In making a list of the best biblical movies, the films do not have to be complete or faithful retellings of biblical stories. These are simply movies that take viewers to the world of the Bible, whether through fact, fiction, or some of both.
5. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Far superior to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, this animated adventure tells the story of Moses with just as many embellishment but the voice actors actually act well, unlike Charlton Heston and the burning bush and the parting of the Red Sea are exciting to watch, not chuckle-worthy like the earlier film.
4. Intolerance (1916)
D.W. Griffith’s epic tells four stories from different times in history, each from different parts of the world, three factual and one fictional. Two of the factual stories are from biblical times: the fall of the Babylonian Empire and the death of Christ.
3. The Gospel according to St. Matthew (1964)
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s masterwork is the only great film ever made about the life and/or death of Jesus. It follows Matthew’s account as best a first-time reader with no other biblical knowledge could do. Pasolini was a Communist atheist who read the Gospel of Matthew (and only that book of the Bible) in a hotel in the U.S. and was so moved, he was compelled to make this film.
2. The Robe (1953)
An extreme mixture of fact and fiction, Henry Koster’s film hypothetically follows the Roman soldier who exclaimed “Surely this was the son of a god” after Jesus’ death, assuming that he became a Christian. Up until this point in the film, it tries to recreate the history with fact, but its facts are so muddled and anachronistic, that it can be difficult to endure. But it doesn’t take long until the fiction begins, and the fictional part of The Robe, the story of that soldier, is the most profound look at the Christian life ever filmed.
1. Ben-Hur (1959)
Four years after The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston apparently learned to act. William Wyler’s classic is story, like The Robe, but much more fictional, where fictional characters interact with real, historical people in the midst of real events. The fictional life of Judah Ben-Hur (Heston) intersects with Jesus early in the story and again at the end. The rest of the story, though Jesus is never seen in the middle, shows the way in which Judah’s life is transformed because of the crucifixion he witnesses at the end of the movie.