Over the past century, many films have appeared claiming to be based on the events described in The Iliad, but no film has yet been made that remains faithful to the actual events recounted in Homer’s epic poem. Instead, many films focus on the character Helen and the origins of the Trojan War or else on the story of the Trojan horse that helped bring the war to an end. The Iliad doesn’t tell either of those stories. Of the dozen or so films loosely based on the Trojan War, four have been the most influential. Critics have largely responded the same way to all four films, giving them credit for their production value but criticizing their inability to achieve sufficient emotional or psychological complexity.
Director: Manfred Noa
Notable cast: Edy Darclea, Vladimir Gajdarov
Noa’s adaptation of The Iliad is an epic silent film that was released in two parts, titled “The Rape of Helen” and “The Fall of Troy.” Noa’s take on the Trojan War was truly epic in scale. The filming involved thousands of extras, but it severely damaged the finances of the German production company, Bavaria Film. Despite admiring the film’s visual spectacle, critics have also expressed disappointment in the lack of emotional resonance.
Helen of Troy, 1956
Director: Robert Wise
Notable cast: Rossana Podestà, Jacques Sernas, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Stanley Baker
Produced in the United States by Warner Bros., Wise’s loose screen adaptation of The Iliad makes a number of alterations to Homer’s original storyline. Critics cheered for the magnitude of the production and the opulence of the scenery but generally remained dissatisfied with the film’s lack of human drama.
Director: Wolfgang Peterson
Notable cast: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Peter O’Toole, Sean Bean
Peterson’s big-budget, star-studded film offers a blockbuster retelling of the Trojan War, though the filmmakers explicitly indicate in the credits that the film was “inspired” by Homer’s poem rather than directly based on it. Though the film made a lot of money at the box office, critics gave it mixed reviews, by turns admiring the visual spectacle and lamenting the lack of emotional complexity.
Troy: Fall of a City, 2018
Directors: Owen Harris and Mark Brozel
Notable cast: Louis Hunter, Bella Dayne, Hakeem Kae-Kazim
This eight-part miniseries premiered in the United Kingdom on BBC and in the United States on Netflix. The series writers made many significant alterations to the mythology of the Trojan War. For instance, Menelaus, whom Homer treats as a venerable figure, is vilified in the miniseries. Critics praised the miniseries for its greater emotional and psychological complexity in comparison to 2004’s Troy, but many also criticized it for its overall lack of innovation.
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