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300 is a 2007 American Fantasy action Adventure film based on the 1998 comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. Both are fictionalized retellings of the Battle of Thermopylae. The film was directed by Zack Snyder, while Miller served as executive producer and consultant. It was filmed mostly with a super-imposition chroma key technique, to help replicate the imagery of the original comic book.
The plot revolves around King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), who leads 300 Spartans into battle against Persian "god-King" Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army of more than 300,000 soldiers. As the battle rages, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to rally support in Sparta for her husband. The story is framed by a voice-over narrative by the Spartan soldier Dilios (David Wenham). Through this narrative technique, various fantastical creatures are introduced, placing 300 within the genre of historical fantasy.
300 was released in both conventional and IMAX theaters in the United States on March 9, 2007, and on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and HD DVD on July 31, 2007. The film received mixed reviews, receiving acclaim for its original visuals and style, but criticism for favoring visuals over characterization and its controversial depiction of the ancient Persians; however, the film was a box office success, grossing over $450 million, with the film's opening being the 24th largest in box office history at the time, and it has since developed a cult following.
Dilios, a Spartan soldier, narrates the story of Leonidas from his boyhood to becoming a king of Sparta. Thirty years later, a Persian messenger arrives at the gates of Sparta, demanding the submission of Sparta to King Xerxes. In response to this demand, Leonidas kicks the messenger into a large well. Knowing this will prompt a Persian attack, Leonidas visits the Ephors—ancient leprosy-ridden priests whose blessing he needs before the Spartan council will authorize going to war. He proposes they repel the numerically superior Persians by using the terrain of Thermopylae (the Hot Gates) and funneling the Persians into a narrow pass between the rocks and the sea. The Ephors consult the Oracle, who decrees that Sparta must not go to war during their religious festival Carnea. As Leonidas departs, two agents of Xerxes appear—one of them, Theron, a Spartan—who bribe the Ephors with concubines and money.
Leonidas follows his plan anyway, setting out with only 300 soldiers, whom he calls his personal guards to avoid needing the council's permission. Though he regards the mission as certain suicide, he hopes the sacrifice will spur the council to unite against Persia. On the way to Thermopylae allied Greeks join the Spartans. At Thermopylae they construct a wall to contain the approaching Persians. As construction goes on, Leonidas meets Ephialtes, a hunchbacked Spartan in exile whose parents fled Sparta to spare him certain infanticide. Wanting to redeem his father's name, Ephialtes asks to join the fight; he warns Leonidas of a secret path the Persians could use to outflank and surround them. Though Leonidas sympathizes with Ephialtes's will to fight, he turns him down, as Ephialtes cannot properly hold a shield: this would compromise the Spartans' phalanx formation.
Before the battle, the Persian Captain demands that the Spartans lay down their weapons. Leonidas refuses, and the Spartans successfully repel the ensuing Persian assault, using their superior martial skills and the tightly-knit phalanx formation. Xerxes personally parleys with Leonidas, offering him wealth and power in exchange for his loyalty and surrender. Leonidas declines, and Xerxes sends his elite guard, the formidable Immortals, to attack, but the Spartans successfully dispatch them, suffering a few casualties of their own. Xerxes then sends a number of exotic weapons at the Spartans, including black powder bombs and war elephants, but all of these attacks fail. During these attacks, Astinos is killed, which drives his father Captain Artemis into a fit of rage.
Angered by Leonidas's rejection, Ephialtes defects to the Persians and informs them of the secret path. When they realize Ephialtes's treachery the allied Greeks retreat, and Leonidas orders Dilios to return to Sparta to tell the Council of their sacrifice. Though Dilios had recently injured his left eye in combat, he is still fit for battle, but Leonidas decides to use Dilios's gift for storytelling to appeal to the Spartan council. Though reluctant to leave his brothers behind, Dilios leaves with the allied Greeks.
In Sparta, Queen Gorgo, Leonidas' wife, agrees to a sexual encounter with Theron, before which he promises his help in persuading the Spartan council to send reinforcements to Leonidas. However, following her address to the Council, Theron publicly betrays the Queen by accusing her of adultery, prompting the councilmen to cry out in outrage and Gorgo to kill him in a fit of anger. The xiphos that Gorgo uses to kill Theron pierces his purse, spilling Persian coins from his robe, revealing his role as traitor, and the Council agrees to unite against Persia.
At Thermopylae, the Persians use the goat path to outflank the Spartans. Xerxes's general demands their surrender, again offering Leonidas titles and prestige. Leonidas seemingly bows in submission, allowing Stelios to leap over him and kill the general instead. Furious, Xerxes orders his troops to attack. Leonidas rises and hurls his spear at Xerxes, cutting the King on the cheek, thus fulfilling an earlier promise to "make the God-King bleed". Visibly disturbed by this reminder of his mortality, Xerxes watches as a massive barrage of arrows kills all the Spartans. Moments before his death, Leonidas pledges his undying love to Gorgo.
Concluding his tale before an audience of Spartans on the edge of the battlefield a year after Thermopylae, Dilios relates how the Persian army has suffered desertions, out of fear and the heavy casualties they suffered at the hands of a mere 300 Spartans. Word of their valiant resistance spreads across Greece, inspiring the different city-states to unite against the Persians. Now, the Persians face 10,000 Spartans and 30,000 free Greeks. Although still outnumbered three to one, Dilios declares that the Greeks shall be victorious and praises the sacrifice of the 300. He then leads the Greeks in a charge against the Persian army at the Battle of Plataea, the battle that would end Persia's invasion of Greece.
- Gerard Butler as King Leonidas, King of Sparta.
- Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo, Queen of Sparta (Gorgo has a larger role in the film than she does in the comic book, where she only appears in the beginning).
- Giovani Cimmino as Pleistarchus, son of Leonidas and Gorgo (Pleistarchus does not feature in the comic book).
- Dominic West as Theron, a fictional corrupt Spartan politician (Theron is not featured in the comic book).
- David Wenham as Dilios, narrator and Spartan soldier.
- Vincent Regan as Captain Artemis, Leonidas' loyal captain and friend.
- Tom Wisdom as Astinos, Captain Artemis' eldest son. In the film Astinos has a constant presence until he dies. In the comic book Astinos is only mentioned when he dies.
- Andrew Pleavin as Daxos, an Arcadian leader who joins forces with Leonidas.
- Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan outcast and traitor.
- Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes, God-King of Persia
- Stephen McHattie as The Loyalist, a loyal Spartan politician.
- Michael Fassbender as Stelios, a young, spirited and highly skilled Spartan soldier.
- Peter Mensah as a Persian messenger who tries to get Sparta to submit.
- Kelly Craig as Pythia, an Oracle to the Ephors.
- Tyler Neitzel as young Leonidas.
- Robert Maillet as Uber Immortal (giant), a muscular and deranged Immortal who battles Leonidas during the Immortal fight.
- Patrick Sabongui as the Persian General who tries to get Leonidas to comply at the end of the battle.
- Leon Laderach as Executioner, a hulking, clawed man who executes men who have displeased Xerxes.