Cinema, throughout its history, has contributed to building an image of Jesus, present to this day in the collective imagination of people (believers or not); and Easter is a date in which we can remember, see and see again in those films the Historical Jesus Christ, whether as a main, secondary or omnipresent character is a good way of reflection.
In a world dominated by the image, the cinematographic genre centered on biblical episodes, especially those in charge of showing the life of Jesus Christ, it is abundant and would constitute, in many cases, a reference for theology, Christology and faith education for various Christian beliefs, and even for other religions and even for non-believers.
Ever since the Lumiere brothers filmed 13 gospel-inspired moments in one of the first movies in history, the life of Jesus has been collected directly or indirectly in more than 150 titles (not counting those on television), whether developed with sincere devotion or just business sense.
The truth is that these stories, independent or large blockbusters, will always be a challenge for the director and for the artist who wears the skin of this man whose life, on many occasions, has given meaning to all the other roles played by an actor. throughout his career, due to its importance, because, as they say, a story like Christ’s will always be “the greatest story ever told.”
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Here is a list (very personal and without any order) of the best Jesus Christ for the cinema.
Jim Caviezel in “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)
Caviezel, in this Mel Gibson film about the last hours and the crucifixion of Jesus, became the most suffering and suffering of the Christs on screen. The film premiered in 2004 and is currently one of the most recognized in religious cinema. The film was one of the most controversial of its year, as many pointed out that it focused too much on violence (bordering on gore) taken to the extreme, even to an unsuspected limit, on the body, and in that Gibson seems to accentuate the value of the sacrifice of God made man.
Jeffrey Hunter in “King of Kings” (1961)
Director Nicholas Ray directed and produced this full color version of the unforgettable “King of Kings”, shot mostly in Spain, under the artistic direction of Gil Parrondo. This tape is inspired more by the books of Tacitus than by the Gospels. Thus, it places the life of Jesus in the political context of Roman domination. In the film, Ray takes the opportunity to illustrate themes such as the inner struggle of man, between action and contemplation, nonconformity against the established order and freedom as a personal guide, approached with serenity and poise by Hollywood actor Jeffrey Hunter.
Joaquin Phoenix in “Maria Magdalena” (2018)
Like all great actors, Phoenix also played the role of Jesus Christ, and he did it for the film “Maria Magdalena”, starring his partner, Rooney Mara. The film focuses on the woman redeemed by God, who tells the story of Christ from a female point of view. Joaquin personifies an introverted and mysterious Jesus who surrenders under the contemplative gaze of Magdalena.
Enrique Irazoqui in “The Gospel according to Saint Matthew” (1964)
The Spanish actor Enrique Irazoqui (an anti-Francoist anarchist) starred in this 1964 film recorded in Italy and directed by the great Pier Paolo Pasolini, in whose story he tries to unite the Catholic and the Marxist vision. With very few means, the camera on his shoulder and non-professional actors, the Italian director tried to offer a more austere image of the biography of Christ, and he did succeed.
Christian Bale in “Mary, Mother of Jesus” (1999)
Bale also played the role of the son of God, in the film “Mary, mother of Jesus”, where, like Phoenix, he was not the protagonist, but the story of Christ was told from the perspective of Mary, from the annunciation until her death. The prominent British actor built a tender Jesus, dedicated to his mother and the people around him.
Max von Sydow in “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (1965)
In this spectacular film by George Stevens, which achieved enormous popularity and garnered five Oscar nominations, Swedish actor Max Von Sydow created a mystical but haunted image of Jesus. With his eyes looking into infinity and an extreme solemnity in his speech, Von Sydow greatly influenced future representations of Christ.
Williem Dafoe in “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988)
Dafoe demonstrates again in this controversial film, directed by the master Martin Scorsese, what a good actor he is, by playing a more human Jesus, weak and subjected to temptations, as well as immersed in doubt about his divinity. Based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, this approach to the story of Jesus is a free interpretation of the Gospels.
Enrique Rambal in “The Martyr of Calvary” (1952)
“The Martyr of Calvary” is a Mexican film directed by Miguel Morayta in 1952. The role of Jesus Christ was played by the Spanish actor (nationalized Mexican) Enrique Rambal. This film is usually considered one of the most representative in Latin America that has been made of the biblical genre.
Ted Neeley in “Jesus Christ superstar” (1973)
Ted Neeley starred in this musical version of the life of Jesus directed by Norman Jewison, inspired by the 1971 Broadway musical in which the last days of Jesus and his conflicts with Judas are narrated. Neeley composes Christ as a jovial and rebellious leader, a “superstar” with many fans who lead him to his death.
Robert Powell in “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977)
Considered by many to be the perfect replica of the (traditional) ‘ideal Jesus Christ’, Robert Powell creates a convincing and lovable Christ in the 1977 film (split into parts due to its large length of time) “Jesus of Nazareth”, directed by Franco Zeffirelli. With a great cast full of movie stars of the time, the brilliant staging was shot between Morocco and Tunisia for five long years, and several multinational companies collaborated in its production. Thus, the film was highly praised by the Italian Catholic Church, which recommended it to its faithful, while it was rejected by North American Puritans, who accused it of showing a too human Jesus.
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