As far as I can tell, there have been three times in the Academy’s history when it nominated two different Bible movies for Oscars in the same year: in 1951, when Quo Vadis and David and Bathsheba received over a dozen nominations combined (neither film won anything); in 1959, when Ben-Hur won a record-setting 11 awards and The Big Fisherman also scored a few nominations; and in 1966, when arthouse favorite The Gospel According to St. Matthew received three nominations while the big-budget film The Bible: In the Beginning… received just one.
Could it happen again this year? It’s a sign of how strong the Bible-movie revival is right now that Oscar buzz has followed both of the year’s major entries in that genre. Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings comes out in December, right in the thick of awards season, and while it might not be a front-runner just yet, no one can forget how, the last time Scott made an ancient epic (i.e. Gladiator), it won Best Picture. And then there is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.