In the final days of Marcus Aurelius' reign, the aging emperor angers his son Commodus by
making it known that he wants Maximus, a fearsome and respected Roman general, to be his
successor. Power-hungry Commodus kills his father and orders the death of Maximus. But the
latter flees, only to discover that his wife and child have been murdered by Commodus.
Captured, Maximus is forced into slavery, where he is sold to Proximo, a former gladiator who
serves as both mentor and slavemaster. Maximus trains as a gladiator in the arena, where his
fame grows. He goes to Rome, intent on avenging the murder of his wife and son by killing the
new emperor Commodus. Maximus has learned that the one power stronger than that of the
emperor is the will of the people, and he knows he can only attain his revenge by becoming the
greatest hero in all the empire.