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Movie Review

Winner of eleven Oscars, Ben-Hur remains one of the most inspirational, reverent spectacles ever made by a major Hollywood studio—an uplifting adventure full of subtle life lessons.

Charlton Heston portrays Judah Ben-Hur, a kind, wealthy Jew whose life is thrown into turmoil when he is betrayed and falsely accused of crimes against Rome. Judah spends three years as a galley slave before heroics restore him to high standing and a chance to exact revenge on his enemies. But will he repay evil with evil? Vital to Judah's story—and his resolution of conflicting passions—is a gentle carpenter from Nazareth who, though rarely seen, is the real Hero of this film.

Soul-stirring scenes of Christ's birth and crucifixion provide biblical bookends for MGM's action-packed epic. In between, the story exalts love, loyalty, perseverance, forgiveness, faith, nobility, healing and a sacrificial commitment to family. Parents and teen viewers may also want to discuss:

— What was conveyed through Judah and Esther's brief encounters with Jesus?

— How did Messala's ambition negatively impact his character? (Hab. 2:4-5)

— What is leprosy, and how is this disease a lot like bitterness and hatred?

— How did Judah's work with the sheik's horses illustrate how individuals' differences can make a team stronger?

— How was Judah's enslavement both physical and spiritual? (Key line: "I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.")

Though rated G, two intense and occasionally violent scenes (a battle at sea and the famous chariot race) make PG a more appropriate label for families with young children.

Like the $200 million Titanic, Ben-Hur was the costliest film ever made at the time of its release—$15 million in 1959. That paid for 300 sets, 50,000 extras, 100,000 costumes and a God-honoring message that makes Ben-Hur a vintage blockbuster.


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Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, Hugh Griffith


William Wyler and Andrew Marton





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Bob Smithouser

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