Bible movies are about as old as Hollywood itself. From black and white silent films all the way to present day, the Bible remains a popular source of material for movie producers to mine every few years. Their results of success are mixed. Some become cemented classics, while others drift into a well-deserved obscurity. Unsurprisingly, they’re also lightning rods for criticism and controversy, some drawing crowds and others getting banned outright. So, out of all the biblical films, which have elevated to the top? Here are 25 Epic Bible Movies Worth Watching.
Jospeh: King of Dreams
From Dreamworks (the creators of the much more successful The Prince of Egypt) Joseph: King of Dreams starred Ben Affleck as Joseph and Mark Hamill as Judah but was unfortunately relegated to direct to video. It tells the Biblical story of Joseph being thrown into slavery because of his jealous brothers but eventually rises to power within Egypt.
Peter and Paul
Starring Anthony Hopkins and Robert Foxworth, Peter and Paul details the missionary journeys and personal struggles of the Apostles Peter and Paul from the Book of Acts. Originally a television miniseries on CBS in 1981, it was eventually compiled into a full-length film for home video.
Another mini-series turned into a film, Abraham, starring Richard Harris, tells the Old Testament story of Abraham as he leads his family to Canaan because of orders from God. What really sells this movie is its beautiful set pieces and locations. Harris also provides a solid performance, although the movie can be a bit slow at times.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a film adaptation of the musical with the same name which retells the story of Joseph. Starring Donny Osmond, the music, boisterous color, and whimsy are about as delightful as they are corny. Still, musical fans might find a lot to enjoy with this adaptation.
The Story of Ruth
The Story of Ruth is a classic film directed by Henry Koster. Loosely based on the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, the movie follows the Moabite woman Ruth as she meets Elimelech and his family and commits to their God. When tragedy strikes, she goes back to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi.
Life of Brian
Who doesn’t love Monty Python? Well, it turns out everyone when they make fun of the Bible. While it’s not exactly based on any particular Bible story, The Life of Brian satires the Gospels and the ministry of Jesus. It’s quite possibly one of the most controversial and infamous Bible movies of all time.
Another classic by director Henry Koster, The Robe is about the crucifixion of Christ and how the Roman tribune Marcellus Gallio won Christ’s robe in a bet before crucifying him. Riddled with guilt, Gallio goes to Palestine to learn about the man he killed.
Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie
While not as epic of a movie as the other films on this list, one could argue that at the time there was a lack of good quality children’s entertainment on the market. In fact, any Veggie Tales movie was amazingly state of the art when they first came out. Fun for kids of all ages, Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie is a loose retelling of the story of prophet Jonah in the Bible. About a group of vegetables suffering car trouble, “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” tell Bob the Tomato and his friends the story of the messenger Jonah.
Directed and written by Kevin Reynolds, Risen is centered around Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. A Roman Tribune in Judea is tasked with finding out what happened to Jesus after he disappeared from his tomb to help prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told is a classic, big-budget flop that cost $20 million to make and included a whole host of big-name stars including John Wayne and Charlton Heston. While the general public didn’t go see the movie, The Academy still nominated it for several awards. The story itself follows the life of Christ from birth to death to resurrection.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as Ramses, Exodus: Gods and Kings is Ridley Scott’s attempt to recreate the epic story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. While it wasn’t exactly well reviewed, it certainly has tremendous spectacle.
King of Kings
Similar to The Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings retells the major events of the gospel story with grand dramatic style. While it initially didn’t receive favorable reviews at the time, its ratings have improved over time; it even has an 85% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
Samson and Delilah
From legendary Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille, Samson and Delilah is the Biblical retelling of strongman Samson under Philistine rule and the eventual betrayal by Delilah. Made in 1949, DeMille provides his usual over-the-top filmmaking in this grand epic.
Barabbas, directed by Richard Fleischer, is based on the crucifixion of Christ when Jesus is tried before Pontius Pilate. When Pilate released the criminal Barabbas to have Jesus killed, Barabbas is haunted by Jesus for the rest of his life.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
Written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Gospel According to St. Matthew follows Jesus primarily along his ministry journey. The interesting story behind this film is that Pasolini shot it without a script and merely followed the Gospel of Matthew page by page. He tried to film it as if it were a documentary rather than a grand epic.
Jesus Christ Superstar
Released in 1973, Jesus Christ Superstar is a film adaptation of the rock opera with the same name and follows the last six days of Christ through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. Roger Ebert considered it a triumph and even better than the production it adapted.
Last Days in the Desert
Last Days in the Desert is about Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and praying, and being tempted by Satan. Ewan McGregor plays Jesus and must decide how to help a family in crisis. It’s a slow burn story and McGregor’s performance often elevates it.
The Nativity Story
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, The Nativity Story focuses primarily on Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.
The Prince of Egypt
The Prince of Egypt, by DreamWorks pictures, is the animated retelling of Moses and the exodus of Israelite slaves from Egypt. On its release, it received both solid box office numbers and critical praise. However, it also earned controversy in countries like Egypt and Malaysia where it was even banned.
The Gospel of John (2014)
The 2014 movie The Gospel of John is one of the first word-for-word film adaptations of the book and is incredibly accurate to the text. The characters speak in Aramaic in the background, and it took five years to make.
The Last Temptation of Christ
Directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Willem Dafoe, The Last Temptation of Christ was and remains another controversial film about Jesus. The Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, and Evangelical Christians all came out against it on its release, decrying it as blasphemous. Due to their protests, many theaters refused to screen the film, and Blockbuster, at the time, wouldn’t carry it in their stores.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments is about as grand in scale as it is overwhelmingly long. Its total run time is three hours and forty minutes! Still, if you can make it through the long slog of this Exodus story starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner, you might come out on the other side feeling a little bit more cultured as a result.
Ben Hur (1959)
Calling Ben Hur a Bible movie is a bit of a stretch, but their tagline was A Tale of the Christ and does feature Jesus at critical moments in his life. Similar to The Ten Commandments, this film is a grand epic with a run time of three hours and thirty-two minutes. So if you plan to watch it, get comfortable.
Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky, wasn’t exactly a box office or critical smash hit. Still, there’s a lot the film has to offer. Of the Biblical movies made over the years, it stands apart as both an exciting adventure and survival tale with plenty of grit and cinematic gravitas.
The Passion of the Christ
Perhaps of all the movies made about Jesus’s life, The Passion of the Christ stands as the best among them. Directed by Mel Gibson, the film details the final moments before Jesus is crucified and depicts a brutal and agonizing experience that was likely very true to life.
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