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Quo Vadis (1951)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama, History | 25 December 1951 (USA)
1:47 | Trailer
Fierce Roman commander Marcus Vinicius becomes infatuated with beautiful Christian hostage Lygia and begins questioning the tyrannical leadership of the despot Emperor Nero.


Mervyn LeRoy, Anthony Mann (uncredited)


John Lee Mahin (screen play), S.N. Behrman (screen play) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Taylor ... Marcus Vinicius
Deborah Kerr ... Lygia
Leo Genn ... Petronius
Peter Ustinov ... Nero
Patricia Laffan ... Poppaea
Finlay Currie ... Peter
Abraham Sofaer ... Paul
Marina Berti ... Eunice
Buddy Baer ... Ursus
Felix Aylmer ... Plautius
Nora Swinburne ... Pomponia
Ralph Truman Ralph Truman ... Tigellinus
Norman Wooland ... Nerva
Peter Miles ... Nazarius
Geoffrey Dunn Geoffrey Dunn ... Terpnos


Returning to Rome after three years in the field, General Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) meets Lygia (Deborah Kerr) and falls in love with her, though as a Christian, she wants nothing to do with a warrior. Though she grew up Roman, the adopted daughter of a retired General, Lygia is technically a hostage of Rome. Marcus gets Emperor Nero (Sir Peter Ustinov) to give her to him for services rendered, but finds himself succumbing gradually to her Christian faith. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Greatest Spectacle Ever Filmed...Three Triumphant Hours of Unforgettable Thrills! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Petronius is credited with writing the satirical "Satyricon". See more »


Whilst it is true that variants of chess have existed for over 2,000 years, the chess set being used in the film is far too modern. The set shown uses what are apparently modern pieces, which didn't exist until the few centuries before the film's release. See more »


Poppaea: [as Marcus enters] As usual your entrance is proud and aloof.
Vinicius: I came proudly as fast as my hands and knees will carry me.
Poppaea: And as always, sardonic and unassailable.
Vinicius: So happily, so unassailable? I've never been so readily expertly vanquished in my life.
Poppaea: I believe everything except the word vanquished.
Poppaea: [Suggestively while taking wine] I should like to vanquish you Marcus.
Vinicius: Like the spider who eats her mate when he is no longer a necessity?
Poppaea: [Suggestively] Mmm-Hmmm - Something like that.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD release restores the original overture and exit music, which, up until that point, was only heard in the original roadshow release and in the 1964 roadshow re-release. See more »

User Reviews

You will be worthy of the spectacle - as the spectacle is worthy of you.
13 June 2010 | by hitchcockthelegendSee all my reviews

General Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) returns to Rome after battle and falls in love with Lygia (Deborah Kerr), an adopted daughter of a fellow general, but effectively a hostage and considered a no no. When she is presented to him as a gift, things are further compounded by the fact that she is in secret a Christian. Enter Emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov) who orders that all Christians must be thrown to the lions, leaving Marcus with no option but to deny his Pretorian ways and to try and save Lygia and her family. Rome, will never be the same again.

A big, bold and lavish historical epic out of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that's directed by Mervyn LeRoy, shot in glorious Technicolor by Robert Surtees & William V. Skall and is scored by Miklós Rózsa. Joining the big hitters in the cast are Leo Genn, Finlay Currie, Felix Aylmer & Abraham Sofaer. While the adaptation of Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel is written by S. N. Behrman, Sonya Levien & John Lee Mahin. There's no denying that Quo Vadis, meaning "where are you going" and appertaining to the encounter between St Peter and Jesus Christ on the Appian Way, is a technical spectacle. It's also tough going for its over talky melodramatics during the first 90 minutes, but you just have to stay with it, once you are in, you are in for the long haul. A whole afternoon in my case!

For its time, this was the bigger than than biggest, a studios dream, the cast of thousands, the sets, the costumes and the gazillion speaking parts that make up the story. It's also a point where the historical epic became more than just entertainment and a reason to make money. No doubt about it, Quo Vadis is very pro Christian, it has something to say, even if ultimately it takes a long time to say it and is historically dubious. There's thought and intelligence within, with that, it pays to pay attention and sample the dialogue whilst feasting your eyes on the magnificence that surrounds the characters. Once the worthwhile action kicks in, it's no let down, the fights in the Coliseum, the burning of Rome (we can thank the great Anthony Mann for that one) and the dramatic climax, all make the time spent leading up to them more than worth it. The cast are mostly agreeable, Kerr is gorgeous as ever and Taylor is, ahem, straight as ever, while Ustinov goes full tilt campy loony. Genn steals the movie as Petronius while Patricia Laffan as Poppaea Sabina gives one of the most sensually minx like portrayals given in an historical epic.

Some may find the religiose aspects over bearing, but the spectacle does win out. Looking as gorgeous as ever now after being remastered, Quo Vadis is a must see for like minded historical epic fans. It's some way down the pecking order of the genre greats, but still a must see movie regardless. 7/10

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Release Date:

25 December 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Qvo Vadis See more »


Box Office


$7,623,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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