"Caligula" was released in Italy on Aug. 14, 1979, and premiered in the United States on Feb. 1, 1980. Produced by Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine, the movie stars Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Teresa Ann Savoy, Peter O'Toole and John Gielgud.
Due to its violent and sexual content, "Caligula" was considered controversial at the time of its theatrical release. Producer Guccione wanted to make an explicit, pornographic film with high production values and a feature-length narrative. The film depicts the rise and fall of Caligula, focusing on the idea that absolute power leads to absolute corruption. "Caligula" made $23 million at the U.S. box office, and was a financial success in Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland.