This humanization of Jesus is exactly why I love the 1999 Jesus movie/series.
No one has ever (and will never) portray the ethereal quality of Jesus-God as Robert Powell and Jesus of Nazareth. It is easy to portray the human quality of Jesus from a human actor. But It is masterful for an actor to convince he is god. Only Robert Powell did that.
I have seen a few of these listed. Thankfully I haven't seen any of the "worst" films. I never planned to and after reading your reviews I continue not to plan on watching them. I only watched part of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ". It filled me with too much emotion and in the end I couldn't finish it. It triggered major anxiety attacks in me. any films with extreme violence do so, but this was especially heart wrenching because of its depiction of the Savior being brutally beaten. So this is definitely not a film for someone as sensitive as I am. Thanks for the list. I will have to check out the "best" films that I have missed.
I have a theory as to why some Christian filmmakers overdo the violence with Christ's last few hours. I believe it is because they only view the Atonement taking place while he was beaten and dying on the cross. They have no clue of the true suffering he did while praying in the Garden of Gethsemene, where the spiritual agony he endured then was unimaginable.
On EasterTCM showed The Robe and a sequel entitled Demetrius and the Gladiators. I remember seeing this film as a youngster and how enthralled I was with the action parts of the film. Victor Mature and Susan Hayward starred. The other memorable aspect of the film was portrayal of the Roman emperor, Caligula.
Franco Zeffirelli's JESUS OF NAZERETH is the best of them all! I remember a TV interview he gave when it first aired, and he said he made it as his testimony of Jesus. This shows through the entire production. I watch it once a year.
Ironically, you left out the hobbit. While it is more fanciful a story, you did include chronicals of narnia. Tolkien was converted to Christianity by Lewis and told his own story of Christianity. But to really get what the story is all about, you have to watch The Hobbit.
In my experience, no one understands this series of movies and so they dismiss it as boring or just another scifi adventure. Few things could be further from the truth.
Generally wouldn't respond to other comments, but rather here to articles, but Trish brings up a point which warrants addressing. As Talmadge taught in his canonical work Jesus The Christ, the Savior's heart literally exploded in His chest in Gethsemane (as evidenced by the sweating of blood from His pores). This would obviously kill any mortal man; the Savior being half immortal was able to continue living to suffer His trial, tortures and crucifixion -- and literally control the time and moment of His death. He wasn't killed by anyone; He GAVE His life; He had the power to do so. As to films, including POC, creative literary liberties are certainly taken in the interest of screenplays.
My problem with Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was his overemphasis of the beatings that inflicted upon the Savior. They were so severe, he wouldn't have survived to carry the cross. And, if I remember correctly, there was a scene where he was being dragged around with a rope around his neck. He fell off a high wall and was dangling, so they pulled him up. That was never in the Bible! That alone would have killed him instantly because his neck would have snapped!
I Love the fellows comment above me. Tom Is most correct that the King James version and cross references depict the most accurate account we could encounter and share, I also love the movie Testament done by the church. It is 100% correct and I love the spirit I feel when I watch it. After all the Easter message is that Jesus The Christ LIVES and speaks to us today and everyday if we but ask and obey. Thank you for this opportunity to learn and to share.
I saw the Passion of the Christ and thought it, while full of cinematic grandeur, was very uneven in its portrayal of Jesus' suffering. The Garden scene was particularly disturbing, with Jesus meditatively walking through, stepping on the serpent's head almost as an afterthought. Instead of focusing on His agonizing hours atoning for our sins, sweating blood as His body broke down from the stress, Gibson gives us a walk in the park, followed by a protracted view of the Roman punishment, which, while horrendous, did not touch His soul the way His experience in the Garden must have. Gibson seems to be relishing the indignities heaped on the Savior, while ignoring His true work of redemption. While this does not surprise me, given what I have heard of Gibson's mental state, I am surprised so many LDS are so enamored of this film.
When the Passion of Christ was in the Theater I was approach by a non-member who asked if I had watched the movie. I responded that I did not go to R-Rated Movies. She pressed me that I should make an exception. I replied that "I've read the book, I'm sure it is better" They replied with astonishment "they have book out already???" I informed her that the book actually preceded the movie by a VERY long time. I finally had to tell her that it was the Bible. Interestingly I was in central Texas at the time or as I like to say the buckle of the Bible belt.
Thanks Jonathan, for your research and your passion (pun intended) in presenting this information.
I agree with your take on Gibson's "Passion". More LDS folks should see it because it give us much more appreciation for what Christ suffered for us.
Also DeMille's "King of Kings" (1927). I was fortunate see it screened in Perry's Egyptian theater in Odgen with Blaine Gale's live organ accompaniment that he brilliantly infused with LDS hymns. (I went home and bought the DVD) As a side note: DeMille and the producer vowed to each other to give to charity any profits from that film, and DeMille's granddaughter told me that they honored that vow.
Missing from your list (perhaps deservedly) is the financially successful but critically bemoaned "In Search of Historic Jesus" theatrical documentary (1980) produced by Utah's own Schick Sunn Classic Pictures ("Grizzly Adams" etc.). I wrote the original screenplay and then watched in horror as it was botched by the director with poor acting and terrible visual effects.
That said, it's still the only commercial film I know of that portrays Christ's visit to the Americas (albeit poorly). And that was my original goal.
I agree with you completely about the Passion of Christ. As for "The Bible", I had to quit watching after about the first third, because it was so far from scripture.
First, Passion of Christ is a great (graphic, because the events were graphic) film and goes on my easily defended list of 4 must-see "R" films (Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Schindler's List ).
Second, agree with Sharee that Superstar should not be dismissed. Best on the stage, but well done in the movie, with an important message to present day world. And not irreverent.
I think that the very best dipiction of Christ is in the new series called "The Bible" by Rona Downey. It shows Christ the way I have always thought of him. Warm, kind, loving and interesting. It should be added to your list next time.
One you missed called "The Day Christ Died" bases on the book by that title, by Bishop, I believe was made for TV back in the 90's ...it is one of my all time favorites but never released on DVD to my knowledge... I would love to find it.
"The Visual Bible" produced a 4 VHS set called MATTHEW, using word for word narative from the New International Version of the scriptures which I found very good. It stars Bruce Marchiano as the man portraying Christ and is filmed over in northern Africa
There is one more movie that I love watching... The Robe (1953) with Richard Burton and Jean Simmons. If you haven't seen it - please add it to your list of movies to watch!!
Thank you so much for publishing this list. We need more of these kinds of lists such as films with great family values etc.
Thank you brother Decker for your marvelous review of movies about Jesus Christ. For those who love the Lord and seek to know Him, this is the most valuable article ever published by Meridian. Your wise judgement and spiritual insights are inspired. I am bookmarking your article to be my guide along with the holy scriptures.
Jesus of Nazareth by far (outside of the LDS Cinema) is the best of the list here. Powell
The Passion was one of the most emotionally moving stories of Christ I have ever seen. The suffering Christ went through is really brought home. However, I thought the portrayal of Satan in Gethsemane was beyond ridiculous. Other than that I thought it a very worth while movie, but one I wouldn't want to see very often, it is too emotionally upsetting,
Ben-Hur is our "must watch" movie every Easter! The book on which it is based is excellent!
Thank you for bringing some movies of Christ I had never heard of. Of the ones I have seen, "The Passion of the Christ" is my favorite. I recommend it, and have described scenes from it when teaching about Gethsemane and the Crucifixion. It is as close to a perfect film that I can think of. The ones produced by the Church focus on His resurrection, though, and my soul appreciates the hope that comes from this.
Jesus Christ, Superstar is NOT irreverent. Just watch the ending of the film, where the actors are getting ready to leave the st and how touched they all are by what they have just been portraying. I was involved with a production of the play here in Salt Lake some years ago and have seen the Broadway touring company several times and have never failed to be spiritually moved.
While I own and have watched many of the movies listed here, I would heartily recommend "The Eternal Christ: Truman G. Madsen in the Holy Land". It really makes the land of Israel come alive, and Bro. Maden's stirring testimony never fails to move me deeply.
Thanks so much for this great list of movies, I've written down several and will now get busy to get them in my Library. I appreciate your thoroughness.
I rarely attend an R movie unless I know precisely why it is R., but I decided to go to the Passion by Mel Gibson, and I thought it was spectacular.
I hope this list helps you discover some new films to bring you closer to the Savior. Head over to www.mormonmovieguy.com to read my reviews of THE HOST (based on the Stephenie Meyer novel) and GI JOE- RETALIATION.
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