108 user 34 critic

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

Approved | | Drama, History, War | 26 March 1964 (USA)
4:22 | Trailer
The death of Marcus Aurelius leads to a succession crisis, in which the deceased emperor's son, Commodus, demonstrates that he is unwilling to let anything undermine his claim to the Roman Empire.


Anthony Mann


Ben Barzman (screenplay), Basilio Franchina (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Sophia Loren ... Lucilla
Stephen Boyd ... Livius
Alec Guinness ... Marcus Aurelius
James Mason ... Timonides
Christopher Plummer ... Commodus
Anthony Quayle ... Verulus
John Ireland ... Ballomar
Omar Sharif ... Sohamus
Mel Ferrer ... Cleander
Eric Porter ... Julianus
Finlay Currie ... Senator
Andrew Keir ... Polybius
Douglas Wilmer ... Niger
George Murcell ... Victorinus
Norman Wooland ... Virgilianus


Intent on securing peace and prosperity throughout the mighty Roman Empire, the wise diplomat, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, calls together the local governors from all over the Empire, after conquering the Germanic tribes. With this in mind, Marcus has decided to turn over his crown and the much-coveted imperial throne to General Livius, instead of choosing his corrupt son and logical successor, Commodus. As a result, high treason and blind ambition lead to the death of Aurelius by poisoning, paving the way for a new era of oppression, endless machinations, and rapid decline. Now, as darkness prevails on the outskirts of the Empire where the Roman legions struggle to subdue the invading hordes, delusional Commodus declares himself a god, and no one is safe; not even Aurelius' daughter, Lucilla. Can anyone stop the fall of the Roman Empire? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The glory and grandeur that was Rome 1780 years ago are recreated as never before. All of that Rome - its eloquent stores, its swarming multitudes, its exotic scenes, the very noise of the traffic in the streets - parades before you. Assailed on all sides by barbarian hordes, and Oriental armies, Rome, like an overripe fruit, was ready to fall. See more »


Drama | History | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


On the flight to Spain, one of this movie's writers struck up a conversation with Sir Alec Guinness after seeing him working with the script. Guinness stated that he disliked his lines and was re-writing them before starting memorization. See more »


When Commodus and Livius are holding the torch during Marcus Aurelius' funeral pyre, their hands move further away from the flame between shots. See more »


Lucilla: People of Rome! People of Rome! Quickly! Quickly, run to your Livius. Tell them the night is full of thieves. They have robbed us of our most precious treasures, of our pride, of our glory, of our wisdom, of our honor.
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Crazy Credits

The Paramount logo did not appear on American prints. See more »

Alternate Versions

The film was cut a number of times, from 187 minutes to 185 to 165 to 158. The very first scene to go was one between Commodus and Livius in the middle of their drinking session on arriving at the German fort. As they go upstairs to pick out two of the hostage German women, Commodus explains that he is on the horns of not a dilemma by a trilemma - if there are gods, they have decided what he will do so it doesn't matter whether he is good or bad; if there are no gods, then it simply doesn't matter if he leads a good or a bad life; and if he himself is a god, then he gets to decide what is good or bad. That is why, if you listen carefully, you can hear the gods laughing... The omission of this scene explains that incredibly abrupt cut from them going upstairs to Commodus trying to force a drink on the German girl. There are a number of cuts in the other versions, most notably the second scene with Marcus Aurelius and Lucilla; most of Timonides' big speech to the Senate about accepting the barbarians into the Empire; and the scene where Livius tries to appeal to the Senate after failing to sway Commodus in the temple only for them to turn against him and arrest him. In some prints, the first scene after the intermission, of Lucilla leaving Marcus Aurelius' meditations in the temple for safekeeping is also dropped. Sadly, the only version that was ever released uncut was the Super 8mm feature release back in the early 1990s, which was taken from the original 16mm neg that was struck before any of the cuts were made but which was prohibitively expensive. See more »

User Reviews

We were right Livius. There is no limit with what can be done with a human spirit, for good or evil.
4 June 2011 | by hitchcockthelegendSee all my reviews

The Fall of the Roman Empire is directed by Anthony Mann and co-written by Ben Barzman, Basilio Franchina and Philip Yordan. It stars Sophia Loren, Stephen Boyd, Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Mel Ferrer, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle, John Ireland & Finlay Currie. Music is scored by Dimitri Tiomkin and cinematography is by Robert Krasker. Filmed out of Samuel Bronston's productions in Spain, it was shot in the 70mm Ultra Panavision format.

Plot is a fictionalisation of events involving the Roman Empire AD 180 to 192, and focuses on the last days of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius to the death of his son and successor Commodus.

It was a financial disaster for Samuel Bronston, something that might lend one to think the film to being rather poor. That isn't the case at all, time has been kind to Mann's epic, showing it to be one of the better, more intelligent, sword and sandal epics to have surfaced in cinema history. Massive in scope and production values, it harks back to a time when epic actually meant just that. A huge cast list is supplemented by thousands of extras, all cloaked by real scenery and expertly crafted sets, with not a CGI sequence in sight. Scripting is literate, where three separate writers combine to tell a tale of political intrigue, violence, romance, glory and greed, the ultimate spun narrative of a system collapsing from within. While the action is superbly marshalled by Mann as it flits in and out of the dialogue driven story. Be it the snow laden campaign against the Germanic Barbarians, or an exciting chariot duel, Mann shows himself to be adroit in the art of scene construction.

It's not all perfect, the length at over three hours asks much of the casual observer; the production for sure is grand, but some of the longer character exchanges could easily have been trimmed. After Kirk Douglas and Charlton Heston turned down the role of Livius, Stephen Boyd filed in for lantern jawed stoicism, he looks the part but with such a razor sharp script calling for dramatic worth from one of its main characters, Boyd barely convinces in a film that convinces everywhere else. Loren, a vision of loveliness, is guilty of over pouting, but both her and Boyd's failings are masked over by the performances of the others around them, and to be fair their romantic union has the requisite warmth about it. Guinness (classy), Mason (likewise) and a terrific Plummer (grand egomaniacal villainy-himself stepping in when Richard Harris bailed) dominate proceedings, while Tiomkin's Academy Award nominated score is stirring and itself epic in production.

An essential film for the historical epic fan, The Fall of the Roman Empire is a lesson in adult sword and sandalry. 8.5/10

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Release Date:

26 March 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Fall of the Roman Empire See more »

Filming Locations:

Comunidad Valenciana, Spain See more »


Box Office


$19,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (1970 re-release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm optical prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

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