At first glance Immortals, which opens in theaters this weekend, seems to share more DNA with movies like 300 and The Cell than classic Greek mythology, but the visually dazzling fantasy adventure is loosely based on the Greek myths of Theseus and the Minotaur and Titanomachy. Future Superman Henry Cavill is in shirt-free shape to play Theseus, a man chosen by Zeus (Luke Evans) to protect his homeland from the tyrannical King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). Hyperion searches for the magical Epirus Bow, a legendary weapon created by the god of war, Ares, which will allow the king to free the imprisoned Titans so they may take revenge on the gods of Olympus.
Hollywood has played fast and loose with Greek mythology for years because, well, they can. No one alive today worships the Greek gods of ancient times, so you won't have a pack of believers picketing your theater for a controversial depiction of a Greek deity like Martin Scorsese endured when he explored Jesus's humanity in The Last Temptation of Christ. The stories of the Olympians read like ancient soap operas—the gods were always sneaking out to spill their seed on unsuspecting human females who birthed demigod heroes—and Hollywood has taken a lot of liberties with their already outrageous tales, all of which are available on DVD and/or Blu-ray.
Kirk Douglas plays the titular hero in 1955's Ulysses, which is based on Homer's poem Odyssey and co-stars Silvana Mangano in the dual roles of Ulysses's wife, Penelope, and the sorceress Circe. Being one of the more popular Greek tales and considering how filmmakers have remade everything from Psycho to Spider-man, it's a little surprising someone hasn't exploited the Odyssey again on the big screen.
Psychology majors will have a field day with 1968's Oedipus the King, which is based on the tale of Oedipus, the son of the king and queen of Thebes. Oedipus (Christopher Plummer) is abandoned by his parents because of a prophecy that says he will marry his mother and kill his father, which of course he does, thus giving Sigmund Freud fuel for his Oedipus complex theory.
After Oedipus the King, Hollywood stopped treating Greek mythology so reverently and moved from dramatic re-creations to fantasy adventures and flat-out absurdity, like 1969's Hercules in New York. This film starred a 22-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first role as the titular character who is sent by his father, Zeus, to interact with New Yorkers with a dubbed voice because Ahnuld's Austrian accent was too thick. Disney's animated Hercules in 1997 featured plenty of Greek characters, most memorably James Woods as Hades.
The 1981 Clash of the Titans was fairly faithful to the adventures of Perseus and featured some legendary stop-motion animation, including the snakes on the head of Medusa. The movie was remade more recently with Sam Worthington as Perseus and Liam Neeson as Zeus, but the shoddy post-production 3D and slick CGI couldn't capture the original's goofy charm. Still, it's pretty impressive when they "release the Kraken." Lots of liberties are also taken by Wolfgang Petersen in 2004's Troy, which is loosely adapted from Homer's Iliad. Brad Pitt and his golden locks star as Achilles and Orlando Bloom is onboard as Paris, but there are no gods in the cast.
A Parthenon full of Greek gods get all mythological on-screen in the Harry Potter-esque Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, including Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Athena, Persephone, Hermes, Hera, Demeter, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Ares and Dionysus. The teen adventure also contains mythical creatures such as Medusa (Uma Thurman), a centaur (Pierce Brosnan), a Fury, a Lotus Eater and a ferryman on the River Styx.