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Top 10 Greek Mythology Movies You Need to See

04 March 2013 | Features, Film Lists, Guest Posts | by David Zou

Ancient Greece had a great impact over the perception of arts that we have nowadays. The Greeks had a special sensibility for fine arts and beauty that was reflected in everything that they created, and for that reason, the fascination for their culture has endured through the ages.

Greek mythology, a body of myths and legends that portray stories about gods and heroes has been the inspiration for many artists throughout history. Thousands of sculptures, painted pots, tiles, books, and now movies, have their roots in Greek myths. Despite the fact that their civilization disappeared almost 2500 years ago, the stories created by geniuses like Homer or Sophocles seem to be more alive than ever.

This article features some of the best movies inspired by Greek mythology in the story of the seventh art:

 

1. Helena (1924)

HELENA

Written by Hans Kyser and directed by Manfred Noa, this German movie was the first one to take a Greek myth to the big screen. The film was based on the story of Helena of Troy, daughter of the gods Zeus and Leda, whose abduction by Paris, the king of Troy, caused the Trojan War. Divided in two parts, “The rape of Helen” and “The fall of Troy” the movie severely damaged the producer “Bavaria Films” due to its high cost. Certainly it might not be one of the best movies in the list, but given its historical value, it deserves to be mentioned.

 

2. Orpheus (1950)

orpheus-image

 

This masterpiece filmed by Jean Cocteau is inspired by the story of Orpheus, a character of the Greek mythology. Death seduces Orpheus and murders his wife, so after that, he decides to travel to the underworld to save her. Instead of recreating the story the traditional way, Cocteau adapts the movie to the modern times, bringing the myth to life in the Paris of the 1950s.

 

3. Ulysses (1954)

Ulysses 1954

Getting directly into Hollywood’s golden age, we find Ulysses. This very successful film starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn is based on Homer’s Odyssey. Ulysses was the legendary king of Ithaca, who fought with his army in the Trojan War. On the way home, their ships were deviated by the storm, and spent 10 years trying to find the way back to Ithaca. With no doubts a true classic!

 

4. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Jason and the Argonauts

Starring Todd Armstrong and with Don Chaffey as a director, this movie is one of the best in the list. The plot narrates the story of Jason, son of the King Aristo, who was killed by Pelias, in his crusade to overthrow his father’s murderer. One of the most impressive aspects of the movie is the animation sequences, very advanced for its time.

 

5. Oedipus the King (1968)

Oedipus the King movie

The adaptation of Sophocles’ play was directed by Philip Saville, having Christopher Plummer and Lilli Palmer as starring actors. This classic tragedy tells the story of Oedipus, destined from birth to kill his father and marry his mother as a condition to be the king of Thebes.

 

6. The Trojan Women (1971)

trojan-women

Starring Katharine Hepburn, the film is inspired by its homonymous play by Euripides. The movie narrates the sufferings experienced by the inhabitants and royalty of the Troy, at the end of the war with Sparta. With control over the city, the Greek king decides to kill Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus in order to end with the Trojan dynasty.

 

7. Clash of Titans (1981)

Clash-Of-The-Titans

The film, directed by Desmond Davis is based on the adventure of the Greek hero Perseus in winning Princess Andromeda’s hand in marriage. To do that, he will have to release her from a terrible curse that doesn’t allow her to marry anyone until her suitor answers a riddle. However things won’t be easy for them, as Calibos, previously engaged to Andromeda, and her mother, Queen Cassiopea, plan to murder Andromeda. A remake of the same film was released in 2010.

 

8. Medea (1988)

medea 1988

Directed by the usually controversial Lars Von Trier, this drama is based on the Greek tragedy by Euripides. The films tell the story of Medea, Jason’s wife, a mythological hero that abandons her and their sons when Creon, king of Corinth, offers him his daughter. After that takes place, Medea will take revenge against them.

 

9. Hercules (1997)

Hercules (1997)

Disney adapted this classic Greek myth to the format of an animation movie with great success. Hercules was the son of the God Zeus, and the mortal Alcmene. In this animation movie the strong and ingenious semi-god will have to train and become a true hero, in order to save the gods of the Olympus from Hades.

 

10. Troy (2004)

Troy 2004

Given the cast full of stars like Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom or Sean Bean, and the fact that this is the most recent film, it may well be the most popular name in the list. The film is loosely based on the Iliad by Homer, and tells the story of the war between Troy and Sparta, after the Trojan prince Paris, kidnaps Helen of Sparta and takes her with him. This movie was a real blockbuster, reaching almost 500 gross benefits around the world.

These are the best ones, so represent just a small portion, but there are lots of other movies that directly or indirectly relate to the Greek Mythology. No matter how long ago the Ancient Greece disappeared, we are still fascinated by their culture, as cinema can prove.

Is there any movie that you think has been left behind?

Miguel Rojas works for It’s all Greek, a shop that specialises in high-quality, handmade reproductions of ancient Greek art and Jewellery. It’s all Greek has collaborated with its art pieces  in the shooting of major productions inspired by the Ancient Greece like Troy, Alexander the Great or the Clash of Titans. 


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  • Andrea Ostrov Letania

    TROY is awful. A bloated movie if there ever was one. Medea isn’t even watchable, also true of everything else by Lars Von Trier.

    There aren’t many decent movies about Greek mythology, which is a shame since it’s such rich material for movies.
    instead, we have pop fascist movies like IMMORTALS. 300 is based on real historical events, but they’ve been reduced to comic book material.

    I suppose Konchalovsky’s TV version of Ulysses is passable. IPHIGENIA by Cacaoyannis is okay. But far superior is ELEKTRA. There’s also ANTIGONE with Pappas.
    Tyrone Guthrie’s filmed version of OEDIPUS REX was crafted well.

    • yamomma

      well shit, what the fuck do you want? a documentary of real Greek mythology events?! you seem pessimistic to me. 300 was great. you make a movie that gathers a cult following, makes millions of dollars, and manages to do a pretty decent job of portraying events that took place thousands of years ago and then you can critique.

  • Razvigor

    I think the 1997 mini-series The Odyssey should have been on the list, instead of Troy. The Odyssey stars Armand Assante as Odysseus, and despite its TV budget, it looks really nice, and it’s a good watch.