Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My Top 10 Biblical Movies

    It’s the season of Lent with only one week left till Easter, so what better way to celebrate then by acknowledging some the best Biblical themed movies, which highlight some of the most influential religious figures. For this list I’ll be counting down my personal favorite biblical themed movies or religiously inspired films. I won’t be including comedies, so don’t expect such films as “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” or “Bruce Almighty” on this countdown. Faith based movies like "Heaven is for Real" or "God is Not Dead" are welcome on this list. From epic tales, to subtlety inspiring stories, here are my personal favorite biblical or religious themed movies.   

#10 Ben-Hur (1959) 

 Based on Lew Wallace’s novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ”, this 1950’s historical drama is largely considered one of the greatest epic’s of its time. Set during the story of Christ, Ben-Hur tells the tale of a Jewish slave that rebelled against Rome. Despite being one of the longest movies ever filmed, it’s well worth a viewing and an unforgettable experience. The movie has been immortalized for its famous Chariot Race, and it’s star Charlton Heston shined in the title role, making this his second bog stand out biblical epic behind “The Ten Commandments”. It’s a great classic that walks a perfect balance between being religiously inspiring, and a sheer special to behold.


#9 Joseph King of Dreams (2000)

Following on the success of “The Prince of Egypt”, DreamWorks animation studios adapted another story from the Book of Genesis, only this time it was a direct to video film, not theatrical. “King of Dreams” is the story of a man named Joseph, who’s born with a gift of reading dreams. However, he’s soon betrayed by his step brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt. Things only get more difficult from there, but through his faith in God he perseveres and ultimately aids the Kingdom through his gift of site. While it can’t match the size and scope of its predecessor, “Joseph: King of Dreams” actually sticks closer to its biblical source material, has some great emotional highlights, some really adult material, and touching morals revolving around endurance, charity, and family togetherness. The song numbers are also very uplifting, the animation is great (especially during the dream sequences), and the film just puts me in a really good mood every time I see it.  


#8 Therese (2004) 

St. Theresa of Lisieux is actually my mothers patron saint, so she was one of many religious figures that I wanted to learn about as a child. This 2004 biopic of Therese tells her story of Saint Hood, it’s very well crafted, and the acting is solid. Dealing with profound questions of death and separation, this film is a great example of how one guided by faith can impact the lives of others in a spiritual sense. Now admittedly, her story doesn’t translate perfectly into film form, but it’s a more then valiant effort. It’s dramatic, inspiring and one that shouldn’t be glanced over.

#7 Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)

Here’s a product that puts a more modern twist on the story of Christ, and in the style of a Broadway musical. I’ll admit, this film isn’t the most inspiring of biblical themed movies, but it’s depiction of the final week of Christ’s journey leading up to his crucifixion is still done well, and it really highlights Christ’s struggle with his traitorous disciple Judas. Plus, the popular music conceived by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice is still just as catchy as ever. The original was kind of a classic sensation from the 70’s, but I personally prefer the 2000 film version, as I think both the singing and staging are hugely improved. Either film version provides a unique experience that separates them from other religious themed movies, but they have the same passion and spirit at the helm.

#6 The Five People you meet in Heaven (2004)

Now here’s a very unique film that depicts what happens before ones soul reaches Heaven. This is the story of a man named Eddie, played by Jon Voight, who after giving his life to save a child, finds himself in a strange middle ground between life and the afterlife. As the movie continues, we see Eddie go on a spiritual rite of passage, as he reflects on his greatest regrets in life, but also his greatest accomplishments. Along the journey he’s guided by five distinct people from his life, who council him and help heel his soul before he can enter the Promised Land. In the end, we learn of Eddie’s darkest secret, which leads to one of Jon Voight’s most powerful performances. With an imaginative concept and a strong supporting cast, this is just a beautiful tail of reflection and perseverance. It’s also quiet thought provoking on its themes of what the soul goes through after death, and it’s a film that I highly recommend.  


#5 The Ten Commandments (1956)

Okay, how many of you aren’t surprised to see this film on my countdown? Cecil B. Demille’s “The Ten Commandments” set the template for all biblical epics to follow, and is often regarded as one of Hollywood’s greatest achievements. The film depicts the story of Moses, from his birth, to his contact with God, to his grand crusade liberating the Hebrew people from Egypt and ultimately to the birth (and smashing) of the 10 commandments. While it deviates a little from the bible story, the narrative is still consistent, and the result as a cinematic marvel with an all star cast and Oscar winning visuals.


#4 Joan of Arc (1999)

Here’s yet another biblical epic, revolving around a Saint who leads their people to freedom. This time it’s Saint Joan of Arc, who leads the French in a rebellion against the English, and once again it involves a character passionately sacrificing his or herself for what they believe in. It’s almost like Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart”, just set in France instead of Scotland, and with a strong female lead as opposed to William Wallace. Ever sense I was a child, I’ve always looked at Joan of Arc as a great role model of one who takes great action when guided by faith, and this film is a very respectful telling of her story. For a late 90’s TV movie, it’s still just as epic as any of the classics from the 50’s, with a big scope, memorable imagery, themes of standing up for what you believe in, and excellent performances from a very well rounded cast. The historical Joan of Arc died at the age of 19, and thanks to films like this, her legend still lives on to this day.

#3 Jesus (1979)

Well, kind of an obvious choice, but really what better Biblical tale is there then the life journey of Jesus Christ. Most Christ based movies focus on his final week, but this biblical biopic highlights his story from the ground up. Beginning with his birth in the nativity, then his childhood, followed by the three years he lead his disciples, then dying on the cross, and concluding with his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It primarily uses the Gospel of Luke as the basis for the story and was filmed in Israel, with an Israel cast, so it has the right look and feel. The film highlights a lot of details in his life that are commonly glanced over in other projects, and it just gives me a complete feel of his religious journey. There was a special “made for children” version that was released in 2000, with new scenes added in featuring a group of young kids who were there during Christ’s time. It’s actually a great way to educate kids on the life of Christ, and one that I highly recommend.

#2 The Prince of Egypt (1998)

You wouldn’t think that an animated DreamWorks movie, with Disney style animation, and Broadway style song numbers could possibly live up to the 1956 classic “The Ten Commandments”, but it absolutely dose. In my opinion, it surpasses “The Ten Commandments”, and can be regarded as a truly great and respectable biblical epic. Adapting the classic story from the Book of Exodus, “The Prince of Egypt” once again tells the story of Moses as he delivers his people from slavery. The big difference between this version and the 1950’s classic is that it highlights the emotional turmoil between Moses and his brother Rameses, as both want to be a family again but refuse to back down from what they believe in. This added a juicy level of drama and conflict to the story, and the voice acting is excellent all around. In fact, just like it’s counterpart, “The Prince of Egypt” boasts quiet the cast of A list actors. The animation and visuals are also big spectacles, and even the music is sensational. The stand out song number “When You Believe” won the Oscar for best original song, and the score by Hans Zimmer is absolutely breath taking. With big visuals, captivating storytelling, respect to its religious source material, and a powerhouse sound track, “The Prince of Egypt” remains one of my favorite animated movies of all time, and my personal favorite biblical epic I’ve ever seen. However, there is still one slot left ... for one other film that's far more fitting for the number 1 spot.      

Before I reveal my #1 pick, here are some Honorable Mentions ...

The Nativity Story” (2006)

Quo Vadis” (1951)

King of Kings” (1961)

Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973)

Mary Mother of Jesus” (1999)

#1 The Passion of the Christ (2004)

2004 was a really big year for religious and biblical themed movies, and this film of course was the biggest of them all. I don’t think any other biblical movie has had more controversial debate or mixed reception then Mel Gibson’s epic drama revolving around the drawn out death and crucifixion of Christ. It’s admittedly hard to watch Jesus suffer for two and a half hours, but it also highlights how honorable Christ was as he willingly sacrificed himself through lots of suffering and pain, in order to save everyone else from their sins. It’s basically the essential film to watch on “Good Friday”, as it’s a time to reflect on his passionate death, and what Christ had to endure in order to save his fellow man. If you can look past how brutal and relentless the violence gets, you may notice some truly beautiful moments that are among some of the most inspiring scenes I’ve ever viewed in a motion picture. Definitely not a film for the faint of heart, but a powerful and moving experience all the same, and arguably the greatest biblical epic of all time.

           The End

No comments:

Post a Comment