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20 Most Famous
Greek Mythology Movies

The Most Famous Greek Mythology Movies

Date
06 May 2020

Even after 2 millennia, ancient Greek myths continue to excite people and give inspiration for movies. There are numerous adaptations of many myths or ancient Greek drama, but there are some that really touched us and created a large fan base. And how couldn’t they, when powerful Gods and legendary heroes come alive before our eyes! So, here are the 20 most famous film adaptations from Greek Mythology, in chronological order.

Image after introtext
Steve Reeves as Hercules - Credit: Vabbè at Italian Wikipedia / Public domain

1. Helena (1924 movie)

The first production of.. mythical proportions came from Germany, with Manfred Noah's "Helena" (1924), totaling 204 minutes! Many of Germany's silent movie stars and comedians had resurrected the capture of beautiful Helen and the fall of Troy, yielding an honorable aesthetic result! The movie had been surrendered to oblivion until its recent restoration by the Munich Film Museum. A must watch from another era.

2. Orpheus (1950 movie)

This French film (original title “Orphée”) by Jean Cocteau is set in modern Paris and it is a variation of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Armed with the power of love, Orpheus travels to the Underworld in an effort to save his love Eurydice from an unjust death. A French movie set in Paris, based on one of the most epic love stories of all time and presented in a poetic way… the recipe for a wonderful movie! Not unjustly, it is considered one of the best artistic films of all time.

Jean Marais and François Périer in "Orphée"

3. Hercules (1958 movie)

The Italians were fascinated by the cinematic depictions of supernatural beings, heroes and Greek mythology! In 1958, in "Le fatiche di Ercole" (The Labors of Hercules), directed by Pietro Franziski, bodybuilder Steve Reeves incarnates a Hercules who demolishes temples and falls in love with the beautiful princess Iole, during a delectable Argonaut campaign! The movie is based more on the myth of Jason and the Argonauts rather than the Labors of Hercules, but has the Greek demi-god in the leading role. A whole lot of confusing myths together but the more famous heroes the more popular the movie will be, right? Next year, in 1959, a sequel to this movie would follow with Steve Reeves staring again as Hercules, named Hercules Unchained (original title: “Ercole e la regina di Lidia”).

Sylva Koscina and Steve Reeves in "Le fatiche di Ercole"

4. Antigone (1961 movie)

The clash between Eteocles and Polynices, the two sons of the late King Oedipus, who were claiming the throne of the Seven-tailed Thebes, results in the death of both. The new king, Creon, denies proper burial to one brother, causing the heroine of the story, Antigone, to defy the king’s orders and bury him herself. This famous adaptation of the tragic play by Sophocles was brought up in the silver screen with the amazing Irene Papas as Antigone.

Irene Papas as Antigone

5. Electra (1962 movie)

Electra is waiting for the right opportunity to avenge the death of her father, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, who was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover Aegisthus. The opportunity presents itself when she meets Oreste's brother again. Together they will implement their murderous plan. Two years before Zorba's worldwide success, Michael Cacoyannis created one of the finest tragedy transfers to the big screen, with his 1967's "Electra". A black and white film with music by Mikis Theodorakis and powerful acting, with Irene Papas in the lead role as Electra. The final result garnered a Best Film Award at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film in 1963.

Irene Papas in "Ilektra"

6. Oedipus Rex (1967 movie)

This Italian film by Pier Paolo Pasolini is an adaptation of the homonymous Greek tragedy written by Sophocles. A boy is born in a Milan village in the 1930s. His father abandons the baby in a desert and is rescued by another couple. We watch as the three sisters of fate weave our hero’s life thread, mumbling: “I have arrived. Life ends where it started.”

Scene from “Oedipus Rex”

7. Medea (1969 movie)

Another gem from Pier Paolo Pasolini. This famous adaptation of Jason and the Argonauts myth focuses on the sorceress Medea, who helped Jason in his quest and was promised by him to be his wife. After returning to his land as a hero, Jason abandons Medea and marries instead a Corinthian princess. Enraged, Medea plots revenge against Jason and his new wife, with tragic events following. With the famous soprano Maria Calls starring, Pasolini successfully adapts the famous Greek tragic play by Euripides.

Pier Paolo Pasolini and Maria Callas in "Medea"

8. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999 TV Series)

The powerful Greek demi-god hero was the inspiration for one of the most popular television shows in the world in the late 90s. With Kevin Sorbo as Hercules, the story follows the hero and his sidekick Iolaus in the world of ancient Greece, as they try to save villagers from monsters or evil warlords, avoiding at the same time the whims of the vengeful Goddess Hera.

Kevin Sorbo as Hercules (left) and Michael Hurst as Iolaus (right)

9. Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001 TV Series)

A famous spin-off of the previous mention, Xena was another popular television series based in Greek mythology. Created by writer and director Robert Tapert, it continued the story of Xena that first appeared in three episodes of the earlier Hercules television series. Lucy Lowell starred as the homonymous character. The premise of the series unfolds mainly in ancient Greece and Italy (but also in other ancient sites), adapting Greek and Roman mythology to its needs. Very inaccurate series but extremely fun to watch!

Lucy Lowell as Xena

10. The Odyssey (1997 TV Mini-Series)

Undoubtedly, one of the most famous characters from Greek Mythology is the crafty Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin), the hero of the epic poem of Homer, Odyssey. The story follows Odysseus and his crew on their way back to Ithaca after the fall of Troy. A journey that would normally last weeks, lasted 10 whole years! Their epic adventures include many ordeals that the God Poseidon sent to their way, after they showed arrogance towards the Olympians. Terrifying mythical monsters, gigantic Cyclops, beautiful Nymphs and enchanting Sirens are only a few of the trials Odysseus has to face before he returns to his loyal wife Penelope. A personal favorite!

Greta Scacchi as Penelope in "The Odyssey"

11. Hercules (1997 animated musical film)

Hercules is a Walt Disney-produced animated musical film inspired by the mythical Greek hero. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the film was praised for its visuals, music and humor. Although only loosely based on the 12 labors of Hercules, the movie includes the most powerful and famous Olympian Gods and sheds a light to the ancient greek society in a fun way. Oh, and Danny DeVito does the voice of the beloved Phil! Another personal favorite!

Phil (Danny DeVito) and Hercules (Tate Donovan)

12. Οh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000 movie)

Three convicts escape from prison, with the ultimate goal of searching for a hidden treasure. After many adventures, they will finally find that what is really worth is the "journey" itself. Does it ring a bell? As we read on the headlines, the film is based on Homer’s Odyssey”. In fact, we are dealing with a (very) free adaptation of the Homeric epic poem. The Coen brothers write a clever script (which was an Oscar nominee), full of enjoyable dialogues and familiar stereotypes of the story (Penelope with the suitors, the Cyclops, the Sirens etc.) and George Clooney starring!

Scene from the film “Oh Brother, Where Art Though?"

13. Jason and the Argonauts (2000 TV Mini-Series)

Its content is, of course, the Argonautic Campaign, one of the most beautiful stories in Greek mythology! Little Jason becomes an eyewitness to the murder of his father and King of Iolkos, Aeson, by his uncle, Pelias, and escapes his own murder. Twenty years later he will return to his homeland to claim the throne, as a legal successor. To do this, he must offer Pelias the Golden Fleece from Colchis. Thus, Argo, the ship that will carry him and the other Greek heroes to their adventures, is built and the crew sails away. The obstacles they will encounter on their journey are many, including the God Poseidon, the Harpies, the murderous women of Lemnos and the stonemasons. The Golden Fleece looks unreachable until Medea comes into Jason’s life. A better version of the story might be the 1963 film adaptation.

Jolene Blalock and Jason London in "Jason and the Argonauts"

14. Troy (2004 movie)

If the magnitude of the discussions that took place in the background of the film's release were analogous to its quality, then we would probably be talking about the greatest movie of all time! Wolfgang Petersen's directing may have been mediocre and the film found inaccuracies, variants and rationalistic simplifications of the Homeric poem Illiad, but all of it was sufficiently covered by an action-packed spectacle, visual effects and a glamourous cast including Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger and Sean Bean to name a few. The soundtrack is beautiful and it does justice to the essence of remembrance that the ancient Greeks valued so much. Yes, one of my favorite movies, you got me.

Brad Pitt as Achilles in “Troy”

15. Alexander (2004 movie)

Alexander the Great in all his glory! Although Alexander is a real person and the battles during the movie really happened, many stories in the movie are based on legends rather than facts. With 155 million dollars as a budget, Oliver Stone dared to interpret the exploits of the legendary Greek general in a different way. With a rather Freudian approach, the director covered the main parts of the life of an ancient Greek soldier at times impressive and at times chaotic. We follow Colin Farrell (Alexander) through his glorious life as he tries to conquer the known world and achieve his vision. Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Anthony Hopkins and Jared Leto are some of the other big names in the cast. Leaving aside the historic inaccuracies, this was a really good movie!

Oliver Stone and Angelina Jolie in "Alexander"

16. 300 (2006 movie)

Zack Snyder’s epic film may not claim to be historically accurate - after all, it is based on Frank Miller's comic book and not on history’s books - but the only certain thing is that when we hear of Leonidas and his 300 we immediately think of this movie! Gerard Butler did a wonderful job of portraying King Leonidas and his heroic sacrifice at Hot Gates. With CGI technology at its best, the epic scenes do justice to an epic story!

Gerard Butler in "300"

17. Percy Jackson (2010 and 2013 movies)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, or Percy Jackson, is the name of a series of five fantasy novels by American writer Rick Riordan. The first and the second book were made into films titled “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” (2010) and “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” (2013). The story follows a young boy who learns that he is the demi-god son of Poseidon and his adventures take him across the world trying to save Olympus and the world. Although the books were extremely popular, the movies were not as successful and the third one never made it to production.

Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

18. Clash of the Titans (2010 movie)

Dissatisfied with the indignation and disrespect of the mortals against the Olympian gods, Zeus is persuaded by his brother Hades and orders him to destroy Argos to set an example. The only ones who can stand in the way of their plans are the demi-god Perseus and a group of brave warriors. The remake of the 1981 film is more focused on 3D technology and visual effects and overtrained protagonist Sam Worthington has faithfully served the kind of adventure Hollywood fans were after.

Sam Worthington in “Clash of the Titans”

19. Immortals (2011 movie)

The gods and the Titans, who fought before the creation of mankind, are immortalized, and the Olympian Gods are the winners and the latter imprisoned in Tartarus. The film offers some amazing footage and incredible duels based on choreographic moves. The film's protagonist is Theseus –portrayed by the ‘superman’ Henry Cavill - who is commissioned by Zeus to fight King Hyperion. The storyline is mostly inspired by the Athenian hero Theseus, the Minotaur of Crete and the Titanomachy. Not among the best Greek mythology movies but probably better than the previous mention if you ask us.

Henry Cavill in “Immortals”

20. Wonder Woman (2017 movie)

The film is based on William Moulton Marston's animated version. In the 2017 film of DC Comics, we watch the beginning of Diana’s story, a princess of the Amazons. Diana is the Latin name for Artemis, the Greek goddess of wilderness, hunt and fertility and the Amazons were legendary female warriors in Greek mythology. This movie is more about Diana and her present story than the legendary background of the Amazons, but we get glimpses of these mighty and beautiful warriors.

Gal Gadot in "Wonder Woman"

If you are still reading, chances are you are a Greek mythology fan! In this case, you should not miss our article with the 30 most famous tales from Greek mythology. If you like the epic element of Ancient Greece, have a read of the most important battles of Ancient Greeks. Being a fan of Greek mythology, when you visit Athens and Greece, you can bring your favorite heroes and legends back to life by visiting the sites that the events actually took place!

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