It isn’t as though the Lord said, “Go out and make motion pictures of my stories.” And yet, that seems to be what’s happening.
Both the Old and New Testaments have provided source material for dozens upon dozens of films, some better — and some more controversial — than others. Here are 8 of the best, from “The Bible” to “The Bible.”
1. The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966, John Huston)
A retelling of the first 22 chapters of Genesis, from creation to Abraham and Isaac, “The Bible” was supposed to be the first in a series of biblical films, but despite the numerous awards it received and its financial success, there were no sequels.
2. History of the World, Part I (1981, Mel Brooks)
The director and screenwriter makes an appearance here as Moses in the Old Testament section of his “History.” Did you know there were once 15 Commandments?
3. Noah (2014, Darren Aronofsky)
Over the years there have been several flood films, including a three-hour TV movie. This latest film version received generally favorable reviews and generated a modicum of controversy as it overlaid 21st-century vegan and eco-friendly sensibilities on an ancient biblical story.
4. Jacob (1994, Peter Hall)
This TNT cable movie is one in a series of Old Testament films broadcast by the network. Each managed to get B-level celebrities to take part: Matthew Modine and Laura Flynn Boyle, here; Ben Kingsley and Martin Landau in “Joseph” (1995, Roger Young); Ben Kingsley and Frank Langella in “Moses” (1996, Roger Young); and Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Hurley and Diana Rigg in “Samson and Delilah” (1996, Nicolas Roeg), below. There were several others as well, including “Solomon and Sheba,” “Esther,” “Jeremiah” and “David.”
5. Jonah: A Veggie Tale Movie (2002, Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki)
I believe the title says it all.
6. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, Martin Scorsese)
This controversial retelling of Christ’s last days was based on the appropriately controversial Nikos Kazantzakis novel. Scenes of Jesus imagining himself engaged in sexual activities caused outrage among some Christians. Nevertheless, Scorsese was nominated for an Oscar, Barbara Hershey (Mary Magadalene) won a Golden Globe for supporting actress, and Harvey Keitel (Judas) won a Golden Raspberry for worst supporting actor.
7. The Passion of the Christ (2004, Mel Gibson)
Equally controversial, in part for its violence, this movie was made for some reason largely in Aramaic. All that and mixed reviews didn’t stop audiences from flocking to theaters, making this the highest-grossing R-rated film.
8. The Bible (2013, various directors)
The brainchild of Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) and her husband, Mark Burnett (producer of reality shows such as “The Voice,” “Survivor” and “Shark Tank”), “The Bible” was a 10-part mini-series on the History Channel that earned sizable ratings. It was so successful that NBC signed on to do a mini-series sequel, “A.D.” Also, unused footage and parts of the telecast were pasted together for a theatrical release, “Son of God,” about the life of Jesus.