Movies Celebrating Jesus’ Sacrifice
by Phil Boatwright

Good Friday and Easter, along with Christmas, are the most blessed events to occur for mankind. So how will ABC celebrate the resurrection of our Lord? It’s tradition for that network to run The Ten Commandments. (I don’t need to say anything, do I?) I thought I might mention a few DVDs that portray the significance of Jesus coming to Earth, and His sacrifice for the whole world. You may have heard of most, perhaps seen some. All are worthy of an extra viewing.

First on the list is The Passion of the Christ. It’s justly rated R for the depiction of the graphic brutality Jesus undertook, and therefore hard to view at times, but director Mel Gibson meant to shock, unnerve, and clarify the ordeal of Christ’s sacrifice. The filmmaker’s purpose is to detail the final 12 hours of Christ’s life, when mankind was allowed to destroy His human life in order that we might have an eternal one.

In The Robe, based on the Lloyd C. Douglas novel about a Roman centurion who wins Christ's robe in a dice game. Soon his life, and that of his slave, is changed as they discover Jesus to be the Savior of the world. We see Jesus through the use of long shots and camera angles that focus the attention not on an actor portraying Christ, but on the people who came into His presence. This method was effectively used in Ben Hur as well, giving both productions a great dignity. Richard Burton was nominated for an Oscar, but Victor Mature steals the picture with a moving performance as the converted slave, Demetrius. The depiction of the early church and the life-changing power of our Lord make this film worth viewing. Not rated, it contains some warfare and several battle sequences. Governed by the then Motion Picture Code, the studio presented adult subject matter with taste and discretion, two words seldom applied to today’s movie-making procedure. Just out: A Special Edition of The Robe. I highly recommend it. It contains several special bonus features, including a Making Of featurette and a most interesting commentary track.

Jesus of Nazareth (1977), Franco Zeffirelli’s 6-hour TV-production is considered by many to be the best film about the Christ. Acclaimed for its thorough biblical and historical research, it’s a compelling spiritual experience with several outstanding performances. Robert Powell heads the all-star cast. My favorite scene features Ernest Borgnine as a Roman soldier who asks Jesus to heal his servant. It is a seminal moment, one that reveals the need for and power of faith. Unrated.

King of Kings. Orson Welles’ narration lends authority to this 1961 production, as does the great Miklos Rozsa score. Although we must endure Jeffrey Hunter looking a little too GQ, with his striking blue eyes and chiseled good looks, it is an earnest account, one that depicts Jesus’ life from manger to resurrection. Beautifully filmed and containing the Sermon on the Mount, this epic was filmed in widescreen. Unrated.

Here’s a telling of the story that can be shared with little kids: The Miracle Maker. This full-length feature film first aired on ABC in 2000 and is now on DVD. With the use of claymation and its graphically striking two-dimensional animation, the story presents the life of Jesus through the eyes of a sick little girl who encounters the Christ through different stages of His ministry. Rated G.

Others worth noting: Jesus (1979-G) is narrated by Alexander Scourby, produced by the Genesis Project and filmed in Israel. Cotton Patch Gospel (1988-G) is a taped-live musical comedy setting the Gospel of Matthew in modern times, with the Son of God being born in Gainesville Georgia. With great music by Harry Chapin, this is one of the most inspiring treatments of the New Testament I’ve seen on video. Alas, one of the epics disappoints: The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965-Unrated). You wouldn’t know how great the story was by this slogging cinema saga, but at least it’s a chance to see a blond, Swedish Jesus (Max Von Sydow), plus the immortal line, “Surely this was the Son of God,” delivered by the centurion to end all centurions – John Wayne. I love the Duke, but…You might wish to check out Zeffirelli’s version, first.