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Caligula (1979)

Caligola (original title)
Details the graphic and shocking, yet undeniably tragic story of Rome's most infamous Caesar, Gaius Germanicus Caligula.


Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione (uncredited) | 1 more credit »


Gore Vidal (adapted from an original screenplay by)
768 ( 123)

On Disc

at Amazon

2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Malcolm McDowell ... Caligula
Teresa Ann Savoy ... Drusilla
Guido Mannari Guido Mannari ... Macro
John Gielgud ... Nerva
Peter O'Toole ... Tiberius
Giancarlo Badessi Giancarlo Badessi ... Claudius
Bruno Brive Bruno Brive ... Gemellus
Adriana Asti ... Ennia
Leopoldo Trieste ... Charicles
Paolo Bonacelli ... Chaerea
John Steiner ... Longinus
Mirella D'Angelo ... Livia (as Mirella Dangelo)
Helen Mirren ... Caesonia
Rick Parets Rick Parets ... Mnester (as Richard Parets)
Paula Mitchell 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


The most controversial film of the 20th century is now the most controversial film of the 21st century. See more »


Drama | History


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



Italy | USA


Italian | English

Release Date:

15 February 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Caligula See more »


Box Office


$17,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,669, 19 September 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


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

Sound Mix:

Mono (original release)


Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Director Tinto Brass was fired during editing. In Italy, he brought a suit against Producer Bob Guccione, preventing the movie from being released without his permission. See more »


The credits say "Cast in Order of Appearence," but due to the heavy editing after the "director's cut", they are completely wrong in subsequent versions. Some characters credited in the beginning appear around the end, and vice versa. For example, Proculus is introduced early in the film, yet he is the last billed. 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.
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Crazy Credits

The opening credits are shown over a bleeding coin. See more »

Alternate Versions

The first R-rated cut to be released (October 1981) cut 51 minutes of footage (much of it for continuity purposes) and contained many alternate angles. It had the following changes:
  • The opening scene is trimmed; instead of panning from the herd of sheep to Caligula and Drusilla lying on the ground, looking at the leaves, then getting up to chase each other, it's simply a cut from the herd of sheep to Caligula and Drusilla getting up. Later in the scene, they cut back to the herd of sheep to hide the cutting of Caligula sucking Drusilla's breast. The final several seconds of the scene are also cut to avoid exposing Drusilla's genitalia.
  • The scene following the credits is shortened; it cuts from Drusilla saying "he's not!" to Macro entering the room. Several shots are juggled around, and Caligula's line "Macro!" is moved to a different shot. The final few seconds of the scene are trimmed, calling for a much quicker dissolve than in the original cut.
  • The start of the scene in which Caligula is being carried to the palace while nude slaves work on the road is trimmed to avoid showing male genitalia.
  • The scene by Tiberius's pool includes many alternate angles, juggled shots, and rearranged dialogue to avoid showing male genitalia (and a new laugh is dubbed over at the end as Tiberius exits the pool).
  • The scene in Tiberius's grotto is almost entirely alternate angles in the segments involving the drunk soldier, and in the pleasure building. As well, many shots and lines of dialogue are juggled around.
  • The scene in which Caligula expresses his fears of being killed by Tiberius to Drusilla, and where he is frightened by a black bird is cut entirely.
  • In the "morning at Capri" scene, several shots exposing genitalia are cut, as is the brief scene of three senators bathing in red mud, and Caligula's fantasies of torturing people.
  • The entire scene where Charicles explains the condition of Tiberius to Caligula, and in which Macro swears his allegiance to Caligula is cut.
  • The "coronation" scene is trimmed by excluding a brief moment in which Caligula stops in the middle of his speech to sniff a white object in Drusilla's hand.
  • The two explicit shots of fellatio behind the moon face in Caligula's bedroom are cut.
  • The entire scene where Caligula "judges" a land dispute is cut.
  • The entire scene where Caligula banishes Ennia and hears about Macro's sentence is cut.
  • The Temple of Isis scene is trimmed to remove graphic sex, and is shortened; the scene ends with Caligula saying it is "perfect" that Caesonia is the most promiscuous woman in Rome.
  • The "killing machine" scene is trimmed to remove all but one quick shot of decapitation. The shot of Macro being beheaded is replaced with a long shot of the same act. Also, the dissolve between this scene and the next is cut.
  • The rape of Livia and Proculus is drastically shortened-the scene ends on a close-up of Proculus just after Caligula tells Livia to take off her clothes.
  • The scene where Caligula does his "little boots" dance in the rain is shortened to remove nudity. The sex scene between Drusilla, Caesonia, and Caligula (as well as between Messalina and Agrippina) is cut altogether.
  • The entire sequence with Caligula getting sick, his recovery, as well as when he signs documents and executes Proculus (then sees the black bird again) is deleted, but the shot of the crowd outside the palace is kept, and used as an establishing shot for the next scene.
  • The scene where Caesonia gives birth is trimmed to remove the exposure of the infant's head coming through the vagina.
  • The scene where Caligula licks Drusilla's corpse is parially at an alternate angle.
  • The shot of Caligula wandering the streets with several women crouching in the background was cut.
  • The scene where Longinus discusses Caligula's whereabouts with Caesonia is cut.
  • The jail scene is shortened to remove the giant's coin trick.
  • The Imperial Bordello scene uses many alternate angles, and deletes all but a few seconds of the Guccione inserts.
  • The Battle of Britain scene is missing a brief conversation between Chaerea and Caligula.
  • The Celebration scene is shortened to remove shots of pearls mounted in vaginas, and has the end missing; The scene ends just after Caligula shouts "EAT!"
  • Caligula, Caesonia, Julia, and the giant's death scenes are all trimmed to remove more graphic moments (i.e. Julia's head against the stone, closeups of Caligula being stabbed by the guards, etc).
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Referenced in DVD-R Hell: Rock: It's Your Decision (2011) See more »


from Spartacus (1960)
Written by Aram Khachaturyan
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Beyond the controversy lies a good film
6 February 2000 | by fromwithinSee all my reviews

This film, as with all, has good points and bad points.

In general, I feel that the good ones far outweigh the bad.

The film simply gives the story of the rise and death of Emperor Caligula in a very straight-forward manner. Indeed, it can be seen as shocking, but I think that this is a side-effect of it's desire to be realistic, rather than a deliberate act on the part of the film-makers.

The cinematography and camera work is awful. The huge sets seem at times almost claustrophobic which is an absolute crime considering the magnificence of them. There is also too much emphasis on Caligula himself, to the detriment of revealing some important traits in other characters, making them seem somewhat shallow at times.

The sex scenes are very well placed within the context of the film. I thought that only two scenes stood out as being unnecessarily overt, but for the most part, the explicitness is on the fringe of the focus of each scene, while also playing a major part in the atmosphere.

Never once did I feel that any dialogue was out of place, nor did the acting strike me as being bad.

By far the biggest problem with this film is the fact that the sexual content is widely advertised and therefore anticipated before viewing. This may cause people to focus dominantly on those scenes without really looking at the film as a whole. For me, it enhanced the film. Not in a particularly titillating way, but in the fact that there was no compromise during scenes of sexual acts. Roman orgies are regarded to have been extremely opulent and promiscuous - I found it refreshing to see one as it may have actually been rather than lots of fully-clothed laughing fat men pouring red wine over their faces and eating grapes while draped with female automatons.

In summary, Caligula definitely has it's place in film history due to it's controversy, but if you look beyond that controversy, you should find a rather good film which neatly tells the story of how power can turn someone into a madman.

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