there has never been a mainstream film about Jesus which stands
to reap the sort of commercial success The Passion of the Christ
is expected to, the life of Jesus Christ has been the subject of
scores of films over the years, ranging from the first silent films
ever made through to the “swords and sandals” epics
of the mid-Twentieth century and the release last year of Philip
Saville’s The Gospel of John.
Others have included:
• The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965): Starring Max
Von Sydow as Jesus and (in)famous for its cameos - including Charleton
Heston as John the Baptist, John Wayne as the centurion and Sidney
Poitier as Simon of Cyrene.
• Jesus Christ, Superstar (1973): The film version
of the Broadway musical came complete with the feel of the Sixties.
• Jesus of Nazareth (1977): Directed by Franco Zeffirelli
and starring Robert Powell as Jesus, this made for TV mini-series
traced the story of the life of Christ and stirred controversy over
Zeffirelli’s desire to portray a more human Jesus.
• Jesus (1979): Known to many as The Jesus Film,
this has been dubbed in hundreds of languages, had more than a billion
viewers and helped lead millions to Christ. Says writer Mike Hertenstein
in a recent survey of Jesus films: “It is without doubt both
the most viewed, and most translated, motion picture of all time.”
• The Last Temptation of Christ (1988): Highly controversial,
this Martin Scorsese-directed film starred Willem Dafoe as Jesus,
Harvey Keitel as Judas and Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene.
• The Gospel of John (2003): Directed by Phillip
Saville, this is presented as “word for word” from the
Good News Bible with narration by Christopher Plummer.
Sources: With information from Mike Hertenstein:
“Epic Survey of Jesus Movies: From La vie et la passion de
Jesus Christ to The Passion of the Christ” on Flickerings