On Easter weekends past, I have looked at movie rental recommendations and Easter cartoons, but now I'd like to list some of the many actors who have had a chance to play the role of Jesus on film and television. Similiar to my essay "Actors Playing God," it is a challenge for any actor to even attempt such a part, because there will be countless critics who feel you have failed to "get it right." Even some of the more acclaimed portrayals have generated criticism. So let's take a look.
Christian Bale - Mary Mother of Jesus (1999)
Although Pernilla August was arguably the star of this made for TV production, the future Batman would steal the show.
Saleh Bakri - The Lost Tomb of Jesus (2007)
So man people have portrayed the famous carpenter's son from Nazareth. Here's one from a TV documentary.
Didier Bienaime - Mary of Nazareth (1995)
This was a French film.
Lothaire Bluteau - Jesus of Montreal (1989)
Actors lives are impacted when they perform a Passion Play.
Phil Caracas - Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)
Mash-ups of classic tales and horror stereotypes are all the rage lately. This one was filmed over a decade ago.
Glenn Carter - Jesus Christ Superstar (2001)
Although I didn't include all the live theater portrayals of Jesus, this video of a Broadway production did appear on TV as part of Great Performances on PBS and was distributed on DVD.
Jim Caviezel - The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson's bloody masterpiece became one of the top moneymakers in Hollywood history.
Kenneth Colley - Life of Brian (1979)
The Monty Python crew offer up a comedy that quickly became a cult classic.
Willem Dafoe - The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Martin Scorsese's controversial labor of love still has its loyal fans and its heated detractors.
Brian Deacon - Jesus (1979)
This was one of the many no-name cast productions that have been made over the years.
Martin Donovan - The Book of Life (1998)
As Y2K paranoia approached, this low-budget production offered the premise that Jesus has second thoughts about the approaching apocalypse.
Will Ferrell - Superstar (1999)
The comic actor reprised his comedic depiction that he original performed on Saturday Night Live.
Ralph Fiennes - The Miracle Maker (2000)
This was a stop-motion animated retelling of the life of Jesus and Mr. Fiennes supplied the voice for the lead.
Victor Garber - Godspell (1973)
This may not be the best adaptation, but the musical still has its merits.
Claude Heater - Ben-Hur (1959)
Even though we never saw his face, it was still a nice portrayal.
Robert Henderson - From the Manger to the Cross (1912)
This was the earliest cinematic depiction of an actor playing the part of Jesus. If there's an earlier one, please let me know.
Halvard Hoff - Leaves from Satan's Book (1920)
This was one of Carl Theodor Dreyer's classic silent films, telling the story of the Devil's banishment from Heaven.
Jeffrey Hunter - King of Kings (1961)
He went on to briefly play Captain Pike of the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek before William Shatner played Captain Kirk, but first Jeffrey Hunter was Jesus in this effective major motion picture.
Robin Hughes - Quo Vadis (1951)
He only provided the voice, but it still counts.
Enrique Irazoqui - The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Little known by mainstream audiences today, this was still a pretty decent production for its time.
Donald C. Klune - The Robe (1953)
This is a great film (and so is its sequel).
Robert Le Vigan - Golgotha (1935)
This Austrian film was also known in America as Behold the Man.
Roy Magnano - Barabbas (1961)
They're remaking this for television, but hunt down the original.
Diogo Morgado - The Bible (2013)
This current History Channel series has been earning a lot of attention.
Ted Neeley - Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
The musical is one of my favorites, but the movie could use a reboot.
Claude Payton - Ben-Hur (1925)
The original silent version of this film featured an uncredited performance of the role of Jesus.
Robert Powell - Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
This is the version to beat, arguably the greatest portrayal of them all. It still stands up today as one of the best.
Matt Ranillo III - Kristo (1996)
Here's a version created in the Phillipines.
John Rubinstein - In Search of Historic Jesus (1979)
I remember going with my parents to see this when it came out in movie theaters.
Chris Sarandon - The Day Christ Died (1980)
I also remember as a kid seeing this disappointing docu-drama on TV.
Jeremy Sisto - Jesus (1999)
This was a bit of a let-down, even Gary Oldman's portrayal of Pontius Pilate.
John Kay Steel - The Revolutionary (1995)
This two-parter came and went.
Matt Stone - South Park (1997)
Stone provided the voice of Jesus, who became a recurring character on the animated series and actually was an important part of the very first episode.
Robert Torti - Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical (2005)
I don't know what to say about this one.
Max von Sydow - The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
He played Devil later in his career in Needful Things, but this was one of this acting highlights.
H.B. Warner - The King of Kings (1927)
The silent era version still holds up with some wonderful cinematography.
No doubt, Hollywood will continue to make and remake the story of Jesus. Who else will eventually have the chance to retell it again?