Fierce Roman commander Marcus Vinicius becomes infatuated with beautiful Christian hostage Lygia and begins questioning the tyrannical leadership of the despot Emperor Nero.


Mervyn LeRoy, Anthony Mann (uncredited)


John Lee Mahin (screen play), S.N. Behrman (screen play) | 2 more credits »
4,047 ( 1,343)
Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Taylor ... Marcus Vinicius
Deborah Kerr ... Lygia
Leo Genn ... Petronius
Peter Ustinov ... Nero
Patricia Laffan ... Poppaea
Finlay Currie ... Peter
Abraham Sofaer ... Paul
Marina Berti ... Eunice
Buddy Baer ... Ursus
Felix Aylmer ... Plautius
Nora Swinburne ... Pomponia
Ralph Truman Ralph Truman ... Tigellinus
Norman Wooland ... Nerva
Peter Miles ... Nazarius
Geoffrey Dunn Geoffrey Dunn ... Terpnos


Returning to Rome after three years in the field, General Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) meets Lygia (Deborah Kerr) and falls in love with her, though as a Christian, she wants nothing to do with a warrior. Though she grew up Roman, the adopted daughter of a retired General, Lygia is technically a hostage of Rome. Marcus gets Emperor Nero (Sir Peter Ustinov) to give her to him for services rendered, but finds himself succumbing gradually to her Christian faith. Written by John Oswalt <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Greatest Spectacle Ever Filmed...Three Triumphant Hours of Unforgettable Thrills! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Did You Know?


Turner Classic Movies stated that in the John Huston biography, Huston wanted Ava Gardner for Lygia, and his father, Walter, for Peter. See more »


(around 2 hours, 8 mins) When Petronius and Eunice are reclining at the dinner table, there is a decoration of flowers behind them. However, in the next shot when Petronius starts talking to his guests, the decoration has changed and now there is also a pedestal with a cooked pig on it. On the next shot after that, the pedestal with the cooked pig is no longer there and only the flowers remain. See more »


Petronius: [to Nero] A genius, Divinity, should hold to his first thoughts on any subject.
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Alternate Versions

The DVD release restores the original overture and exit music, which, up until that point, was only heard in the original roadshow release and in the 1964 roadshow re-release. See more »


Featured in The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Story (1951) See more »

User Reviews

Larger-than-life production with breathtaking scenarios and exciting scenes
10 April 2006 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

During 63 a.d. a Roman official prefect named Marco Vinicio (Robert Taylor) returns from Gaul wars and goes home Petronius (Leo Genn and enamored the gorgeous slave played by Marina Berti ), adviser of emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov) . Vinicio confess him he has fallen in love from Ligia (Deborah Kerr) , a virginal and mysterious young whom has known in the Plautus's home (Felix Aylmer and wife Nora Swinburne) . Meantime , the Christians are accused by Nero (Peter Ustinov) , along with Poppea (Patricia Laffan) and Tijelinus (Ralph Truman) of burning the ancient Rome . Depraved emperor Nero wants to get rid the Christians followed by Apostle Peter (Finlay Currie) and Paul (Abraham Sofaer) and then orders burn on stakes and use them as meat for hungry lions . Vinicio helped by Ursus (Buddy Baer) risk their lives to save her .

This huge epic film gets lots of crowd scenarios, fabulous gowns, dramatic scenes and is realized on a giant scale , spectacular sequences and Christians' bloody martyrdom as lions attack in arena and cruel crucifixions . Originally cast in 1949 with Elizabeth Taylor as Lygia and Gregory Peck as Marcus Vinicius . But as the production changed hands the following year , the roles were recast with enjoyable Deborah Kerr and robust Robert Taylor . Among the many actresses who tried out for a role in the film : a pre-stardom Audrey Hepburn. Peter Ustinov's overwhelming hammy acting , he gives an immortal and unforgettable performance . Film debut of Bud Spencer , who plays one of the Emperor's guards and as extra appears Sofia Loren and her mother . The film was an epic colossal with big financial success , 32,000 costumes were used in the film ; besides , spectacularly and colorfully photographed by Robert Surtees and magnificent musical score by Myklos Rozsa . The movie was very well directed by Mervyn Leroy . The motion picture is the ultimate version of the classic novel by the Polish Henryk Sienkiewicz . Remade for television by Franco Rossi (1985) and inferior version (2001) by the Polish Jerzy Kawalerowicz .

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Release Date:

25 December 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Qvo Vadis See more »


Box Office


$7,623,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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