Shalom Life | April 22, 2014

Jewish Top 10s: Bible Movies

In honor of Passover, we look at some of the best feature films that reinterpret stories from the Bible

By: Zak Edwards

Published: April 18th, 2014 in Culture » Film » News

Jewish Top 10s: Bible Movies

Welcome to Jewish Top 10s, where we compile lists that highlight the best and the brightest of everything yehudi, from delicious recipes to funniest actors, to most obnoxious Jewish wedding songs.

Darren Aronofsky was one our favourite Jewish Directors a couple of months back, but his latest film has certainly changed his ranking. In which way, we’re not all decided on quite yet, but it certainly has shifted with Noah. Mind you, recent scandals have made us reconsider the list’s top entry as well, but that is a debate for another time.

The debate here is the Bible in film, a constantly controversial subject that, as Hollywood continues to look to stories already told over original material, will only be getting more common. Ridley Scott is set to release a film about Exodus in December, which means we may be in for a Bible story revival. As you’ll see from the list, the Bible stories were very popular a long time ago.

Today, Noah has its detractors and fans, however, from people disconcerted over its more liberal interpretations of a relatively short section of Genesis to rabbis like Shmuley Boteach, who called it a “story that tries to explicate Noah's relationship with God and God's relationship with the world as it has become.” Certainly the stories of the Bible are relevant today, and we have plenty of examples of movies that have, indeed, left us in awe, in wonder, and certainly thinking about the place of these stories in today’s world.

Here’s the Top 10 films based on the Bible that astounded us.

10.


Esther and the King

Release Date: 1960

Director: Raoul Walsh, Mario Bava

Starring: Joan Collins, Richard Egan, Denis O'Dea

Equal parts hokey and wildly inaccurate, Esther and the King is a movie that people either love or hate. Released the same year as Spartacus, Esther and the King’s lower budget, commitment to tacky movie tropes, and at-times cringe worthy lines was an entirely different type of movie. One that people started to hate rather than sit back and love.

So what makes Esther and the King deserving of being on this list? Well, most Bible films are historical epics and Esther and the King is a much smaller scale film. It’s goals are different and some would say it did a great job. The acting is surprising, the filming great, and the use of their limited resources made something beautiful. Just don’t go in expecting an epic.

9.


Noah’s Ark

Release Date: 1928

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Dolores Costello, George O'Brien

One of the first movies to start using sound (the talkies!), Noah’s Ark is perhaps more famous now for how it changed Hollywood than the film itself. The flood scenes were ambitious for their time, killing 3 people and injuring more, including one man who needed his leg amputated. John Wayne and Andy Devine are extras in the film, Wayne was working in the prop department at the time. The movie is one of the earliest disaster films and its opening scene is now iconic, depicting the ark beached amongst the high boulders of the mountains, real life California. It was a must-see film in its day and while people today have little patience for these early films, the movie is quite good. Definitely recommended viewing for movie buffs!

8.


David and Bathsheba

Release Date: 1951

Director: Henry King

Starring: Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Raymond Massey

A critical and commercial success in its day, the story of David and Bathsheba makes for a great Hollywood anyways. Director Henry King balances the between judgment and condemnation, grace and restoration. The film is beautifully shot as well, with very strong cinematography and a stellar soundtrack. It hits some of the highlights of David’s life and ties them into the entire story, pulling threads through the story to give it a very literary feel. Plus the cast is very, very good.

7.


Samson and Delilah

Release Date: 1949

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Starring: Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature, George Sanders

Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments overshadows his other Biblical films, especially the original version of the Charlton Heston epic, but Samson and Delilah is another great film. Made in 1949, the film has a surprisingly high production value, with elaborate sets and large scale shots. Hedy Lamarr is particularly great as Samson’s wife, while Victor Mature plays the lumbering Samson a little too dumb. George Sanders, however, offers some great comedic and satirical relief. Overall, the film is an amazing piece. Yes, it takes ample liberties, but does so to tell a great story in a way that only classic Hollywood could.

6.


Young Abraham

Release Date: 2011

Director: Todd Shaffer

Written and developed by two Canadian rabbis, this animated adventure is equal parts fun kids film and thoughtful exploration of one of the major people in Judaism. Unlike almost every film on this list, this movie is refreshingly about Judaism, not Christians looking at the Old Testament, so the usual moralizing and filters simply don’t exist, even if the film’s subtitle is From the Ancient Stories of the Israelites. Canadian animation has always been underrated but ahead of the curve (Reboot, anyone?), and the film does a great job with their limited budget. It was a four year labour of love for the crew and this shows throughout. Mendy Rimler said Young Abraham is “a vivid and compelling retelling of the biblical and Midrashic story of Abraham’s discovery of God: At last, kosher entertainment with Jewish and visual depth.” We tend to agree.

Continue Reading for the Top 5 Bible Films

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg to Make Another War Movie TrendingDrake Being Sued For Toronto Nightclub Beating Drake Being Sued For Toronto Nightclub Beating Trending The Nosh Pit - Chocolate Dessert Recipes Trending
 

Israeli Wi-Fi Powers Russian Subways

April 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Israeli Wi-Fi Powers Russian Subways

Passengers aboard subways in in Moscow enjoy Wi-Fi courtesy of Israeli communications provider, Radwin

Read More

Israeli Comedian on 4.20: Let My People Smoke! [VIDEO]

April 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren

Gadi Wilcherski and a group of Israeli pot advocates campaigned outside Health Minister Yael German's house early Sunday morning

Read More

Shalom, French Polynesia: A Jewish Culture Guide

April 22, 2014 | By Sarah Bauder

Approximately 130 islands comprise French Polynesia, with Tahiti being the most famous, largest, and most populated.

Read More

Katy Perry Impersonates Unfunny Rabbi in ‘Birthday’ Music Video [VIDEO]

April 22, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Katy Perry Impersonates Unfunny Rabbi in ‘Birthday’ Music Video [VIDEO]

The pop star takes on a number of the "World's Worst Birthday Party Entertainers"

Read More

Seth Rogen and James Franco to Perform ‘Bound 2’ Spoof at Kim Kardashian Wedding?

April 22, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Seth Rogen and James Franco to Perform ‘Bound 2’ Spoof at Kim Kardashian Wedding?

Franco shared some interesting intel about the Kardashian/West wedding on 'The View'.

Read More

Drake to Join Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar at iHeart Radio Music Awards

April 22, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Drake to Join Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar at iHeart Radio Music Awards

NBC has announced several big names for iHeart Radio's inaugural event

Read More

David Foster Wallace’s Estate Opposes Upcoming Segel and Eisenberg Biopic

April 22, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
David Foster Wallace’s Estate Opposes Upcoming Segel and Eisenberg Biopic

Wallace's family and literally trust "have no connection with, and neither endorse nor support" the film entitled 'The End of the Tour'.

Read More

Missouri Mayor Resigns After Siding with Kansas Shooter

April 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Missouri Mayor Resigns After Siding with Kansas Shooter

After saying that he "kind of agreed" with 73-year-old former white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, Dan Clevenger has now renounced his position as Mayor of Marionville

Read More

More Headlines