We’re on the cusp of Holy Week, when we’ll commemorate the solemn Last Supper and Jesus’ trials in the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday; the sacred suffering and sacrifice of Good Friday; and the glorious resurrection of Easter.
Most Christians don’t need a primer on any of those events, of course. We might not all be able to recite, verse-for-verse, what happened during Holy Week. But we know what happened. We live with these stories, and those stories in turn have changed our own.
But sometimes, it’s cool to see the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through someone else’s eyes. And when we watch a movie or play or television show about Him, that’s exactly what we do.
The internet and the ubiquity of streaming services makes it possible—even easy—to check out some resonant takes on Jesus’ passion and resurrection. Here’s a rundown of some movies (and one play) about Christ you can watch over the next two weeks.
The Gospel Collection: For five years, producer Hannah Leader worked to create movies that take each of the four biblical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and retell them on film, word for word. For Leader, the movies were a labor of both deep love and faith—but that didn’t make it easy, as she told me in an interview a few years back. Each Gospel gets a stand-alone movie, but all are available on both Netflix and Amazon Prime, and perhaps a few other platforms, too. If you want your movies about Jesus to reflect Scripture as accurately as possible, these films get it done. (When you’re searching, search for each movie individually: “The Gospel of Matthew,” etc.)
JESUS: Sight & Sound, an entertainment ministry that specializes in lavish Bible-based stage productions, will be streaming a live version of their musical production of JESUS at 7 p.m. Eastern Time April 2, including a 30-minute pre-show and 20-minute intermission, on its own streaming platform, sight-sound.tv. (Sight & Sound says it’ll have some livestreamed encore showings Saturday and Sunday, too.) While the idea of a stage-based musical might leave some would-be viewers a little leery, Sight & Sound has become something of a faith-based fave. And when our own Bob Hoose reviewed a cinematic take on the ministry’s JESUS, he loved it. (Oh, and it’s pretty family friendly, too.)
The Jesus Film: Technically just titled Jesus, The Jesus Film did not experience a great deal of success when it was first released in 1979. But in subsequent years more and more people watched it, and many say that it’s perhaps the most widely seen motion picture of all time—seen by an estimated 3 billion people. Many millions have seen it on YouTube alone. Or you can watch it directly on the Jesus Film Project’s own website, too.
The Passion of the Christ: Not many would call Mel Gibson’s resonant-if-bloody take on Jesus’ final hours “family friendly.” Still, when the film rolled out to theaters in 2004, many parents took their kids to the R-rated film anyway, to show them the most brutally realistic depiction of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice. The film broke all sorts of box-office records back in the day, and it’s now available for free on Amazon, assuming you have a Prime membership. (You’ll find tons of other movies and television shows on the service, too—many of which are free to stream.)
Resurrection: Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey shook the entertainment world in 2013 with their miniseries The Bible—a faith-filled run through the Good book that aired on the History Channel. Parts of the miniseries were later used to create the 2014 Son of God (available for free on the streaming platform tubi, by the way), which did pretty well for itself, too. Now, the pair are back with a new film—this one dealing with Jesus’ last mortal hours and his miraculous last days on earth. You can’t see it just yet: It launches March 27 on the streaming platform discovery+ (which you can get with a 7-day trial, if you so wish). But I’ve seen the film, and for fans of Burnett and Downey’s work, it doesn’t disappoint.
Risen: This is one of my favorite cinematic takes on Jesus’ death and resurrection, and it won Plugged In’s “Best Christian Movie” award back in 2017. Released in 2016 and starring BAFTA- and Emmy-nominated actor Joseph Fiennes, the film plays out more like a detective yarn than a Bible story, following Fiennes’ mystified Roman Tribune Clavius as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of the body of an executed criminal. In a genre that can sometimes feel a little too sanctified, Risen brings some grit and grime to the story—something that makes the film not suitable for everyone. But for those looking for a good movie about the greatest story ever told, this might fit the bill. It’s available on PureFlix.com (which you can also get a free trial for).
Just a few suggestions for you to check out in the days before Easter—and nothing’s stopping you from watching these films after Easter Sunday, either. Know of a good Jesus film we missed and is available to stream? Let us know below.