291 user 133 critic

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.


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


Gore Vidal (adapted from an original screenplay by)
740 ( 296)

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?


Sir John Gielgud was originally offered the role of Tiberius, but declined. He only accepted the smaller part of Nerva after being sent a letter by Gore Vidal. See more »


There is a huge map of Europe and the Mediterranean on the wall. It is a modern, extremely precise map, much more precise than available at the time. 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

The opening credits of the Russian release mistakenly list Tinto Brass as the "camera operator," while Bob Guccione and Giancarlo Lui are given the honour of being listed as the "directors." See more »

Alternate Versions

The 'Alternative Version' of the film - as well as removing/replacing the hardcore footage, has some scenes in a different order, which is how Tinto Brass originally intended it. For example, the opening scene of Caligula and Drusilla frolicking in the woods happens much later in the film, and the first scene is of Caligula being scared by the crow. This new version corrects many continuity errors in the film, for example - Caligula suddenly growing a beard. See more »


Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Staying Alive (2015) See more »


Adagio Of Spartacus And Phrygia
Aram Khachaturyan
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Strong and graphic depravity; but Caligula's story deserves that
23 February 2013 | by GTeixeiraSee all my reviews

It's very difficult to rate this movie. It's a strong gore-fest, unnerving and gut-wrenching at most times. It has been universally dismissed as nothing more than exploitative semi-porn trash by the critics and apparently by most 'common' people too (the IMDb rating). Under certain circumstances, I would be glad to give a film like this a 1 too.

But this is one movie where all those things that were used to criticize are, in truth, virtues.

How would one show the story of Caligula, the infamous Roman Emperor that could easily be the greatest monster humanity ever saw? The fact that they had the courage to show violence and nudity, not shying away from the depravity of the subject matter, and also showing the 'dark side' of Ancient Rome, is in the end what makes this a cinematic masterpiece.

Another plus is that, if you can focus away from the depravity, the movie is all around very solid. The story is very interesting and engrossing, the soundtrack is great, and the cast? You have big names like John Gielgud and Peter O'Toole, together with beautiful and talented women like Helen Mirren. And what is there to say about Malcolm McDowell? The man is one of the best, most underrated actors and has shown before that he can play a devious lunatic like no one else.

The fact this is directed by Tinto Brass (known for his almost pornographic movies) and produced by Penthouse (no explanation needed) might be one of the motives for the film's overly poor critical reception. A director like Pasolini, for example, made worse depravities years before and got away because 'cinema experts' said it was an allegory for the human nature or whatever it is they use to justify overrating their 'art' films.

Or maybe it would have been better to sugar-coat the story, making Caligula seem like a victim of whatever disease caused his lunacy, like John Nash in 'A Beautiful Mind'?

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