Monday, April 15, 2013

Movie review: Ben-Hur (1959)

This is another one from the AFI 100 Years 100 Cheers list for my 101 Things in 1001 Days.

watch Ben Hur (1959) on Amazon Streaming

Judah Ben-Hur is a Prince among the Jewish people in the time of the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. He's coincidentally living in the time of Christ, but that doesn't really come into play until things really get moving.

His childhood friend Messala has just been named tribune of the city, and Judah delightedly expects to be able to relive old times. Messala, on the other hand, has changed. Eager to climb the ladder of success, he tries to convince Judah to identify his fellow Jews who are plotting against Rome. Judah refuses to betray his people, and he and Messala part as enemies.

Until, that is, Messala has an opportunity to make an example of his old friend. After a misunderstanding involving a clay roof tile and the governor of Jerusalem, Messala is quick to send Judah to the galleys and his mother and sister to the dungeons.

Judah vows revenge, and the rest of the film follows his growing hatred and thirst for vengeance at a time when there's a new preacher in the land, spreading the gospel of love and forgiveness. Judah and Messala finally meet again as contestants in the chariot races. Their mutual hatred plays out dramatically in the arena.


It seems I watch Ben-Hur every April on a Sunday. It probably goes back to when it was an Eastertime fixture on tv. I remember my dad excitedly telling me that "it's Ben-Hur!" and calling me in from the other room to watch the chariot race.

I've reviewed the movie before, and there's not much more to say, except that the movie still stands the test of time. The acting is a bit stilted, and Charlton Heston leans a little hard on his consonants, and there are a lot of inexplicably long pauses in the dialog. It's still an excellent epic film by the great Billy Wilder, and well worth revisiting.


  1. I have never seen Ben Hur. I don't like epics. (Hangs head in shame.)