Epic True Battles That Deserve the '300' Treatment
With 300, director Zack Snyder took one of the most dramatic events in history and translated it to the screen with style and bravado. With 300: Rise of an Empire (Snyder-produced, not directed) in theaters Friday, it's time to comb through the history books and pluck out epic true events that deserve "the 300 treatment." By Jacob Hall
The Mongol Invasion of Europe
Virtually every story involving Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire sounds like a mythic legend. Take the earliest Mongol invasions of Europe, where a small "scouting party" of mounted troops rode west just to get a lay of the land and ended up sending the entire region into a panic as this small force decimated much larger armies.
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The many wars between Carthage and Rome deserve a TV miniseries, but if you want to pick one event that deserves its own movie, you've got to go with Carthaginian general Hannibal's truly insane plan to launch a surprise attack on his enemies by taking his massive army (including war elephants!) over the alps. His ambitious plan paid off and he won a series of vital battles against the Roman legions before being forced back home.
The Russian Revolution
Nearly a century before 300 was made there was Battleship Potemkin, a film that depicted key events of the 1905 Russian Revolution with style, bombast and shameless patriotism. Although they're ultimately very different movies, the film shows that the populist uprising against the nation's czarist leaders is an event that demands a stylized approach.
The Battle of Leipzig
Few military commanders loom so large in history as Napoleon Bonaparte, but there have been surprisingly few films showcasing his incredible successes ...and even more incredible failures. The Battle of Leipzig was a key turning point in European history, with a coalition of over a million troops from many nations teaming up to take on the French commander's dwindling forces. The result was the biggest and bloodiest battle in European history (until World War I).
The Wars of the Roses
If you think the backstabbing and bloody warfare of Game of Thrones is exciting, you should read up on the Wars of the Roses, which saw the Lancaster and York families engaging in a three-decade conflict for the throne of England. There are too many battles and characters and events to even begin discussing them here, but it's a tale of rivalry and embittered hatred that makes modern soap operas look tame in comparison.
Audie Murphy Helps Win World War II
On January 26, 1945, 19-year-old Audie Murphy stood on top of a burning tank and used its machine gun to singlehandedly hold off a wave of German troops. An hour later, he had taken a bullet to the leg but had taken out 50 enemy soldiers. Then he rallied his own men for a counterattack. He's maybe the closest thing the American military has ever had to a Hollywood action hero.
The Last Stand at Megalopolis
King Leonidas isn't the only one in Spartan history to take a valiant last stand. Take General Agis III, who decided that he wanted to declare war against Alexander the Great. In a battle near the awesomely named city of Megalopolis, Agis' soldiers were forced to retreat. Badly wounded, Agis ordered his men to flee while he stood alone to take down a few more soldiers before finally succumbing.
The Battle of the Ice
As crusading Teutonic Knights marched into Eastern Europe to bring their religion to pagans, Prince Alexander Nevsky fought the invaders by luring them into battle on a frozen lake. Unprepared to battle on such a slippery surface, the Knights fled, only for the ice to break and cause many of them to drown in their armor.
The Saga of Frank Luke
World War I fighter pilot Frank Luke was known for his arrogance and willingness to disobey orders, but he was also known for being ruthlessly efficient at killing tons of people using an airplane. The first airman to receive the Medal of Honor, Luke was shot down after completing a solo mission, but he took out a group of enemy soldiers with his plane's guns while crash-landing before making a last stand with his pistol.
The Charge of San Juan Hill
Facing brutal conditions and general bad luck, Roosevelt and his forces were victorious through grit and determination. While the paintings of everyone heroically riding on horseback are greatly exaggerated, exaggeration is what the 300 movies are all about.