Forget Gladiator, This $322M Film is the Most Historically Accurate Epic Ever Made

Forget Gladiator, This $322M Film is the Most Historically Accurate Epic Ever Made
Image credit: Universal Pictures

The film that best conveyed the pain and hope of the Jewish people.


  • Among the filmmakers who make historical dramas, two stand out: Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg.
  • Although the former became famous as a master of period pieces thanks to Gladiator, his film cannot be compared to Spielberg's masterpiece, Schindler's List.
  • The 1993 movie is one of the most historically accurate and is celebrated by the witnesses themselves.

The first movie that comes to mind when you think about historical fiction is probably Ridley Scott's Gladiator. With a budget of $103 million, this 2000 period piece told an epic story that supposedly took place during the last years of the reign of the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. But how accurate was it? Well, while incredibly epic, it was more of a costume game than a historical film.

In Hollywood, Steven Spielberg is far more faithful to historical sources. His track record includes the epic war drama Empire of the Sun, based on the semi-autobiographical book by J. G. Ballard, the drama Amistad and, of course, the series he co-produced with Tom Hanks: Band of Brothers, The Pacific and, most recently, Masters of the Air. The latter three in particular were praised by experts and amateur history buffs alike for their fidelity to actual events and eyewitness recollections of those years.

Spielberg, however, has a historical drama that, despite criticism from some Jewish people, is considered one of the most historically accurate films in the history of cinema in general. Yes, you probably guessed it, we are talking about the famous 1993 drama Schindler's List.

A Film Recognized by Those Who Witnessed the Horrific Events

Should we talk about the plot of the movie 40 years after its release? Schindler's List follows the story of Oskar Schindler, superbly portrayed by Liam Neeson, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party who, during the Holocaust, together with his wife Emilie Schindler (played by Caroline Goodall), rescued about 1,200 Jews, mostly living in Poland, and placed them in his enamelware and ammunition factories, thus ensuring their immunity from the concentration camps and the bloodthirsty dogs of the Nazi regime.

When the film was released in 1993, Spielberg and the entire Schindler's List crew received incredibly rave reviews for how moving and powerful the story was, how effectively it was conveyed through superb acting and the extraordinary cinematography of Janusz Kamiński. In addition, the Schindlerjuden (those, saved by Schindler) themselves praised the historicity and how much the story resonated with their souls.

Nevertheless, the film received its fair share of criticism from many prominent Jewish figures, including the author of one of the most poignant stories about the Holocaust, the graphic novel Maus, Art Spiegelman. The main point of criticism was that Schindler was portrayed as an idealized white savior, while the Jews were dormant sheep in need of guidance.

And yet members of the Schindlerjuden, while acknowledging the movie's shortcomings, admired it.

A Man Who Inspired Thousands of Jews

While Spielberg may have focused his film too much on Oskar Schindler alone, there is no denying that Schindler was incredibly respected and admired for his contributions by those he once saved, including former Polish army member and Schindler's friend Leopold Pfefferberg, later known in the United States as Leopold Page.

Pfefferberg is the one who made Thomas Keneally's novel Schindler's Ark possible, as it was he who told the story of Oskar and the Jews he rescued in a chance meeting with the writer, and then convinced him to write a novel about it, juxtaposing the Jews' experience with the equally centuries-old pain of the Irish, which Keneally is.

Pfefferberg then pitched the idea of adapting the book directly to Spielberg, and the result is the most epic yet incredibly personal story ever told, based on Pfefferberg's own POV and grossing $322.2 million worldwide.