Since today is Good Friday, I thought I would review two of my favorite Easter movies.
The first is really more of a Passover movie than an Easter movie, but since Passover is a depiction of Christ's atoning sacrifice for His people and since, of course, this IS Passover, too, I feel it is especially appropriate.
I'll be the first to admit I am a sucker for old movies, especially old movies in the style of the great Hollywood studios. One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments. Yes it's sometimes pompous and silly and often overwrought, but how could you resist that all-star cast? Charlton Heston as Moses, Yul Brynner as Rameses, Anne Baxter as Nefretiri, Edward G. Robinson as Dathan, Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora, Debra Paget as Lilia, Judith Anderson as Memnet, Vincent Price as Baka, and John Carradine as Aaron.
I always especially enjoy Sir Cedric Hardwicke's sly performance as Seti and John Derek's earnest Joshua (maybe just because he was SO cute). The movie is lush and always a visual delight and seeing death itself pour into Egypt's streets to claim the firstborn always chills me. And, after the dramatic parting of the Red Sea and Rameses' defeat, I love to hear his grudging declaration concerning Moses' triumph: "His God IS God."
The other movie I would like to review is Jesus of Nazareth. Filmed in 1977 as a miniseries, it was directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and his touch shows in the lavish sets and costumes. Jesus is portrayed by Robert Powell, blue eyed and ethereal, not exactly Jewish, but his performance is touching and memorable.
This movie also boasts an all-star cast:
Anne Bancroft as Mary Magdalene
Ernest Borgnine as the Roman Centurion
James Farentino as Peter
James Earl Jones as Balthazar
Stacy Keach as Barabbas
James Mason as Joseph of Arimathea
Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus
Donald Pleasence as Melchior
Christopher Plummer as Herod Antipas
Anthony Quinn as Caiaphas
Ralph Richardson as Simeon
Rod Steiger as Pontius Pilate
Peter Ustinov as Herod the Great
Michael York as John the Baptist
I particularly enjoy Olivier's Nicodemus as he puzzles over what it means to be born again. The crucifixion scene, though I'm certain not as harrowing as the one from The Passion of the Christ, is certainly brutal and heartbreaking enough. And when they take Jesus from the cross, in the pouring rain and His mother wails out her grief, I am always touched by Mary Magdalene kneeling silently in the mud, kissing His feet.
Of course, there are many movies depicting Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Ben Hur is another in grand Hollywood style. And King of Kings with Jeffrey Hunter is also a favorite. Of course, Hollywood never seems to get everything exactly right, but this is truly the greatest story ever told, and it has power no matter how imperfectly it is portrayed.
I hope I'll get a chance to watch both of these movies this weekend. What are your favorite Easter movies?