Sumptuous costuming. Sweeping story. Production value by the barrelful. All of these we associate with the historical epic, and it’s what we’re expecting from this week’s
, a new take on the classic 1st century tale of betrayal, redemption, and sparkly chariots. This week’s gallery presents 24 Certified Fresh historical epics, historical as in nothing set within the past 100 years (so World War I and anything before is fair game). Ben-Hur
Critics Consensus: As starkly beautiful as it is harshly uncompromising, The Revenant uses Leonardo DiCaprio’s committed performance as fuel for an absorbing drama that offers punishing challenges — and rich rewards.
Critics Consensus: Featuring some impressively grand battlefield action, John Woo returns to Asia and returns to form in the process for this lavish and slick historical epic.
Critics Consensus: With death-defying action sequences and epic historic sweep, Hero offers everything a martial arts fan could ask for.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Critics Consensus: Russell Crowe’s rough charm is put to good use in this masterful adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s novel.
Gangs of New York
Critics Consensus: Though flawed, the sprawling, messy Gangs of New York is redeemed by impressive production design and Day-Lewis’s electrifying performance.
Critics Consensus: Ridley Scott and an excellent cast successfully convey the intensity of Roman gladitorial combat as well as the political intrigue brewing beneath.
Critics Consensus: This intelligent, handsomely crafted adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel condenses the story’s developments without blunting its emotional impact.
Critics Consensus:Hallucinatory but lacking in characterization, Kundun is a young Dalai Lama portrait presented as a feast of sight and sound.
Critics Consensus: No mere historical drama, Elizabeth is a rich, suspenseful journey into the heart of British Royal politics, and features a typically outstanding performance from Cate Blanchett.
Critics Consensus: A mostly unqualified triumph for James Cameron, who offers a dizzying blend of spectacular visuals and old-fashioned melodrama.
Critics Consensus: Distractingly violent and historically dodgy, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart justifies its epic length by delivering enough sweeping action, drama, and romance to match its ambition.
Dances With Wolves
Critics Consensus: A grand, sweeping epic with inarguably noble intentions and arresting cinematography, but one whose center, arguably, is not as weighty as it should be.
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by exceptional cinematography, powerful storytelling, and an Oscar-winning performance by Denzel Washington, Glory remains one of the finest Civil War movies ever made.
The Last Emperor
Critics Consensus: While decidedly imperfect, Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic is still a feast for the eyes.
Critics Consensus: Akira Kurosawa’s sprawling, epic take on King Lear should be required viewing for fans of westerns, war movies, or period films in general.
Critics Consensus: Director Richard Attenborough is typically sympathetic and sure-handed, but it’s Ben Kingsley’s magnetic performance that acts as the linchpin for this sprawling, lengthy biopic.
Critics Consensus: Cynical, ironic, and suffused with seductive natural lighting, Barry Lyndon is a complex character piece of a hapless man doomed by Georgian society.
Aguirre, Wrath of God
Critics Consensus: A haunting journey of natural wonder and tangible danger, Aguirre transcends epic genre trappings and becomes mythological by its own right.
Critics Consensus: It may not be the best of David Lean’s epics, but Dr. Zhivago is still brilliantly photographed and sweepingly romantic.
Critics Consensus: Lavish and wistful, The Leopard features epic battles, sumptuous costumes, and a ballroom waltz that competes for most beautiful sequence committed to film.
Lawrence of Arabia
Critics Consensus: The epic of all epics, Lawrence of Arabia cements director David Lean’s status in the filmmaking pantheon with nearly four hours of grand scope, brilliant performances, and beautiful cinematography.
Critics Consensus: Featuring terrific performances and epic action, Kubrick’s restored swords-and-sandals epic is a true classic.
Critics Consensus: Uneven, but in terms of epic scope and grand spectacle, Ben-Hur still ranks among Hollywood’s finest examples of pure entertainment.
Gone With the Wind
Critics Consensus: Filmed and presented on a scale not seen in modern productions, Gone with the Wind is, if not the definitive Hollywood film, then certainly near the top of the list.