I love the Bible and I get a real kick out of seeing Hollywood do their best to interpret Scripture through the medium of film. There have been a lot of lousy Bible-based movies made but there have been some that are actually quite excellent.
These are my top three favorite Bible movies in order:
Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting much from this TV movie when it first appeared, but I have to say I really liked it. I love the way it stays true to the Biblical narrative. Of course there are some times when the writers have to “fill in the gaps” of the Biblical account to keep the story flowing, but they do so in such a way that they remain true not only to the historical context of the film, but the spirit of the Bible story as well. I was very impressed.
The scene where Joseph is tempted to commit adultery by Potipher’s wife is powerful and depicts a real man’s struggle with immorality as he chooses to obey God rather than give in to the temptation he is experiencing.
The film also boasts Ben Kingsley as Potipher and Martin Landau as Joseph’s father Jacob. Kingsley is one of my favorite actors and as usual, he is stunning in his role as Joseph’s master and gives you some insight into how Potipher may have truly thought of Joseph even after he was falsely accused of trying to rape his wife. Landau is always exciting to watch and certainly does not disappoint here. The man’s facial expressions alone could be used to teach a master’s class in film acting.
Turner Broadcasting did an excellent job with this one.
I first saw this movie when I was a teenager and loved it. The creators of this film did not stay as true to the Biblical text as the ones I mentioned above, but the movie is nonetheless very powerful. David is one of the most complex characters presented in all of Scripture, and Richard Gere does an excellent job portraying King David and all the many facets of his character. You see him quite clearly as a poet, musician, ardent worshiper, warrior, renegade and eventually king.
The depth of emotion displayed in the scenes where David learns of Absalom’s death and the scene where he dances before the Lord as the ark of the covenant is being brought into the city make them some of the most memorable in the film.
My favorite part of the film however is in the opening scene where Samuel confronts Saul for his refusal to obey the word of the Lord to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Samuel takes a sword and slays the Amalekite King before Saul and pronounces God’s judgment on him. The kingdom will be taken away from Saul and given to one who is better than him, a man after God’s own heart. I still get chills every time I see it.
The most disappointing part of the film is David’s fight with Goliath. The filmmakers decided to have Goliath’s armor bearer do all of his talking for him and they showed David missing on his first attempt to slay the giant. I hate that they ruin such a powerful part of the Biblical narrative, but the rest of the movie makes up for this flaw.
How can I not pick this one? Charlton Heston as Moses? Yul Brynner as Pharaoh? Does it get any better than this?
I used to watch this movie every single year when it came on TV. I loved it. My favorite scene is the crossing of the Red Sea of course, but equally powerful to me is when Pharaoh is holding his dead son in his arms and lays him in the lap of the idol of Anubis, Egyptian god of the afterlife, desperately seeking for life to return to his boy’s body.
But the one true God, the God of Israel, has pronounced judgment, and there will be no reprieve. You see a broken and humbled man allowing the people of Israel to leave Egypt in that scene and Brynner plays it masterfully.
As far as a Bible movie I would like to see made, I think the book of Judges would translate well to film. A powerful film depicting the history of Israel as they seek to establish themselves as a nation would be fun to watch. If necessary a filmmaker could focus on the story of Gideon or Samson, as long as it is done “right” i.e. remaining faithful to the Scriptural narrative.
What about you? What are your favorite Bible films and which one would you like to see made?