Reviewed by: Kevin J. Burk
Director: William Wyler
Starring: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott
Released by: MGM
“Ben-Hur” has recently been ranked as one of the one hundred greatest films of all time, and with good reason. Forty years later it remains one of the classics of cinema, as well as a witness for the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.
Based on the famous novel, the film tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a wealthy Jewish prince living during the time of Christ who is wrongly accused of murdering the Roman governor. [The governor, however, is not killed during the incident of the falling tiles. He recovers. This is important because it means Judah is sentenced to die in the galleys not only for an accident, but for an accident which does not even result in permanent injury.] Judah, his mother and daughter are imprisoned for the crime by Judah’s childhood friend, the Roman Masala. Judah is sentenced to be a galley slave and swears revenge on Masala. As Judah works to exact his revenge, a young carpenter begins his ministry. The film’s story dovetails into a climatic confrontation between Judah and Masala, until finally Judah learns that love triumphs over hate, becoming a follower of Jesus, the crucified carpenter.
This film is one of the great G-rated biblical epics that Hollywood used to produce, and I highly recommend it. A few scenes of violence may be intense for young children, but little of it is graphic. Overall, the film’s message of peace through salvation in Christ makes this a wonderful film and a testimony to non-believers.
Year of Release—1959
DVD release—Collector’s Edition (2005)
On September 13, 2005, Warner Brothers released a four-disc Collector’s Edition of this film which won 11 Academy Awards. The film has been reformatted and includes new features such as commentary by Charlton Heston, documentaries on the making of the film, and a DVD of the 1925 silent version, as well as a Bible Study Guide. This small booklet is titled Ben-Hur: An Epic Bible Study Into the Transformational Power of God (authors: Rev. Drs. Robert H. Schuller and Robert A. Schuller). Specific DVD features include: