I was quite disappointed with the dearth of Bible films over this Easter weekend, with the exception of the always reliable Turner Classic Movies (TCM). You are now more likely to see Harry Potter and Star Wars marathons over the Easter holiday weekend, than good Bible films. I am partial to a number of Bible films; of course, not all of them are necessarily appropriate for Easter, if they do not depict the death of Christ, but they make for enjoyable viewing. My favourite Bible films are listed below:
The Ten Commandments (1956): Cecil B. DeMille puts the E in Epic. Lavish cinematography, a cast of thousands, the parting of the Red Sea, an incredible cast and, of course, Charlton Heston at his heroic best.
Ben-Hur (1925; 1959): While there have a few film versions of this story, these two are my favourites (TCM, bless them, showed both last week). Both feature beautiful cinematography, strong performances and, of course, the famous chariot races. I shudder to think about how many horses were injured in the 1925 version before animal welfare protection was introduced to the film industry.
The Robe (1953): The main attraction of this film is the performance of Richard Burton, who can elevate any film with his sheer presence. Jean Simmons imbues her usual elegance and class. It’s an interesting perspective of the effect of guilt on Burton for having participated in the crucifixion. Michael Rennie is perhaps a little too elegant for Peter, but he does bring a great deal of gravitas to the role.
Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954): This film follows The Robe. It’s not the best film in the genre, but I think it’s an earnest rendition of early Christianity, and Jay Robinson’s over the top performance as Caligula is worth the price of admission. Victor Mature is an actor it’s always a bit difficult to take seriously, but I think he does a good job with the material.
There are some newer Bible films, of course, such as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and The Last Temptation of Christ, but I don’t have the same attachment to these films, likely because they were not part of my traditional exposure to Bible films during Easter.