Alexander (film)
Directed byOliver Stone
Produced byMoritz Borman
Thomas Schühly
Jon Kilik
Iain Smith
Written byOliver Stone
Christopher Kyle
Laeta Kalogridis (screenplay)
StarringColin Farrell
Angelina Jolie
Val Kilmer
Rosario Dawson
Jared Leto
Anthony Hopkins
Music byVangelis
CinematographyRodrigo Prieto
Edited byThomas J. Nordberg
Yann Hervé
Alex Márquez
Distributed byWarner Bros. (USA)
Intermedia (International)
Release dateNovember 24, 2004
Running time175 min (theatrical) / 167 min  (Director's Cut)
214 Min (Final Cut) NEW DVD Version
Budget$155 million USD

Alexander is a 2004 epic motion picture film, based on the life of Alexander the Great. The film was directed by Oliver Stone. According to Stone, the theatrical release is based on facts and historical events.

The film was controversial and critically-derided on its release, and failed at the American box office, grossing only $34 million domestically. It succeeded internationally, however, grossing a total of $167 million worldwide, with $133 million in overseas revenues. [1]

Plot summary

The film is based on the biography of "Alexander the Great of Macedonia." It gives a glimpse into some of the key moments of Alexander's youth, and his invasion of the mighty Persian Empire, until his tragic death. It also outlined his life experience during his youth, including his difficult relationship with his father Philip II of Macedonia, the unification of the Greek city-states under the League of Corinth, and the conquest of the Persian Empire in 331 BC as well as his new plans to reform his empire, and the attempts made to reach the end of the world.

The storyline begins in 356 BC with Ptolemy I Soter, who narrates the story throughout the film. In lavish sets and images Oliver Stone shows the daily life in court of his father Philip and portraying the crippling relationship between his parents.

File:Alexander The Great (Colin Farrell).jpg

Alexander The Great rides into battle at Gaugamela.

Alexander grows up together with his mother Olympias and his tutor Aristotle where he finds interest in love, honour, music, exploration, poetry and military combat. He also witnesses how his relationship with his father is destroyed and objects strenuously to his father's new marriage of Attalus' niece, Eurydice.

Thereafter Philip is assassinated and Alexander becomes king of Greece and Macedonia. After a brief mentioning of his punitive razing of Thebes and burning of Persepolis, Ptolemy gives an overview of Alexander's west Persian campaign, including his declaration to be the son of Zeus by the Oracle of Amun at Siwa Oasis, his great battle against the Persian Emperor Darius III in the Battle of Gaugamela, and his eight year campaign at Hydaspes against Porus in India (now Pakistan), both of which are shown in the film.

The plot also illustrates Alexander's private relationship with his childhood friend, and lover, Hephaistion, and later his wife Roxana until his death.

Director's cut

Oliver Stone's director's cut was re-edited before the DVD release in later 2005. Stone removed 17 minutes of footage, and added 9 minutes back into the film. This shortened the running time from 175 minutes to 167 minutes.

The differences between the "director's cut" version and the theatrical version are:

  • Dates in the flashbacks and flashforwards use normal historical figures such as 323 BC and 356 BC, as opposed to referring to time lapses, i.e. "30 years earlier". In the commentary, Oliver Stone explained that for the theatrical release in the United States he had to refrain from using regular "BC" dates, since (according to data collected from test screenings) there was a significant number of viewers who did not know 356 BC was an earlier historical period than 323 BC
  • Ptolemy's backstory at the beginning is shortened.
File:Film alexander.jpg

Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela.

  • The two flashbacks with the arrival of Eurydice to the court and the wedding feast are shifted into the eastern campaign, enveloping the trial of Philotas and assassination of Parmenion.
  • The scene with Aristotle (Christopher Plummer) giving a lesson to young Alexander and his friends has been re-edited and extended by a few seconds.
  • Ptolemy's narration leading to the Battle of Gaugamela has no reference to the razing of Thebes and burning of Persepolis. He mentions the official Macedonian accusation, that Darius assisted the assassination of Philip (in both versions, it is also mentioned when Alexander rallies the troops), and the proclamation by the Oracle of Amun is moved to later part of the narration.
  • There is no scene of the night before the Battle of Gaugamela, and the omen reader looking into the intestine of the ox-sacrifice before the Battle.
  • Directly after Alexander mourning the dead after the Battle of Gaugamela, there is an additional flashback with Philip explaining the Titans to Alexander.
  • In the theatrical, during Roxana's dance, Perdiccas can be seen breaking up a fight between Hephaistion and Cleitus, removed in the Cut.
  • The bedroom scene has been shortened. Roxana's attempt to kill Alexander (after her discovery of his relationship with Hephaistion) was cut. More explicit footage of Alexander and Roxana having sex has also been added.
  • When Alexander stumbles across the Page's Plot, the Cut features a scenelet in which Perdiccas goes to arrest Hermolaus, who falls on his sword with the words, "death to all tyrants."
  • There is no narrative explanation by Ptolemy during the trial of Philotas.
  • There is no scene of Alexander mourning Cleitus.
  • The flashback of Alexander questioning Olympias is not immediately after the flashback of Philip's assassination, but moved after Alexander being badly wounded in the Battle of Hydaspes.
  • The scene of Roxana being prevented from entering Alexander's tent by Hephaistion has been removed. This was the last remnant of a Roxana/Cassander subplot that was filmed, but not included.
  • Between the scene where Alexander smashes the "rebellion" within the ranks and the final battle, there is an additional scene where Alexander reads a letter from Aristotle, with Christopher Plummer featured in the scene dictating the letter to an unseen scribe.
  • Ptolemy's narration of the march through the Gedrosian desert additionally mentions the helplessness of Alexander watching his broken army die due to natural causes and harsh conditions in the desert, and he does not mention either Alexander's new marriages in his final years, or that the march across the Gedrosian desert was the "worst blunder of his life." The scene of the army returning to Babylon is also shortened.
  • The scene of Olympias receiving the omen of Alexander's death is shortened.

Production details


  • Library of Alexandria – Shepperton Studios, London, England
  • Pella/Babylon/Indian palaces and myths cave – Pinewood Studios, London, England
  • Alexandria (effect back plate) – Malta
  • Temple of Pallas Athena, Mieza and Macedonian horse market – Essaouira, Morocco
  • Gaugamela – desert near Marrakech, Morocco
  • Babylon gates – Marrakech, Morocco
  • Bactrian fortress – Lower Atlas Mountains, Morocco
  • Hindu Kush (effect back plate) – Himalayas, India
  • Macedonian amphitheater – Morocco
  • Hyphasis – Mekong, northeastern Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand.
  • Hydaspes – Central Botanical Garden, Amphoe Mueang, Saraburi Province, Thailand

Box Office totals

  • Budget - US$ 155,000,000.00
  • Total Domestic Grosses - US$ 34,297,191.00
  • Total Overseas Grosses - US$ 133,001,001.00
  • Total Worldwide Grosses - US$ 167,298,192.00

Film trivia

In the first scenes with Ptolemy, Anthony Hopkins exchanges a look with a person with a similar beard, played by Elliot Cowan. Contrary to belief and implication, this is not a glimpse of Ptolemy's life after the campaign, but his son, Ptolemy II.

There were two character subplots removed in the editing room: A Cassander/Roxana subplot which explained their fall from grace in Alexander's eyes (cut for time), and a Hephaistion vs. Cleitus subplot (apparently thought too intense/complicated to include). Both subplots were completely filmed, and may appear in the extended version (see below).

The film was based mostly on the book "Alexander the Great," which was written by historian Robin Lane Fox in the 1970s. He gave up his screen credit in return for being allowed to take part in the epic cavalry charge during the film's recreation of the battle of Gaugamela.

In the scene where Alexander and Roxanna have sex (Director's Cut), there is a continuity error. At first Alexander is wearing shorts, they are clearly visible even when the two are lying in the missionary position. However, in the next shot, the shorts are missing and they are engaging in full sexual intercourse. They are obviously missing as Alexander's buttocks are visible.


General controversy

Even prior to its release, there was controversy about the film's depiction of ancient Greek sexual mores. A group of 25 Greek lawyers initially threatened to file a lawsuit against both Stone and the Warner Bros. film studio for what they claimed was an inaccurate portrayal of history. Yannis Varnakos stated that "We are not saying that we are against bisexuals or homosexuals, but we are saying that the production company should make it clear to the audience that this film is pure fiction and not a true depiction of the life of Alexander". After an advanced screening of the film, the lawyers announced that they would not pursue such a course of action [1].

At the British premiere of the film, Stone blamed "raging fundamentalism in morality" for the film's US box office failure [2]. He argued that American critics and audiences had blown the issue of sexuality out of proportion [3].

The criticism prompted Stone to make significant changes to the film for its DVD release. Stone removed eight minutes, cutting back his portrayal of homosexuality and adding new shots, like at the opening scene of Alexander dying. The DVD cover characterizes the changes as making the film "paced, more action packed".

Criticism by historians

With its attention to historical detail, "Alexander" also attracted critical scrutiny from historians. However, it often had a quite opposite tendency than that has been voiced by general film critiques. Most academic criticism was concerned with the insufficient adherence to historical details.

Other major controversies came from Iranian (Persian) historians, who were upset by the film's renderings of Persians and Macedonians alike. Kaveh Farrokh, an expert of Persian history, says the portrayals of Persians and Macedonians in the film are inaccurate. As an example, in the movie, Alexander the Great and his troops supposedly defeated the Persian army in a single battle, where Farrokh points out that historical facts show that Alexander had to fight several fierce battles against a large Persian Army, before he was even able to defeat Darius III, creating heavy doubts in regards to the movies accuracy. Farrokh also stated that the "Macedonian forces are typically shown very organized, disciplined, and so on, and what's very disturbing is when the so-called Persians are shown confronting the Macedonians, their armies are totally disorganized. What is not known is that the Persians actually had uniforms. They marched in discipline, and music was actually used such as trumpets and so on, to allow them to march in disciplined rank". Farrokh also criticized the portrayal of Alexander with blonde hair and blue eyes, pointing out that the real Alexander had dark hair and dark eyes.[2]

In addition to what some critics perceived as the movie's "down-playing of the Persians", King Darius is shown fleeing the Gaugamela battle and abandoning his troops when approached by Alexander, where historians have pointed out from contemporary Babylonian accounts that Darius was trying to rally his army but was abandoned by his troops.[3]

Criticism by film critics

The principal complaint among U.S. film critics was that "Alexander" resembled a history documentary, more than an action-drama film. The kindest criticism came from Daily Variety Magazine, published on November 21, 2004 where Todd McCarthy wrote that "Oliver Stone's 'Alexander' is at an honorable failure, an intelligent and ambitious picture that crucially lacks dramatic flair and emotional involvement. Dry and academic where Troy was vulgar and willfully a historical success." Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times that "Alexander" "brought out the best of the worst in terms of inaccurate storytelling that lacks planning."

Extended version -- "Alexander Revisited"

Stone also made an extended version of "Alexander". In an interview with, Stone stated that "I'm doing a third version on DVD, not theatrical. I'm going to do a Cecile B Demille three hour forty five minute thing, I'm going to go all out, put everything I like in the movie. He was a complicated man, it was a complicated story and it doesn't hurt to make it longer and let people who loved the film and see it more and understand it more."

The extended version of the film was released under the title of Alexander Revisited: The Final Unrated Cut on February 27, 2007. The two-disc set featured a new introduction by Stone. Says Stone, "Over the last two years I have been able to sort out some of the unanswered questions about this highly complicated and passionate monarch -- questions I failed to answer dramatically enough. This film represents my complete and last version, as it will contain all the essential footage we shot. I don't know how many filmmakers have managed to make three versions of the same film, but I have been fortunate to have the opportunity because of the success of video and DVD sales in the world, and I felt if I didn't do it now, with the energy and memory I still have for the subject, it would never quite be the same again. For me, this is the complete Alexander, the clearest interpretation I can offer.'"[4]

The film is restructured into three acts ("Seeds of the Man", "Introspection", and "Revolution") with an intermission. Alexander: Revisited takes a bolder, more in-depth look at Alexander's life and his relationships with his mother, Olympias, his father Philip, his lifelong friend and battle commander Hephaistion, Roxane, his ambitious and beautiful Bactrian wife, and his trusted general and confidant Ptolemy. The new film intensifies the beauty and unbelievable brutality of Alexander's pre-Christian world of social customs and morals so different from today's.

The film has a running time of 3 hours, 34 mins (214 minutes) and is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio. Beyond the new introduction with director Oliver Stone there are no other confirmed extras, except for a free coupon to the movie 300.[5]


Actor Role
Colin Farrell Alexander The Great
Angelina Jolie Olympias
Val Kilmer Philip II of Macedonia
Jared Leto Hephaistion
Raz Degan Darius III of Persia
Erol Sander Pharnakes
Tsouli Mohammed Bessus
Annelise Hesme Stateira
Rosario Dawson Roxana
Connor Paolo Young Alexander
Gary Stretch Clitus
Christopher Plummer Aristotle
Anthony Hopkins Ptolemy I Soter
Robert Earley Young Ptolemy I Soter
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers Cassander
Rory McCann Craterus
Francisco Bosch Bagoas
John Kavanagh Parmenion
Joseph Morgan Philotas
Ian Beattie Antigonus
Neil Jackson Perdiccas
Denis Conway Nearchus
Marie Meyer Eurydice
Nick Dunning Attalus
Bin Bunluerit Porus
Alif Shinobi Indian Servant
Jaran Ngamdee Indian Prince
Patrick Carroll Young Hephaistion


Main article: Alexander (album)

See also

  • Alexander (game)
  • Epic film


External links

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