There’s no better time than right now to watch movies about Jesus’ life and death, given that Easter is only days away and that many of us are cooped up at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the past six decades, there have been many different ways in which Christ has been depicted on film. Some portrayals have been more accurate than others. For many years, Christians have argued over the most accurate, authentic, and impactful way to portray Jesus.
Almost 20 years ago, James Martin published his own list in America magazine. Every year at Easter, the debate over his controversial picks rages on. Movies about Jesus have awakened a religious curiosity in many people who otherwise would not be interested in Christianity or faith.
In the Bible, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ stands out as the most significant event because it altered the course of human history. A number of movies have captured that moment in a heartfelt and stirring way. At the same time, a number of well-known actors have taken on the role of Jesus Christ. The films, which can be enjoyed by Christians of all stripes, are a wonderful way to commemorate Easter while also introducing a new generation to Jesus’ life and times.
Neither Jesus Christ Superstar nor sacrilegious films like The Last Temptation of Christ are taken into account in this ranking. In its place, this book explores the various ways people have tried to understand Jesus over the years. Hollywood hasn’t always been kind to the life of Jesus, despite the fact that it’s the greatest story ever told. Take The Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorsese. Willem Defoe’s portrayal of Jesus in this obscene film from 1988 departs from Scripture. When Jesus is crucified on the cross, the movie imagines what he could have been thinking and how his life might have been had he survived. It’s a standard Hollywood production, with a focus on shock value.
Here are five movies about Jesus, both in cinemas and on television, that stand out from the rest:
1. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo, directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1964, is a dramatization of the life of Jesus Christ, based on the Gospel of Matthew. Starting with the birth of Jesus, the story proceeds to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It’s unclear why the director in Italy went with Matthew. Because “John was too mystical,” “Mark was too vulgar, and Luke was too romantic” for Pasolini, he preferred Matthew. Enrique Irazoqu, a little-known Spanish actor, plays Jesus, who is primarily shown as a barefoot farmer. This neorealist film on Jesus was dubbed “the best ever made” by the Vatican’s daily L’Osservatore Romano in 2015.
2. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
Epic movies were a popular genre in the 1960s, and The Greatest Story Ever Told is no exception. At the time of its release, The Greatest Story Ever Told cost $20 million to make while Pasolini’s picture is simple and low-budget.
Jesus was played by the recently deceased Max von Sydow, best known for his role as a priest in The Exorcist who faces off against the devil in order to save his parishioners. Charlton Heston plays John the Baptist in the film, which was directed by George Stevens. Jesus Christ Superstar is still the only Hollywood film to deal with the life of Jesus Christ in a serious and somber manner.
3. Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
One of the best portrayals of Jesus’s life was made possible by a TV miniseries starring some of the most famous movie stars of all time, and it wasn’t just a fantasy. Mary Magdalene was played by Anne Bancroft, Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus, Anthony Quinn as Caiaphas, Rod Steiger as Pontius Pilate, Michael York as John the Baptist, James Earl Jones as Balthazar, and Robert Powell as Jesus in the film’s central role.
From that point on, no other Jesus biopic could compare to the masterpiece that was Franco Zeffirelli’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1982). The video was able to depict the spirit of Jesus’ life and the sorrow and sacrifice he had to undergo in his final days. Critics have blasted Powell’s Jesus as an unrealistic portrayal of Christ because of his height and blue eyes. Although Zeffirelli’s film portrays Jesus as both kind and strong, it is lovely in many ways.
Four decades after its initial airing, the great film is still being shown on television during the Easter season all around the world in two parts. Last summer, at the age of 96, Zeffirelli passed away. He was most known for a devotional film he directed in 2005 about St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis of Assisi was played by British actor Graham Faulkner in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, which depicted his impoverished beginnings.
4. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
The final 12 hours of Jesus’ life are chronicled in detail by Mel Gibson in a film that draws on all four gospels. Judas Iscariot’s betrayal, Jesus’ crucifixion, and his death are all part of this narrative. Actor Jim Caviezel portrayed Jesus Christ in the film. As a traditional Catholic, Gibson claims to follow the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as it existed prior to the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.
After being released at a time when Aramaic and Latin subtitles were not widely available, the picture was a box office success. Although the film was praised for its depiction of the Sanhedrin’s determination to capture Jesus, some argued that it was too violent and anti-Semitic. Since its release, it has remained the highest-grossing Christian film ever released. However, it did not win an Academy Award.
5. The Chosen (2017)
The Chosen, starring Jonathan Roumie as Jesus, is the first first multi-season television series about the life of Jesus. Jonathan Roumie plays Jesus, and the disciples are played by Middle Eastern men, rather than Europeans, in this film.
It is a wonderfully innovative and dramatic way to flesh out the people in Jesus’ life,” writes Joseph Holmes of Religion Unplugged. After discovering that Jesus can perform miracles, Nichodemus goes through an epiphany. Matthew, a Jewish tax collector working under the occupying Romans, may be autistic. As of this morning, Simon Peter is in debt to the Romans and is in risk of being sent to prison if no fish are caught before dawn. Dramatic arcs can be developed for the characters thanks to these enhancements. When Jesus performs a miracle of the fish, Simon sees it as an act of salvation rather than just a miracle, as a result of this. It’s true that these creative permissions seldom go so far as to feel dishonest to the people and plot,”
Watching all of these wonderful performances this week is a cinch. Who portrays Jesus the best, in your opinion? Let us know what you think in the comments.