The Best Easter Movies

Ben-Hur  (1959)

Ben-Hur (1959)

As today is Good Friday and we approach Easter on Sunday, we thought it fitting to highlight some of the best movies for Easter. Some choices are conventional narratives of the life of Christ, while others are less conventional, but still appropriate for the season. If you need help picking a movie to watch on Easter Sunday, let our choices help you make your decision.

Ben-Hur (1959) directed by William Wyler

The greatest of all biblical epics, Ben-Hur is not a traditional narrative of the life of Jesus, but its subtitle, A Tale of the Christ, should make its Easter theme clear. The action sequences — the naval battle, the chariot race — alone make all 212 minutes of the film worthwhile, but there's so much more than the spectacle. At its heart, it's the complex exploration of an individual bent on revenge redeemed by the selfless act of Christ that makes the film fascinating. For sword-and-sandal films, it doesn't get any better than Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston. - Aren

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial  (1982)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982) directed by Steven Spielberg

Whether the myriad allusions to the Christ story in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial are intentional or not, the story of a friendly visitor from space who dies and is reborn makes for moving Easter time viewing. E.T.'s short time on Earth leaves Elliot and his friends forever changed, and offers space to meditate on love, sacrifice, and friendship. - Anders

The Gospel According to St. Matthew  (1964)

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Il Vangelo secondo Matteo) (1964) directed by Pier Paulo Pasolini

Pasolini's Jesus (Enrique Irazoqui) looks quite unlike other film Jesuses, and Pasolini was unlike many other directors who have attempted to film the Jesus story: a declared atheist and Marxist. The film is shot in the style of the Italian neorealists, utilizing mostly location shooting and non-professional actors. The result is a film that renders some of the most powerful moments in the story in new ways, offering surprising insights and beauty. - Anders

Jesus Christ Superstar  (1973)

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) directed by Norman Jewison

Unconventional to say the least, Jewison's adaptation of the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice stage musical is an odd film. With it's anachronistic props and 70s hippie vibe, the film can feel dated. Yet, despite its datedness, the film is still a lively recounting of the Passion Week and a fascinating exploration of the Judas/Jesus dynamic. And the music is spectacular. - Aren

Jesus of Montreal  (1989)

Jesus of Montreal (1989)

Jesus of Montreal (Jésus de Montréal ) (1989) directed by Denys Arcand

Arcand's film is a far from orthodox but offers a fascinating take on the Jesus story. A  troop of actors in Montréal put on a passion play that  angers the priest that commissioned it by suggesting "historical Jesus" revisions that challenge church teachings such as the virginity of Mary. But as it unfolds the film also suggests that the story of Jesus might have something to say to even late-twentieth century Canadians, not just as the story of a nice man whose life we might emulate, but as a matter of life and death. - Anders

The Last Temptation of Christ  (1988)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) directed by Martin Scorsese

An extremely controversial film when it was released, Scorsese's fictional retelling of the life of Christ is nothing like what you'll find in the gospels. The Last Temptation of Christ offers an insightful portrait of Jesus' humanity and is powerful, challenging, and extremely spiritual filmmaking, with a fantastic score by Peter Gabriel. - Aren

Life of Brian  (1979)

Life of Brian (1979)

Life of Brian (1979) directed Terry Jones

Blasphemous? Perhaps. Hilarious? You bet. Monty Python's satirical recounting of an accidental religious leader who was born down the street from Jesus is religious humour at its best. It's painfully hilarious, but also a clever imagining of what the beginnings of a religious movement would look like. - Aren

The Passion of the Christ  (2004)

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

The Passion of the Christ (2004) directed by Mel Gibson

Beautifully composed and lighted, like a Baroque painting, yet relentlessly violent and difficult to watch, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ provokes an extreme and deep reaction to the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Gibson eschews the nice, complacent pieties and clean, bright visuals of many 1950s and 60s religious epics, yet retains the essential melodrama of the events. Ultimately, this is a very personal vision of Christ's Passion, but a deeply moving one accessible to those not prepared to resist it. - Anton

Do you agree with our picks? Are there any great Easter movies that we've forgotten? Let us know in the comments.