It’s funny how it happened, but as the weather changes with the seasons, so do the kinds of movies you see in theaters. During the autumn and winter months, studios release their serious fare; the movies they hope to win Oscars with. They time it this way because the Oscars are in February, so they want these films to be fresh in the minds of Academy voters. During the spring, while most studio execs would most likely not want to admit to this, studios tend to unleash the relatively inexpensive pictures that they don’t really know how to market and possibly kind of screwed up on. These are the months for a lot of mediocre romantic comedies, mostly starring Katherine Heigl. Spring gets these movies because frankly it’s the last remaining season for them. Summer is the season when studios make their money, and if they don’t, summer is the season where a lot of people in Hollywood suddenly find themselves unemployed. This is the season for big blockbusters, complete with outlandish spectacle, high octane action and dazzling special effects. You will see a lot of movies with the numbers 2 or 3 at the end of the title. Needless to say, summer is the time of year for movies with action packed climatic fight scenes, often set in some sort of arena. It’s a cliché to be sure, but audiences eat these movies up. Here are some of the best.
This movie not only amassed a spectacular amount of money at the box office, but it accomplished a rarity for summer blockbuster pics: It won the Best Picture Oscar as well. It couldn’t have happened to a better movie. This spectacular Ridley Scott epic resurrected the sandal and sword genre back in 2000, and it did so with gusto. Thanks to a powerful star making turn from Russell Crowe, this tale about a gladiator who looks to avenge the death of his family is a rousing entertainment. Joaquin Phoenix is equally excellent as his nemesis, Commodus, who just happens to be the emperor of Rome. The gladiatorial battles in this film are expertly staged, and filmed with the bravado that only an old pro like Scott employ.
This 1960 epic, directed by the master himself Stanley Kubrick, is a standard bearer in its genre. The story, about a slave who looks to remedy the injustices done to him by the Roman empire, is hardly an original; just look at the above title. But there’s no such thing as a boring Kubrick film. Even at three hours plus, the visionary filmmaker keeps the audience thrilled, thanks to virtuoso camerawork and superior casting. Star Kirk Douglas was rarely better than he is here.
I’m just using the criteria of films with battles in an arena, I didn’t say they had to be set during the days of Caesar. This moving 2010 film is a true life account of Mickey Ward, a down on his luck boxer who goes on to win a world title, despite injury and a debilitating family. Again, doesn’t sound terribly original, and it’s not. What it is, however, is jam-packed with moving performances from everyone in the ensemble, particularly Christian Bale, as Ward’s crack addicted brother/trainer. As Ward climbs the rungs of the world boxing stage, it’s impossible not to be moved, thanks to the vibrant manner in which director David O. Russell tells this tale. Oh yeah, and the boxing scenes are outstanding.
Just because a film follows a familiar formula doesn’t mean it can’t stand a few notches above other films in the genre. If you have a talented enough filmmaker and a dedicated cast, a film can still stand out. These three films are perfect examples.
Author bio: Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast and owner of www.movieroomreviews.com and writer of movie reviews. He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.