• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    Entertainment Weekly's Top 12 Film Jesuses (Jesi?)

    Firstly apologies for the lack of a post yesterday. There were problems with Blogger which seemed to have sorted themselves out. I'm amazed at how angry some people get on the Blogger Help Forum. Whilst not being able to post is a bit annoying, Blogger does give us web space and blogging software for free. Perhaps I'm just being naïve.

    Anyway, anyone who has read FilmChat recently will know this old news already, but as I wasn't able to post anything it before Easter, I thought I would do so now. In addition to Peter Chattaway's top ten Jesus films at Christianity Today, and my top ten Jesus films, there is now a list of the top 12 film Jesuses (or Jesi as Clayton Slaughter suggests) up at Entertainment Weekly. Their list is as follows (in chronological order:
    Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ)
    Christian Bale (Mary, the Mother of Jesus)
    Will Ferrell (Superstar)
    Jeremy Sisto (Jesus)
    Martin Donovan (Book of Life)
    Willem Dafoe (Last Temptation of Christ)
    Chris Sarandon (The Day Christ Died)
    Robert Powell (Jesus of Nazareth)
    Victor Garber (Godspell)
    Ted Neely (Jesus Christ Superstar)
    Max von Sydow (The Greatest Story Ever Told)
    Jeffrey Hunter (King of Kings)
    I always wonder with things like this how they devised them. For a start it is strange that they have done a top 12 rather than top 10. I can only assume that this is because they felt they had to include the major film Jesi down to Hunter and von Sydow, but also wanted to include lesser known portrayals such as Bale, Ferrell, Donovan and Sarandon.

    There are two films on the list that I have yet to see. Like Peter, I'd not heard of Ferrell's turn in Superstar (1980), and will have to see if I can dig it out. On the other hand I've known about The Day Christ Died (1980) for a long time, but sadly it's not available to buy.

    The limitations of the list are not to hard to spot. Firstly, all these films are American. Whilst I can understand that Entertainment Weekly is a popular magazine, and trying to write for as wider readership as possible, would it really have hurt them to have included Enrique Irazoqui from Pasolini's Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)? Similarly the list only covers the last 45 years. Whilst going back this far is, in itself, a positive step, it would have been nice to choose a film from the silent era. Personally, I'd include Robert Henderson-Bland's performance in From the Manger to the Cross (1912). Thirdly they seem to have deliberately excluded all church sponsored projects like the Visual Bible's Gospel of John (2003). Whilst some of these church films are awful, Henry Ian Cusick's performance at least deserves a nod. The final flaw is that by so limiting the available selection, the list really becomes a no-brainer. It's hard to think of a portrayal that fits the presumed criteria that isn't included.

    Anyway, it's easy to criticise, without offering anything in return, so here's my list.
    Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ)
    Henry Ian Cusick (Gospel of John)
    Christian Bale (Mary, the Mother of Jesus)
    Jeremy Sisto (Jesus)
    Martin Donovan (Book of Life)
    Bruce Marchiano (Visual Bible: Matthew)
    Willem Dafoe (Last Temptation of Christ)
    Pier Maria Rossi (Il Messia)
    Colin Blakely (Son of Man)
    Max von Sydow (The Greatest Story Ever Told)
    Enrique Irazoqui (Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo)
    Robert Henderson Bland (From the Manger to the Cross)
    I should add that I was mainly voting on the basis of the actor's performance given what they were asked to do. Admittedly there's some guess work as to where the actor's performance starts and teh direction ends, but even so that seemed to be the best way to do it. So, take Bruce Marchiano, in places some of the things he has clearly been asked to do are crass (e.g. emptying a jar of water on a disciple's head during the Sermon on the Mount), but a lot of his work is very good in my opinion.

    Finally, a while back there was a discussion on Arts and Faith called "Who's Your Favourite Film Jesus?" which was also discussed at NT Gateway and Codex. For what it's worth I voted for Jim Caviezel, although I regret that now. Predictably, he and Robert Powell were way ahead of the rest. There's also another top ten Bible Films list at my favourite everything.

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    • At 1:18 am, April 26, 2006, Blogger crystal said…

      I didn't realize Christian Bale had played Jesus ... must rent that one :-)

    • At 8:02 am, April 26, 2006, Blogger Matt Page said…

      I wouldn't look too hard, the film itself is very poor, and Bale doesn't really appear that much. I'd love to see him have the part in a more worthy production though.


    • At 12:25 pm, July 03, 2007, Blogger Benjamin Sveen said…

      I will definitely say that Bruce Marchiano played the most 'alive' Jesus I've ever seen.
      They are also working on a project, making a high budget movie of 'The Gospel according to John'.
      It's going to be, by God's grace, even better!
      Read more, and support the making of the movie here:


    • At 2:36 pm, July 03, 2007, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks for your post. I have been following the progress of that movie (there is a link to the URL you posted in my sidebar already), but haven't heard anything for a while.

      By my reckoning the year period for which they gave themselves to see if they could raise sufficient finance for the project is pretty much up, so I'm hopefully going to have something concrete to post on this film soon.




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