Top 25 Films of the 2000s – #6
#6 – Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Ridley Scott directed two historical epics over the past decade – Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. And while I love Gladiator, I have to admit I find Kingdom of Heaven to be the richer film. Stripped to its core, Gladiator is a fairly simple tale of revenge. Kingdom of Heaven – especially in its superb Director’s Cut – goes much further. The story raises a lot of questions about the nature of nobility, piety, conscience and victory, but to me it has always come across as a cautionary tale. The villain isn’t the Muslims. The villain is religious fanaticism, and the dangers inherent when religion and power move in the same circles. And this film shows that the villain exists on both sides of the religious divide, just as protagonists exist on both sides (including Saladin, played with brilliant nuance by Ghassan Massoud).
I have a feeling many of these undercurrents were lost on audiences in 2005, who went in hoping for Gladiator, but with knights. Granted, the theatrical release had its flaws, but it did not deserve the savaging it received, and the Director’s Cut remains, in my opinion, one of the best historical epics ever committed to film, and one of the most relevant to our own troubles.