'Son of God' and Other Notable Films About Jesus' Life
This week Son of Godcomes out care of married couple Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) and reality producer Mark Burnett (Survivor), the New Testament part of the pair's hit History Channel miniseries turned into a theatrical release. When it comes to portraying Jesus Christ's story on film, Hollywood has run the gamut--from epics to musicals to versions that many have called blasphemy. Take a look...
By Tara Bennett
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
Max von Sydow, the guy who played chess against the Grim Reaper and took on the robes of Ming the Merciless, also played Jesus in director George Steven’s large scale depiction of Christ’s life. It was nominated for five Academy Awards and featured Charlton Heston as a fiery John the Baptist. What’s not to like?
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Catholics were not happy with Marty Scorsese when he adapted Nikos Kazantzakis’ controversial book about Jesus’ life to screen. The book and film posit that perhaps Jesus was tempted by a normal life, even portraying a romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene, as he faced his destiny to die on the cross. Despite the controversy, the film still boasts an excellent performance by Willem Dafoe as Jesus.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson’s brutal, visual journey of Jesus’ last day before his crucifixion made a stunning $370,782,930 at the box office, but it’s not one you want to revisit much in the DVD player. Jim Caviezel plays a very soulful Christ, but we warn you, this movie is not for the fainthearted. The Walking Dead’s makeup department has nothing on Gibson’s bleak vision.
Do you know that Victor Garber, Alias’ Spy Daddy, played Jesus in the musical adaptation of the stage play? His makeup's a bit over the top, but his singing is divine. It doesn’t hurt that Godspell has some pretty fantastic songs, but we can’t say the same for the film’s dated staging.
Life of Brian (1979)
Those Monty Python boys know how to saber-rattle. Graham Chapman plays Brian Cohen, the kid born next to Jesus in the Bethlehem stable whose life lot is to get mistaken for Christ his entire life. Offensive to some...amusing to others.
The King of Kings (1927)
If you want to see the life of Christ done in about as epic a way possible, you can never go wrong with director Cecil B. DeMille. The legendary filmmaker loved to bring in a cast of thousands, so when Jesus does the Sermon on the Mount, you better believe that enough people to populate a small country were brought in to fill the entire frame.
The Miracle Maker (2000)
We have a soft spot for puppets, so finding out Jesus’ life was brought to life as a full-length, stop-animation movie got our undivided attention. A joint production between Russia and US animators, they even got Ralph Fiennes to voice Jesus. We think even God would approve.
Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
Another film adaptation of a mega successful Broadway show with a stellar songbook, Jesus Christ Superstar also suffers from dating and doesn’t hold up well today. However, we give it a lot of points for exuberance and director Norman Jewison is certainly creative with his camera.
Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
A lot of people will remember this British-Italian 382-minute miniseries because of its popularity in the late '70s. Actor Robert Powell set the bar for Jesus portrayals for years due to his traditional look and his compassionate performance.
Jesus of Montreal (1989)
A quirky little film that charts an actor named Daniel, who collects a group of actors in Montreal, Canada to help put on a Passion play. As it goes along, Daniel’s life ends up paralleling Christ’s in some interesting ways. Worth seeking out.
Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter (2001)
With a title like that, how can we not watch it? But then you read the logline and it describes Jesus as a karate expert who is ready to kick the bloodsuckers back to hell. SOLD! Cinematic B-movie gold, right there.
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