This is one of the absolute best films I have ever seen in my life. Superb script, superb directing, superb casting, superb acting, superb editing, superb music, superb costumes and sets, superb battle scenes, and last but not least, superb stunts. Everything comes together in a wonderful whole. I can watch it over and over again, and so far, have never tired of it.
Of course, it is pure fiction as far as history is concerned, but who cares? The plot and characters weave together in an enthralling storyline, and even though I am a bit of a history buff, I really didn't care if Commodus didn't actually murder his father - Marcus Aurelius died in his bed and he did name Commodus as his successor, - and he didn't have any intention of re-instating a Roman Republic, and Lusilla wasn't really the lovely woman portrayed by Connie Nielsen, but actually more realistically resembled Cruella Deville, from all accounts I've read.
(There might have been an interesting added dimension if, instead of praying to his little wooden idols, Maximus was a secret Christian, as were many thousands by 180 AD, including a small number in the Roman army. (In fact the first gentile convert was a Roman Centurion named Cornelius.) It would have added an extra tension, as he most certainly would have had to keep it a secret, plus his belief that he would see his beloved family in the "afterlife" would have been more credible.)
Nonetheless, to me, it is one of those rare movies where all the pieces come together beautifully, and is thoroughly satisfying from start to finish. Like "Braveheart" and "We Were Soldiers", two other movies that remain perennial favourites with me.
If I could, I would give it 10 stars.