1 Year, 100 Movies: #100 Ben-Hur (1959)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Ben-Hur is one of the most epic movies you could imagine. Everyone I’ve mentioned the movie to proclaims that the sets and the costumes and the ridiculously expansive magnitude of the movie are remarkable. They are correct- because they are amazing and well, epic. The movie was made before all these images could be stitched together on a computer. These people actually shot all of these scenes- a feat that is incredible to think about. Scenes worthy of note are the maritime battle and the chariot race. For those scenes alone this movie deserves a higher spot on AFI’s top 100 movies of the last 100 years list.

In my opinion, what makes this movie truly great are the small scenes. The acting is so heartfelt and reflects the tone of the story in such a brutally honest way. My favorite scene was the one in which Judah Ben-Hur is captive and is walking chain-gang style to basically meet his doom as one of the rowers on a battle ship. They stop in a small town and Judah is denied water for some inexplicable reason by one of the Roman guards. Into the scene enters a man who is shot giving Judah a drink of water- no words at this point. The desperateness of the situation is staggering. Then the viewer realizes that the man with the water is Jesus. Mind. Blown.

Other scenes are given as much care, and the movie’s length allows for the character’s relationships to be built and expanded. Such cases are Judah’s romantic relationship with Esther, and his childhood friend turned enemy in Messala. Also incredible to watch is Judah’s relationship with his mother and sister and how that plays out when he learns they have leprosy contracted while in prison for the same ‘crime’ that he was held captive for.

At the end of the day, I love that this great epic movie is centered around Jesus’ birth, teachings and his crucifixion. My only disappointment with the movie is that there is not one mention of Jesus rising from the dead after 3 days of his crucifixion. Not only is it a crucial point, but it would have been something I feel that the characters in ‘Ben-Hur’ would have noted and discussed- as they had the Sermon on the Mount. There was a moment at the end that would have been perfect. Just saying.

Besides that one point I was very impressed with the movie and what it accomplished- not to mention the eleven Academy Awards it won!

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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