I’m taking off the rest of the day to celebrate Easter, but today’s a good day to have a poll on a topic suggested weeks ago in a previous movie thread. On holidays like Easter, what religious-themed movie would you want to watch most? I’ve included 15 off the top of my head as well as from scouring a few sites. In no particular order, here are the choices I’ve suggested:
- Ten Commandments — The granddaddy of religious movies. Cecil B. DeMille directed, and Charlton Heston is Moses. Let My Soylent Green Go, dude.
- Ben-Hur – The other granddaddy, also with Charlton Heston. If you watch both films on Easter, though, you’ll miss the whole day.
- Jesus Christ, Superstar – Jesus gets down with Galilean hippies, and sings and dances with Judas. A cool sidenote: the men who played Jesus and Judas formed a long friendship and worked together for decades on stage playing the roles.
- The Mission – I’d almost forgotten about this film, but saw it on the Vatican’s list of recommendations. Robert DeNiro to the Pope: “You talkin’ to me?”
- Name of the Rose – Not exactly uplifting and much more a murder mystery than a religious film, but it also underscores how reason and faith can coexist and strengthen each other — and that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Sean Connery plays a forebear to Sherlock Holmes, and Christian Slater is excellent as a novice.
- Bells of St. Mary’s – A favorite of the First Mate’s.
- Jesus of Nazareth – My favorite rendition of the Gospels. Jesus is a mite too ethereal in this portrayal, but the rest of the cast is first rate.
- The Robe – Never saw it myself, but I’ve heard it was excellent, and it appears on some lists.
- The Story of Ruth – I threw this in as a gag, really. It’s an example of a good story overcoming cheesy staging. And why do almost none of the Jewish men have beards?
- Prince of Egypt – Some may scoff, but there are few religious movies aimed at children that work at this level. The music helps tell the story, and the film gives a nuanced look at all of the characters rather than simply turning the Egyptians into Snidely Whiplash villains.
- The Nativity Story – Beautiful rendition of the birth of Christ, dimmed only slightly by the lack of passion coming from the young actress playing Mary. Joseph really comes alive in this telling.
- Passion of the Christ – Uncompromising, controversial, and undeniably powerful depiction of what scourging and crucifixion really meant for Jesus.
- The Greatest Story Ever Told – What we watched before Jesus of Nazareth, and Max von Sydow is better as Jesus. Charlton Heston gets lower billing this time as John the Baptist and parts with his head rather than parting the Red Sea.
- Brother Sun, Sister Moon – Another favorite of the First Mate’s, it tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare. It has the trappings of 70s cinema, but Franco Zeffireli. Christ told Francis, “Rebuild my church” – and Francis did.
You can add your own suggestions, both in the poll itself and in the comments. I’ll add anything that looks like it’s getting popular acclaim. I’ll discuss the results tomorrow on The Ed Morrissey Show with Kevin McCullough at 3 pm ET!
Update: I actually had Song of Bernadette listed in the poll but forgot to mention it above. I have not seen it myself, but it comes highly recommended.
Also, I’ve added It’s a Wonderful Life. Most people think of this as a Christmas movie, but I believe it to be an Easter movie at heart. Read my review at IMDB and see if you agree with me.
Update II: I’ve added three more – Luther, The Chosen, and Godspell. I’ve never seen Luther, but I hear it’s very good. The Chosen tells the story of the conflict among American Jews during the founding of Israel and treats all sides with sympathy; if you are put off by Robby Benson’s participation, he’s actually pretty good in this, and Rod Steiger is brilliant. I’ve seen Godspell a few times, and its music is brilliant, but the staging’s a little too childish for me. The late, great Lynne Thigpen has a smaller role in the movie.