ByRory O'Connor, writer at
Breathing movies. Humbly writing about them.
Rory O'Connor

The Lent commitments have been long forgotten and the eggs are slyly hidden away so what better time to put up the feet and whack on the kettle as Moviepilot rounds up the finest cinematic nail-ups.

(Thread lightly, new Testament spoilers await)

5: Spartacus and his men

Spartacus (1960)

Kirk Douglas star fishes it as the doomed hero
Kirk Douglas star fishes it as the doomed hero

Not the most gruesome or biblical in our list, but worthy of its place for the sheer numbers alone.

Kirk Douglas was one of the biggest stars of the 1950's and owned the production company which made this bloated swords-n-sandals epic, so if Douglas wanted Anthony Mann fired, a full week into shooting, to be replaced by his Paths of Glory director Stanley Kubrick, he did just that. A cruel beginning to production but perhaps this flawed beast would have been forgotten had Kubrick never taken the helm... but anyway, we digress.

Spartacus was a former Gladiator who lead the slaves in a civil war against the Roman empire. This obviously didn't sit too well with the Roman general Crassus, one of history's wealthiest men. In Kubrick's film, Spartacus and his men are captured following the battle of Senerchia but when his followers refuse to give him up, as in the famous scene above, he and 6,000 of them end up crucified along the sides of the Appian Way, a road which ran a full 120 miles between Apulia and Rome.

A scenic route indeed.
A scenic route indeed.

4 Christ the Neo Realist

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

Pier Paolo Pasolini was a Marxist poet before he took to making films with the Italian Neo Realists. He made this remarkable film to show something that Marxism could not. He said the film was:

a reaction against the conformity of Marxism. The mystery of life and death and of suffering — and particularly of religion ... is something that Marxists do not want to consider. But these are and have always been questions of great importance for human beings.

Pasolini brought the Neo realist style to the story of Christ- verite camera work, non professional actors, stark black and white imagery- and the stripped down results were beautiful.

No doubt the classiest entrant on our journey but, for our sins, we're on the hunt for something more sensational...

3. The tempted Christ

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

In 1988 a group of French fundamentalists lobbed Molatov cocktails into Paris' Saint Michel movie theater on a late October screening of this deeply indulgent and personal film. At the time many other, less serious offences were also recorded. These included stink bombs and boycotts; a 600 strong protest at Universal's gates; a Harvey Keitel haircut and a Peter Gabriel score...

The less said on that one the better.

Or this... wow.
Or this... wow.

It was all down to the story's deviations from the original text, many of which take place after Willem Defoe's been strung up. A child appears and takes him away to show him a mortal life in which he is married to Magdalene, a bond which they scandalously consecrate. Christ eventually comes to his senses and returns to Calvary to finish the job but even that was not enough for many hard-liners. The film is still banned in both the Philippines and Singapore.

So Martin Scorsese provides our brief meandering with its first taste of controversy but, as you can imagine, it's certainly not the last...

2. Mel Gibson's Passion

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

The rumblings which surrounded Mel Gibson's recent depiction of Christ's last 12 hours (pre-resurrection) was altogether different from those which followed Scorsese's film. Indeed, if The Last Temptation was criticised for a lack of vigilance with the text, Gibson was hounded for quite the opposite.

His Passion of the Christ is without doubt the most gruesome crucifixion we've seen at the movies; it's an experience that's meant to batter you into submission with every whip, flail and thorn available. fiercely uncompromising, made to tell it as is.

Roger Ebert said it was the most violent film he'd seen. The religious crowd loved it, the Critics weren't sure; but people flocked to the cinemas none the less. Entertainment weekly went so far as to rank it "The Most Controversial Film of all Time" but hey, you can't please 'em all.

The director was so taken aback by all the criticism he vowed he'd never offend again...

*removes tongue from cheek*

1. Brian

The Life of Brian (1979)

And so we find ourselves at number 1 with much more controversy, a bit more Christ, and one very naughty boy.

In case you have been residing under a rock on a remote region of Mars, The Life of Brian tells the story of a Jewish man who is born next door to Jesus on the very same day and later finds he has been mistaken for the messiah.

Cold chillin...
Cold chillin...

The Python's brilliant religious satire can be found on many an all-time list these days but at the time of its release it was a controversial sensation. The BBC refused to play it; in America the premieres were picketed by rabbis and nuns and in Catholic Ireland it was banned for over a decade. Of course this was all part of the fun, a polite and oh-so-clever thorn in the side to get the religious world all hot under the collar and send the rest of us over the moon.

But forget all that noise. Here it is in all its glory, the perfect ending to crucifixion films and silly lists alike...

Something we forgot? Need a good vent? Let us know in the comments below.

Have a great Easter and happy egg huntin' y'all.


Best performance from the list above?


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