Originally made for TV in 1977, this in-depth (six hours plus) version of Jesus' life is so thorough that the first hour is devoted solely to the story of his birth. The film doesn't skimp on some of the other landmark eve... more »nts of this famous story either. Director Franco Zeffirelli gives more than 12 minutes screen time each to the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Passages of the Bible are quoted verbatim, the locations have a Palestine-like authenticity, and, aside from some of the principals (Robert Powell as Jesus, Olivia Hussey as Mary, and Stacy Keach as Barabbas), many of the non-Roman characters are actually played by Semitic-looking actors. Zeffirelli diligently provides the sociopolitical background that gave rise to Jesus' following and the crisis in belief it caused for the people of Israel (and one or two Romans). While not graphic by today's standards, some of the scenes--baby boys being ripped from their mothers' arms and slaughtered, nails being driven into Jesus' hands--may disturb young and/or sensitive children. --Kimberly Heinrichs« less
Daniel Rivera | Los Angeles, California United States | 08/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After more than two decades, JESUS OF NAZARETH remains the greatest motion picture on the life of Jesus Christ -unsurpassed and second-to-none. Beautifully directed by Franco Zeffirelli (best known for his 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet) and featuring a constellation of the greatest international actors: Sir Lawrence Olivier, Rod Steiger, Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, James Earl Jones, Anthony Quinn (among others, oh my!), this six-hour magnum opus has given flesh and humanity to the people and events of the Gospel narratives like no other movie before or since.The film begins with the events prior to the Anunciation and Nativity, through the life of Christ, leading up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, from Joseph's betrothal to Mary (played by Olivia Hussey, best known for her role as Juliet in the aforementioned film.) to the Empty Tomb on Easter Sunday. First-rate production allows us to observe with great detail the customs and daily life in first-century Judaea. The backdrop of Roman oppression and Jewish discontent is masterfully shown and successfully correlated to Jesus' ministry, in particular the political maneuvering of the cunning Herod (wondrously played by Peter Ustinov) and its effects on messianic expectation. Many persons mentioned only in passing or alluded to in the gospels such as Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate are portrayed with great credibility, allowing us to understand the historical figures' motives and intentions more fully.Among the numerous superlative performances, surely the most notable is that of Robert Powell in his role as the Nazarene, whose performance subtly captures the humanity of the Son of God, neither adding human weakness where none is present (vis-a-vis The Last Temptation of Christ), nor resorting to docetic immutability (Greatest Story Ever Told). Indeed, one senses that Jesus is fully aware of who He is in this film. In terms of scope, detail and production, this film is a must-see, setting a standard of excellence which unfortunately has not been met since. JESUS OF NAZARETH makes for great viewing not only for the seasoned Christian but for seekers and those interested in an intelligent approach to the life of Christ. SUPERB."
The best Jesus movie ever made
scherf.com | Las Vegas, NV USA | 02/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To date, "Jesus of Nazareth" is most certainly the best Jesus movie ever made. Director Franco Zeffirelli presents the story of Jesus Christ in a very authentic manner. This film sticks pretty much to the script, the Holy Bible. This historical account of Jesus starts before the birth of Christ and runs through His life, His substitutionary death for all our sins on the cross, and His reappearance afterward. Much time is spent on our Lord's three-year long mission preaching and performing miracles as an adult on earth, and many scenes are genuinely touching, leaving not a dry eye in the audience. We've first seen this movie when it was released back in the late 70s, and since then we've watched it a few dozen times. The nearly six and a half hours running time are not a bother for those interested in the life of Christ. This picture comes across as a very well funded production and much care has been given to detail. We're certain that most viewers will be touched, aided by Robert Powell's realistic performance and portrayal of our Savior Jesus Christ. This movie will make you think about your personal relationship with God, while you'll enjoy an exceptionally well-made motion picture."
The greatest version of the greatest story ever told
B. W. Fairbanks | Lakewood, OH United States | 02/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Prior to its debut on NBC in April 1977, "Jesus of Nazareth" was the subject of considerable controversy after director Franco Zeffirelli suggested his interpretation of Jesus would veer wildly from previous screen versions of the Gospels. Suspecting Zeffirelli, to say nothing of co-screenwriter Anthony Burgess of "Clockwork Orange" fame, had downplayed or even denied Jesus' divinity, some prominent religious leaders condemned the film, sight unseen, for its alleged blasphemy. One sponsor (General Motors) bowed out, and another stepped in (Proctor and Gamble, years before the company fought off unsubstantiated charges that its logo was Satanic). "Jesus of Nazareth" aired as scheduled, in two parts on two successive Sunday evenings, earning high ratings and praise from critics of all faiths."Jesus of Nazareth" is, hands down, the finest dramatic retelling of the life of Jesus to date. As George Stevens did with his 1965 fiasco, "The Greatest Story Ever Told," Zeffirelli recruited an all-star cast, but whereas Stevens could only have hired John Wayne to play a Roman Centurion because the Duke's name would look nice on the posters, Zeffirelli chose his stars because they were gifted actors perfect for their roles. One doesn't ooh and aah at the sight of Rod Steiger, Anthony Quinn, or Laurence Olivier, but rather marvel at how well they believably bring Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, and Nicodemus to respective life. As good as they are, the most impressive performance may come from a less illustrious "name," James Farentino, who makes for a very commanding Peter. It could be argued that the film is too pretty at times (this is, after all, the work of the man who made 1968's lushly romantic "Romeo and Juliet"), bringing to mind the kind of postcard depiction that Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" attempts to counter, but the script and performances thankfully lack the dry solemnity that often drains any semblance of life from most dramatic interpretations of the Bible. Robert Powell's Jesus doesn't merely "quote" passages from the New Testament but speaks the words of Jesus as those words might have been spoken for the first time. The crucifixion, though not as brutal and bloody as it probably was, also seems to be portrayed more realistically than usual, with Jesus carrying only the beam of his cross to Calvary which history seems to suggest was more likely the case.Maurice Jarre's score is sometimes moody and always reverent without being pompous, and despite its length, the story never drags. "Jesus of Nazareth" is an outstanding achievement, all the more impressive when one considers it was produced for television."
A MUST-HAVE FOR EVERY BELIEVER!
Reginald D. Garrard | Camilla, GA USA | 03/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is inconceivable that on Amazon there are only 90 reviewers for Franco Zeffirelli's masterful and inspiring masterpiece as opposed to over 2000 for "The Matrix," a less-than-monumental piece of fluff from 1999."Jesus of Nazareth" sports a cast of Academy Award-winners (Lawrence Olivier, Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, and Peter Ustinov, to name a few) and nominees (James Earl Jones, James Mason, Christopher Plummer) as well as a support from an international group of performers. Olivia Hussey brings just the amount of warmth and humanity in the role of Mary; Rod Steiger deftly portrays Pontius Pilate as a man torn between duty to his country and awe of this man called Jesus; Michael York is stunning as John the Baptist.Robert Powell brings to the movie the definitive portrait of Jesus. His passionate performance is the stuff of legend. Prior to this motion picture, there had been few instances wherein Christ had been seen; it is as if the screen was awaiting the right man for the part. Powell proves that to be true; he is perfect!If I have motivated even one soul to purchase this masterwork, then I have accomplished the goal of this review. Money could not be better spent."
Extraordinary, Moving, Powerful
Bill | Long Island | 04/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jesus of Nazareth, a British production, directed by Franco Zeffirelli debuted on network television (NBC, I believe)in the spring of 1977--as a miniseries!--and was a ratings success. Needless to say, television producers would not try to duplicate the feat today.I watched Jesus of Nazareth Easter Sunday on the History Channel...not all of it, about 3 hours of it. It is such a tremendous achievement of script, portrayal, performance that I wonder why IT is not the broadcast standard of Biblical themed films in the televised media (and why the Ten Commandments is).This assembled cast cannot be equaled--Olivier as Nicodemus, James Mason as Joseph of Arimethea, Ian McShane as Judas, Ian Holm as the fictional creation (and successfully done) of a Sanhedrin leader named Zara,Christopher Plummer as Herod, Stacy Keach as Barrabas, Anne Bancroft (kudos) as Mary Magdalene, Rod Steiger as Pontius Pilate, and Robert Powell (an unknown actor at the time transforms himself like DeNiro did as Jake Lamotta) in an amazingly unrecognized performance as Jesus.Not all the performances are noteworthy--James Farentino as Peter, Anthony Quinn as a Sanhedrin leader, and the actress who plays Herod's wife are flops.The most exceptional scenes---when Jesus narrates the story of the Prodigal Son (which brings Matthew and Peter together), the Last Supper ( a supreme accomplishment of filmmaking), the raising of Lazarus, the judgement of Jesus by Pilate, the dialogue between Jesus and Barrabas at the baths, the passionate lecture Jesus dispenses on the Pharisees, and the overwhelming, incredibly moving cry of Jesus to the prophet Elijah as he perishes---no matter what one believes, recognizes, adheres to--this is an unparalleled, historic story of a man who displayed conveyed behaved as the most perfect embodiment of a human being could...to achieve his destiny as deity."