Hollywood loves bringing big brawny Greek warriors to life, especially the iconic hero Hercules. Consider this: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno and Twilight’s Kellan Lutz have all flexed their muscles as the demigod on the big screen. And in Hercules, in theaters now, manly man Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson takes on the role under the direction of Brett Ratner (of Rush Hour and X-Men: The Last Stand fame).
While these movies can be great fun for grown-ups and teens who love a good Greek tragedy, some adaptations aren’t ideal for younger viewers. Those ancient Greeks could get pretty dark, what with the depictions of murder, sacrificial acts and beheadings of hydra. So if your kids loved the latest Hercules, or they’re too little for the PG-13 rating but are intrigued, here are four more to consider:
For the Animation Fan: Disney’s Hercules, 1997/Rated G
This Disney animated gem distills the Greek myth and boils it down into a kid-friendly, music-filled extravaganza. The songs – by the one and only Alan Menken – are extremely catchy, like the hit “Go the Distance,” “The Gospel Truth” and my personal favorite (sung by Danny DeVito) “One Last Hope.” If you’re looking for a squeaky-clean musical version of the Hercules experience, this is the one for you.
For the YA Fiction Fan: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, 2010/Rated PG
If you know a tween or teen who loves to read, then you know a tween or teen who has read these books. The uber-popular series by Rick Riordan was turned into a lavish film (plus a sequel in 2013) that follows the trials and tribulations of Percy Jackson, the son of Poseidon and one of those mere mortal types. Percy, like many kids his age, heads off to summer camp, but this one has campers that all happen to be demigods. It’s like a coming-of-age camp movie, but with Minotaurs and lightning bolts instead of canoe rides and macaroni necklaces.
For the Film Buff: Jason and the Argonauts, 1963/Rated G
Tom Hanks called Jason and the Argonauts, "the greatest movie of all time.” That’s a pretty big claim, but one thing is for sure, this film had a huge impact on the creation of special effects in movies. Scenes like the epic sword fight between Greek heroes and skeleton warriors may look hokey now, but at the time they were groundbreaking.
Film geek note: The stop-motion animation was done by the one and only Ray Harryhausen – a master of this technique (and Monsters, Inc. fans, you might recall that the Japanese restaurant where Mike Wazowski has his date with Celia just happens to be called Harryhausen’s).
For the Retro '80s Vibe: Clash of the Titans, 1981/Rated PG
Clash of the Titans was huge, like crazy huge. The then state-of-the-art special effects were again handled by the legendary Ray Harryhausen, nearly 20 years after his work on Jason and the Argonauts. Clash of the Titans had an all-star cast including Perseus (Harry Hamlin), Zeus (Laurence Olivier), Thetis (Maggie Smith) and Aphrodite (Ursula Andress) who battle scorpions, two-headed dogs and a ginormous kraken. The kids may not know who any of those heavy-hitter actors are, but mom and dad sure will.
Extra homework - If you have older kids and wanna go totally old school, check out Spartacus and Ben Hur.
What is your favorite movie about the Greek gods?