Greek myths in the movies

From Troy to Hercules, Ancient Greece has lit up the silver screen

As Hercules: The Thracian War muscles its way into cinemas across the UAE this week, we take a look at cinemas best adaptations of Greek mythologies.

Greek hero movies are epic. All those battles between mortals and supreme beings, slaves and masters, swords, sandals and not to mention screens full of ripped muscles. It’s no wonder, then, that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is playing Hercules in the latest adaptation of the mythical tale. Greek legends give us films with ideals – love, fate and destiny – and you don’t need a degree in classics to get the plot. Here’s a pick of our favourites.

Troy (2004)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom
Brad Pitt stars as the film’s hunky hero Achilles, a warrior soldier with one tiny yet devastating flaw. Budget was no issue in the making of this film and it was one of the most expensive Hollywood movies of the time. The A list cast, huge sets and graphics are testimony to that. The director adapted the story from Homer’s The Iliad, and what makes this film particularly good is the complexity of the characters.

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Starring: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Honor Blackman, Gary Raymond
This film was heralded for its use of stop-motion animation when it was first released and offers film fans a touch of escapism into the world of legends and mystical creatures. Jason (Todd Armstrong), son of King Aristo, embarks on a journey with his band of Argonauts to find the golden fleece. Along the way they encounter treacherous monster-filled seas, mutinies and murderous skeletons.

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Starring: Laurence Olivier, Harry Hamlin, Claire Bloom
This film was remade in 2010, hoping to reignite the spark of the original, but in our opinion it couldn’t hold a candle to it. The original, with the great Laurence Olivier as King Zeus, has all the drama, romance, adventure and monsters you’d want. Though the remake dazzles with modern effects, the original tells a wonderful tale of Perseus (Harry Hamlin) and his quest to battle the snake-headed Medusa and the Kraken monster to save his beloved Princess Andromeda.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Starring: Logan Lerman, Kevin McKidd, Steve Coogan
A modern take on mythology that brings the tales bang up to date for a new and younger audience. A teenager with ADHD and dyslexia visits a museum on a school trip and discovers that he is the son of Poseidon. The novel adaptation is a family friendly fantasy adventure and gives the viewers an idea of how things might be if the modern and ancient worlds were to collide. Day trip to the underworld anyone?

300 (2006)

Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham
Adding a serious dose of guts and glory to the genre, 300 is the only film on this list that isn’t adapted from a classic mythological tale – it’s actually taken from a 1998 graphic comic. In this flesh-fest of action, Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) leads just 300 skilled soldiers against the multitudinous Persian army. Along with fantastic battle scenes, the film is full of great motivational lines. Our favourite is delivered by King Leonidas as he sends his messenger away and turns to his band of warriors saying, ‘Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… For tonight, we dine in hell!’ With a leader like that on their side, no one would dare bet against them.

Black Orpheus (1959)

Starring: Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Lourdes de Oliveira
Directed by Marcel Camus, Black Orpheus won an Oscar in 1960 for best foreign film. In the legend, Orpheus is a musician and poet whose wife Eurydice is killed by a serpent on their wedding day and is taken to the underworld. This interpretation of the story is set in the favelas of Brazil. Eurydice, a country girl on the run, meets tram conductor Orfeo, who is engaged to Mira. As Eurydice and Orfeo fall in love, Mira becomes mad with jealousy and when Eurydice disappears, Orfeo sets out to find her.

Hercules (1997)

Voices: Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, James Woods
Of course there’s a Disney adaptation in the mix, and in a clever nod to the vintage Greek film before it, this one features the voice of Charlton Heston as the narrator. The son of Zeus and Hera is stripped of his immortality as a baby and must become a true hero in order to reclaim it. In true Disney fashion, the story is full of personable characters like Phil the satyr, Hercules’ personal trainer, voiced with great comic effect by Danny de Vito.

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