#186: Ben-Hur (1959)

When and how did I watch this?

November 18th and 19th, 2015, on Amazon Prime.

Had I seen this film already?

Only portions of it.  This was one of my stepdad’s favorite films, and I happened upon it a few times a while back.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

I knew it was long, but that has since become irrelevant as a factor in determining great films.  I found it curious that this is subtitled “A Tale of the Christ.”  Typically (at least today), films that attempt to portray Christ or have some sort of Christian theme aren’t generally marketable in theaters.  Content standards have changed dramatically since ’59, so I was curious how this would appear in a modern context.

What do I know about it now?

In terms of “greatness” and scope, cinematography, characters, human element, and dialogue, this is the best film on the list so far.  It might not be my favorite, but numerous scenes were particularly intriguing. While the critic today might dismiss the film as a preachy Jesus-fixes-everything film (heck, it might be considered “horrible” today), the drama and tension cannot be replaced.  How does one forget lines like “I heard his voice take the sword out of my hand” and “In his eagerness to save you, your God has also saved the Roman fleet”? How is not one by the overwhelming, triumphant score throughout, or unsee the chariot and rowing scenes? While the story appears to split into two at times, it all works together as one, and it becomes something that must be seen and really experienced.

What are some themes in the film?

Justice, betrayal, faith, determination, God, 1st century Rome/politics, death, vengeance, salvation, hope.

Did this affect me personally?

Really, this movie should affect everyone.

Why is this ranked #186?

It’s an epic Charlton Heston film with incredible music, action and blood, memorable dialogue, highs and lows, and quite possibly the most dramatic action scene ever put together in film. It’s a great that swept the Oscars and remains an all time favorite.  It should be higher, but most atheists would probably say otherwise.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She was moved by the film from start to finish.

Would I watch it again?

Yes, but much later.  I’d like my daughter to eventually see this for herself.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It would seem un-American not to.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

If someone believes not, they’ve made a grave error in considering what this film is doing, how it was made, and what it signifies.  In other words, this should probably be in everyone’s top 20 movies of all time, whether it’s a personal favorite or not.

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