The Easter holiday can provide great opportunities for families to bond and spend time together.
One way families and friends can celebrate the holiday and keep a focus on its faithful beginnings is to watch movies that reflect the story of Jesus Christ and His many teachings.
Here’s a look at the five best movies to watch before, on or even after Easter.
1.) “The Passion of the Christ” (2004). This is the movie that help bring faith-based cinema back.
Since its wildly successful release in 2004, faith-focused filmmaking has become easier to finance through the Hollywood system — though it still has its difficulties.
“Passion” is bloody and hard to watch at times, but that is because director Mel Gibson uses his camera as a weapon to show the type of biting honesty as no faith-based movie quite did before it.
The movie follows the last 12 hours in the mortal life of Jesus Christ (played by Jim Caviezel), including the crucifixion. Whether you’re a church-going believer or not, “Passion” is a moving masterpiece that captures the sacrifice, love and power of the life of Jesus Christ.
On a side note, for those looking for something a little less visually gruesome, Gibson did release a recut version of the movie that significantly pulls back on the elements that gave the original film a hard R rating.
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2.) “Risen” (2016). This is considered an unofficial sequel to “Passion,” as it shows the events that took place immediately after those depicted in Gibson’s film. The movie follows the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Cliff Curtis) through the eyes of a non-believer, Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), tasked with investigating the disappearance of His body.
Seeing the story unfold through the non-believer’s eyes adds a great deal more meaning to the film and its ending. Directed by Kevin Reynolds (“Waterworld,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”), this is an entertaining, fast-moving picture that also captures some of the profound meaning Gibson captured in his movie.
3.) “Son of God” (2014). This film is from producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey and tells the full life story of Jesus Christ, from His birth to His crucifixion. The movie is an adaptation of the wildly popular History miniseries, “The Bible,” which Burnett and Downey also produced. It features scenes from the show, as well as scenes not seen in the television broadcast.
The movie treats its material with great respect and care, which should be expected from Burnett and Downey; they’ve made names for themselves as reliable and talented producers of respectable faith-based film and television content.
4.) “The Ten Commandments” (1956). This film still manages to dazzle, despite its being over 60 years old. “Commandments,” which tells the story of Moses, has been aired on ABC every single year — except 1999 — since 1973. It is always shown on or around the Easter holiday.
The Charlton Heston-starring film has retained such popularity because of its rare epic nature, especially in faith-based pictures. “Commandments” has been preserved in the National Film Registry, and the Guinness Book of World Records labeled it the most successful movie of all time.
5.) “Ben-Hur” (1959). Starring Charlton Heston as well, this also-rare epic adventure remains mostly unmatched today.
A remake was released in 2016, produced by Burnett and Downey, and is well worth seeing, but it could not deliver the same command of Heston or the drama of the breathtaking chariot race captured in the original.
The film tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a man thirsty for revenge when he is taken from his home and family by a man he once considered a brother. Obsessed with righting what is wrong, he is eventually led to a man named Jesus — who is being persecuted for His teachings and beliefs.
“Ben-Hur” is not only highly entertaining; Heston pulls off one of his most powerful performances and one of the most riveting emotional journeys in cinematic history.
This piece originally appeared in LifeZette last year and has been updated.