A man robbed of his name and his dignity strives to win them back, and g ain the freedom of his people, in this epic historical drama from direc tor Ridley Scott. In the year 180, the death of emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) throws the Roman Empire into cha os. Maximus (Russell C rowe) is one of the Roman army's most capable and trusted generals and a key advisor to the emperor. As Marcus ' devious son Commodus (Joaquin P hoenix) ascends to the throne, Maximus is set to be executed. He escapes , but is captured by slave traders. Renamed Spaniard and forced to becom e a gladiator, Maximus must battle to the death with other men for the a musement of pay ing audiences. His battle skills serve him well, and he becomes one of the most famous and admired men to fight in the Colosseum . De termined to avenge himself against the man who took away his freedo m and laid waste to his family, Maximus believes that he can use his fam e and skill in the ring to avenge the loss of his family and former glor y. As the gladiator begins to challenge his rule, Com modus decides to p ut his own fighting mettle to the test by squaring off with Maximus in a battle to the death. Gladiator also featu res Derek Jacobi, Connie Niel sen, Djimon Hounsou, and Oliver Reed, who died of a heart attack midway through production.