A Drinking Game for Classics-Themed Film

If you have ever studied ancient history or Greek myth, then you know that both are melodramatic, violent, and raunchy AF. Roman political history during the civil wars of the 40s and 30s BCE reads like a damn soap opera. The Iliad and the Odyssey have sex and violence out the wazoo. These stories were practically made for the big screen, and yet often when Hollywood decides to adapt one, it ends up being a letdown. The true bravery and selflessness of the Spartans and helots who sacrificed themselves to prevent Persia from annexing Greece is reduced to weird, growling, CGI bodybuilders in 300. The masterful storytelling and real emotion of the Iliad is rendered laughable in Troy. Disney, in a bid for family values I guess, calls Hercules “the only son of Zeus’s”—the biggest lie ever told.

I’m not saying all movie versions of ancient history and myth deserve heavy criticism. I, Claudius (based on the historical novel by Robert Graves) is both mostly historically accurate and gloriously melodramatic, and I have watched the whole miniseries multiple times. Despite some questionable historical leaps and a sanitized version of Hypatia’s murder, Agora showcases the life of a brilliant Neoplatonist philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer who bucks gendered expectations of women in antiquity. Troy: Fall of a City exceeded all my wildest hopes of myth movies and miniseries. Even the adaptations that take more liberties, like the 2014 Hercules with The Rock, can be really fun to get immersed in because they fit an original storyline within the existing structures of the ancient version of the myth. Myths were never static, after all. But they also generally were not poorly written, and unfortunately, for every Troy: Fall of a City we get, we also get a Minotaur, or the disgraceful 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans. (I will forever stan the 1981 version. Do not come at me.)

From Cleopatra to Centurion, from Gladiator to Troy, from Spartacus to Life of Brian, certain tropes always insinuate themselves into film depictions of classical myth and history. It’s easy to raise an eyebrow at these ridiculous assumptions, misconceptions, and Hollywood rewrites—why do movie directors think everyone was smokin’ hot in antiquity? Don’t they know that there were no vaccines and malnutrition was rampant??—but it’s more fun to raise your glass! So without further ado, I present the drinking game that will fit any Classics-themed movie you can find. Cheers!

Take a SHOT if:

  • John Hurt is a cast member

Take ONE drink when:

  • A woman shows up scantily clad or naked for no apparent reason
  • The main woman character is a warrior and “not like other girls”
  • A hero’s dramatic or unusual birth story is told
  • The hero doesn’t know/doesn’t believe he’s the son of a god

Take TWO drinks when:

  • A mythical CGI monster shows up (bonus drink if it’s there to eat the scantily clad woman)
  • A character’s name comes from Greco-Roman myth or history, but the character is nothing at all like the historical/mythical person with that name (e.g., Io in the 2010 Clash of the Titans. I will never get over this.)
  • A council of gods debates the fate of a human (bonus drink if they’re debating the fate of a whole city or all humanity)
  • A badass woman, who is technically the main character, is somewhat overshadowed by men’s drama

FINISH your drink when:

  • The hero gives an impassioned pre-battle pep speech
  • The gladiator life is massively romanticized
  • Homoerotic relationships are passed off as just regular friendship or brotherly love (e.g., Brad Pitt’s Achilles saying “This is Patroclus, my cousin.” I will never get over this, either.)
  • The only actor of color is the hero’s helpful sidekick