Jesus - on the Screen

Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus of Nazareth

A Visual History of Jesus of Nazareth - the Son of God - on the Screen.

Covering movies, musicals, mini-series and comedies.

Ben-Hur (1925)
Ben-Hur (1925)
Ben-Hur (1925) poster
Ben-Hur (1925) poster


Jesus carrying his cross in the 1925 epic Ben-Hur - A Tale of the Christ. Directed by Fred Niblo and starring Ramon Novarro as Judah Ben-Hur, Francis X. Bushman as Messala and Claude Payton, uncredited, played the part of Jesus. By coincidence the man portraying Jesus in the 1959 remake is also named Claude.

IMDB rating 8.0

King of Kings 1927
King of Kings 1927
King of Kings (1927) Italian poster
King of Kings (1927) Italian poster


H.B. Warner as Jesus in Cecil B. DeMille's silent epic The King of Kings (1927). At 52 years of age Warner was the oldest actor to play the Christ. His last film appearance was in DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956).

The giant gate built for this film would later be used in King Kong (1933) as part of the great wall on Skull Island and would later be burnt down in Gone With the Wind (1939) during the burning of Atlanta sequence.

IMDB rating 7.5

The Robe 1953
The Robe 1953
The Robe 1953
The Robe 1953
The Robe (1953) Italian poster
The Robe (1953) Italian poster

The Robe (1953) was the first Cinemascope film release. It was directed by Henry Koster and based on the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature. Jesus face is not seen but you do hear his voice after he is crucified saying "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Jesus was played by Donald C. Klune, his only film role he later became a 2nd unit director on TV. The voice of Jesus was provided by actor Cameron Mitchell popular on TV as Buck Cannon in The High Chaparral.

IMDB rating 6.7

Ben-Hur 1959
Ben-Hur 1959
Ben-Hur 1959
Ben-Hur 1959
Ben-Hur 1959
Ben-Hur 1959
Ben-Hur 1959
Ben-Hur 1959
Ben-Hur (1959) Claude Heater
Ben-Hur (1959) Claude Heater


Ben-Hur (1959) winner of 11 Oscars and one of the highest grossing films of all time. Directed by William Wyler and based on the novel by General Lew Wallace. Starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur and Stephen Boyd as Messala.

Jesus gives Judah water in one of the most memorable scenes in the film, when Ben-Hur tries to give Jesus water at the climax of the film a Roman soldier kicks it out of his hand. Jesus face is never seen in the film, he was played by singer Claude Heater (picture right).

IMDB rating 8.2

King of Kings 1961
King of Kings 1961
King of Kings 1961
King of Kings 1961
King of Kings (1961) poster
King of Kings (1961) poster


Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in the MGM epic King of Kings (1961) directed by Nicholas Ray and also starring Robert Ryan as John the Baptist.

Richard Burton was originally considered for the role of Jesus. The film was narrated by Orson Welles.

Sneery critics dubbed the film "I Was a Teenage Jesus" because of Jeffrey Hunter's youthful good looks but he was a lot closer to Jesus' age than H.B. Warner was.

IMDB rating 6.9

Barabbas (1962)
Barabbas (1962)
Barabbas (1962) poster
Barabbas (1962) poster



Barabbas (1962) starts off with the crucifixion of Jesus and than tells the story of Barabbas played by Anthony Quinn. What was unique about this crucifixion is that it was filmed during a real solar eclipse, the event gave the scene an eerie, unearthly quality.

The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Also starring Jack Palance and Ernest Borgnine. Jesus was played by Roy Mangano.

IMDB rating 6.8

The Gospel According to St. Matthew
The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964). The life and death of Jesus, played by Enrique Irazoqui. The Italian film was critically acclaimed and considered one of the best films about Christ. But ironically Pasolini was an avowed atheist... IMDB rating 7.8

The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) poster
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) poster

Max Von Sydow as Jesus in George Steven's star-packed epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Also starred Charlton Heston as John the Baptist, Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate, David McCallum as Judas, Roddy McDowall as Matthew, Donald Pleasance as The Devil, Claude Rains as King Herod, Jose Ferrer as Herod Antipas, Sidney Poitier as Simon and John Wayne as The Centurion uttering the line "truly this man was the son of Gaad" as only John Wayne can.

The movie was nominated for 5 Oscars and was a bum-numbing 225 minutes in length.

IMDB rating 6.3

Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar




Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) directed by Norman Jewison and based on the Rock Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Ted Neeley played Jesus, Yvonne Elliman was Mary Magdalene and Carl Anderson as Judas Iscariot.

18 year old John Travolta had auditioned for the part of Jesus but didn't get the role.

IMDB rating 6.9

Godspell
Godspell



Godspell (1973) directed by David Greene. A musical about Jesus set in modern day New York City.

Victor Garber played Jesus and David Haskell played Judas and John the Baptist.

Garber later became popular on TV as Jennifer Garner's father in the hit TV series Alias (2001-2006).

IMDB rating 6.3


Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus of Nazareth

Robert Powell as Jesus in Franco Zeffirelli's critically acclaimed mini-series for TV Jesus of Nazareth (1977). The star-packed production featured Rod Steiger as Pontius Pilate, Anthony Quinn as Caiaphus, Christopher Plummer as Herod Antipas, Anne Bancroft as Mary Magdalene, Ian MacShane as Judas, Peter Ustinov as Herod the Great, Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus, James Mason as Joseph of Arimathea, Ralph Richardson as Simeon, James Earl Jones as Balthazar, Donald Pleasance as Melchior, Michael York as John the Baptist, Ian Holm as Zerah, Olivia Hussey as Mary and Ernest Borgnine as the Centurion. Wow! 382 minutes..... IMDB rating 8.5

The Life of Brian
The Life of Brian
The Life of Brian
The Life of Brian
The Life of Brian
The Life of Brian
The Life of Brian
The Life of Brian

Monty Python's The Life of Brian (1979) was a hilarious and controversial spoof on religion by the Python team. Starring John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman as Brian, directed by Terry Jones. Brian is mistaken for Jesus by the Three Wise Men at the start of the film and later on tries desperately to shake off his followers who think he is the Messiah. As Brian's irate mother tells them at one point "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"

Kenneth Colley portrayed Jesus. Star Wars fans might remember Colley as Admiral Piett in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

IMDB rating 8.2

The Last Temptation of Christ
The Last Temptation of Christ
David Bowie as Pontius Pilate
David Bowie as Pontius Pilate
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) Portuguese poster
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) Portuguese poster

Willem Dafoe as Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the controversial novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Also starring Harvey Keitel as Judas, Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene and David Bowie as Pontius Pilate. It was Oscar nominated for Best Director.

Controversial in that it shows at the climax a dream sequence or alternate reality of Jesus with his wife Mary Magadalene making love. Movie theaters showing the film in Europe were set on fire and it was banned in many cities.

IMDB rating 7.6

Passion of the Christ
Passion of the Christ
Passion of the Christ
Passion of the Christ
The Passion of the Christ (2004) poster
The Passion of the Christ (2004) poster

Jim Caviezel as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ (2004) directed by Mel Gibson. The film covers the last 12 hours of Jesus life and ending with the Resurrection. The unflinching brutaility of the scourging of Jesus is so violent it's almost unwatchable and yet the film was a massive success grossing $611m worldwide.

Critic Roger Ebert said it was the most violent film he had ever seen and gave it 4 stars. Entertainment Weekly labeled it the most controversial film ever made. (Even more controversial than Jesus making love to Mary Magdalene?) Christ!

IMDB rating 7.1

King of Kings (1961) poster
King of Kings (1961) poster

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41 comments

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

These photos look beautiful. I should get to bed, so I will comment properly after I read your hub tomorrow. But I wanted to quickly say that this looks great.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Flora, I thought after my Devil hub Jesus should balance things out a bit. A big part of the fun of these hubs is finding the photos but there is plenty to read too, over 1200 words on this hub.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

This Ben-Hur movie you mention...not sure I am familiar with it ....was it a tv show?.....lol. Well that was a quick turnaround from the Devil to Jesus. Interesting fact number one that I did not know...that the giant gate in The Ten Commandments was used later in King Kong. Interesting fact number two The Robe was the first Cinemascope to be released. Number three that Anthony Quinn was in Barabbas....I think I do not know much about Quinn's career....it seems he has hundreds of movies that I have not even heard of.

I have watched many of these movies....not sure other than Ben-Hur and The Meaning of Life if there are any I would re-watch ....especially The Last Temptation of Christ as once was enough on that one...did you know DeNiro almost played the role of Jesus?(he had told Scorsese that he would play Jesus if it would get the money he needed to make the movie)...now that would have interesting. I own The Passion of the Christ but have yet to ever watch the movie....there is one of the movies that I do watch on a regular basis...The Meaning of Life...the last great Python movie. Voted up and very interesting. Nice job getting this one done so fast.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

[arms outstretched] Welcome to my hub of goodness Bruce Almighty! Your comment is holy appreciated.

Yeah Ben-Hur gets a mention, well it is subtitled A Tale of the Christ and Jesus does have a pivotal role. I was sad the Devil made no appearance in the film I could have added Ben-Hur to my previous hub too. ;)

Anthony Quinn wasn't just in Barabbas, he WAS Barabbas [cue majestic music]. The film is worth watching for scary Jack Palance chewing up the scenery and spitting it out too.

Last Temptation would have been a lot more popular if De Niro played the part. And even more enjoyable if Jack Nicholson got the gig. [cue raised eyebrows] Well it would have made for a great double bill with Witches of Eastwick.

Thanks for posting


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Steve, brilliant photos and a very interesting hub. It's yonks since I watched Ben Hur, I need to see it soon, your photos are great! I still haven't seen Mel Gibson's Temptation of The Christ -I'm not big on religious films to be honest and I'd be watching it to see what all the fuss was about - we're a strange bunch watching movies about Jesus over and over again - we already know the ending!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Jools, I'm not even remotely religious but I do find all this stuff fascinating. And my favourite movie is very religious, weird.

I know what you mean about watching Jesus movies, but it's the same with Hamlet you know the story but want to see what all these great directors do with it. And each Jesus film has it's own style and mood. The Mel Gibson edition is the most successful and almost unwatchable too. :)

Thanks for posting, most appreciated.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Cogerson - Anthony Quinn did indeed make a lot of movies. Including television movies/appearances, he had 167 titles to his resume.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Yes, I wanted to read the hub when I was thoroughly awake.

Okay, first of all, let me say which of these films I have seen that you included, in the order you included them:

Ben-Hur 1925 - all because of you, I might add

The Robe

Barabbas

Jesus Christ Superstar - this is my favourite film of them all and likely to remain so, which should not be surprising since I love musicals and the music is excellent! I have actually performed "I Don't Know How To Love Him" in concert/festival, though I have never been in the musical.

I *tried* to watch Godspell but found myself comparing it to the film I just mentioned which was much better so I left it halfway through. I will try again some other time.

The Life of Brian (probably my favourite Monty Python film)

I am not a religious person wither and I tend to choose which of these films to watch based on the actors in them and the genre.

Despite the fact that I am not religious, I am deliberately avoiding The Last Temptation of Christ because of its take on the relationship between Jesus and mary.

I am deliberately avoiding Mel Gibson's film for both its goriness and the fact that I despise his political/religious views. I see him in comedies and other light fare, but with what his father believes I can't watch this. Even if it were not gory I would not watch it.

The other movies I have not seen, I simply have not seen yet. I am more likely to watch the studio system films, of course. and the longer the movie is, the less likely it would be that I would be able to watch it when it aired on TV. And well, taping films off TV is no longer an option for me. Despite having a VHS, I cannot use it with my digital cable turned on, and that is where TCM is now - on digital.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

For a first of all comment that was to simply say what films I have seen I sure gave lots of extra detail...long too despite the fact that I hadn't seen most of the films :)

There is one film here I had never heard of at all:

The Gospel according to st. Matthew (1964)

I have never been a big fan of Jeffery Hunter. I associate him with Star Trek, of course, because he was the original captain in the pilot. I don't know why he wasn't a bigger star than he was because he was good looking, but then I understand his wife/agent made things difficult such that people didn't want to hire him and have to deal with her.

Virtually all the classic actors listed I have seen multiple films of their careers. Even if I hadn't,I have seen them in something.

alternate casting is always fascinating.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for all the comments Flora, they are appreciated and enjoyable to read.

I'm trying to picture Richard Burton as Jesus, a much better actor than Hunter but doesn't look as innocent. Anthony Perkins as Jesus? Has Perkins ever had a beard on screen? Don't think it would suit him.

Life of Brian is a laugh riot, had to post a few screeenshots on here. I should do a Monty Python hub and post a bunch of subtitled screenshots, one day.

So remember "Always look on the bright side of life..." [whistles]


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

I really enjoyed "Jesus Christ superstar". For a low budget musical based on a play, it was very well done. The guy who played Jesus kind of disappeared after that but he did well in the role.

And you've got to love "The Life of Brian", the best cinematic piece of Python madness. (Better than "Holy Grail")

"He said a Greek is going to inherit the Earth!"

"Did anyone get his name?"

Rob


Vange 4 years ago

Ben-Hur and Miklos Rozsa an actual miracle. Can't remember Barabbas I definitely must track it down.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I just watched Samson and Delilah last night (before Jesus), which, shall we say, takes some liberties with how the war broke out. It was part of star of the month Angela Lansbury on TCM


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Rob, Vange, Flora, thanks for posting your comments in my Holy Hub of Jesus [crosses himself].

Rob, The Life of Brian is one of my favourite Biblical films I wish there was a role for Chuck Heston in there somewhere, a cameo driving a chariot perhaps.

Vange, Barabbas isn't the greatest epic and not even half as funny as Life of Brian but it's definitely worth a look, especially for Jack Palance bonkers mad gladiator.

Flora, Samson was Pre-Christ you're quite correct but which book of the Bible? Actually I'm not sure myself, I think it was post-Exodus... book of Job? book of Brian?


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I do not know. Sorry.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

That is a fast response, I will consult the Holy Site of Wikipedia.

It was the Book of Judges.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I saw your answer on the hubpages home page feed and commented from there. Since I had no idea, I could answer it (er, not answer it) right away. I know you love to read about movies and other aspects of the entertainment world, so I don't know if you have been keeping track of my serious issues hubs where I talk about my situation. But I haven't read half the hubs of the people I am following or their comments for days now. I am so behind!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Flora, I did see a couple of your recent hubs, sorry I haven't commented. I find that when I stray from the entertainment threads I get depressed over people's problems. I think you're doing very well here in hubpages despite everything and made new friends. Your goal I think is to try to make a living out of writing, it can be done. :)


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I am about to make an important step in my Hubpages career. I am about to be banned by the forums and perhaps kicked off the site. I will start copying my work here onto my computer so that I can publish it somewhere else if need be. I will miss you if this happens, but hey, I am making pennies here anyway.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

What is going on Flora, how did things get to this point so fast? Why should they ban you? I don't see anything wrong with what you've written in your 'serious' hubs. Did you insult anyone? I think you're overreacting. Get some sleep, what time is it over there I forgot, it's 1.10am here, I should be sleeping and I'm watching a 1920 version of Jekyll and Hyde instead. :)


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Flora; I think you're worrying about nothing. You've done nothing to deserve being banned.

Rob


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Rob - thanks. I fret very easily.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Steve - I have mentioned you as a hubber people should read in the Pay It Forward forum thread. I know you do not go into the forums - there is a lot of bickering - but this forum is about mentioning our favourite hubbers who should be read. The idea is for you to mention someone you like to read in return, preferably someone not yet mentioned, but certainly not the person who mentioned you.

Once you have done that, you can go back to ignoring the forums. I also mentioned Cogerson.

I think you should mention Rob. :)


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for mentioning me Flora and I hope you're feeling better today, see you're still with us, it was all a dream!![Stop it Steve!]

um this is embarrassing but how do I find that thread? I peeked in the forum and it's a messy place, how do you navigate around there?


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Yes, it is a scary place.

Here is the link:

http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/90916#post1940973


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

FWIW good has conquered evil - Jesus has defeated the Devil, eh what? My two hubs, this and the Devil hub, I was curious to see which one would have the most views. Jesus is well in the lead. I think Flora's last flurry of posts helped though. :)


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Good is triumphing over evil because of my posts on unrelated topics ,eh?

hahaha!

Speaking of comments unrelated to Jesus in the movies, I have been writing quite a lot lately, so that is good. I've even managed to publish something funny about my cat instead of only serious topics.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Flora, I'm glad you're writing something funny, things had gotten a little serious here lately. But it did keep Jesus buoyant so thanks for that. :)

Btw The Devil is beating the Son of God at Hubscore, and I still haven't got a clue how that works.


thatmovieguy71 4 years ago

As a Catholic and a movie buff, I found this hub very interesting. I always thought the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries was a bit too star studded to be authentic. I love comparing and contrasting Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell - two very different takes on the same gospel. Incidentally, I had the pleasure of seeing Ted Neeley perform in Jesus Christ Superstar on stage - he was incredible!

I look forward to reading more of your posts. I am just getting started on hubpages, perhaps you can check out a few of my hubs and let me know what you think.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for the comment, I see what you mean about starstudded. Biblical movies tended to be starstudded too. It was a way to get the maximum amount of people to see this type of movie. I agree it can get a bit distracting when we see John Wayne as a centurion or Edward G Robinson in a toga. But there is also a lot of fun to be had seeing all the famous actors together in a Jesus movie or mini-series.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

what a great treat to see Neely in person, thatmovieguy! I have been lucky enough to see several big names in Vancouver back in the day when I could afford to see musicals in Vancouver.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

By the way, Mom has to work on her painting so she has no time to comment much, but she wants to say that she loves the artwork in your latest hub. Like you, she is only afraid of spiders who are actually there in person and even then they must be big. Me, they can even be little and I freak.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

[descends into hub] Jesus Christ... Superstar! Do you think you are what they say you are?

Flora, would you have followed me if I had a spider as an avatar? Just wonderin' :)

Glad your mum loves the artwork.

[ascends majestically out of hub]


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Steve - oh, no way would I have followed you with a spider avatar. I'm too much of a scardy cat.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Not only would you not follow me you would have dreaded me commenting in any of your hubs. :)

No worries my cat girl avatar is staying put.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

so far, no one with a spider avatar has ever commented on my hubs.


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 4 years ago from Irvine

From a substantive point of view, the only "realistic" or penetrating film cited is "The Last Temptation of Christ," and it is clearly declared as a work of fiction. I "got more" out of watching this in the theater than all the other films combined. I saw the movie with my sister, and for some time after the credits rolled by, I could not lift myself out of the chair. The perspective of the story brought the concept of Christianity to me in a completely different way -- one that was life-altering.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

A life-altering experience watching The Last Temptation of Christ, that is interesting rjbatty considering the response of some people towards it was to burn the theaters showing the film. I only saw it once and I thought that was quite enough.

Btw this hub is now my 4th most viewed hub, the power of religion! But on the other hand my 'The Devil - on the Screen' hub is also doing very well. :)


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 4 years ago from Irvine

Steve: If you haven't already, read the novel. It's a beautiful work of art.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks rjbatty, I'll keep it in mind.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 9 months ago from Virginia

Every year at this time (a few weeks before Easter).....I think I will copy Mr. Lensman's idea for a movie page on Jesus movies. Well this year I am going to finally do it. I will be sure to add a link to this page. Wow...this page has some age to it. Cogerson.

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