The great Biblical epics of cinema always make for an enjoyable viewing experience, no matter what your views on religion may be. These are the films which breathe life into the stories that have indelibly influenced western society as a whole. At the very least, they are fine examples of a lush, bygone era where film was thoroughly bathed in resplendent Technicolor. At their best, they represent a genre that is definitely worth studying, even today. Below is a list of our five favorite Biblical epics. Next time you set up the inflatable screen, try one of these films for a night of epic cinema under the stars.
(Darren Aronofsky, 2014)
Like all of his films, Darren Aronofsky's approach to the story of Noah and his floating menagerie is unconventional, to say the least. Many critics and audiences who were looking for a more traditional approach to the Bible objected to the film's depiction of fallen angels as powerful rock monsters, as well as brutal but very human conclusions that Russell Crowe's Noah finds in his apocalyptic fanaticism. But, all liberties aside, Aronofsky succeeds in giving new life to the old mythos, by applying today's anxieties to this classic tale of man's destruction and ultimate redemption.
The Prince of Egypt
(Simon Wells & Brenda Chapman, 1998)
There have definitely been some poor attempts to animate the stories of the Old Testament. But Dreamworks' re-telling of the Book of Exodus is not one of them. Casting talented actors like Ralph Fiennes, Patrick Stewart, and Val Kilmer makes for a good touch - each voice gives a boost of humanity that is much needed for an animated epic, which can often get lost in big sequences that don't have any substance. And, as for those animated sequences, they're gorgeous - В a perfect blend of В old school animation techniques and CGI as an aid, rather than the only tool in the box. Definitely a crowd pleaser for the whole family!
The Passion of the Christ
(Mel Gibson, 2004)
Director Mel Gibson' paen to the passion plays of yore met with some intense criticism for his depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Some found Gibson's portrayal of Judaism to be unflattering and bigoted. Some people objected to the Hollywoodification of a story that many hold to be a sacred truth. Those who approved of the film in theory objected to the level of gore and violence which would naturally accompany a realistic depiction of Rome's favorite execution method. But, in the face of all these criticisms, The Passion of the Christ remains an iconic, influential film - perhaps, because of those criticisms, in fact. It may not be for the faint of heart, but it definitely is the most historically accurate portrayal of that fateful Passover week in 33 A.D.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
(George Stevens, 1965)
At more than four hours of running time, this epic film from George Stevens is an undertaking, to be sure. But its ambitious length certainly does not detract from the vast scope of this film, which tells the story of Jesus from start to finish. For many Americans, this movie was the first exposure to Swedish acting heavyweight Max Von Sydow Though the film is replete with a veritable galaxy of cameos (including a memorably stalwart scene with John Wayne), and uses a large amount of cinematic resource, there is a quiet reverence which permeates the film, ultimately making it both a spectacle and a spiritual success.
The Ten Commandments
(Cecil B. DeMille, 1956)
Was Charlton Heston ever a more suitable choice than as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's famous epic? Probably not. When you see the way the man wears his beard and wields his staff, it's clear that the Great Liberator of the Ancient World was the part that ol' Chuck was born to play. His naturally dramatic speaking rhythms and his ability to both roar and seethe with quiet intensity make him the most perfect Moses in drama. And that's just one aspect of this incredible film which uses a wide, panoramic eye to frame the vastness of the Red Sea, the terror of the Ten Plagues, and the tenacity of a tribe lost in the desert, trying to make their way home.