30 Greatest Moments of PEPLUM Cinema

1 - 'The Golden Fleece' from THE GIANTS OF THESSALY

EPIC moment brilliantly directed by Riccardo Freda. Jason (Roland Carey) looks like and ant crawling up the giant landscape perfectly exemplifying the quest, or the eternal struggle between mankind vs the gods, in a visual manner in 9 minutes. Roland Carey was an experienced rock climber in real life so this came handy when it came to shooting this pure PEPLUM moment.

The Golden Fleece quest was part of the HERCULES storyline and as much as I love it this one beats it by a mile.

With Roland Carey, Massimo Girotti and all. Directed by Riccardo Freda.

2 - 'Feat of Strength' from GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS

Made directly after HERCULES, this 'Feat of Strength' moment from GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS is basically the first of its kind and is one of the most influential scenes in the PEPLUM genre. Before this there were no movies with such vivid show-stopping display of muscle put to the test for minutes on end. There were 'millstone' scenes in CABIRIA and SAMSON & DELILAH and the 'bringing down the temple' scenes in SAMSON & DELILAH and HERCULES but never a moment where the hero's will to live relied totally on his physical strength.

After the success of HERCULES, producers of this film were wise enough to realize the greatest selling point of HERCULES was Steve Reeves' physique and so they took it a step further with this moment. After this film every PEPLUM film with a muscleman had to have one of these prolonged scenes, including the many on this Greatest list. The story took a pause in order to make way for these moments which were big crowd pleasers akin to the musclemen doing feats of strength at carnivals or circuses. It was also a perfect excuse to display Steve Reeves' amazing physique in all its glory.

With Steve Reeves, Chelo Alonso and all. Directed by Carlo Campogalliani.

3 - 'Feat of Strength' from MACISTE VS THE MOLE MEN

The most over-the-top Feat of Strength in any PEPLUM film. Whoever is responsible for this little bit of sadistic brilliance should be given an award. This is from a Fan Dub I did and it switches between  English and Italian a few times because they cut several small bits here and there in the US version.

With Mark Forest, Paul Wynter, Moira Orfei, Gianni Garko and all. Directed by Antonio Leonviola.

4 - 'Conclusion/Climax' from HERCULES

The entire conclusion of HERCULES is tops. There's nothing more iconic in the PEPLUM genre than Steve pulling down those columns or swinging those chains. The ending on the boat is also great. A classic!

With Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina and all. Directed by Pietro Francisci.

5 - 'Feat of Strength' from HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN

One of the best 'feat of strength' from any PEPLUM film. It's a stand-out PEPLUM moment which also includes the 'Wheel of Weaklings' cliché.

With Alan Steel, Anna Maria Polani and Jany Clair. Directed by Giacomo Gentilomo.

6 - 'Battle of Marathon' from THE GIANT OF MARATHON

This is number 6 not necessarily for the direction or the pacing but for the sheer scale of it all. It's one of the biggest battles in any PEPLUM films. The underwater sequences, with the army of men battling it out or getting killed, are great. And we also get to see Steve Reeves' massive legs in this when he rescues Andromeda, who's bound to the ship's bow, which is an iconic PEPLUM image. The sight of the Greek men battling it out wearing only white wraps is also iconic.

With Steve Reeves, Mylène Demongeot, Alan Steel, Alberto Lupo and Sergio Fantoni. Directed by Jacques Tourneur.

7 - 'Your name is love!' from HERCULES UNCHAINED

Another classic moment from HERCULES UNCHAINED: the combination of everything, the sexy actors, the dancers, the music and dialogue makes this one of the most memorable moments of PEPLUM cinema. The director made an almost identical scene in THE QUEEN OF SHEBA a few years before this film but this moment beats it by a long shot.

With Steve Reeves, Sylvia Lopez, Gabriele Antonini and Colleen Bennet as the main dancer. Directed by Pietro Francisci.

8 - 'The Arena' from SPARTACO - SINS OF ROME

This entire moment is amazing. The way is shifts gear in tone. The numerous elements all brilliantly orchestrated by Riccardo Freda.

With Massimo Girotti as Spartacus, Ludmilla Tcherina and Gianna Maria Canale. Directed by Riccardo Freda.

9 - 'Hercules vs Samson' from HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES

Creative fight between two PEPLUM He-Man. This style of fighting, with heroes destroying the surroundings, would be copied many times over in other films, mainly other superhero films.

With Kirk Morris, Iloosh Khoshabe, Liana Orfei. Directed by Pietro Francisci.

10 - 'Chariot Race' from THEODORA - SLAVE EMPRESS

Spectacular, elaborate chariot race scene. Great film starring a slew of PEPLUM actors including Gianna Maria Canale and Georges Marchal; directed by Riccardo Freda and released in 1954.

11 - 'The Sybil' from HERCULES

One of the many great scenes in HERCULES. Lidia Alfonsi plays the Sybil. Both actors shine here.

Strangely enough the entire moment is cut from the German DVD.

12 - 'Hercules vs Proteus' from HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN

There are many great moments in this big film but I had to choose one and this one was it.

Imaginative and psychedelic battle between Hercules and Proteus.

It was psychedelia before psychedelia became the norm in the 60s.

13 - 'Hercules vs Antaeus' from HERCULES UNCHAINED

The first big screen fight between Hercules and Antaeus.

Classic PEPLUM moment.

14 - 'Goliath vs Goliath' from GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES

What's a greater challenge to Goliath than fighting with himself? Many films and TV shows would copy this idea. A stand-out moment in more ways than one. Giovanni Cianfriglia is the other Goliath.

15 - 'Feat of Strength' from TRIUMPH OF MACISTE

One of the classic 'Feat of Strength' moments of PEPLUM cinema. This scene was used for a TV commercial and was also the image on the cover of the Sons of Hercules board game (posted yesterday).

16 - 'Hercules vs Antaeus' from HERCULES THE AVENGER

There's no denying that HERCULES THE AVENGER is a Frankenfilm: a collection of scenes from other PEPLUM films edited together with new original scenes. And part of those new scenes is this  fight between Hercules and Antaeus at the end which is a great fight and elevates the entire film immensely.

Antaeus is played by Giovanni Cianfriglia, who's usually the stuntman of stars (see THE LION OF THEBES scene I uploaded this week) and he was Steve Reeves' main stuntman/body double. In this film he finally has a starring role and he's great in it. A real vicious kick-ass villain.

17 - 'Climax/Eruption' from THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII

There are several climaxes from the different versions of this familiar story I could have chosen from, including the French version, SINS OF POMPEII, which is equally excellent but this one edged it out. This also edged out other climactic destruction scenes from other films like the one in THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES. Briefs shots or entire scenes from this film were re-used in other PEPLUM films, including shots of the erupting volcano.

18 - 'Crushing Time' from THE LION OF THEBES

Great suspenseful climax with a kick-ass fight!

Mark Forest's stuntman is the great Giovanni Cianfriglia (not credited).

19 - 'Storm at Sea' from THE GIANTS OF THESSALY

This is a robust moment brilliantly directed by Riccardo Freda. The music by Carlo Rustichelli, which re-used repeatedly in other PEPLUM films, is also great. Roland Carey and Massimo Girotti are in this.

20 - 'The Race' from THE QUEEN OF SHEBA

This "Race with 3 targets" from THE QUEEN OF SHEBA seems like a simple scene but it perfectly showcases director Pietro Francisci's amazing eye for action which would eventually serve him well 6 years later with HERCULES. The scene is wonderfully composed and edited, like the rest of the entire film. It's a beautifully created adventure. QUEEN OF SHEBA was the template on which all other Italian/Euro action-inspired PEPLUM films were based upon. The massive success of HERCULES solidified it. Structurally speaking, this is where the genre, which we would know eventually know it as, all started.

21 - 'Tavern Brawl' from HERCULES AGAINST ROME

Now this how a brawl is done. A real "Rock'em Sock'em" moment. The poor soldiers have no chance against Herc. And only Alan Steel can make it so fun!

22 - 'Stab' fro FURY OF ACHILLES

Great powerful scene. A near perfect scene.

23 - 'The Siege' from SIEGE OF SYRACUSE

Great and unique epic battle from this seldom seen film directed by Pietro Francisci, first sequence listed from one of his many great PEPLUM movies.

24 - 'Death Trap' from GOLIATH & SINS OF BABYLON

Video removed by Youtube

Great scene, in more ways than one. It would rank higher if the film itself didn't borrow so many scenes from other films.

25 - 'Entering Hell' from MACISTE IN HELL

The entire film is great.

Directed by Riccardo Freda.

26 - 'Swordfight' from MORGAN THE PIRATE

Great swordfight and location! And cool & funny undressing scene.

27 - 'Tree of Torture' from SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS

Original torture method: hanging from a single arm to a tree branch. Ouch!

Totally memorable and a stand-out scene. I would have ranked it higher but there are so many greater moments that this one ended up at #27.

28 - 'Samson vs Millstone (Hercules)' from SAMSON

SAMSON starts with the brawny fight between Samson and Millstone (or Hercules in original).

This is a great way to start a PEPLUM! I also included another fight scene later on in the film between the two men to show the progression of their bromance.

29 - Dance number from COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN

Over-the-top comes to mind!


I included all the scenes with the Medusa. I love these scenes. Very pulpy fantasy/sci-fi book cover look from the 1960s.

Special effects by Carlo Rambaldi.

So here's the breakdown of the selections:

- Only 3 films has two scenes in the top 30 : HERCULES, HERCULES UNCHAINED and THE GIANTS OF THESSALY.

- Directors: 

Pietro Francisci has 7 scenes from his films: two from HERCULES; two from HERCULES UNCHAINED; one from HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES; one from THE QUEEN OF SHEBA and one from SIEGE OF SYRACUSE. Three of those scenes are in the top ten.

Riccardo Freda has 5 moments in the top 30: two from THE GIANTS OF THESSALY; one from SPARTACO : SINS OF ROME; one from THEODORA - SLAVE EMPRESS and one from MACISTE IN HELL. Three of those scenes are in the top ten.

Giacomo Gentilomo has two scenes: from HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN and GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES.

- Actors:

Every actor made it in the top 30 but here are the **top** actors:

Steve Reeves has eight scenes in the top 30: one from GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS; two from HERCULES; two from HERCULES UNCHAINED; one from LAST DAYS OF POMPEII; one from THE GIANT OF MARATHON and one from MORGAN THE PIRATE.

Alan Steel also has four moments in the top 30: one from SAMSON; one from HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN; one from THE GIANT OF MARATHON and one from HERCULES AGAINST ROME.

Mark Forest is third with three moments: one of each from MACISTE VS THE MOLE MEN; THE LION OF THEBES and GOLIATH & THE SINS OF BABYLON

Kirk Morris has 3 top scenes: one from MACISTE IN HELL, one from TRIUMPH OF MACISTE and one from HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES.


As for the ladies:

Gianna Maria Canale has two scenes, both of them in the top ten: one from SPARTACO - SINS OF ROME and THEODORA - SLAVE EMPRESS.

And Sylva Koscina also has two with one from HERCULES and one from HERCULES UNCHAINED.

Many of my favorite films like SAPPHO THE VENUS OF LESBOS, APHRODITE - GODDESS OF LOVE, THE LAST OF THE VIKINGS, KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE, HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS, THE BACCHANTES didn't make it in the top 30 even though there are many amazing moments in these films but not strong enough to stand alone.

Honourable mention list:

URSUS - Arena/climax

THE IRON CROWN - too many small scenes; Climax

FABIOLA - Saint Sebastien; climax

HERCULES * - too many to mention

HERCULES UNCHAINED * - too many to mention

HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES * - Delilah's dance; climax

SAPPHO - VENUS OF LESBOS - The entire beginning but it includes more than one moment so I didn't include it; The Death of Actis

HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN * - Climx/battle with moon men; Queen drugging Herc

THE TROJAN HORSE - Games; big battles; climax


THE TEN GLADIATORS - fight between Mimmo Palmara and Roger Browne

GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES * - Brawl in public square; Dance number


THE GIANTS OF THESSALY * - Battling the cyclops monster

TERROR OF THE STEPPES - Duel with wood beams (almost made it in the top 30...)


COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA - introduction of characters; Climax in arena


CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER - fight in morgue; buried alive

KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE - fight scene in desert; defeated at battle

ULYSSES VS HERCULES - Birdmen dance; Ulysses vs crazy King


HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD - The Golden Apple moment; the sybil


THE 3 AVENGERS - Alan Steel vs Mimmo Palmara (I uploaded this scene at PEPLUM TV)

THE REBEL GLADIATOR - Commodus screaming; Ursus vs Commodus

COLOSSUS OF RHODES - Escaping statue from ear

MASSACRE IN THE BLACK FOREST - entire climatic battle

TRIUMPH OF HERCULES - the golden warriors

REVOLT OF THE SLAVES - Catacombs scene; Saint-Sebastien; climax in arena

SCIPIO - Climax


WAR OF THE TROJANS (The Avenger) - Aeneas sees Trojan War mural

GIANTS OF ROME - Crucifixion scene

HEROD THE GREAT - stoning of Sylvia Lopez's character

GOLIATH & THE DRAGON - anger towards statue of Vengeance

MACISTE IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS - Feat of Strength; Gordon Mitchell vs Paul Wynter

THE TARTARS - Dance number


SALAMMBO - Inner Sanctum

SAMSON & THE SLAVE QUEEN - Maciste vs Zorro

7 SLAVES AGAINST ROME - Massive brawl at climax

SON OF SAMSON - Feat of Strength (obelisk)

URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE - contest and feat of strength

WAR GODS OF BABYLON - Destruction of Babylon

ULYSSES (1954) - Ulysses and Circe

THIEF OF BAGHDAD - Flying on winged horse

THE AFFAIRS OF MESSALINA (1951) - Dance number; the end of Messalina

SON OF SPARTACUS - Randus captured



HERCULES AGAINST MOLOCH - Hercules walking up prison wall

THE SEVEN REVENGES - Deadly contest

* next to title indicates additional scenes from titles which already have one scene in the top 30


Anonymous said...

Great stuff! Thank you for this list.

Joe said...

This list is incredible! You've made a wish list for me, and I'm amazed how few of these 30 wonders I've seen.

Unknown said...

Where's Reg Park ??!!

PEPLUM TV said...

Reg is at no 12 and 16

NAninymous said...

My thanks for this list. Now, I know what to look for, and where.

Kevin C said...

As many have said “Thank You” for this list, which is really amazing! I just found the “Peplum” website and it’s fantastic. The amount of time spent researching, creating and updating the website is phenomenal! All the information is interesting and presented in great depth about this time in cinema history!