- 2 hr 20 min
The film begins with an epigraph from Will Durant: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." While hunting tapir in the Mesoamerican jungle, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), his father Flint Sky (Morris Birdyellowhead), and their fellow tribesmen encounter a procession of traumatized and fearful refugees. The procession's leader explains that their lands have been ravaged, and asks for Flint Sky's permission to pass through the jungle. When Jaguar Paw and his tribesmen return to their village, Flint Sky tells his son not to let the procession's state of fear seep into him. At night, the tribe's elder tells the village a fable of man forever unable to fill his want, despite having been given the capabilities of all of the animals. The villagers follow the story with music and dance, leaving Jaguar Paw to ponder.
The next morning, Jaguar Paw wakes from a nightmare to see strangers enter the village and set the huts ablaze. The raiders, led by Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo), attack and subdue the villagers. Jaguar Paw slips out with his pregnant wife Seven (Dalia Hernndez) and his little son Turtles Run, lowering them on a vine into a small cave (a chultun, shaped something like a well) to hide them. Jaguar Paw returns to the village to fight the raiders but is subdued with the rest of the tribe. A raider whom Jaguar Paw attacks and almost kills, the vicious Middle Eye (Gerardo Taracena), slits Flint Sky's throat while Jaguar Paw helplessly watches. His last words to him are to not be afraid.
Before the raiders leave the village with their prisoners, one suspicious raider severs the vine leading into the ground cave, trapping Jaguar Paw's wife and son within. The raiders and their captives trek toward the Maya city, encountering razed forests, failed maize crops, slaves producing plaster, and the sick and dying. A small diseased girl prophesies that a man bringing the jaguar will bring the raiders to those who will scratch out the earth and end their world. In the city's outskirts, the female captives are sold as slaves and the males are escorted to the top of a step pyramid. The high priest sacrifices several captives by decapitating them after pulling out their beating hearts. When Jaguar Paw is about to be sacrificed, a solar eclipse (also prophesied by the girl) stays the priest's hand. He looks at the king, sitting nearby, and the two share a smile while the uneducated commoners below panic at the phenomenon. The priest declares the sun god Kukulkan is satisfied with the sacrifices. To trick the crowd into believing he has great power, he asks Kukulkan to let light return to the world just as he knows the eclipse will pass. The crowd cheers in amazement as the priest orders that the remaining captives be disposed of.
Zero Wolf takes the villagers to an amphitheater. The captives are released in pairs and forced to run the length of the open space within the amphitheater to give Zero Wolf's men target practice, with a cynical promise of freedom, should they reach the end of the field alive. However, Zero Wolf's son, Cut Rock is sent to the end of the field to "dispose of" any survivors. The raiders target them with javelins, arrows, and slingstones as they run. Jaguar Paw is struck by an arrow through the abdomen but reaches the end of the field and breaks off the arrowhead. As Cut Rock, approaches to finish him off with an obsidian blade, Jaguar Paw shoves the broken arrow into Cut Rock's throat. As Cut Rock bleeds out with Zero Wolf easing him into the next life, Jaguar Paw escapes through a withered maize field and an open mass grave. The enraged Zero Wolf and his raiders pursue Jaguar Paw into the jungle and back toward Jaguar Paw's home. Along the way, one of the raiders is killed by a black jaguar that has been disturbed by Jaguar Paw. As he flees, Jaguar Paw jumps over a high waterfall and survives, declaring from the riverbank below that the raiders are now in his homelands.
Zero Wolf's raiders jump the waterfall as well, then fall to both the forest's elements and Jaguar Paw's traps. A heavy rain sets in, which begins to flood the ground cave in which Jaguar Paw's wife and son are still trapped. Jaguar Paw bludgeons Middle Eye in hand-to-hand combat and kills Zero Wolf by leading him into a trap meant for hunting tapir. He is chased by two remaining raiders out to a beach where they encounter the fourth expedition of Christopher Columbus making their way ashore in boats. The amazement of the raiders allows Jaguar Paw to flee. He returns into the forest to pull his wife and son out of the flooded pit where they are hiding around the time when Seven gives birth to a child. He returns in time to save the family, and sees that his wife has given birth to a healthy second son. As the family walks near the coastline, Jaguar Paw's wife asks what the strange objects near the shore are. Jaguar Paw responds only that "they bring men." Jaguar Paw and his family go deeper into the forest, "to seek a new beginning," leaving the Spanish who are anchored in ships off the beach.
Apocalypto is a 2006 action movie with a runtime of 2 hours and 20 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.8 and a MetaScore of 68.