You don’t have to watch the original movie before Gladiator 2, but you should

Trudie Graham
Paul Mescal in Gladiator 2.

A true sign of a legacy sequel, other than a slowed-down remixed trailer song, is the young audience and lazier adults among us wondering if we have to watch the original. In this case, you don’t need to see the first before Gladiator 2, but it’s best to.

Director Ridley Scott’s new movie features Paul Mescal’s Lucius facing off against Pedro Pascal’s Marcus Acacius. The trailer’s reliance on the original’s characters – Connie Nielsen is back as Lucilla, too – makes the throughline clear.

However, Gladiator 2 is set at a different time. And Russell Crowe’s Maximus, the first film’s protagonist, is not in it.

This makes 2 one of those edge cases where you can get away with not seeing the first film beforehand. Still, you’ll have a better experience if you do.

Why you should watch the original first

Gladiator 2 is a sequel. It shares cast members, lore, and characters with the first Gladiator. Watching the original before the 2024 film will ensure you know exactly what’s happening and why.

Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

2000’s Gladiator is a classic for good reason: Crowe was at his peak, the action is visceral, and it features a gripping sleazy villain (something the sequel is set to repeat with Joseph Quinn’s Emperor Geta).

There’s also the thematic throughline. Gladiator is concerned with legacy, spectatorship, and the underdog. While Scott rarely treads the same ground twice (his three Alien movies are wildly distinct), he does seem to hold original ideas in high regard when revisiting universes.

That means there’s a spiritual connection between the two, even if we remove the more obvious signs that both films are connected.

Besides it being great, some of its cast appear in the sequel.

All the characters who return in Gladiator 2

Characters who come back for Gladiator 2 are Lucius (now played by Mescal) Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), Juba (Djimon Hounsou), and Sen. Gracchus (Derek Jacobi).

Connie Nielson in Gladiator 2.

Spencer Treat Clark portrayed Lucius in the first film, but doesn’t reprise the role here. He’s Lucilla’s son and grew up admiring gladiators.

Lucilla is a Roman matriarch central to the first film, as her brother the Emperor was jealous of Maximus, whom she had a history with.

Juba was an ally to Maximus in the 2000 movie, as was Gracchus. The latter plotted against the emperor with the gladiator and Lucilla.

It’s not necessary to watch the original if you really don’t want to

Gladiator 2 is set two decades after the events of the original. Also, Scott will likely have developed the sequel to make it stand alone. While familiarity with the original would be advantageous, you can follow Gladiator 2 without it.

Though callbacks were there in the 3-minute trailer released in July 2024, we’re far removed from the original plot.

This is a different era with a grown-up Lucius and new politically-fueled battles in the Colosseum.

Knowledge of Gladiator will provide context to the history and emotions of the characters, but this isn’t an MCU situation where you’ll be lost if you skip a few projects.

Gladiator 2 releases in cinemas on November 22, 2024.

For more, read why Gladiator 2 proves Pedro Pascal hasn’t learned from Game of Thrones’ most brutal death. Or, find the other best action movies and best horror movies.

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