The film opens with the inspection of Leonidas as a baby, followed by his admission into the Agoge at age 7. His trials in the Agoge are briefly touched on, showcasing him brawling with other Spartan boys and by age 15 is left out in the wilderness alone. It is alluded to that the rest of Sparta presumes him to be dead. It is at this point he's confronted by a large wolf and fearlessly defeats it. He returns to Sparta, claiming his kingship in the process. Years later, Sparta is approached by an emissary and his guards who warns of the impending defeat of Sparta by Xerxes and his Persian army. Leonidas, now grown and married with a young boy, defies Xerxes by killing the emissarys body guards and casting them all in addition to the emissary into a bottomless pit. Leonidas then seeks the approval of the Ephors, prophets to the ancient Greek gods, to lead the Spartan army to war against Persia. The Ephors consult their oracle and deny Leonidas permission to go to war, claiming that they must honor a sacred religious festival, else Sparta will fall. Leonidas suspects the Ephors motives, and bitterly returns home to his wife. It is soon revealed that the Ephors are being bribed by Xerxes with gold in order to withhold Sparta from fully partaking in the war.
Distraught, Leonidas laments to his wife his predicament, she wisely inquires "ask yourself, what would a free man do?" The next day, Leonidas has gathered with 300 of his finest soldiers and intend to set out to the Hot Gates (Thermopylae). Although the council has withheld permission to go to war because of the Ephors, they cannot deny Leonidas his right to travel with a personal bodyguard. The councilman know full-well his true intentions, but cannot legally stop him according to Sparta's laws.
While Leonidas embarks on his journey with the 299 other soldiers to the Hot Gates, Gorgo remains behind in Sparta in hopes of rallying the support of the council to send the rest of the Spartan army to his aid. Along the way, Leonidas is happy to cross paths with a small contingent of Arcadian soldiers whom had received word of the Spartans heading to war with Persia and sought to join forces. Leonidas welcomed the Arcadians, in spite of their lack of training compared to he and his Spartans. They eventually arrive at the Hot Gates in time to witness a powerful storm eradicate many Persian ships. However the Spartans are shocked and confused to still see so many ships landing on the beach nearby the next morning after the storm has subsided. The Spartans devise a plan to rebuild the Great Phoecian Wall in order to guard their flank, and result in using the bodies of slain Persian spies as the morter for the large rocks they put in place—to the horror and anger of another Persian emissary.
The Spartan's actions further instigate the battle, and soon Xerxes first volley of troops attack, with the Spartans tearing through them with ease. That night, Xerxes counters by sending his widely known and feared "Immortals"—the elite of his military. They too are slain with relative ease, though a handful of Spartans are killed in the process. Impressed with their strength, Xerxes seeks to meet with Leonidas in person. He attempts to bribe Leonidas, offering him the status of ruler over Greece in his stead. Leonidas refuses, knowing that subservience to Xerxes is in essence slavery.
Xerxes becomes more and more angry with the Spartans boldness and defiance, but mostly their skill. Wave after wave of soldiers from the farthest reaches of the Persian empire crash down on the Spartans but they break through the Persian lines time and again. Strange beasts are sent after them but are dispatched just as quickly.
Even still, the Spartan forces are whittled down little by little. One particularly harrowing death was the death of Captain Artemis' son Astinos at the hands of a calvary rider. The Spartan's morale was slightly shaken following his death, but they continued to fight nonetheless.
Their fate was sealed when they were betrayed by Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan child whos parents fled Sparta to avoid the law of infantcide. Ephialtes approached Leonidas in hopes of joining the Spartan ranks in the fight against Persia and regaining his fathers honor. Leonidas was forced to decline Ephialtes offer due to the fact that he could not sufficiently raise his shield and thus posed a major threat to the back bone of the Spartans defense: the phalanx. Embittered and disgruntled, Ephialtes eventually approached Xerxes and informed him of a small goat path that led behind the Spartans. The next morning Xerxes dispatched the rest of his Immortals and he himself came to the battlefield. He offered the Spartans one last chance to surrender, Leonidas appeared to accept the offer, dropping his shield and spear and kneeling before Xerxes. It was all a premeditated plan however, as Leonidas called out for Stelios who emerged from within the Phalanx and catapulted himself off of Leonidas' back, thrusting his spear into Xerxes' general and killing him. Xerxes belligerently ordered the slaughter of the Spartans and the thousands of archers, infantry and Immortals laid waste to the remaining Spartans, but not before Leonidas managed to hurl his spear at Xerxes, clipping the side of his face and thus Leonidas made good on a promise he made to Xerxes earlier in the film to "make a god-king bleed".
Dilios, whom had been sent home by Leonidas prior to the final battle in order to tell their story, stands before the council speaking inspiring words regarding Leonidas and the other 298 Spartan's sacrifice. The film concludes with Dilios leading 10,000 Spartan soldiers and 30,000 other Greek soldiers against the remaining Persian forces at the battle of Plataea.
- 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 is not featured 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.
- Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes, 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 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 with whom Xerxes is displeased.
The film was directed by Zack Snyder, having formerly directed such films as Dawn of the Dead. Snyder recruited the film composer he used for Dawn of the Dead, Tyler Bates. The film was distributed by Warner Brothers Studios.
Historical Notes & SignificancesEdit
- Although gold is already an enticing commodity, it must have been an irresistible temptation for the already corrupt Ephors. Spartan society forbade citizens from using gold and silver, their primary currency consisted of iron bars . This method attempted to discourage theft and trade with foreign city-states and nations.
- Zack Snyder has been open with the fact that he was intending to take a more artistic approach than a historically accurate one. Scholars have debated the actual numbers of each opposing force for some time, Herodotus wrote that the Persians numbers were roughly 2 million, while modern historians argue that a more accurate count may have been 100,000 - 250,000. While the Arcadians aren't specifically mentioned in his writings, it is said that 700 Thespians fought with the 300 Spartans.