Joaquin Phoenix in Napoleon (2023)

Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ re-creates famed Czech Battle of Austerlitz

The trailer for Ridley Scott‘s highly-anticipated Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the famed French military leader, has just been released. History buffs will be able to recognize some of the famous battles that the film re-creates, and one of them occurs on what is now the Czech lands.

Battles seen throughout the Napoleon trailer include the Siege of Toulon in 1793, the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798, and the French commander’s last stand at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. But the trailer culminates with one of his greatest victories: the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, which occurred in Moravia in early December.

The Battle of Austerlitz took place about 10 kilometers south of Brno, between the Moravian capital and the town of Austerlitz (now Slavkov u Brna). One of the most significant battles of the Napoleonic Wars, French forces were outmanned and significantly outgunned during the battle, but ultimately emerged victorious.

Napoleon‘s scenes set during the Battle of Austerlitz can be glimpsed from about 2:08 in the new trailer. They include minor but decisive incident towards the end of the battle, as allied forces fighting the French disbanded and Russian regiments retreated towards Vienna and across frozen ponds.

The French army pounded the frozen terrain with cannon fire, breaking the ice and forcing the retreating forces into the freezing water. An estimated 200-2,000 Russians died during the incident, though many were saved by the now-victorious French. Phoenix’s Napoleon can be seen giving the order to fire the cannons in the trailer.

Later sources claim that Napoleon’s account of this incident was greatly exaggerated, but Tsar Alexander I confirmed it had occurred. Still, it was only a brief portion of the overall battle, which has been cited as a tactical masterpiece and quickly brought an end to the War of the Third Coalition.

The Battle of Austerlitz is one of the most famous military battles to have ever taken place on the Czech lands. The area where the battle took place is a protected national monument zone. Every year, historical actors re-enact the battle by the château at Slavkov u Brna.

While Scott’s Napoleon movie features the Battle of Austerlitz, however, it didn’t shoot on the authentic location. Production for Napoleon took place largely on locations throughout England.

In addition to Phoenix, Napoleon stars Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Ben Miles, Ludivine Sagnier, Matthew Needham, and Youssef Kerkour. In addition to Napoleon’s military career, the movie charts his volatile relationship with Empress Joséphine (played by Kirby). The screenplay was written by David Scarpa (All the Money in the World).

Napoleon will hit cinemas throughout the Czech Republic on November 23 before hitting Apple TV+ at a later date.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at

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