Zimmer's greatest specific triumph has to be the "battle theme" from the opening scene. It captures perfectly the conflicting aspects of civility and barbarism that were at the heart of the Roman empire: civilisation through brutal, bloody war. It is not necessary to understand how this is achieved in order to appreciate it; such is the beauty of its composition.
Lisa Gerrard is, simply put, one of the most talented vocalists in the world; able to convey deep, soul-felt emotion without use of words. If you have never experienced Dead Can Dance, do so as soon as possible. The sheer vocal ability of the woman is otherworldly. If you can watch the scene in which Maximus discovers the crucified bodies of his wife and son and feel nothing, you are, I am sorry to have to inform you, bereft of a soul.
Soundtracks are an under-appreciated area of music in many ways, and it was truly gratifying to see this win the Oscar for best original soundtrack. It was after Gladiator that I truly began to pay attention to the music in the background of everything I see and hear. It's definitely a worthwhile endeavour.
Gladiator is, in this blogger's humble opinion, one of the best movies ever made. It's full of historical inaccuracies as only Hollywood can provide, but taken as a fiction rather than a history, this is a weakness it easily escapes. One of its truly outstanding features is, without doubt, its award-winning soundtrack: a collaborative effort between composer Hans Zimmer and vocalist Lisa Gerrard.