The upcoming Easter holiday and the coronavirus outbreak have many of us cooped up indoors watching movies about Jesus’ life and death.
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Throughout the past six decades, there have been many different ways in which Christ has been depicted on cinema. In some cases, the depictions are better than in others. For decades, people have been debating whose depiction of Jesus was the most accurate, honest, or powerful.
James Martin compiled his own list in 1997, which was reprinted in America magazine two years later. Controversial choices were made in the book, ones that continue to reignite the Easter controversy. When it comes to Christianity and faith, movies about Jesus have been able to open the eyes of many individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be interested.
The crucifixion of Jesus is the most significant event in the Bible, and it has had a lasting impact on the world. A number of movies have depicted that moment in a heartfelt and compelling way. At the same time, a number of actors have been recognized for their portrayals of Jesus. 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.
List excludes Jesus Christ Superstar and The Last Temptation of Christ, which are both popular religious phenomena. As an alternative, it focuses on the serious readings of Jesus that have been made over time. Hollywood hasn’t always had a good track record when it comes to portraying the life of Jesus. The Last Temptation of Christ is a good example. Willem Defoe portrays Jesus in the 1988 film, which deviates from the Bible. While he is dying on the cross, Jesus’ thoughts turn to what an ordinary person’s life may have been like. It seeks to startle the viewer in traditional Hollywood fashion.
To help Christians get ready for the Easter holiday, we’ve compiled a list of the best Jesus movies now playing in theaters and on television.
1. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo, a 1964 film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, tells the narrative of Jesus based on the Gospel of Matthew. Nativity to Resurrection are covered in this film.
Matthew was chosen by the Italian director for what reason? Because “John was too mystical,” “Mark was too vulgar, and Luke was too romantic” for Pasolini, he preferred Matthew. Unlikely Spanish actor Enrique Irazoqu portrays Jesus as a barefoot farmer in the film. According to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, the neorealist film about Jesus is the best ever created.
2. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
The Greatest Story Ever Told is one of those epic movies that became popular in the 1960s a year after Pasolini’s film. At the time of its release, The Greatest Story Ever Told cost $20 million, making it more expensive than Pasolini’s picture, which was simple and low-budget.
The recently dead Max von Sydow, best known for his role as a priest who takes on the demon in The Exorcist, was cast as Jesus in the ensemble cast. Charlton Heston plays John the Baptist in the film, which was directed by George Stevens. It is the only Hollywood picture to deal with the life of Jesus in a sober and serious 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.
After the premiere of The Passion of the Christ, Franco Zeffirelli’s picture set the benchmark for what a production on Jesus’ life should look like. During Jesus’ final days, he was forced to undergo great pain and suffering, which the video depicted beautifully. Some have said that Powell’s Jesus, who is tall and blue-eyed, is an inaccurate depiction of the Christ. However, Zeffirelli’s film is magnificent in so many ways because it depicts Jesus as both gentle and aggressive in a beautiful way.
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. 96-year-old Zeffirelli is most known for his previous religious-themed film, St. Francis of Assisi, which was released five years earlier. 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)
It’s the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life that are depicted in the Mel Gibson film, which uses the four gospel accounts to tell the story of the Passion. After Jesus’ crucifixion and death, Judas Iscariot’s betrayal, and the crucifixion and death of Jesus, this narrative begins. He was played by Jim Caviezel, a well-known actor. To put it simply, Gibson considers himself a traditional Catholic and has stated that he believes in the church as it existed prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
At the time, the picture, which was shot mainly in Italy and fully in Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew (with subtitles), 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. It’s still the most successful Christian film ever. However, it did not win an Academy Award.
5. The Chosen (2017)
For the first time ever, The Chosen is a multi-season TV show on the life of Jesus, starring actor Jonathan Roumie. Jonathan Roumie plays Jesus, and the disciples are played by Middle Eastern men, rather than Europeans, in this film.
It is surprisingly inventive and theatrical in fleshing out the characters in Jesus’ life, as critic Joseph Holmes recently remarked at Religion Unplugged. When he learns that Jesus can do miracles, Pharisee Nichodemus has a crisis of faith. Matthew, a Jewish tax collector working under the occupying Romans, may be autistic. Without fish, Simon Peter will be imprisoned by dawn because of his debt to the Romans. Dramatic arcs can be developed for the characters thanks to these enhancements. For Simon, this raises the stakes of the story, making Jesus’ miracle of the fish more than merely a feat of miracle-making. Yes, these creative permissions never go so far as to feel dishonest to the people and plot.”
This week is a terrific opportunity to catch up on all of these fantastic shows. Who did the finest job portraying Jesus? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.