Ben-Hur, 50 Films/50 Weeks

Watched Friday & Saturday: April 8th & 9th, 2011.

From Lee Anne:

Let’s start with this: it’s more than three and a half hours long.
So, you’ve got to be committed to it.
It felt slow to me at first.
Which might be due, in part, to the fact that John made me listen to the entire 5 minute overture track at the beginning of the film – for effect.

I did, however, enjoy this film.
I’m amazed it’s on the AFI top 100 list because of its intense Gospel message. It’s a movie about Jesus through the eyes of Judah Ben-Hur.

It’s an incredibly interesting story.
And of course, it’s beautiful to see this film portrayal of the redemption Jesus causes in one’s life.

It can be rather cheesy, the effects left a bit to be desired {from my modern-day perspective looking back on this fairly old film}.
At the same time, it was incredible to think of all the work it must’ve taken to put together so many of these scenes with the technology they had at the time {very minimal compared to today}.

As long as this film was, I’d say it was definitely worth watching.
Check it out on a rainy day when you need something to occupy several hours.
Though, I do recommend fast forwarding through the overture. {First 5ish minutes of Disc 1.}

I give it 4.5 stars.
And I’d watch it again. {Though not anytime soon.}

From John

The first time I saw this film I was in third grade. It was an adventure of epic proportions for a young boy to see this tale
of big ships, chariot races and the huge Roman army.

Watching it again I realized just how significant the story of Jesus is throughout. In paying attention to the open credits
it says something like “A Story of Jesus” – of course this story is told through the eyes of the main character, Judah Ben-Hur.
He starts as a strong independent Jewish man and the entire story is focused on how his heart rages against the Roman empire,
even to the point of violence but Jesus gives him a heart of love and forgiveness.

Back in the day, without any digital technologies, everything had to be physically created – watch this film for amazing miniatures, painted backgrounds and the most incredible chariot race.
None of the action or special FX would blow away or even come close to our current superhero movies BUT they did everything without any kind of computer.
It made my head explode to think about the craftsmanship and attention to detail these earlier filmmakers possessed.

The acting in this film was amazing. The whole cast gave us a feeling of connection to the story and a sense of ease with the backdrop of
both Rome and the Roman occupied Israel.  One issue was the great casting of all the Jewish extras with the casting of Charlton Heston – he always stood
head and shoulders above the rest. Older films often had things to help the audience identify characters; good guys in white hats vs. bad guys in black hats (westerns).
Still it took me out of the story a bit when we saw him with a crowd.

If you can block out a whole night or Saturday day this is a great film to see, both for its cinematic value and historical significance.

Or you can do what my third grade class did and take a whole week to watch it. 😀

5 out of 5 stars from me.


Have you seen this film? What do you think about older movies with real physical FX vs computer graphics? Do you think a movie about Jesus’ life would do so well today?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!

3 thoughts on “Ben-Hur, 50 Films/50 Weeks”

  1. I love this film for what is, but also because it reminds me of World History with Mrs. Collar (my aunt) at South Cobb. It is a wonderful epic and beautifully made. Thanks for the reminder of that extra connection for me. I had almost forgotten about this film.


  2. I was probably 11 or 12 when I saw this movie the first time … just a couple of years older than John’s age when he first saw it. But in my case the movie was a new release (’59 or ’60) and I was on the front row in a movie theater with a large screen. I’ve seen it many times since then in its various ‘formatted to fit this screen’ versions and I assure you the full technicolor and big screen experience is better by far. Cheesy? Only in hindsight.

    It’s sad that as a society and culture we’ve fallen so far since those days, when films were so much more of a human art and craft than now … yes, I’m awed by today’s nanocreativity and technobrilliance in film, but that appreciation doesn’t diminish my love of the ealier form, equally advanced for its time, and all the more astonishing for the purity of its craftsmanship.

    A couple of decades before Ben-Hur, the Scopes trial in Tennessee put a teacher before the court for the ‘crime’ of teaching Darwinism. Now the crime is exactly the opposite – postulate divine creativity in the classroom as the origin of the species and the court may put you on trial for NOT teaching the ‘proven truth’ of evolution. At least we can take hope and comfort in the release of openly Christian movies such as the Kendricks’ Sherwood films and Mel Gibson’s PASSION. Ours are not the first generations to see the Way, the Truth, and the Life that is Jesus persist and prevail, nor will we be the last.


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