The Vancouver Sun posts its list of the best Jesus movies

Douglas Todd, the religion and ethics reporter for The Vancouver Sun, has an article in today’s paper looking at the top five films about Jesus, the top five films with a “metaphorical Christ”, and the top five films “with Christian themes.” I was one of four people he consulted — the others include my friends Ron Reed and Darrel Manson, as well as theologian Marjorie Suchocki, who I have never met — and Todd quotes two of the blurbs I’ve written on Jesus films, including this one on Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) and this one on The Miracle Maker (2000). You can read the print edition of Doug’s article here, and the blog version here.

The Arts & Faith Top 25 Divine Comedies

The Arts & Faith community, which I have been part of for over a decade now, released its fourth Top 25 list today — and the theme this time is “Divine Comedies”. Before the vote, there was some debate as to what this term even means, and after the vote, there was some debate about the results and whether they were diverse enough, etc. But you can get a sense of what the list is all about by reading this introductory essay by my friend Steven D. Greydanus. As before, with our list on films about marriage, I wrote two of the blurbs: one on my second-favorite film of all time, The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), from which the picture above comes; and another on one of my favorite Jesus movies, Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979).

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One controversial Jesus movie turns 25, another turns 40

Two movies about Jesus, both of which were quite controversial in their day, are celebrating major anniversaries this month.

First, there is Jesus Christ Superstar, which premiered in New York City 40 years ago yesterday before going into general release on August 15, 1973.

I don’t appear to have written all that much about this film over the years, though I did write the following about the 25th-anniversary edition of the soundtrack in an article for BC Christian News that was first published in 1999:
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Bible movie of the week: Jesus, the Spirit of God (2007)

Christians aren’t the only ones who hold Jesus in high esteem. Muslims do too, though they have radically different beliefs about him — and at least one movie has actually tried to dramatize those beliefs the same way other Bible movies have dramatized their own filmmakers’ beliefs.

But wait… is it right to call Jesus, the Spirit of God, an Iranian film produced in 2007, a “Bible movie”? Is not much of the film based on the Koran and other post-biblical sources, such as the late-medieval document known as the Gospel of Barnabas, rather than on the Bible itself?

Well, yes, the film is based on those other documents, but I’d still say it counts as a “Bible movie” on some level, inasmuch as many of its narrative elements can be traced back through those sources to the Bible itself. If we can accept Ben-Hur, which was based on a novel, or The Passion of the Christ, which was based on the visions of a 19th-century nun, as “Bible movies” because they contain elements that go back to the scriptures, then we can certainly put this film under the same broad umbrella.

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Review: The Nativity Story (dir. Catherine Hardwicke, 2006)

The Passion of The Christ was an independent movie, paid for entirely out of Mel Gibson’s pocket. The Prince of Egypt was an animated film that emphasized the common ground between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Last Temptation of Christ was a low-budget art-house flick based on a heretical novel.

You would have to go back at least as far as King David, the mid-1980s box-office flop starring Richard Gere, to find another live-action movie produced by a major Hollywood studio and based directly on the Bible. And you would have to go back even further — to the bathrobe epics of the 1960s, at least — to find a mainstream biblical movie that was as blatantly Christian as The Nativity Story.

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The Passion sets records, wins converts

CONFOUNDING the expectations of its foes and even some of its fans, Mel Gibson’s self-financed movie about the death of Jesus has become one of the biggest box-office hits of all time.

The Passion of the Christ, released across North America on February 25, has earned $317 million in its first five weeks and has already set records for top-grossing R-rated film, independent film and foreign-language film (beating The Matrix Reloaded, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, respectively).

And while there is no word yet on whether any sequels, spin-offs or remakes are in the works, several studios have cashed in on the film’s success by dusting off older Jesus films that were lying in their vaults.

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