- Directors: Stanley Kubrick
- Producers: Kirk Douglas
- Writers: Howard Fast, Dalton Trumbo
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, Romance
- Actors: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis
The film begins with slaves working in the Roman province of Libya. Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), a burly Thracian, comes to the aid of an old man who has fallen down. A Roman soldier whips Spartacus and tells him to get back to work, only to be attacked and bitten on the ankle. For this, Spartacus is tied up and sentenced to death by starvation. Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), a lanista (an impresario of gladiatorial games), arrives looking for recruits for his gladiatorial establishment. He inspects several slaves before finally settling on Spartacus, recognizing his unbroken spirit, along with his good health and physical condition. Batiatus purchases Spartacus and several others, then sails for Capua where his gladiatorial training camp is located. The trainer, Marcellus (Charles McGraw), immediately tries to provoke Spartacus into giving the trainer a reason to kill the Thracian as an example. Spartacus also befriends another gladiator, Crixus (John Ireland).
After several scenes showing gladiator training and life at the school, Crassus (Laurence Olivier) arrives with some companions, wishing to be entertained by watching two pairs of gladiators fight to the death. Spartacus is selected along with Crixus, an Ethiopian named Draba (Woody Strode), and another gladiator named Galino. During the first fight, Crixus and Galino are the first to fight, in which Crixus slays Galino. Next, Spartacus duels Draba and is defeated. Draba, however refuses to kill him, instead throwing his trident into the elevated spectators’ box and leaping to attack the Romans. Crassus quickly dispatches the slave and prepares to depart. As he leaves, he purchases the pretty slave woman from Britiannia, Varinia (Jean Simmons), whom Batiatus has assigned to Spartacus. Spartacus and Varinia have fallen in love, and in frustration at his loss and the overseer’s callous treatment, Spartacus begins a successful uprising. The gladiators eventually take Capua and all the surrounding districts. Many local slaves flock to the insurgents. Spartacus outlines his plan to escape by sea, aboard the ships of the Cilician pirates, who he plans to pay from the slaves’ plunder.
Batiatus and Varinia leave for Gaul via the Appian Way and find Spartacus hanging on the last cross by the road, not quite dead. Varinia shows Spartacus their newborn son, vowing that he will grow up a free man, promises to tell her son, “Who his father was, and what he dreamed of,” and bids Spartacus a final farewell. With one last breath, Spartacus’s head slumps back, and Varinia gets back onto the wagon and rides on.