My Top 5 Favorite Easter Movies

Happy Easter! Here’s my list of personal favorite Jesus movies to celebrate this special stay-at-home Easter weekend.

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Happy Easter! Here’s my list of personal favorite Jesus movies to celebrate this special stay-at-home Easter weekend. 

5. The Robe (1953)

After a drunken game of dice, the Roman tribune who commanded the unit responsible for the Crucifixion, is tormented by a guilty conscience when he wins the robe of that crucified jew. Starring Jean Simmons, and Richard Burton, the Robe is directed by Henry Koster, and photographed by Leon Shamroy, and is the first feature film photographed using the anamorphic process. The film explore’s the aftermath of the Crucifixion and the toll it takes on the Roman tribune who believed Jesus was innocent. There’s also a 1954 sequel called Demetrius and the Gladiators, which continues the story of the early Christian church within the Roman Empire.

4. Ben-Hur (2016)

Not at all a bad version of the timeless story. It still hits home, and the ending works for this version.  Competently directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch), with some pretty good performances from Jack Huston, Toby Kebbel, and Morgan Freeman. Not as awesome a production as the much beloved 1959 version, but out of the other four films based on the 1880 novel, this is at the top. Though they just don’t make chariot race sequences like they used to.

3. Risen (2016)

A Roman tribune is tasked with finding the body of a rabbi who apparently rose from the dead. Directed by Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Count of Monte Cristo) and starring Joseph Fiennes and Cliff Curtis, Risen does a terrific job of approaching the resurrection of Jesus from the point of view of a Roman skeptic.

2. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

The infamous “still not as violent as it actually was” account of the Crucifixion, Mel Gibson’s extremely stylistic and sincere (and very Catholic) project is one of the most controversial films in history, but went on to become the highest grossing foreign language film in US box office history, the highest-grossing rated R film in US box office history, and the highest grossing religious film in worldwide box office of all time. The landmark performance by Jim Caviezel as Jesus, with the entire movie’s dialogue spoken in ancient Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin, and with lush cinematography by Caleb Deschanel, The Passion is a bold, unyielding statement at the torture Christ endured on the cross, to give us the gift of eternal salvation.

I’m Just Going to Leave This Here: King of Kings (1961)

A biopic of Jesus of Nazareth and not really about the Crucifixion, and therefore not really an Easter movie, but it’s big and epic and a good companion piece to the other films here if you’re not interested in only experiencing the horrible murder part of the Jesus story. It’s a very Catholic “Jesus has blue eyes and sounds like an American trying to sound like an ancient Jew”, but it’s heart is in the right place. It’s also totes a stylistic rip-off of…

1. Ben-Hur (1959)

After a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he seeks to regain his freedom and come back for revenge. Starring Charleton “Ten Commandments” Heston and directed by William Wyler, this third filmed version of the 1880 novel, by former Union general Lew Wallace, is the most prolific and most profound.

Ben-Hur has everything: a cast of thousands, gigantic sets, death-defying stunts, vengeance, adventure, implicit romance, implied former gay romance to antagonize the plot, action, gore, lepers, fantastic music, the audience going “woah, so THAT’s what this movie is about?!” at the end, an entirely whitewashed cast to annoy liberals, the most epic subdued filmed version of Jesus, and the most awesome depiction of a chariot race ever committed to film. The ending really is almost as big a mindscrew as the plot twist in Fight Club. Ben-Hur is easily one of the greatest motion pictures ever made.

What do you think of my choices? Does anyone have other Easter-ish movies to share?

By Jason R. Johnston

Jason is an award-winning cinematographer, and director of commercials, branding films, native content, music videos, documentaries, and narrative films. As a full-time freelancer, he can be hired to DP or direct almost any project you have in mind. He is based in Sparta, Tennessee, and ready to travel for any gig.

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