Jason and the Argonauts
This Hollywood retelling of Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece deviates a little from Homer's Odyssey, but much of the core events remain the same (it is likely that the adjustments have been done in order to speed up the pace of the story in order to fit within the length of the film). At the time that it was released, Jason and the Argonauts was critically acclaimed not only for its acting and camerawork, but also for the set design and use of special effects. The most impressive part of the movie comes at the climax when Jason and his team fight off an army of skeletons.
The movie follows the story of Jason, a young man who is meant to take the throne of Thessaly -currently occupied by the villain Pelias. While Pelias knows that Jason is the rightful heir to the throne, he does not admit this, and instead, encourages Jason to go on a quest for the legendary Golden Fleece. Pelias knows that the quest is difficult and nearly impossible, and he hopes that Jason will die in the attempt. Given a goal, Jason quickly sets out to assemble a crew that would help him face the challenges to come. Their ship is named the Argo, and so their crew is called the Argonauts (hence the name of the film).
Clash of the Titans
Not to be confused with its modern reboot (also titled Clash of the Titans) and its' sequel (Wrath of the Titans), this classic, early 80's movie starring Harry Hamlin as the mythological hero Perseus. The plot is a little complicated, despite the core plot being a simple quest by Perseus trying to win Andromeda's hand in marriage, the main back story and much of the later events are basically twisted around thanks to the pettiness of the various Greek gods (which is actually a pretty common thing for most of narratives in the mythos).
Plot-wise, well, this is not the movie you watch for the plot. While it is easy to believe that Lawrence Oliver the great and almighty Zeus (who beds women left and right), or that Ursula Andress is the goddess of love Aphrodite, the things that these gods get into makes you wonder if ever manage to stop getting caught up in petty trouble to actually handle actual godlike responsibilities. Much of the films' strength comes from Perseus' storyline -whenever he is onscreen, you know that he has some hero-business to attend to. And he does this while dealing with a wide plethora of old school, practical effects monsters (culminating with that giant kraken at the very end of the film). You can find out more about the film from this Ancient Warfare write up on Clash the Titans here.
This ancient-Greek war film is based on the story of the Trojan War (yes the one with the horse) as seen through the viewpoint of Hollywood's camera lens. The result is a cinematic affair that is very visually stimulating (for women anyway). The film stars Eric Bana, Brad Pitt, and Orlando Bloom, or as we so call it, the Ladies' Trifecta. Of course, the is more than just fan service, there's a real story underneath it all that centers heavily around the rivalry between the hero soldier Achilles and Hector the Trojan prince.
The production of this film is huge, with most of the principal photography done in Malta and several other exotic locales. This gives the film that unique Mediterranean look that one would expect to see in ancient Greece. Of course, there has been a bit of talk about how all the main characters seem to have been 'white-washed' so to speak. Still, the acting skills of the actors are nothing to look down upon. Both the script and the acting for the Troy are very well done and the film itself has won several awards in 2005.
The 300 Spartans
This is the movie that would inspire the creation of Frank Miller's graphic novel, 300 (which would then serve as the basis for Zack Snyder's successful film of the same name). The story of 300 follows Leonidas and his personal honor guard (numbering three hundred, hence the title) as they march off to prevent the Persians from being able to siege Greece. As it turns out, the Greek leaders, despite the looming threat of Xerxes' forces, have decided that since the city is celebrating a festival, they will not allow the army to mobilize. This leaves Leonidas to take matters in his own hands -he marches his troops to delay the arrival of the Persians (whose forces number in the thousands).
The movie boasts one of the most elaborate productions as the cast of extras include around 5,000 soldiers of the Greece's Hellenic Army (who were tasked to play both Spartan and Persian fighters).
This film adaptation of the Greek tragedy is a classic in storytelling -moreso than the source material even. In the film, King Agamemnon makes the mistake of allowing his troops to hunt some sheep -which results in the death of Artemis' sacred deer. Through an Oracle, Artemis demands that the king sacrifice his daughter, the titular Iphigenia, as payback. In return, Artemis promises to bring the winds that the army needs to sail towards Troy. Troubled heavily, Agamemnon still sends a letter to his wife, and lies that he has betrothed their daughter to Achilles, and that Iphigenia must be sent to him at once. Now, with Achilles expecting to be married and a goddess expecting a sacrifice, the King finds himself unable to decide what to do next.
Unlike some variations of the story of Iphigenia, this movie leaves viewers with the choice to decide on their own about how the film resolves. It ends on a vaguely abstract note that can hold both good and tragic endings -which is actually quite a hard balance to achieve, but the film manages to reach anyway. Obviously, the key factor that makes this movie from all the other entries in the list is the fact that it feels more like a very solid adaptation of classic Greek opera that focuses on drama (which in many ways, Iphigenia is) into film; instead of having a story that tries to balance out content with action scenes.
Wrap Up: Hollywood's Favorite Myths
Hands down, Greek Mythology holds some of most interesting and fascinating stories involving gods and goddesses -moreso than Norse, or any other belief systems. And this is mostly due to the fact that the characters in the mythos are given such distinctly human personalities. It is a veritable soap opera where Zeus and the cast of Olympus are concerned and their social dynamics (along with the way they treat mortals and demigods) is the stuff that makes for great drama and entertainment in greek games too. So the fact that these films are entirely about various interpretations of Greek mythology should not be surprising at all.