Mayan Civilisation in Movies

History – there is a lot of it. Movies have been delving into every little corner and cranny of humanity’s past of awesome stories, unforgettable locations and memorable characters. From the dawn of Man as seen in flicks like Quest for Fire and the 10.000 BC to less hairy, more civilised empires like Caesar’s Rome and Ghengis Khan’s Mongolia, the human race has been attempting with unfeasible hubris to leave the mark on the scroll of history for millennia.

The culture of the pre-Columbian Maya is a fascinating topic. The ancient Central American civilisation flourished from about 200 and 900 BC, built enormous cities, and was famous for sophisticated mathematical and astrological systems, especially their calendar. Unfortunately, none of the abovementioned features were included into Mel Gibson’s movie, which seems satisfied to use the Maya as an excuse to follow up biblical bloody movie The Passion of the Christ, with an even more elaborately staged blood bath.

Many civilisations have been put on the big silverscreen. Nevertheless, one of the most controversial ancient civilisation movie is Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.

The ancient Mayan civilisations don’t get nearly enough play. Dominating southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, the Mayans are the oldest civilisation to have a recorded language, and constructed awesome large-scale monuments and cities, replete with amazing observatories and temples.


In Mel Gibson’s all Mayan hist epic Apocalypto, we learn the story of young warrior Jaguar Paw as he flees from a raiding tribe or rival warriors. Taking place in the post-Classic period of the Mayan Empire, when the civilisation was in decline, Jaguar Paw’s village is attacked by raiders led by Zero Wolf, who enslave the villagers and take them back to the city, where they are to be sacrificed to the sun god Kukulkan.

Naturally, the hero of the movie escapes and leads his pursuers on a chase through ancient Maya, rife with famine, corruption and blood, before both the hunter and the hunted are stopped in their tracks by the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores, who would change Central American history forever.

Opinions on the movie are both pro and con. Some people say that it is a masterpiece, others that it is a cruel and unrealistic depiction of the Maya civilisation. In the end, none of can really know hoe they really were.