightfully so.

So, next time you watch the film and notice how bad it is, don't blame the actors, Tinto Brass or Gore Vidal. Blame Bob Guccione and the botched editing.

For what it could have been, I give the film a 10/10. For what it ended up, it receives a 2/10.

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