Movies have been around for more than 100 years, and that includes films about Jesus. The first came out in 1902, and the most recent came out in 2016. But films can be less than reverent to the Messiah, and some of the great ones are too dated to be easily obtained.
Here are PJ Media’s 5 recent (ok, there’s one classic) and reverent Jesus films to jump-start your Holy Week, arranged from worst to best:
5. The Nativity Story (2006)
Holy Week revolves around Jesus’ death and resurrection, but it’s also a good time to remember the remarkable events surrounding Jesus’ birth. The Nativity Story presents Mary’s visitation, the journey of the wise men, and the angelic visit to the shepherds in a reverent and compelling way. The plot, music, and cinematography are all strong, and The Nativity Story proves a beautiful and fitting tribute to the birth of Christ. Here are PJ Media’s top ten other Christmas films we like to watch over and over again.
4. The Young Messiah (2016)
This fictional story of Jesus’ youth features many of the great moments scripture does provide about the savior’s early years: his journey to Egypt, his return home, and his powerful answers to the rabbis in the Temple. The movie presents a compelling vision of 1st century Israel, although perhaps a bit more beautiful than what ancient life would have really been like. Read PJ Media’s full review here.
3. Ben-Hur (1959)
All right, so Ben-Hur is not a recent film, but there is a new version coming out this year, and what self-respecting list of Jesus movies could leave this fantastic classic off the list? Ben-Hur skirts around the Jesus narrative, focusing on another 1st century Jew who is also oppressed by Romans. The main character is betrayed by his best friend, and seeks revenge throughout the film. His story is juxtaposed with that of the Christ, who suffers without vengeance and whose passion has miraculous power — to heal bodies and save souls. The reverent climax of the film will pull the heartstrings of any believing Christian and solidify the wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice.
2. Risen (2016)
This drama views the resurrection of Christ through the eyes of a skeptical Roman centurion. Tasked with finding the body of Jesus after rumors of his return to life, the centurion digs up bodies, interrogates disciples, and approaches the two guards who were supposed to keep watch at the tomb. The more he searches, the more the stories just don’t make sense, and the more he comes to realize a powerful truth. Read PJ Media’s full review here.
1. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson and Jim Caviezel may have provided the absolute best film version of Jesus’ passion. The film is hard to watch — painful, even — but it portrays the events of Good Friday with care and deep gravitas. The entire movie is in Aramaic and Latin, an impressive achievement which lends even more credibility to a powerful film. Moreover, while the movie focuses a great deal on Mary (showing a slight Roman Catholic slant), it does such amazing justice to Jesus’ character and sacrifice that Protestants love the film just as much as Catholics.
I make it a point to re-watch this film every year on Good Friday, and encourage that practice for all Christians who are able, as it is a powerful reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus and what our sins cost this sinless savior.