Biblical Bonanza: Favorite Early Films Based on the Bible

“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”
― 
D.L. Moody

The Bible is considered to be the greatest book of all by Christians all over the world. Even if you are not a Christian, it is impossible to negate the value of the Scriptures. All the stories in the Bible are life-forming. In addition to teaching us important life lessons, the Bible also has an undeniable entertainment value. Even if you are secular, a believer of another religion, or an atheist, you will have to admit that biblical stories are full of drama, fantasy, humor, and horror, among other things. The intriguing storylines make great plots for films. Naturally, movies inspired by the Bible have been gracing the screens for a long time. A gamut of movies is based on the stories of Noah, Moses, Cain, Abel, Job, Jesus Christ, and a plethora of other biblical characters.

As Christmas approaches, let us sit back and have a look at some amazing movies inspired by the Bible.

The First Film Portrayal of Jesus

Movie: Civilization

Year: 1916

Released in 1916, Civilization, is a big-budget film produced by Thomas H. Ince. The film was written by C. Gardner Sullivan and directed by Ince, Reginald Baker, and Edward Sloman. The big-scale production created quite a furor upon its release. In fact, the Democratic National Committee thought the allegorical film was instrumental in the re-election of US President Woodrow Wilson. Civilization was one of the first films to portray Jesus on screen. In this silent film, the Son of God appears to a submarine commander and urges him to uphold peace. The theme and the message have led to it being compared to Jean-Francois Millet’s paintings. No doubt, the film is considered in the same league as The Birth of a Nation.

The Past and the Present

Movie: The Ten Commandments

Year: 1923

Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 silent epic film juxtaposes the biblical story of the Exodus with that of two brothers living in the modern world. Both the brothers seem to have differing views on the Ten Commandments. Written by Jeanie MacPhearson, the film was a box-office hit. The amazing sequences exuberated by the use of Technical Process 2 astounded the audience upon its release. The sequence that portrayed the parting of the Red Sea still manages to spellbind viewers. The success of the film prompted DeMille to create a reboot in 1956.

The Last Weeks Before Crucifixion

Movie: The King of Kings

Year: 1927

The King of Kings is the second film in Cecil B. DeMille’s biblical trilogy. The 1927 movie brings to us Jesus Christ’s life days before his crucifixion. Both the opening and the resurrection scenes were in two-color Technicolor. H.B. Warner did a terrific job as the lead. The film was an instant success and the recipient of rave reviews. The King of Kings was the first movie ever to have premiered in Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, California.

Sibling Rivalry

Movie: East of Eden

Year: 1955

Based on the story of Cain and Abel, the 1955 film, East of Eden, tells the story of two brothers, Cal and Aron Trask. Set in 1917, both the brothers fight for the love and affection of their father, Adam. While Cal is rebellious and outgoing, his brother is decorous and respectful. To the chagrin of Cal, no matter what he does, their father always seems to favor Aron. In a turn of events, Cal also falls for Abra, his brother’s girlfriend. Things come to a head when Adam and Aron disapprove of Cal when he succeeds in his business and attempts to help his father financially. East of Eden was adapted from John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name. The film was a resounding success and propelled Hollywood heartthrob, James Dean, who played Cal, to stardom.

An Award-Winning Bonanza

Movie: Ben-Hur

Year: 1959

William Wyler’s Ben-Hur broke all kinds of records when it hit the screens in 1959. The film was a remake of a 1925 silent film of the same name. It was adapted from Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The film was made on a budget of $15.175 million. It was the biggest budget film of the time. The sets and the costumes were spectacular and designed with immense precision. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios dedicated an astounding sum of $14.7 towards the marketing effort of the film. Charles Heston was brilliant as the lead character. Even the music score and the action sequences were excellently crafted. I mean who can forget the epic 90-minute chariot race? All these paid off as the film became the second-highest-grossing film of the time. In addition to this, it raked in 11 Academy Awards. Even today, it is in a three-way tie for having won the most number of Oscars.

The Origin of Purim

Movie: Esther and the King

Year: 1960

In 1960, Raoul Walsh came up with the American-Italian epic film, Esther and the King. Based on the Book of Esther, the movie stars Hollywood icon, Joan Collins, as Esther and Richard Egan as Ahasuerus. The plot revolves around Esther and Ahasuerus as they try to quell the growing hatred against the Jews led by Haman. The film was quite a hit with its exotic sets, costumes, and engaging story. Esther and the King also gives us an insight into the origin of the Jewish festival of Purim.

Conclusion

The Bible is a book that is filled with stories. It gives us glimpses into the lives of people who lived centuries before us. Through their lives, we can look to shape our own. The Bible is a book that can provide you with an answer to anything if you read it with a faithful heart. Naturally, when biblical stories are brought to the screen, we witness a masterful blend of substance and spectacle. To do justice to the great book, many filmmakers resort to lavish costumes and vivid sets. They hire top stars as well. However, the primary goal is always to relay the biblical message to the audience. In this list, we see some of the earlier films based on the Bible. Nowadays, we have a new crop of biblical films coming up every year.

Do comment and let me know your favorite film based on the Bible.

2 thoughts on “Biblical Bonanza: Favorite Early Films Based on the Bible

  1. Oooooh, this brings back some memories. Way before streaming services the TV used to play these movies on repeat during Easter time. Ben Hur is a beloved favorite in my family. My grandma even named one of my aunts after a certain character.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s