Top 5 Best Bible-Inspired Movies

Photo Credit: United Artists
March 11th, 2014

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The Bible has been a fairly popular source of inspiration for Hollywood over the years both in the U.S.A and abroad. Well over 50 Biblically inspired movies have been made in the last several decades, covering such classic stories as Adam and Eve, Noah's ark, the life of Jesus, Moses and many more, and some of the best Biblical films have been box office hits as well as critical hits.



prince-of-egypt.jpgPhoto Credit: DreamWorks Distribution

1. "The Prince of Egypt" (1998)

"The Prince of Egypt" is an animated musical film made in the tradition of Disney by DreamWorks. It is actually the studio's first animated film made in this style, and it is based on the Biblical book of Exodus. It specifically focuses on the life of Moses, from his childhood to his role in leading the Israelites out of captivity. The film was wildly popular and held a box office record for non-Disney animation until 2007. It also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Critical reviews of the movie were largely positive, with many praising the attractive animation of the film and the handling of complex subject matter.

In "The Prince of Egypt," Moses floats down the Nile river as an infant because his family was afraid he would be killed by the Pharaoh. He is picked up by Egyptian royalty and grows up in the royal household with his best friend being his adopted brother Ramses. He achieves a high position in this society, only to eventually find out who he is and where he comes from. The film covers Moses' confrontations with Ramses and the various plagues that affect Egypt as a result.


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2. "The Ten Commandments" (1956)

"The Ten Commandments" was directed by Cecil B. DeMille and based on the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. It was popular and successful at the time, and it continues to be highly regarded today. It won one Academy Award and was deemed the most successful film of the year due to earnings. Later, it was decided that the film should be preserved in the National Film Registry as a culturally, historically and aesthetically significant work.

"The Ten Commandments" stars Charlton Heston as Moses and tells the story of the character as a young man, but a love story between Moses and the Egyptian princess is also a plot point. Similarly to "The Prince of Egypt," Ramses is both Moses' former friend and eventual nemesis. The film features the parting of the Red Sea as one of the climactic moments, and it later explores the creation of the Ten Commandments. The story finishes on a sadder note as Moses goes into exile.


greatest-story-ever-told.jpgPhoto Credit: United Artists

3. "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965)

"The Greatest Story Ever Told" stars Charlton Heston as well, but this time he appears as John the Baptist. Max von Sydow plays Jesus in this movie, which is based on the life of Jesus. The decision that led to the casting of Sydow resulted from director and producer George Stevens wanting an unknown actor free of any predispositions by the public. Other than Sydow, however, the film features a large ensemble cast including many popular actors from the time. Critical reviews were mostly positive, calling the film historically powerful and significant. It was nominated for five Oscars, but it did not win any.

"The Greatest Story Ever Told" follows the life of Jesus from his birth to his crucifixion and then finally his resurrection. It was filmed primarily in the arid western United States, standing in for the desert climate of the Middle East.



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4."The Passion of the Christ" (2004)

"The Passion of the Christ" was a highly controversial film released in 2004 and directed by equally controversial director Mel Gibson. Similar to the director of "The Greatest Story Ever Told," Gibson chose an actor who was relatively unknown in the person of Jim Caviezel. The film is told using exclusively Aramaic and Latin for dialog and employing the use of subtitles. Part of the controversy around this film was due to the extreme violence, which critics, including Catholic sources, said was distracting from the message. However, the audience largely ignored this as the movie went on to be the top grossing film ever with an R rating. The film was nominated for several awards, including three Oscars.

Unlike "The Greatest Story Ever Told," Gibson's film covers only the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, beginning with his temptation in Gethsemane and ending with his rising from the dead and leaving the tomb where he was buried.


david-bathsheba.jpgPhoto Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

5."David and Bathsheba" (1951)

Directed by Henry King, "David and Bathsheba" retells one of the more shocking Biblical stories. It depicts David's adulterous affair with a soldier's wife and his subsequent indirect murder of that soldier. The story is found in the second book of Samuel in the Old Testament, but the film does not focus entirely on the adulterous incident, also covering much of David's early life as the king. The film was a high earner at the box office and was the most popular film of the year. It was also nominated for five Oscars, but it did not win any.

A large number of Bible-based films were made in the 1950s and 1960s, but the rate of the production of such films has not slowed down since then. Many of the more recent films use creative ways to tell old stories, such as the raw passion of Gibson's movie or the animated style of "The Prince of Egypt."