The 30 peplum movies shown here were predominately made by Italians in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these forgotten films were later called sword and sandal movies, as well as peplum movies.
Why are these movies called peplum movies? Because peplum came from a Greek word used for ‘tunic’ which is what people wore at that time.
These peplum films were mostly B-grade, but at the time they would have been very entertaining to watch. Even now some of the movies can really surprise with great scenes. Ok, there are lots of terrible scenes as well so don’t get too excited.
Many of the peplum movies available today come with poor picture quality. Some of the films are also poorly dubbed in English. There are some good pictures out there, but the main problem is finding them.
If the peplum movies looks and sounds good then you’ve probably found a great copy to watch. Count yourself lucky.
The thing that these peplum movies do well is open your mind to a world of cinema before the spaghetti western came along, which ended their popularity.
The main thing now with Peplum movies is that they open the door to the ancient world as envisaged by film makers very close to where the action took place.
I will be showing you a pretty extensive list of peplum movies with a variety of ancient Greek themes, more than enough to keep you busy. This is for my reference as well. I need to watch a few more of these older peplum movies myself.
Now prepare yourself for a magical glimpse into the ancient mystical movie past. You don’t have to see them all, but try and watch six or seven at the very least.
1. Atlas (1961)
aka Atlas, Winner of Athena
A king is in need of a champion, his very own Achilles. It just so happens that the Olympics are on, so the king attends the event in the company of the high priestess and his state philosopher to see if he can find anyone suitable.
This peplum movie is one of the very rare sword and sandal movies with scenes filmed in Greece instead of Italy.
The film title, great movie poster and location setting would have attracted a lot of attention at the time.
The movie was completed for just under $110,000 US dollars, which was quite a small budget even at that time. Remember they had to go to Greece. I wonder how much money they made? By the way, half of the film poster shown here is missing.
The stars of Atlas
Barboura Morris (October 22, 1932 – October 23, 1975) played Candia in the movie. She was an American actress, known as “The girl with the lovely smile.” She definitely gives a great smile in this movie. Check it out.
“I wonder who’s holding up the earth”
~ Candia ~
Michael Forrest (6ft 3in) starred as Atlas, the hero in the movie, and what’s all the more remarkable is that he also played Apollo in a season 2/episode 2 of the original Star Trek television series titled “Who Mourns for Adonais?” This futuristic space odyssey TV show episode aired on 22 September 1967.
Forrest has gone from Ancient Greece to another planet. He’s holding up earth and he’s one of the first actors to be a Greek God on another planet.
Since Atlas was filmed in 1961 prior to Star Trek, it’s like someone trying to tell everyone that the Greek Gods are the Alpha and the Omega.
2. The Giant of Marathon (1959)
aka The Battle of Marathon
An Olympic champion tries to save Athens from Persian enemies by forming an alliance with the Spartans, even though they’re rivals to Athens. Memorable for the warship attack scenes.
3. The Fury of Archilles (1962)
The action occurs during the final days of the Trojan War. Hector and Archilles battle it out to the death. A captured Greek maiden tries to assassinate Archilles with a dagger and ends it with a kiss. You really do need to see this.
This beauty is loyal to Apollo. The Greek Gods are often mentioned in peplum movies.
4. The Trojan Horse (1961)
aka The War of Troy
The Trojan Horse follows on from where The Fury of Archilles finishes. Hector is already dead and Ulysses gives details to Menelaus on how to defeat the Trojans. This is where the Trojan horse comes into play.
Steve Reeves plays Aeneas who tries to broker peace deal between the Greeks and Trojans. It’s one big scale epic. This is a must see movie.
5. The Avenger (1962)
aka The Last Glory of Troy, and War of the Trojans
The sequel to the Trojan Horse. Aeneas and a small group of fellow Trojans make their way to Italy, where they settle along the Tiber river. Soon they’re forced to fight. In one scene someone is hit by several arrows, making it very memorable.
6. The Lion of Thebes (1964)
Troy has been defeated and Helen of Troy is left without a home land. She soon finds herself in Egypt in the company of the Theban pharaoh, Ramses. The excitement continues. There’s a very unique dance scene in this movie.
7. The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)
A huge statue of Apollo is commissioned to protect the harbour of Rhodes. The soldier Darios falls in love with the daughter of the statue-maker. The statue over Rhodes harbour is very impressive.
8. Perseus, The Invincible (1963)
aka Medusa Against the Son of Hercules
Will Perseus return to reclaim his rightful place as king of Argos? I won’t show you what Medusa looks like because that will spoil the film.
The Medusa creation was the early work of Carlo Rambaldi. Unbelievably he later gained fame in Hollywood by creating creatures for King Kong, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. There’s hope for everyone.
9. The Minotaur, the Wild Beast of Crete (1960)
aka The Minotaur, and Theseus Against the Minotaur
It does get a lot scarier than this.
10. Gladiators 7 (1964)
aka Gladiators Seven, The Seven Gladiators, The Revolt of the Seven, and Seven Rebel Gladiators.
Darius, the son of the Emperor of Sparta together with six fellow Spartan warriors join forces to battle against the Roman Empire.
11. The Last Days of Pompeii (1959)
I have included this because only the Greek Gods could have inspired this story.
12. The Giants of Thessaly (1960)
A reimagined telling of the Jason and the Golden Fleece myth. Jason tries to stop Zeus from destroying his homeland by taking back the Golden Fleece. On the voyage the Argonauts face many challenges including a duel against a giant gorilla cyclops monster.
13. Seven from Thebes (1964)
Diomedes and a few friends try to overthrow the Spartans who have taken control of the city.
14. Siege of Syracuse (1960)
Historical drama regarding the Roman siege of the Greek city of Syracuse around 210 B.C. Peplum movies often contain some very entertaining dance scenes with beautiful dancing girls. Check this video clip out.
15. Damon and Pythias (1962)
aka The Tyrant of Syracuse
Two friends are put to a life-or-death test by the Greek tyrant Dionysius.
16. Mars, God of War (1962)
aka Venus Against the Son of Hercules
How confusing can its get? The film was first released with the title Mars, God of War, and then in America they changed it to Venus against the Son of Hercules. Sounds like two different movies altogether.
As a bit of a spoiler, this movie sees the blessed couple flying off in a chariot at the end of the movie back up to Olympus. This peplum film has a similar meaning to the movie Grease with the flying car at the end.
17. Vulcan, Son of Jupiter (1960)
aka Vulcan, Son of Giove
Venus (Aphrodite), the Goddess of Love, Sex and Desire is seen below.
18. My Son, the Hero (1962)
aka The Titans, and Sons of Thunder
Krios, the youngest of the Titan brothers arrives on Crete and meets the mighty king Minos.
19. The Bacchantes (1961)
The Greek God Dionysius visits the city of Thebes wanting to be worshipped by the masses. This film is a secret treasure.
20. Sappho, Venus of Lesbos (1960)
aka The Warrior Empress
Tina Louise, the actress who played Sappho, is better known as the American actress who played Ginger in the 1960s American TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island. In this goofy show she was stranded on a desolate island with an assortment of other off-beat characters including Gilligan. She obviously has a thing for islands. This is a very interesting movie.
You’ve got Sappho of Lesbos, the temple of Aphrodite, Vestal Virgins and Amazonians all mixed into one. You have to see it to believe it. There’s even an all female chariot race. I wonder if there’s a message in this movie. These two women are simply divine.
21. Atlantis, The Lost Continent (1961)
This film was actually a United States production, with several scenes filmed off Santa Catalina Island, California.
A young Greek fisherman rescues a beautiful woman from a raft drifting on the ocean. It’s a very entertaining movie with a spectacular ending.
22. Romulus and Remus (1961)
aka Duel of the Titans
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Twin brothers fight for love and power.
23. Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960)
Greek warriors are captured by Amazons in this very amusing film. It will probably make you chuckle at least once.
This great looking waterfall in Italy, known as Monte Gelato, has been filmed in quite a few Italian made peplum movies. Looks like a great place to visit.
24. Hercules (1958)
It combines Hercules battling against the Bull of Crete, the quest for the Golden Fleece and more, all in one movie. This movie started the phenomena of sword and sandal films. It made Steve Reeves, who at the time was also an elite body builder, into the most popular male movie star in Europe.
There are loads of other Hercules sword and sandal movies to watch. Here are the 12 Best Hercules movie recommendations.
25. Alexander The Great (1956)
26. Helen of Troy (1956)
27. Ulysses (1954)
A great adaption of the myth of Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin). The cyclops scene is very memorable.
28. The 300 Spartans (1962)
If you haven’t seen this movie and you like the movie 300, then you need to watch this film.
29. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
A sword and sandal masterpiece that never gets old. The fight scene with the skeletons is fantastic.
30. Aphrodite, Goddess of Love (1957)
Everyone needs to watch this great movie. It’s a classic!
The cultural art of Peplum movies
Some of these peplum movies might seem very amateurish after viewing them, but keep in mind, these were some of the first movies to combine action, adventure, romance and drama into one film.
Some of them do get boring especially if you’re watching a poor quality video, but they can surprise you with good scenes from out of no where.
Cultural art like this shouldn’t be lost, which is why I have created this list. To remind everyone that there are stories out there that are lost, suppressed and forgotten about, which would be of great interest to a lot of movie fans and history buffs, especially for those of us who really appreciate Greek mythology.
Hopefully one day all of these films will be easily available in their finest print in the best condition possible. There are some really good quality films in existence especially in selected foreign languages.
There are quite a few more peplum movies based on Roman themes out there as well, which in some cases are superior to the ones shown here. The main focus here though has been on the Hellenic Greek side.
Final note about Peplum movies
Consider the movie Gods Behaving Badly (2013), shown at the Rome Film Festival. This movie disappeared without a trace. The general public didn’t get a chance to see the movie even three years after its first screening. What happened? Obviously someone out there doesn’t want you to see the movie. This is probably the same scenario with a few of these peplum movies.
Aphrodite, Goddess of Love is one of them. Don’t confuse the movie I have recommended in this list with another movie of the same name that came out in 1958. Why they made two movies with the same name around the same time is a mystery.
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