A few years ago, my son read the entire Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan. His mother and I read them as well. As Hollywood is prone to do with books that are popular with young adults (and adults), they made it into a movie! (The latest in this line of popular young adult fiction to be made into a movie is - Divergent! I keep trying to check out a copy through the libraries and am like 678 on the waiting list!) He was very excited to see the movie, so we took him and a few of his friends to the see it. Film critics have nothing on pre-teenage boys when it comes to harsh criticism. According to them, Hollywood had “ruined” the story taking great liberties with the storyline, the major characters, the setting, and well, everything! They hated the movie! Having read the series, Staci and I agreed, the book was so much better! Aren’t they always? My favorite novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, was turned into the movie - Simon Birch. The movie version was so far off from the book, I had to re-read it just to get, as saying goes, “the bad taste out of my mouth!” Have you ever had a similar experience with a book being made into a movie?
Of all the books ever made into a movie, the Bible seems to be one of Hollywood’s favorites. The 1920‘s saw the release of Ben-Hur: The Tale of Christ and Noah’s Ark. 1949‘s biggest hit was Sampson and Delilah. The 1950‘s saw the remake of Ben-Hur, along with David and Bathsheba, The Robe, and Cecil B. DeMille’s classic starring Charlton Heston - The Ten Commandments, which was nominated for 7 Academy Awards! A bit of trivia, all of the legal fuss over the 10 Commandment monuments that many communities have in parks? Those stone tablets were just an early form of Hollywood marketing a movie in order to make money. They were given out to communities by Cecil B. DeMille to promote the release of his movie. It worked! The 10 Commandments was the biggest money maker in 1956! Of course, not all major movies based on the Bible were commercial successes. The 1960’s movies: The Greatest Story Ever Told and The King of Kings did not fare so well financially, failing at the box office. The 1970’s brought us the classic Rock Operas: Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. The 1980’s saw a scantily clad Richard Geer dancing around the Ark of the Covenant in King David and Willem Dafoe playing Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ.
The 1990’s saw the advent of animated movies based on the Bible: The Prince of Egypt and The Story of Christmas. Jonah: A Veggie Tale is one of our personal favorites. The 2000’s have brought us many more movies like The Nativity and Mel Gibson’s controversial movie - The Passion of the Christ.
And now Hollywood is at it again, releasing this winter, Son of God, starring, as critics called him - the “Hot” Jesus due to his looks and Noah - starring another Hollywood superstar Russell Crowe.
The list of biblically based movies seems endless. How many have you watched over your life time? I have seen most of the one listed in this article, a few of them multiple times. Some I have liked and some have disappointed me. Here is the thing, Hollywood always embellishes the story and characters. These films, as entertaining and moving as they maybe, rarely do justice to the Biblical story. So my advice as a film buff and a person who loves to read a good book is read the book before you see the movie. Especially when it comes to Hollywood trying to turn a biblical story into a movie. I believe you will find the book is always more accurate and better!
p.s. For me, the best film Hollywood ever made based on the Bible was Places In The Heart starring Sally Fields and Danny Glover. The opening and closing scenes are powerful! If you have never watched the movie, do so! You will not be disappointed!