The movie The Greatest Story Every Told is not considered a great movie. Nor is it the greatest movie made on the life of Christ. Nor is it the biggest box office maker on the life of Christ. Nor is it the most viewed film on the life of Christ. But you have to agree it’s the boldest title ever given a film.
Easter Sunday seems like a fitting time to look at Christ in the movies.
From Christ as a character first appearing on film in 1898 in The Passion Play of Oberammergau, to D.W. Griffith’s epic Birth of a Nation in 1915, to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004, to three films in ’09 that feature Christ there doesn’t seem to be any limit to the fascination over Jesus Christ. He has been the subject of many a film and has attracted some of top filmmakers including Scorsese, Pasolini, Zeffirelli, Goddard and George Stevens.
While there are 44 films with James Bond as a character, there are according to IMDB 276 films featuring Christ. (Though I should mention The Devil/Satan/Lucifer/etc. is featured 497 film and TV programs.) Here’s just a partial list of films with a Christ character:
The Last Temptation of Christ
Jesus of Nazareth
The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ Superstar
The Gospel of John
The Miracles of Christ
The Miracle Maker
The King of Kings
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Jesus of Montreal
The Book of Life
The Passion of the Christ
That 1979 film version of Jesus according to the New York Times is the most viewed motion picture of all time. It’s estimated to have been viewed more than 5 billion times. Though the actual number who have seen the film is debated, but there isn’t any debate on it being the most viewed film ever. This is largely do the the efforts of The JESUS Film project, a Christian organization who has not only translated the film into over 300 languages but has teams of people that take the film into churches, cities, towns, and villages around the world showing the film everyday.
The film was written by Barnet Bain (based on the Gospel of Luke), directed by John Krish and Peter Sykes, and stars Brian Decon. Not exactly household names so something else must be drawing all those viewers.
From a storytelling perspective, even if you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ (or the existence of a historical Christ) you have to look at all the movies (and books, songs, videos, and TV programs) that have flowed from this figure and think there must be something to this being the greatest story ever told.