Freedom, Valor, Honor. These three things define the Spartans, any Spartan would gladly give his life for anyone of these three qualities. According to legend, this is what happened at Thermopylae. I won't give the battle completely away as the history behind the legend is basically the plot of the movie. However, a brief synopisis can be given thus; in 480 BC, or there abouts, Persian armies, thinking themselves immortal wished to bring Sparta under their tyrantial rule thus enslaving Sparta's people and forcing Sparta's king, Leonidas to bow to Xerxes. Not happening, Leonidas basically throws it into Xerxes' face.
Now, set aside for a moment the fact the movie was based on a Frank Miller graphic novel and the fact that it came from the makers of Sin City. Also set aside the fact the violence made We Were Soldiers and Saving Private Ryan look like a walk in the park and the gratuitous sex was completely unnecessary. Setting aside all those issues, the movie was worth seeing because it deals with a number of different issues and the rhetoric within the film is outstanding.
The first issue to approach the viewer in the movie is the issue of the status of women. It become obvious from the beginning that Leonidas loves his queen very much, and values her opinion equally as much regardless of the opinions of others. This comes particularly in two scenes. One in which the king throws the messengers of king Xexeres into a pit for insulting his queen and threatening to enslave Sparta. The other scene is toward the end of the movie, unfortunately I cannot give this portion away as I will be revealing part of the plot.
A second issue that is dealt with is the issue of deformed humans. In Sparta a deformed baby would have been discarded as they would likely not be fit to fight. At one point a deformed man whose parents couldn't stand to see him discarded. This man is severely deformend and Leonidas is kind and compassionate to him, but does not give what he wants telling him that a weak leak within the system will destroy the whole system. Unfortunately the deformed man does not take it very well.
The third issues are actually four fold, honor, glory, victory, and freedom. As metnioned the movie is placed in a must see category simply for it's rhetoric on freedom. What is freedom? Why are we free? What does it mean to be free? These are all questions asked within the film. Perhaps these are questions we should be asking ourselves today. "The price of freedom is very high, it is the price of blood." - Queen of Sparta.