Christian Movie Interviews, News and Reviews

7 Excellent Bible Movies You’ve Likely Never Seen

  • Michael Foust
7 Excellent Bible Movies You’ve Likely Never Seen

About 200 faith-based movies have been released in theaters the past two decades. But few of those were box-office hits, and even fewer could be labeled “Bible movies.”

It is rare for a movie based on Scripture – such as 2004’s The Passion of the Christ – to climb into the Top 5, much less to No. 1.

But this doesn’t mean these Bible movies weren’t good. It simply means they didn’t have a large audience. (And we haven’t even mentioned movies that went straight to DVD.)

Here are my seven favorite Bible films that weren’t blockbusters -- but that were nevertheless great movies. More than likely, you’ve never seen them.

Photo courtesy: Pixabay

<em>The Nativity Story</em> (2006)

The Nativity Story (2006)

Two years after The Passion of the Christ(2004) shocked Hollywood by grossing $370 million, a live-action film about Jesus’ birth was released. But this film – The Nativity Story – finished fourth on opening weekend and ended its run with a $37 million gross. That’s not bad, but it ranks only 14thall time among Christian films. Still, it’s one of the best Bible films ever made, and moviegoers gave it an A- CinemaScore rating. It follows the story of Mary and Joseph, from the moment they learn of the miraculous conception to the night Christ is born. The film shines in its portrayal of Mary as a young ordinary girl who was obedient to God’s plan. Rated PG for some violent content. 

Photo courtesy: New Line Cinema

<em>The Gospel of John</em> (2003)

The Gospel of John (2003)

The primary objection to Bible movies isn’t that they’re poorly made. It’s that they get the “Bible” part of the story all wrong by adding to or subtracting from God’s Word. The Gospel of John (2003) did neither. That’s because it used the text of Scripture – word for word – as its script. This means you’re either hearing someone speak the Bible’s words (Christopher Plummer is the narrator) or watching someone do the same (Henry Ian Cusick plays Christ). The text of the Good News Bible was used for the film, which is roughly three hours long. The Gospel of Johnhad a limited release in 2003-04 and grossed about $4 million. Rated PG-13 for violence involving the crucifixion. 

Photo courtesy: American Bible Society

<em>The Star</em> (2017)

The Star (2017)

One week prior to the release of Pixar’s Coco in 2017, another animated film – The Star– hit theaters. It didn’t have the Disney brand or the advertising budget needed to make it a box-office smash, but it still grossed a respectable $40 million during its seven weeks in theaters when it was competing against Coco. Not bad for a movie that had a $20 million budget. (If you’re curious, Cocogrossed $209 million.) The Star told the story of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus from the perspective of the animals. It was the first major theatrical faith-based animated film in nearly a decade, and it was quite entertaining, too. My kids loved it. It got an “A” CinemaScore rating. Rated PG for some thematic elements. 

Photo courtesy: Affirm

<em>Joseph: King of Dreams</em> (2000)

Joseph: King of Dreams (2000)

It’s the companion film to the 1998 box office hit, The Prince of Egypt, which was based on the story of Moses and grossed an incredible $101 million. The movies had the same filmmakers. The same group of ministers provided guidance, too. Both musicals were made by DreamWorks, although the studio released Joseph straight to DVD. Joseph: King of Dreams re-tells the story of Joseph, from the time he began having dreams about his brothers, to the moment he was sold into slavery, to the time he became an official in Pharaoh’s court and saved his starving family. Ben Affleck voices Joseph, while Mark Hamill plays Judah. Some families like Joseph: King of Dreams more than The Prince of Egypt. It’s unrated. 

Photo courtesy: DreamWorks

Paul: Apostle of Christ (2018)

Paul: Apostle of Christ (2018)

They say “timing is everything.” If that’s true, then Paul: Apostle of Chris suffered some of the worst timing in faith film history, with a release date one week after I Can Only Imagine in March 2018. I Can Only Imagine opened in the Top 3, shocking Hollywood and grabbing national headlines. Paul got overlooked. That’s too bad, because it was a pretty good film, receiving an “A-” CinemaScore from moviegoers. The movie tells the story of an aging Paul as he sits in prison and looks back on his life with his friend, Luke. Meanwhile, Christians across the region are being persecuted under the Emperor Nero. James Faulkner (Downton Abbey) plays Paul, while Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) plays Luke. Rated PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images.

Photo courtesy: Affirm

<em>The Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John</em> (2014-15)

The Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (2014-15)

The 2003 film The Gospel of John may have been the first movie to use the actual text of Scripture -- word for word -- as its script. But in 2014, another film, also called The Gospel of John, did the same. The filmmakers behind that later movie then released three more films using the word-for-word concept: The Gospel of Matthew (2014), The Gospel of Mark (2015 ) and The Gospel of Luke (2015). They used actors and actresses from the Middle East, giving the project a more realistic look than most other Bible-based films do. The movies used the NIV translation and went straight to DVD. The Gospel of John (2014) also is available in the King James Version. Unrated.

Photo courtesy: Lionsgate

<em>Ben-Hur</em> (2016)

Ben-Hur (2016)

It’s always dangerous to toy with a classic, as the makers of the 2016 film Ben-Hur discovered. The 1959 version won 11 Oscars and ranks as the 14th highest-grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation. The 2016 version didn’t win any mainstream awards and disappointed at the box office. But this doesn’t mean it was a bad film. CNN’s reviewer liked it. Critics at Village Voice and RogerEbert.com did, too. I also enjoyed it. The story is set during the time of Christ and follows the story of two brothers who grow to hate one another. And although it’s not a Bible story in the strict sense, we see Jesus several times, including on the cross. It stars Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman and received an A- CinemaScore. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images.

Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.

Photo courtesy: Paramount





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