The 10 Worst Movies About Jesus

05/27/2008


Lawton
When your choices to play Jesus are limited to the talent pool of Lawton, Oklahoma, you end up with Millard Coody, seen here in his star turn in Prince of Peace.

(Not Counting The Passion of the Christ Because That Would Be Too Easy)

By Danny Gallagher

You would think the opportunity to play Jesus Christ in a major motion picture would be a distinction even more amazing than playing Hamlet, since Jesus is someone that no human could ever thoroughly understand unless he had the mind of God. Well, think again. Chances are the reason the director picked you is because you're the guy who couldn't afford haircuts and you owned a dusty pair of Man Sandals.

These are the movies that make the story of the Son of Man look like the story for Son of Flubber.

THE ROBE

Robe 1
Keeping Jesus off camera for most of "The Robe" is the only thing 20th Century-Fox ever did to help Christianity.

This film may have been nominated for an Oscar, but so was Norbit.

Richard Burton, Shakespeare’s worst nightmare, plays Marcellus, a Roman soldier who crucifies Jesus and then wins his robe in a drunken game of dice. Since he can't put the thing up for sale on eBay, he decides to hang on to it. But instead of being the historical keepsake, bathroom rug or future dorm curtain he hoped it would be, the robe tortures him to no end. The very touch of it burns his skin and after he gets rid of it, disturbing dreams of Jesus' death and having to marry Elizabeth Taylor haunt him. The film attempts to portray the power of Jesus Christ by showing how even his outfit can kick your ass.

Robe 2
Widescreen Cinemascope Technicolor made the robe of Jesus look like a fuzzy-wuzzy blankie.

This was the first movie filmed in wide-screen Cinemascope, the format that was supposed to save Hollywood from the threat of television, but all it did was establish the principle that a dirty tube sock magnified a thousand times on a Technicolor screen will still look like a dirty tube sock. Everyone turns the overacting up to 11, which for Burton goes to the level of a drunken Renaissance Faire actor padding his resume.

For the role of Jesus himself, director Henry Koster decided to save money and just use his second unit director, which means the poor guy had to perform just about all of his normal duties in full costume. The studio wouldn't even let him eat in the cafeteria because they felt it was inappropriate for Jesus to be seen eating there in public. Come on, he may be the Son of Man, but that doesn't mean he never needed a Hungry Man meal.

Jesus Vampire Hunter
Go-go dancers always help with the "hard sayings."

JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER

There are a ton of B-movie horror flicks centered around Jesus Christ as a bad-ass spiritual hunter sent back to Earth to rid the world of demons and prevent the Second Coming, but this is definitely the best and that's not really a complement.

This cult favorite is so crammed to the brim with mixed genres that its mere stench lifts the lid off the jar and overflows with oozing mediocrity. It's a kung-fu movie. It's a splatterfilm. It's a Mexican wrestling film. It's a musical! It's a Jesus film with multiple personality disorder. And all of them are batshit insane.

JESUS, THE MINI-SERIES

Jesus CBS Poster
CBS decided to go high concept with the whole Christ thing.

It's May 1999 and it's sweeps week. All the other networks have big boffo blockbusters lined up to trick people into watching as much television as possible, but CBS executives find themselves standing out in the cold with nothing but old Murder, She Wrote and Diagnosis Murder reruns on your schedule, guaranteed to attract the oldest demographic since the Weather Channel went on the air. What do you do? Simple. You play on people's fears about the coming Year 2000 apocalypse and produce a made-for-TV Jesus biopic that’s bloodier and more over-the-top than all three of the Evil Dead films combined.

Jesus CBS Jeremy
One of the rare times that "bringing the story up to date" was taken literally.

This scene of the final crucifixion features actor Jeremy Sisto being brutally nailed to the cross as he tries to convey agony by screaming the loudest of any torture victim in history. When Jesus tells his father to forgive them for they know not what they do, a grinning Livio--played by G.W. Bailey, better known as Rizzo on *M*A*S*H* and Captain Harris on Police Academy-says in his best Bond villain voice, "We know what we're doing. We're killing you." Oh snap, Jesus! You just got served.

Then in the end he comes back to life in the modern day and beams down Star Trek-style into a short-haired early-thirties guy who greets a group of schoolchildren with a warm hug and walks them out of frame, making you think Jesus suffered for two days and rose from the dead on the third so he could come back to life and babysit for us.

ZOMBIE JESUS!

Zombie Jesus
Well, yeah, that's probably what he would look like.

If Night of the Living Dead director George Romero became a born-again Christian, got a ton of funding from a religious film studio and decided to resurrect (no pun intended) his famed zombie movie franchise for a Christian audience, this wouldn't be the movie he would make.

This little film festival puddle jumper conjectures that the reason Jesus returns from the dead is so he can feast on the brain of the living, which we're sure isn't kosher even if you kill the
human a certain way.

Zombie Jesus Resume
Should we take "Zombie Jesus" off our resumes?

It's hard to tell from the trailer if the film is an allegorical tale of literal Biblical translation run amok or just another zombie comedy that tries to ride on the coattails of Shaun of the Dead. If it's the second, you can rest assured there won't be any "Take this and eat it, for this is my body" jokes since the film follows Return of the Living Dead zombie rules, which require zombies to eat brains only, and not Night of the Living Dead zombie rules, which allow the undead to consume the entire body.

IN SEARCH OF HISTORIC JESUS

Historic Jesus
The poster had a strange resemblance to the poster for "I Spit On Your Grave," but let's not dwell on that.

If faux-science shows like Unsolved Mysteries and In Search Of . . . attempted to tackle the Messiah story, of course they'd have to release their merry band of over-actors to reenact the story of Jesus in ways that made you giggle as a kid in places you weren't supposed to until the pressure from your sinus would blow your brains clean out of the back of your skull.

This schlock docudrama attempted to tackle that very subject. The movie features a stuffy, glass-eyed "historian" who uses the Shroud of Turin as an excuse to research the history of Jesus Christ, complete with so much hammy acting, the film will make you want to go kosher.

Since it ran in drive-ins across the country for years, it was allowed to feature the full crucifixion experience in all of its fake gory glory. So let's do those drive-in totals. We've got two nailed wrists, one stabbed chest, spear fu, Roman fu, Jew fu, Wrath of God fu and no aardvarking. We give it zero stars.

THE PRINCE OF PEACE, a/k/a THE LAWTON STORY

Lawton Story
Six-year-old Ginger Prince failed to become the next Shirley Temple.

Have any of you parents out there ever sat at one of your children's Sunday School Nativity pageant and thought you'd like to see your own kids acting out the birth of Jesus on the big screen? Hell no.

Despite that fact of life, that's pretty much what William “One-Shot” Beaudine did with a passion play from Lawton, Oklahoma. Beaudine got his nickname because he reputedly directed more than 350 films without ever asking for a second take. For this project, he was working for the legendary showman Kroger Babb, who specialized in traveling roadshows that would pack the local theater for three days of “educational” or “inspirational” screenings, followed by a quick exit to the next town. Beaudine and Babb took a local production and interspersed it with a film about a young girl who convinces his greedy rich uncle to see the passion play so it will open his eyes to the value of serving, not taking from, his fellow man. The acting in this thing is not only bad, but the Sooner accents were so thick that the entire film had to be redubbed because the angry mob in Jerusalem never sentenced Jesus to die by announcing "Git-r-Done!"

Ginger
This is what's known as a William Beaudine action sequence.

Babb took the film on the road and then tried to sell the audience Bibles after the screening, which wasn't very successful because the movie ran four hours. It's hard to sell Bibles to a bunch of people whose faces had melted off from boredom.

The film became an even bigger failure when it tried to launch the career of Ginger Prince, the actress who plays the little girl in the film, as an attempt to step on the pituitary gland of an aging Shirley Temple. Again, films that melt faces off of their audiences won't help your career, not even in a "so bad it's good" kind of way.

Gospel 2
Enrique Irazoqui managed to retain this one expression throughout the entire film.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW

Some of the world's most astute film critics and historians have lauded Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's retelling of the Gospel of Matthew with glowing words that will never be used to describe directors like Ed Wood, Uwe Boll and the guy who made the Rollerball remake. But anyone who’s ever had to sit through it in film class, struggling with the idea of a Marxist Jesus with a homosexual subtext, will realize why Pasolini boasted about his lack of research. He basically turns the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ into a kung-fu flick starring George Takei as Judas. Oh my.

Mary
Pasolini's Mary is not happy about being knocked up.

Pasolini–an atheist who was expelled from the Communist Party and had a movie based on the Marquis de Sade banned by the Italian government before being knifed to death by a gay hustler in 1975–films the Christ story with a shaky-cam documentary style that even gives blind people headaches. Some of the Jewish leaders have hats so ridiculous that even the Pope wouldn't wear them.

Ultrachrist Poster
You can't go wrong with Spandex.

ULTRACHRIST!

Look, up in the sky! It's a skydiving hippie! It's that guy from Three Dog Night in a jetpack! No, it's Ultrachrist!

In this low low low low low budget film that looks like it was filmed in every high-rent/low-maintenance apartment in the Big Apple, director Kerry Douglas Dye poses the scenario that if Jesus returned to Earth he'd have to reinvent his image by taking on the persona of a superhero in divine Spandex. Well, at least he's got the body for it. That's right, Affleck, I'm looking at you, flabby.

 

 

Jonathan
Jonathan C. Green, as Ultrachrist, evangelizes the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire.

Christ runs around New York City in his street-bought sandals and clip-on utility belt that doesn't seem to be holding any utilities in his never-ending quest to fight crime. Eventually the big man upstairs decides he doesn't like his favorite son's new public persona and the Antichrist is on the rise and Christ finds himself stuck between appeasing his father or ridding the Earth of unholy evil, much in the same way the audience finds themselves struggling to either return the video to the store for a full refund or throw the thing in an incinerator to spare anyone else from watching it.

Miracle Maker Poster
The poster depicts the famous gospel passage in which Jesus heals a midget housewife.

THE MIRACLE MAKER

Get ready to see Jesus like you've never him before--in crappy, old-fashioned stop-motion animation that even kids don't use when they're making Star Trek fan films in their basement.

If you thought that Sunday school film of the death and resurrection had more wooden and hollow actors than a Renaissance faire, wait until you see these actors who are actually made out of hollow wood. It's a stop-motion "3-D" film of the Jesus story that looks like the makers of Robot Chicken phoned in their last episode so they could clear the animation studio space for Assy McGee in time.

 

Miracle Maker
Unfortunately it's difficult to distinguish between Jesus and his cross in this stop-motion wooden-figurine classic.

It also features an all-star cast of celebrity voices including Alfred Molina, Miranda Richardson and Ralph Fiennes as the voice of Jesus, because, after all, the Son of Man spoke with a stuffy British accent though he was born and raised in abject Bethlehemic poverty.

 

 

 

Mona Lisa
The cast of "The Da Vinci Code" attempting to get that perfect Louvre snapshot where you look like the Mona Lisa and you can put it up on your myspace page.

THE DAVINCI CODE

The book that everyone in your office cubicle said you have to read is now a big-budget overblown movie without any big words or scary facts about religion to give you a headache. The book and movie dares to uncover the greatest cover-up in the history of the Catholic Church, unless you don't count the church's refusal to stand against the Holocaust and the string of priest molestations and the selling of indulgences as a form of penance and the fact that eating meat on Friday between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is no longer a damnable sin.

Grail
Tom Hanks fondles the holy grail.

The movie suggests that the Son of Man was also quite the Ladies' Man because of an alteration in Leonardo DaVinci's famed "Last Supper" painting. Of course, it doesn't get to that juicy little tidbit until after two-thirds of the most excruciatingly bad acting and dialogue is done. But it doesn't end there. There's this big M. Night Shyamalan ending that reveals Jesus had a family tree, and after you calculate what you’ve had to sit through to get to that one scene, you realize that Christ may have died on the cross for our sins, but now we’ve paid him back by remaining faithful all the way to the excruciatingly painful end.


Comments(160)

JoshH | 03:53 am on 5/30/2008

Most of the films of that whole category you mentioned bore the wits out of me; I tend to lose attention and fade out. They don't seem to have "a point."

"The Passion" just has the feel of a TBN movie (albeit a better produced one). And I get that feeling when I even try to watch it. It seems to fetishize (in the classic sense of the word) the crucifixion; it separates the event from key "reasons" for it, making it much shallower; it makes it into a mere "sign" for what happened (don't get me wrong, a "mere 'sign'" can be incredibly deeply moving, e.g. what war movies do to some veterans). Mind you, I'm the kind of guy who sees his theological "peers" among the likes of Tillich and Yoder and Girard. I think that "what got Jesus in such trouble" is an important thing that isn't/wasn't some silly notion of jealousy or anything of that sort; it was how radical (and in some folks' estimations, crazy) his ideas were that got him there.

Then again, I may have loaded certain ideas onto it that aren't there; I had to deal with a few family members who didn't (and don't) see me as a "real Christian," and tried to basically drag me to see it.

JoshH | 02:56 pm on 5/28/2008

The fact that "The Snuff Film of the Christ"...err...I mean "The Passion of the Christ" didn't make this list makes me put this whole thing in a rubbish bin. Well, the comments were pretty good.

As for "The Life of Brian," I do think it was probably the best Jesus film I've ever seen.

"You are all individuals"
"We are all individuals"
"I'm not."

JoshH | 02:58 pm on 5/28/2008

And by my point on not mentioning "The Snuff Film..."
I mean that it at least deserves a good ripping and bitching-out in writing. It might be "too easy," but it needs to get a good apologetic bitching-out.

JMak | 03:42 pm on 5/28/2008

Who knew there were so many bad Jesus movies? ... I mean, besides Jesus.

Now, to be fair, you need to do the top ten worst Buddha movies.

Royal | 02:48 am on 1/02/2010

No one has right to say others view in choosing a right movie .Every one has their own feel for the movies they see. The same movie can be good for one where as shit to the other, but does this mean making fun of the others religion too. I don't agree with you Mark since you are talking all shit out there in making of worst Buddha Movies.

deeble | 09:38 pm on 5/28/2008

you guys missed some of the christian b movies like the revolutionary:epic version and the revolutionary 2. tbn makes some shockers

chadrory | 11:09 pm on 5/28/2008

I'm surprised Miracle Maker made the list. I found it to be quite edifying, even showing the ripping apart of the temple's curtain, synonymous with Christ's death. It's a great movie!

How could you have missed Godspell or JC Superstar or Jesus of Montreal?

kjml | 01:53 am on 5/29/2008

Shoot. Now I'm gunna have to go rent "Life of Brian."

SRebbe | 01:07 pm on 5/29/2008

oh, just buy it already. it belongs in everyone's library.

JoshH | 11:58 pm on 5/29/2008

I just realized who you are:
you're Judith Iscariot!

The wench of Verona | 10:49 am on 5/29/2008

What do you have against Ren Faires?

What about the Mary TV movie that ran at the same time as the Jesus one in 1999?

live_life | 12:05 pm on 5/29/2008

Have some of you seen the South Park series in which they mock The Passion of the Christ and particulary Mel Gibson? It's awsome, I wonder how the South Park people get away with with it...? as Mel Gibson wasn't definately happy about that;-)!

http://www.thefaithdebate.com

budda | 07:58 pm on 5/29/2008

Thank you for making a comment relevant to the discussion. I don't mind the links as long as you are participating. Just stop the spamming campaign, it just pisses people off and hurts your cause.

JoshH | 12:08 am on 5/30/2008

One thing that would also be nice would be for you to just put that address in your "homepage" field. Believe it or not, people do click on those. In fact, it would probably make it more likely that people would look. I know I'd be a lot more inclined to look if it wasn't simply pasted at the bottom of comments (although that IS indeed better than simply pasting the address a few dozen times).

Uncle Kenny | 04:26 pm on 5/29/2008

Gee,

I kind of liked Jesus: Vampire Hunter!

I mean it wasn't Life of Brian, but it was still pretty funny.

Robert R Soul | 09:14 pm on 5/29/2008

come on

the mIraclemaker was fantastic

BJ | 07:07 am on 5/30/2008

I think Al Picino would make a great Jesus.

BJ | 07:07 am on 5/30/2008

"Say hello to my little friend"

Anonymous | 12:39 pm on 5/30/2008

Best movies about Jesus:
Jesus of Montreal
Last Temptation of Christ
Best Jesus cameo:
Bad Lieutenant

Richard Hall | 03:01 pm on 5/30/2008

Very surprised to see the 'Gospel According to Matthew' and 'The Miracle Maker' in such company - I reckon they're the 2 *best* Jesus films so far. By varying the animation technique, Miracle Maker even managed to convey the notion of different genres within the gospel story.

JoshH | 07:40 pm on 5/31/2008

Sacrilege!

To not think that "The Life of Brian" is the best Jesus film ever is one of the most hideous things I've heard. It's like hearing someone declare a Sylvia Browne/Jack Van Impe lovechild to be a great Christian theologian.

shoukatmoon | 07:58 am on 9/02/2008

hi h r youuuuu.plzzzzzzzzzz call me .my cell no 03326385048.

Allison | 07:34 pm on 5/31/2008

I would have included The Passion of the Christ, which is essentially violence porn, and The Last Temptation of Christ--you gotta love the New Yawk accent of Harvey Keitel's Judas and Willem Dafoe was woefully miscast as Jesus.

Marie | 10:05 am on 6/02/2008

I like "the Robe"! Seriously, it's a good film and should not be on this list!

shoukatmoon | 08:00 am on 9/02/2008

hi h r youuuuu.plzzzzzzzzzz call me .my cell no 03326385048

Kevin A | 12:10 pm on 6/02/2008

Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting the kibosh on that art-house stinker "The Gospel According to Matthew" by Pasolini. Pasolini was not the first or last to try to make Jesus into a Communist (Hi, Fr. Pfleger!) and he wasn't the first or last to make Jesus boring (Hi, John Calvin!) but he deserves praise for making Him into such a testy, priggish dweeb that he could have played the long-lost third brother on "Frasier."

No praise from me, however, for your dissing of "The Miracle Maker." What's wrong with claymation? You didn't like "Wallace and Grommit?" Also a very good retelling of the story. I think the visualization of Christ's temptation in the desert beats that Kazantzakis book hollow (yeah, I know, different temptation, but still...) if only for its eeriness.

Greg Marquez | 03:00 pm on 6/02/2008

You're just wrong about Miracle Maker, it is one of the best Jesus movies ever.

K.W. Leslie | 03:34 pm on 6/02/2008

I actually liked "Miracle Maker" and Pasolini's "Matthew," but there's no accounting for taste sometimes.

However, I'm surprised you didn't include TBN's "The Revolutionary" and "The Revolutionary II" (yes, they made a sequel, in which Jesus gets crucified again) which have some of the worst acting and unnecessary special effects I've ever seen. After watching those pieces of crap, I'd want to kill Christ.

Yet they proudly host them on their website.

budda | 10:36 pm on 6/03/2008

Liked your blog. Good logic on the gay marriage thing and I totally get the C.S. lewis article.

Ben | 04:52 pm on 6/02/2008

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the 1973 version of Godspell. I understand the Door editors were probably understudies for this film - but it least deserves a mention on today's list for violation of the 11th commandment, thou shalt not spread the word in technicolor bell bottoms.

SDG | 08:49 am on 6/03/2008

Heh. I can forgive your comments about The Gospel According to St. Matthew, but not your quasi-blasphemous attack on The Miracle Maker, one of the best Jesus films ever made.

Well, okay, I can forgive you. It's not easy, though.

P. Tallon | 10:33 am on 6/03/2008

The Miracle Maker? The Miracle Maker?

This movie is one of the BEST Jesus movies ever made! Better, even, because of the artificiality of the filming style. By removing Jesus from the "pseudo-historical film world" of The Passion, the movie allows us to invest fully in the story. The artifice actually adds to the reality... if that make sense.

This whole list, though, is the equivalent of a high school gym teacher making fun of the fattest kids in the neighboring elementary school. None of the films mentioned are seriously esteemed by Christians. Even Passolini's film (the most highly regarded) is known to very few people.

Next time, take on a few sacred cows, instead of merely picking on the weakings of the film world.

j a n | 12:33 am on 6/05/2008

I know I'm coming in at the end, but I'm surprised you missed the wonderfully horrible "The Judas Project." It was a modern-day retelling of the Gospel, in which guards stood around with machine guns, but still insisted on crucifying Jesus. Peter only had one arm. And I'm pretty sure he wore a watch in one scene.

Anonymous | 09:29 pm on 6/06/2008

If you didn't think Passion of the Christ was one of the greatest films about Jesus, then you're nothing but a clueless moronic idiot, who doesn't deserve my time!!! Hopefully, you'll be fired and never allowed to write on this site again!!! Moron!

budda | 05:13 pm on 6/09/2008

Ok, Mel, back to rehab with you. And come up with a screen name next time. Like lethalweponxxx, payback4u, apocalyptoyerass or something more clever.

Michael L | 03:10 pm on 6/09/2008

What? Where's The Judas Project?

Tom Servo | 09:21 am on 6/10/2008

I would love to see these movies on MST3000

Anonymous | 12:16 pm on 6/17/2008

So if I may ask what were the top best Jesus films?
What was the purpose of poking fun and being critical of these films?

SRebbe | 04:27 pm on 6/18/2008

this is a satire site.

Anonymous | 12:15 am on 7/04/2008

We need to give glory to the trinity. Praise and pray to God. Movies won't take the place of reading God's word. The Passion had 2 dozen Biblical errors.

Anonymous | 10:01 pm on 7/07/2008

Biblical errors!
Impossible!
There is no such thing as errors in the Bible.
You will burn in HELL.
You heretic.

dzstephens | 05:10 am on 7/10/2008

And...your reason for calling "The Passion of the Christ" a bad movie is...what? What am I missing here? Please enlighten me because you obviously are MUCH more in tune with what makes a film good or bad than I am...

Danny Gallagher | 07:58 pm on 7/14/2008

Well after multiple viewings of the film, careful consideration and some well thought out critiques of its message, story and subtext, it sucks.

Dave | 08:52 am on 7/10/2008

Very weird, I have seen a couple of these movies but where do you get the rest, they would make a fine collection.

Anonymous | 11:25 pm on 7/10/2008

But by far the craziest Jesus movie of all is "The Thorn", starring Bette Midler as Jesus' mom. It's working title apparently was "The Divine Mr. J." I only watched it once on video more than 20 years ago, but I still remember some of the better bits. Jesus and the disciples are sitting around smoking pot, and Jesus says of the woman caught in adultery, "Let he who is stoned cast the first sin." A mad scientist is working on his next greatest invention by crossing one thing with another -- a toaster with a vacuum cleaner say -- and calling the result a cross; his breakthrough invention is crossing a long stick with a short stick. On the whole, not a movie for those who can't bear up under sustained and blistering satire.

Matt Page | 01:43 am on 7/15/2008

Nice article. I've not seen some of the more recent Jesus films you listed, and where did you get hold of the Lawton Story from? I run the Bible Films Blog and have been keen to see this one for a while (although a little less keen now).

The weird thing is about your list is that whilst I totally disagree with you about the Pasolini film, I also totally get what you're saying.

Thanks

Matt

Nick Alexander | 04:29 am on 7/15/2008

I'm utterly surprised you left off:
The Greatest Story Ever Told (too overblown in sweetly saccharine)
-and-
The Seventh Sign ("The Guf is filled...").

Also, I had never seen a Kevin Smith film until Dogma, and I came out utterly convinced the emperor had no clothes. Utterly inept on every level (acting, cinematography, and the inane hole-ridden plot), save for the George Carlin sequences.

Will there be room in this list for Hamlet 2 when it bows?

Anonymous | 10:04 am on 7/29/2008

Surely 'The Omega Code' should make the list somewhere?

Catherine, in Seattle | 08:04 pm on 7/31/2008

Honestly don't know why "Jesus Crist, Vampire Slayer" made this list, B films are great and I, for one, won't be the mortal that says the Lord himself couldn't slay a few Vampires if he really felt like it.

And what's wrong with "Life of Brian", JoshH? It's about BRIAN, the guy in the next stable over, not the Messiah. That's why it's called "Life of BRIAN". It's one of my favorite movies because it provokes thought, like the movie "Dogma". Hooray for Buddy Jesus!

Catherine, in Seattle | 08:06 pm on 7/31/2008

Totally have to agree on the inclusion of "Jesus, the Mini-Series", though. Good call. Two thumbs up.

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