Traditional Judeo-Christian values that have served America well for hundreds of years have helped Hollywood create some memorable movies based on the bible. We’ve even seen a return of biblical stories on TV, including the NBC miniseries “A.D. The Bible Continues,” TNT’s the “Bible Collection,” and NatGeo’s dramatic adaptation of the O’Reilly bestseller, “Killing Jesus.”
But it’s on the big screen where the majesty of those stories really comes to life. Here are Newsmax’s picks for the top 10 biblical films of all time.
No. 10: “The Story of Ruth,” 1960, is based on the Book of Ruth, and depicts the spiritual journey she took from a pagan priestess to her conversion to monotheism, a result of her attraction to a Judean man and his description of a forgiving God. After tragedy strikes, she begins a new life in Bethlehem and eventually becomes grandmother to David, the legendary king of Israel.
"Fine retelling of the story of Ruth,” a reviewer tells Rotten Tomatoes. "’The Story of Ruth’ is a sweet, heartwarming film that hits the highlights of the book and deserves to be included in the group of sword-and-sandal epics who do their job well.”
," 1961, directed by Richard Fleischer.
When Pontius Pilate offered a mob the choice of freeing either Jesus or the murderer-thief Barabbas, they chose the criminal and Jesus took his place on the cross. To add reality, the crucifixion scene was filmed during a solar eclipse to depict the darkening of the sky at Christ’s death.
The film follows Barabbas, played by Anthony Quinn, from his release, to his sale into slavery -- first at a Sicilian Sulphur mine, then as a gladiatorial slave -- while his conversion to Christianity builds to its completion at the end.
,” 1953, was based on the novel of the same name written by Lloyd C. Douglas. It received two Academy Awards (Art Direction and Costumes), and was nominated for three others (Best Picture, Best Actor, Cinematography).
It tells the story of Roman tribune Marcellus Gallio, portrayed by Richard Burton, who was ordered by Pontius Pilate to carry out Christ’s crucifixion. He’s awarded Christ’s robe as a souvenir. He eventually converts to Christianity but loses everything he has in the process.
No. 7: “Noah,” 2014, tells the familiar story of the 10th and final pre-flood patriarch and his construction of an ark in anticipation of the deluge, as described in chapters 5-9 of the Book of Genesis. It stars Russell Crowe in the title role, assisted by Jennifer Connolly and Emma Watson. Rotten Tomatoes’ reported, "With sweeping visuals grounded by strong performances in service of a timeless tale told on a human scale, Darren Aronofsky's Noah brings the Bible epic into the 21st century."
“‘Noah’ is a feat of filmmaking.” Gushed S. Jhoanna Robledo for Common Sense Media. “Every frame, every angle, every shift speaks to the able hands of director Darren Aronofsky.”
,” 2016, tells the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection with an interesting twist. Clavius, a Roman tribune, is summoned by Pontius Pilate, who has “a situation.” Clavius is ordered to make sure that the body of Jesus (or “Yeshua” in Hebrew and the film) is sealed in a tomb and remains there. Pilate wants to prevent scripture from being fulfilled by a resurrection, which he fears could lead to a Jewish uprising. Everyone knows how that story ends.
"We must find a body," Pilate tells Clavius. "Find the corpse of this cursed Yeshua before it rots."
“‘Risen’ accomplishes something quite remarkable,” wrote Adam Holz for Plugged In. “It tells the familiar, timeless story of Jesus' death and resurrection from a fresh vantage point.”
No. 5: “One Night with the King,” 2006, was based on the Book of Esther, which took place in Persia at about 480 B.C. It received the 2007 CAMIE Award, given to outstanding, uplifting films emphasizing character and morality.
It tells the story of Hadassah, an orphan who changes her name to Esther to hide her Jewish ancestry. As the eventual queen of Persia, God uses her to prevent the extermination of the Jewish people.
“Not too many bona-fide epics get made anymore, but this gorgeous film definitely fits into that category,” wrote Jane Boursaw for Common Sense Media. “It's easy to forget that the Bible is filled with intrigue, romance, and adventure; ‘One Night With The King’ reminds us of that.”
“The Nativity Story
,” 2006, tells the familiar story of the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem.
“Two great love stories are affectionately told here: God's love for all mankind expressed through the sending of His Son to save us from our sin, and Mary and Joseph's blossoming love for each other,” writes Steven Isaac
for Plugged In.
“What the film does best is threefold: 1) It creates a believable, growing bond between Mary and Joseph. 2) It unfolds for us the trial it must have been for Mary to explain that her pregnancy wasn't manmade.” And finally, “3) It confronts us with the harsh realities of living, traveling and giving birth 2,000 years ago.”
“The Passion of the Christ
,” 2004, was directed by actor-filmmaker Mel Gibson, and portrays the stark horror and savagery of Christ’s crucifixion, while at the same time reaffirming Christian faith.
“If ever there was a film with the correct title, that film is Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ,’” wrote reviewer Roger Ebert
, giving it four stars. “Although the word passion has become mixed up with romance, its Latin origins refer to suffering and pain; later Christian theology broadened that to include Christ's love for mankind, which made him willing to suffer and die for us.”
,” 1959, was based on the novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” by Lew Wallace. It starred Charlton Heston in the title role as Judah Ben-Hur, a wealthy Jewish prince and merchant living in Jerusalem. He’s wrongfully accused of a crime, arrested, and sentenced to die as a galley slave. A mysterious stranger helps Judah escape, and he learns the art of chariot racing.
Judah enters a race that includes the very man who sent him to die. He now tries to kill him again -- this time with his chariot. Instead, the would-be murderer is trampled by horses, but before he dies, he tells Judah where to find his family.
Judah locates his mother and sister and takes them to meet Jesus, who he’d heard so much about. But they arrive as Jesus is carrying the cross to his crucifixion. Judah offers him water, and realizes Jesus is the mysterious stranger who saved him.
It won numerous honors at the 1959 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Heston), Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), Color Cinematography, Color Art Direction, Sound, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, Editing, Special Effects, Color Costume Design.
Wrote Paul Asay for Plugged In, “All the betrayal and thirst for revenge, and all its brutality, ultimately help highlight the movie's heartening message: that love and forgiveness have more power than a thundering horde of chariots.”
“The Ten Commandments
,” 1956, was directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille and was arguably Charlton Heston’s greatest role as Moses, as well as Yul Brenner’s as Rameses II. It’s based on the Book of Exodus -- the release of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and their 40-year journey through the wilderness to the land of milk and honey: the Promised Land.
Wrote James Powers for The Hollywood Reporter at the time of the film’s release, “To sum up, ‘The Ten Commandments’ was a dream in the mind of Cecil B. DeMille beyond what anyone else had ever projected, and he has brought it off. It is, in that misused but here accurate word, unique. There is no other picture like it. There will be none. If it could be summed up in a word, the word would be sublime. And the man responsible for that, when all is said and done is Cecil B. DeMille.”
“Exodus: Gods and Kings,” was a 2014 stab at improving the 1956 masterpiece, but succeeded only special effects -- it lacked Heston.
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