Jesus Christ was born circa 6 B.C. in Bethlehem. Little is known about his early life, but as a young man, he founded Christianity, one of the world’s most influential religions. His life is recorded in the New Testament, more a theological document than a biography. According to Christians, Jesus is considered the incarnation of God and his teachings an example for living a more spiritual life. (Biography.com)
Jesus carrying his cross in the 1925 epic Ben-Hur - A Tale of the Christ one of the most successful films of the 1920's. Starring Ramon Novarro as Judah Ben-Hur, Francis X. Bushman as Messala and Claude Payton, uncredited, played the part of Jesus. Directed by Fred Niblo.
Cecil B. DeMille's silent epic The King of Kings (1927). H.B. Warner, at 52 years old, is the oldest actor to have played Jesus. His last screen appearance was in DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956).
The first Cinemascope film release, The Robe (1953) was directed by Henry Koster and based on the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature. The face of Jesus is never shown but his voice is heard at the crucifixion, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Donald C. Klune played Jesus.
A production still of Claude Heater as Jesus in Ben-Hur (1959) his face is never seen in the film.
One of the greatest epics ever made, Ben-Hur (1959) won 11 Oscars, a record at the time, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Charlton Heston), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith) and Best Music Score (Miklos Rozsa).
King of Kings (1961) starring Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus and Robert Ryan as John the Baptist, the MGM epic was directed by Nicholas Ray. Richard Burton was considered for the lead role. Narrated by Orson Welles. Music by Miklos Rozsa.
The crucifixion of Jesus at the start of Barabbas (1961) was filmed during a real solar eclipse giving the sequence an eerie quality. Anthony Quinn played Barabbas and the film was directed by Richard Fleischer.
Enrique Irazoqui as the Christ in Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964). A critically acclaimed Italian film regarded as one of the best films about the life of Jesus, surprisingly Pasolini was an avowed atheist..
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) directed by George Stevens and starring Max Von Sydow as Jesus. The all star cast included Charlton Heston as John the Baptist, Claude Rains as King Herod, Jose Ferrer as Herod Antipas, Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate, David McCallum as Judas, Roddy McDowall as Matthew, Donald Pleasance as The Devil, , Sidney Poitier as Simon and a wonderfully miscast John Wayne as The Centurion speaking the line "truly this man was the son of Gaad" as only John Wayne can. Nominated for 5 Oscars.
Victor Garber in Godspell (1973) directed by David Greene. A modern day musical about Jesus set in New York City. David Haskell played John the Baptist and Judas.
Directed by Norman Jewison, Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) was based on the Rock Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Starring Ted Neeley as Jesus, Carl Anderson as Judas Iscariot and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene.
The hilarious Monty Python's The Life of Brian (1979) was a controversial spoof on religion by the Python team. Directed by Terry Jones and starring John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman as Brian.
The three wise men mistake Brian for Jesus at the beginning of the film and Brian later on tries desperately to shake off his deluded followers who think he is the Messiah. As Brian's angry mother tells them at one point "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!" Kenneth Colley played Jesus in one scene. Star Wars fans will remember Colley as Admiral Piett in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
Willem Dafoe as Jesus and David Bowie as Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) based on the controversial novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Also starring Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene and Harvey Keitel as Judas. The film was Oscar nominated for Best Director.
A dream sequence at the climax shows Jesus with his wife Mary Magadalene making love. The film was banned in many cities and some European movie theaters showing the film were set on fire.