Movies about the Crucifixion

And my goodness there have been many and they are a mixed bag…

I’ll be honest – my least favorite is Mel Gibson and his needlessly barbaric and slightly dubious Passion of the Christ – not since the Third Reich stopped making films have Jews been portrayed in such a cartoon-like way.  This movie echoes all the worst aspects of Christianity from the anti-Jewish sentiments expressed in the gospel of John through the early church to the present day.

I’d rather watch Max von Sydow playing Jesus and Charlton Heston as John the BaptistThe Greatest Story Ever Told – a movie made in a gentler time where Jesus gathering his disciples is not unlike Robin gathering up his merry men. Nice Sunday afternoon viewing.

But the most intellectually engaging version of the story of Jesus at the end of his life has to be The Last Temptation of Christ – a very misunderstood movie by Scorsese which looks at what would have happened if Jesus had been tempted off the Cross. Far from being blasphemous – I thought this film oozed Catholic theology.


2 thoughts on “Movies about the Crucifixion

  1. I never liked the “kinder gentler” passion films. Jesus was sapped of all emotion and the Jewish and Roman characters seemed parodies to me. Because of all the hype, I waited for several years to see “Passion of the Christ”, assuming I’d be just as disappointed in it as I was the others. Gibson’s film was raw and gritty and seemed, to me at least, to be somewhat more realistic. Sanitizing the story serves only to dilute the message, in my opinion.

    1. Thank you for commenting – always welcome! I hear what you’re saying but even on a re-watching, I felt that Gibson clearly has a love of over the top violence – bordering on sado-masochism. By the time Jesus goes from the garden of Gethsemane to the Sanhedrin, he’s already covered in blood. As for the scourging – I had to go to the restroom and wash my face with cold water during that scene in the cinema!

      Having seen Apocalypto – Gibson’s epic set in pre-Columbian America, I’m inclined to think he likes dwelling on very visceral torture.

      As you say, I’ve no doubt the Romans were capable of such things and the story has been sanitised. One could also argue that, as with other faiths before Christianity, human sacrifice is central to the Christian credo (the sacrifice of Jesus for us) and sacrifice is never a jolly affair. But I was very uncomfortable – as were many of the critics – with Gibson’s characterisation of the Jews in the film. He clearly goes with the account in John that it’s the Jews who are solidly to blame for the crucifixion and the scene in the Sanhedrin…well, I found it rather grotesque.

      But hey ho – always interesting to have a new perspective on what’s a gripping story. What will Hollywood dream up next?

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