50 best epic movies ever – part two
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Don Chaffey's adventure epic has only a nodding acquaintance with the original Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece, but that's beside the point – the film's iconic stop-motion animation sequences, directed by Ray Harryhausen, are worth the price of admission on their own. Jason's battle with a stop-motion skeleton army is justifiably iconic, and puts many modern CGI sequences to shame.
Quo Vadis (1951)
Based on the novel by Henryk Sienkiwicz, Quo Vadis takes in the early years of Christianity, and the persecution of the sect by the mad Roman Emperor, Nero. Although made on a grandiose scale – it takes in everything from gladiatorial combat to the burning of Rome, and features the most costumes ever made for a film – it's most notable for Peter Ustinov's salacious turn as the depraved Nero.
Gods and Generals (2003)
The prequel to 1993's Gettysburg, Gods and Generals follows the career of Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson, played by none other than Stephen Lang – Avatar’s musclebound villain Colonel Quaritch.
Lang gained plenty of experience of shooting at blue-clad foes in Ronald F Maxwell's Civil War film (and in Gettysburg – he played Confederate Major General George E Pickett in the earlier/later film). Between them, Gods and Generals and Gettysburg are nearly as long as the American Civil War itself, clocking in at a whopping six hours apiece.
The Last Emperor (1987)
Bernardo Bertolucci's account of China's last Emperor, Pu Yi, is characteristically lush and vibrant, following the boy king into adulthood as he's deposed by the Communists, endures life in a prison camp and eventually retires to a simple life as a gardener.
The first film ever to shoot footage in Beijing's Forbidden City, it even took precedence over Queen Elizabeth II – Her Maj wasn't able to visit the location while on a state visit, as the production was shooting there.
The Vikings (1958)
Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine may be the least convincing Scandinavians this side of the Bronx, but accurate casting was the least of this rip-roaring adventure's concerns. Curtis stars as the bastard half-Viking heir to the throne of Northumbria, who's sold into slavery only to rise through the Viking ranks.
Anyway, never mind all that – The Vikings has a scene in which Kirk Douglas scales a castle door by chucking axes at it and using them as handholds. Who could ask for more?