Maximus (Russell Crowe) is a general in the roman army loved by Marcus Aurelius, the emperor. Marcus wants Maximus to become emperor after he dies as he thinks that his son Commodus is unfit to rule. When he tells Commodus this, Commodus murders him. When Maximus refuses to believe that Marcus died of natural causes, Commodus orders that Maximus and his family should be executed. However, Maximus escapes and returns home - too late to save his family. He collapses and is sold as a slave where his prowess as a gladiator gets noticed and eventually he fights his way through Africa to Rome, where he meets the emperor face to face. The emperor spares his life, then challenges Maximus to a fight in the arena. Maximus accepts and the two engage in a bloody battle. Maximus kills the emperor, reinstates the Senate as the governors of Rome and dies to be with his family in the afterlife.