6. Gladiator (2000)
Is there anyone out there who hasn’t at least heard of Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator”? Russell Crowe’s character in this film is Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman general who, after the murder of Rome’s emperor Marcus Aurelius, is sentenced to death by Commodus, Aurelius’ patricidal son and new emperor. Maximus’ tale is one of revenge and rebirth and, to some extent, you could say that his journey is very similar to Arya Stark’s.
They start as an important person (daughter of the Hand of The King/Roman General), suffer a great loss (she gets her father, mother, and brother killed by their so-called allies/he gets his family killed by the newly established reign) and they both embark on a journey of revenge (she becomes a Faceless assassin/he becomes a Gladiator).
“Gladiator” is impressive because it feels very real. The great performances from its cast including Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Oliver Reed, and Richard Harris in what may be the best role in this film, along with the incredible sets, special effects and soundtrack give you the impression that what you see are real historical events caught on camera. The fact that the Academy has awarded this film with no less than five awards (including Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe) only comes as proof that “Gladiator” is indeed a great film.
7. Kingdom of Heaven – The Director’s Cut (2005)
Five years after the release of the critically acclaimed “Gladiator,” this Ridley Scott historical film saw the light of day. Its theatrical version was panned by both critics and audiences, but later, the director’s cut of the film received much more appreciation. While still not being as good as “Gladiator,” the director’s cut of “Kingdom of Heaven” is an ambitious film which hits more than misses.
The film stars Orlando Bloom as Balian of Ibelin, a blacksmith who finds out that his father is Baron Godfrey (played by Liam Neeson), a famous Crusader from the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Balian travels to Jerusalem and helps to defend the town from the Muslim forces.
Filled with political schemes, betrayals, glorious battle scenes and amazing sceneries, “Kingdom of Heaven” is a great film to watch in-between seasons of “Game of Thrones,” but make sure you see the director’s cut.
8. Black Death (2010)
Despite being present only in the first season of the show, Ned Stark (portrayed by Sean Bean) is still regarded as one of the best characters “Game of Thrones” ever had. In this 2010 German-British production, Bean plays a similar character. He is Ulrich, a knight who, during the epidemic of bubonic plague, goes searching for a mysterious village which the Black Death hasn’t reached yet and where a necromancer is said to bring the dead back to life. To his aid comes Osmund, a young monk played by Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne.
If having Sean Bean playing a medieval England knight in this film is not enough for you, there is more. Carice van Houten, who was Red Priestess Melisandre in “Game of Thrones,” plays the above-mentioned necromancer. Emun Elliott and Tim McInnerny (who played Marillion, respectively Robert Glover in “Game of Thrones”) also make appearances in this movie.
9. Henry V (1989)
British actor and filmmaker Kenneth Branagh has directed a great deal of Shakespeare adaptations and “Henry V” – his directorial debut – stands out as one of the best.
While having a more theatrical approach, with most of the dialogues being taken directly from Shakespeare’s play and thus being a little hard to understand for those unacquainted with the original work, “Henry V” is an immersive film with an amazing cast including a lot of British veteran actors including Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Derek Jacobi, Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson and, of course, Kenneth Branagh as Henry V, the charismatic English monarch who, in 1415, conquered the crown of France.
10. Macbeth (2015)
Justin Kurzel’s “Macbeth” is a fresh take on Shakespeare’s work of the same name and seems to have taken a lot of inspiration from the visual aspects of “Game of Thrones.” Unlike many other Shakespeare adaptations, this one is not solely based on dialogue and put a lot of emphasis on the cinematic side.
Shortly put, “Macbeth” looks absolutely stunning and is truly a lesson in how great cinematography should look. The slow-motion battle scenes, the orange fog filled epilogue, and the bleak, rainy Scottish landscapes look amazing and are by themselves a strong enough reason to watch this film. Before Jaime Lannister, there was another kingslayer. His name was Macbeth and his tragic history of crime, betrayal and lunacy is comparable to the darkest moments of “Game of Thrones.”