User Reviews (399)

  • gogoschka-115 November 2015
    10/10
    Epic
    When I first saw 'Ben Hur' I was 8 years old and hadn't seen many films, since we were hardly ever allowed to watch television. Imagine what an impact this film had on me (my movie diet had so far consisted of Chaplin and Disney films - which, of course, is not at all a bad thing).

    The experience was simply mesmerizing. Awe and wonder filled me as I watched this story of shocking betrayal, revenge and forgiveness unfold on screen - and by the time the heart-stopping chariot race was over, my fate as a future movie addict was sealed.

    Despite its 212 minutes running time, this is storytelling at its finest that knows how to entertain; as we follow Judah Ben-Hur's dramatic journey from Jerusalem to Rome and back again, the film just never lets up and immerses you completely.

    It's hard to imagine anything more cinematic, especially at the time: if ever there was an epic that was meant to be seen on the big screen in all its bombastic glory, it's Ben Hur. And even now, after I've seen the film many, many times, I feel like this story has a certain sense of greatness to it that is touching (and I don't mean that in a religious sense).

    My verdict: this film was and is nothing like the many "sandal and sword" or bible films of that era; it is (at least to me) the ultimate film epic. With its touching story and fantastic action sequences - which I think hold up amazingly well - Ben Hur is among the milestones of its era and part of film history.

    Pure cinema and a must see. 10 stars out of 10.

    Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: imdb.com/list/ls075552387/

    Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

    Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

    Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
  • mila6129 December 2016
    10/10
    You never get tired watching it
    This is simply my favorite Movie in every way, if you happen to read the Bible, than you understand the message, which is,as the Movie says (a Tale of Christ) the centerpiece of this Epic Work. You watch and cant stop wonder how they managed to create all the special effects at that time (1959), without PC's and all the kind of techniques we use today and still capture your attention from the very beginning, not to mention the music, what a magic, it's indescribably beautiful and deep, Charleston Heston, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet and all other actors made with their great performance this Masterpiece unforgettable, their journey through family, friendship, love, hatred, despair, suffering,revenge and finally peace, redemption and forgiveness is magical, as the Life of the Christ was and for those who believe, is, this was the first Movie I saw in theater years ago and no other ever touched me this way and we all know good Movies has been made since then, but still, this is beyond comprehension, if you are able to watch and believe in Christ with all your heart
  • lambiepie-220 April 2003
    10/10
    One of the Top Five Films of All Time!
    Anyone want to know how to make a darned good EPIC remake? Then this is the film to see.

    William Wyler made an epic, a film that is exciting, violent, heartfelt film. Make no mistake, it is the story of two childhood friends, one gets drunk with power and the other who was a Jewish Prince gets thrown into a life of hardship though his boyhood 'friend'. But he has faith and keeps on going. The ultimate battle to beat all battles, to settle the score...is at the Chariot race and that is a sight to behold.

    Films like Ben-Hur will NEVER get greenlighted today and if it did, too much CGI and not enough of what Director Wyler and old Hollywood was good at. The actors, well, they are to die for. Excellent acting. And let me share with you my favorite part...(tee-hee) when Pilate holds up his hankerchief to start the chariot race, plays with the racers and audience - he's very smug ya know..then the WAY he finally drops it. Who couldn't tell how he'd eventually turn out, hmmmmmmm?

    There is nothing more I can add that others have said. This film is near and dear to me and for my vote -- is one of the top five films of all time. I never tire of watching this film, I find something new in it every time, its done that well.

    This is an epic remake, something else that Hollywood has trouble doing -- to remake a film on this scale that finds new audiences year after year, after year. Brilliant, wonderful, every bit of it. A must, must see. Just plain excellent!
  • galahad5826 November 2005
    10/10
    The pinnacle of film making
    I own over 2,000 movies on DVD or VHS. I have gone to many many more movies that have not been worthy of my collection, thus my exposure to film has been extensive. I mention this because through every film I have seen; I still come back to a film from 1959 as the greatest achievement in cinematic history. I have seen great films like: Return of the King, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart and many more. While the modern films are wonderful and have a fantastic richness to them, they still are a "small" notch below Ben-Hur. Today's films use a lot of computer effects for their battles scenes, their backgrounds, and even computer images for the stunts of their actors. Yet, Ben-Hur did it all without computers. I am still fascinated by the chariot race. Never, in film history, has anything matched the depth and excitement of the chariot race. Remember folks, this is 1959, nothing is computer generated. Some may say the naval battle scenes look a bit cheesy, but again it was 1959 and the scenes still work today. What can you say about the acting? Every single actor is wonderful. Heston is in top form as Ben-Hur. Steven Boyd is incredible playing the merciless Messala. Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Martha Scott--all fantastic in their roles. Each performing the role of a life time. The actors are fantastic, but William Wyler brings more out of each actor than any director ever could in this day and age. Wyler had no computer animation to rely on, he had no high tech special effects crew, he had no computer program to fill in extras. Wyler had to find thousands of extras for many scenes and maintain control. Did you ever see Steven Boyd better? Probably not. Did you ever see any of the actors (except Heston, who is an acting marvel) better in any other role? Wyler just pulled the greatest performance out of each actor. The story: fantastic from beginning to end. While the film is over 3 hours long, you do not feel that it is that long. Every scene is lovingly crafted: the reunion between Messala and Judah, the trek to the gallows, the rowing scene, the naval battle, the chariot race, the Messala death scene, the reunion with Judah and his family, etc. After seeing thousands and thousands of movies, I always come back to Ben-Hur. This is the mark of fantastic movie making. Today's film makers could learn a lot by watching this film and "learning" about acting, directing, and screen writing.
  • A_Different_Drummer10 March 2015
    10/10
    pretty much sets the bar for epic entertainment
    We are by nature a cynical and critical group.

    With the attention span of a bumblebee, moreso the current generation than the earlier ones, because of exposure to mobile devices and other modern disposable non-repairable tech.

    It is probably for that reason that epics like this one have become forgotten over time. Even the late CH has become more a societal joke and less of an icon over time. Michael Moore made Heston's participation in the NRA a joke. (If Heston's concerns over where society is headed prove to be true, the final joke may be on Moore.) Back to the film. It is almost perfect. Then, as now. The script continually builds. Modern writers could learn from that. No matter what is presently on screen as you watch, the inevitability of the final climax beckons.

    The acting is perfect.

    The mixture of myth and drama is perfect.

    True the Roman dialog did not benefit from the verbal tricks that Stephen McKnight used in Spartacus (bending the script to match the flow of actual Roman) but it is more than enough to entertain and entrance.

    From the "accident" early in the film which starts the flow of events, to the chariot race WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN EQUALLED IN THE HISTORY OF FILM, to the reunion with lost family at the end, this is one of the most powerful and entertaining films of all time
  • ccthemovieman-18 November 2005
    10/10
    Deserved All The Honors
    Wow, what can you say about a film that won 11 Academy Awards back in the days where the best films actually were honored, not the garbage they salute today.

    In other words, this film lives up to its reputation and has to be ranked as one of the most memorable movies of all time. Nobody who ever saw this film ever forgot the chariot race, for instance, perhaps the greatest action scene filmed without special effects.

    This can be a very sad film as well. I doubt if I've ever watched this without a few tears in my eyes at certain points. The scenes with hero's mother and sister suffering with leprosy are still some of the most heart-wrenching scenes I've ever witnessed on film. They can just tear you apart.

    The combination of drama, action and romance, along with very involving storyline is aided by an incredible soundtrack, once again one of the best ever put on film. The more one hears this music, the more was is moved by it.

    To fully appreciate the cinematography in this film I recommend you purchase the recently-released 4-disc DVD special edition which also includes the first rendition of this story, the silent movie "Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ." That was name of the book, by the way, the second part of the title being left off the 1959 movie as Hollywood slowly began deemphasizing Christianity in films. However, there is a reverence for Jesus Christ in this film, which should be there since it's a key element of the storyline, even though most folks forget that.

    In summary, this is about as good an example as ever found of what is labeled an "epic" movie. It's an incredible story transferred memorably on screen.
  • kbruce002 February 2001
    10/10
    Quite simply the finest epic movie of all time
    What can you say about this film? It has everything, magnificent script, superb acting ,and the most famous chariot race in Hollywood history. Although the chariot race is the centrepiece of this spectacular ,it is by no means the only highlight.Ben Hur (Charlton Heston) is the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice on himself and family ,and his dramatic adventures in the desert, at sea and finally back in Rome are just brimming with highlights. At the same time his meetings with Christ just add to the Wonderful drama that enfolds in this movie.It has a magnificent musical score which just adds to the drama,and I suspect the climax of the film would only leave the stone hearted unmoved.It has other great stars who make this a must see film ,particularly Jack Hawkins,Hugh Griffith and Stephen Boyd.

    This is the sort of film Gladiator should have been but wasn't (what a waste). Still we'll always have Ben Hur to enjoy.
  • LBytes4 September 2001
    9/10
    Still good after 40+ years, but made for a different audience.
    Ben Hur, a Tale of the Christ, was hugely popular as a novel, a play and two movies. It was written in a less vulgar time about a very spiritual event. Seen today by moviegoers addicted to constant action and low frequency effects, it will seem ponderous, slow and pretentious. Well, it is a little. You have to pay attention to the dialogue or you won't get it at all. Some of the intimate scenes aren't all that great. Anyone that really pays attention can tell the sea battle is done with miniatures. It's still worth watching. As everyone ought to know by now, the chariot race is one-of-a-kind; nothing else comes close to that real live race where the main actors actually raced most of the time. I just watched this movie after lapse of about 10 years. I still enjoyed it. The sea battle is still fun even if you know the boats are about as big as a man. The few moments which have Christ on the screen are still moving. Just about all of the acting is good with only a few forgettable moments. Just be ready to spend about 4 hours in front of the screen listening to occasionally flowery dialog.
  • tfrizzell15 March 2001
    Stunning Film That Was Worthy of 11 Oscars
    "Ben-Hur" is a dominant Best Picture Oscar winner that is perhaps more impressive now than it was when it was first released in 1959. Charlton Heston (Oscar-winning) stars as a rich Jewish nobleman during the time of Jesus Christ who is turned into a slave by the Romans after a freak accident. Now he is manning an oar in a ship's galley and his family is imprisoned. Years pass and now Heston is after the former childhood friend (Stephen Boyd), a Roman, that turned against him. The 17 minutes of footage for the chariot race is some of the best during the history of the cinema. Hugh Griffith won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and William Wyler won his third and final Best Director Oscar. A monumental film that is great in every cinematic category known to man. 5 stars out of 5.
  • Troydawg31 March 2000
    The best of the "Intimate Epics"
    The same quality that made epics like "Gone with the Wind," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Doctor Zhivago," and, ultimately, "Titanic" the memorable stories they were is present in spades in "Ben-Hur." These are stories, though told on canvases far vaster than the CinemaScope- or Panavision-sized movie screens they were meant for, succeed because, in their best moments, they focus on the interaction between and history of as few as two characters.

    What begins as a childhood friendship between a Roman boy and a Jewish boy in Roman-occupied Palestine, becomes, briefly, a politically-charged rivalry, and ultimately, a search for revenge by one upon the other.

    Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd deliver the performances of their careers, and get to chew up scenery and sets of such grandeur that Hollywood could never afford their like again.

    This film, the greatest epic film ever made, deserves every accolade heaped upon it. The modern viewer may have to apply some patience, but at the end of the nearly four hour running time will find themselves to be vastly rewarded for it. You will find your life changed by both the scale of the film and the intimate message of friendship, betrayal, revenge--and the power of forgiveness.
  • Parker Lewis19 March 2016
    10/10
    Claude Heater (who played Jesus Christ) - one of the last surviving main actors of Ben-Hur
    Warning: Spoilers
    Along with Haya Harareet, I think Claude Heater is one of the last of the surviving main cast members from Ben-Hur (1959). Quite symbolic in a way given Mr Heater's moving performance as Jesus Christ in the movie. When I saw Ben-Hur at a church gathering night a few years ago, the Pastor(who was quite conservative) told us that even though Ben-Hur is a "Hollywood" movie, it's the one that probably came closest to honoring and glorifying the Son of God.

    In Ben-Hur you never see the face of Jesus Christ, and that was a deliberate choice by the director. But Claude Heater gives the emotional gravitas required for the role.

    Ben-Hur is a movie that stands the test of time. No wonder we say "It's bigger than Ben-Hur" to describe something spectacular. Ben-Hur is an epic, it's spectacular, and it's moving.
  • John Louis Gerdes19 October 2005
    10/10
    My all time favourite movie!
    I have seen Ben-Hur (I also like the 1925 version very much) I don't know how many times now. I think I have stopped counting seven years ago. I never tire to see this movie and, needless to say, I know all the scenes and dialogue by heart. This picture has everything in it. Almost all human sentiments are represented in the story: joy, sorrow, despair, pride, jealousy, hope, revenge, anger, forgiveness, compassion, redemption, love, hate, friendship, humour, etc, etc. During the three and a half hours it takes for the story to unfold, we see passing by our very eyes just about every example of what constitutes the human condition. What I find even more remarkable in this movie is the fact that Christ is present throughout the entire story, but we don't really see him in the flesh (at the exception of a few scenes, where the Lord is, in fact, in the background) and yet, his spirit and message is ever present through the words and actions of the various characters. It's not for nothing that the complete title of this great story is "Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ". The movie is well-acted (especially Heston, Griffith, Hawkins and, let's not forget, the wonderful Finley Currie, playing Balthazar), the dialogue is always concise, yet never short of meaning and substance (the way dialogues in movies should be), the decor and settings are just magnificent and the Miklos Rozsa score is simply superb. Besides Quo Vadis (the 1951 version, which, incidentally, I have recommended to those who have also enjoyed Ben-Hur), I cannot think of a better movie about the early days of Christianity than this one. There are others, of course, (The Robe, just to name one), but none has the grandeur and the spectacular dimension of Ben-Hur. It's the movie I would want to watch one last time on my death bed. I gladly and proudly give Ben-Hur a score of 10 out of 10!
  • agent_js035 September 2004
    Breath-taking; possible THE perfect movie.
    I think I can safely say that in my opinion, this is the best movie ever made. Its dramatic value is fantastic, and I've never seen a better storyline. The costumes were also incredible. The actors portrayed the best purest form of both ancient Roman and old Judean culture. This film also had quite an emotional effect. The way that Christ's face is never visible nor his voice audible to the audience creates a feeling of reverence to the actual person of Jesus. Lew Wallace also did an amazing job portraying the innocence, kindness, and mercy of Jesus, and his effect on the main character, Judah Ben Hur. Hur's ending quote, "I felt him take the sword out of my hand" was a wonderful picture of his changing. I admit, I am a Christian, but even for those who are not this is still a great film. The message boards confirm that. I recognize that there are some people that require constant action to keep their attention. If this is your case, than this movie is not for you, as it has a lot of dialogue. But I recommend this movie 100%.
  • Snow Leopard23 September 2004
    Sometimes Overdone, But Entertaining & Worthwhile
    It's hard to deny that William Wyler's lavish version of "Ben-Hur" is sometimes a bit overdone, but it nevertheless remains an entertaining and worthwhile classic. The material does justify the big-budget approach, since the story contains several interesting themes as well as plenty of action sequences. While some parts could have been stream-lined with little loss, in order to make the movie as a whole flow more smoothly, in general the film as it is keeps a good balance between action and substance. There are some very good dramatic moments in addition to the action highlights.

    Charlton Heston is well-cast as Ben-Hur, a role that plays right to his strengths. The strained relations between Ben-Hur and Messala provide one set of themes for the story, as well as driving much of the action. Heston handles his end of it pretty well, although Stephen Boyd could have been a little less static in his portrayal of Messala. Jack Hawkins works very well as Quintus Arrius, and his scenes with Heston are used well in establishing some of the inner workings of Heston's character. Hugh Griffith also has a couple of good scenes as Sheik Ilderim.

    The chariot race and other action sequences usually get most of the attention, but there are also some worthwhile ideas in the story (which are really the focus of the original novel) that are developed well enough. There is also a very good silent movie version of "Ben-Hur" from 1925, which at times takes a different approach from this version, and which is well worth seeing in itself for those who like the story.
  • Filipe Neto1 March 2017
    10/10
    Wonderfully epic.
    Some movies are so good that they just haven't age. They are timeless, like any work of art. This is one of those movies, perhaps one of the best movies ever and surely one of the biggest and most epic biblical movies ever made. The story is based on a novel by Lew Wallace (which I have read and I have at home) and is so famous that it doesn't allow spoils: the injustice committed against Judah Ben-Hur and his path of revenge, deeply linked to the life and death of Jesus, a latent and ever palpable subplot, even when it does not arise. Epic in every detail, the film features scenarios and costumes carefully crafted in the style of Imperial Rome. Some sequences are truly anthological, as is the case with the chariot race. The representation of the Roman legionaries influenced for decades the conception that we have, individually, on how they were and fought. The visual and special effects used in the film were the best there was at the time and even today, more than half a century later, they're able to surprise by the realism. The color is vivid and intense, cinematography is truly imposing and accentuates the epic ambiance. As for the cast's work, it's definitely the movie of Charlton Heston's life. He not only became famous with it but made here the most remarkable character of his career. Steven Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Martha Scott and Hugh Griffith also shone. It's a long movie, but the audience gets so caught up in it that they don't even feel the time go by. Wonderful!
  • Nazi_Fighter_David23 April 2000
    10/10
    The first—and for a long time the finest—film spectacular…
    Warning: Spoilers
    With his distinctive visual style and a taste for solemn material, William Wyler was meticulously individualistic director, triple winner of the Best Picture Oscar... As a devoted artist, he showed visual clarity and sensitive portrayal of character, dignifying melodrama, epic and Westerns... His "Ben-Hur" is a semi-biblical adventure set in the First Century AD, during the life of Christ...

    In "Ben-Hur," Heston reaches the peak of his career winning an Oscar for his outstanding performance of Judah Ben-Hur...

    Judah is a peaceful Jewish prince who stands the tyranny of Rome through the sadistic mind of Messala... Heston gives a spiritual performance of the title role... Judah is noble, aggressive, proud and warm... He is authentic, believing that his existence had a purpose, and that his God will free him to take revenge on his enemy... He is a man of terrific complexity and great courage and fortitude... From the land of Judea, to the galley of a Roman warship and to the Valley of the Lepers, Judah struggles for dignity and freedom... Judah's spirit is nearly broken until a hand reaches toward him with a ladle of water...

    Judah/Messala friendship is great, but their relationship, damaged for ideological differences, makes them become bitter enemies... Messala (Stephen Boyd) sees only a Roman world in the future... Judah believes in the future of his people...

    Tribune Messala had the same attributes, the same traits of Judah, but inverted upside down ideologically... Messala is an ambitious autocratic commander, and a despot ruler, who wants Judea a more obedient and disciplined province...

    Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins) realizes much about Judah's character... After whipping his back, he told him: "You have the spirit to fight back but the good sense to control it. Your eyes are full of hate, forty-one. That's good. Hates keeps a man alive. It gives him strength." And that's why Judah can be called more a survival than a hero...

    Sheik Ilderim (Hugh Griffith), is the wealthy Arabian horse trainer, who needed a real man to race his strong and magnificent Arabian team...

    Haya Harareet is the Jewish maiden who tenderly falls in love with Judah...

    Sam Jaffe is Simonides, Judah's loyal friend and keeper of the Hur fortune...

    André Morell is Sextus, the pagan ruler whom Messala replaces...

    With dramatic musical score, breathtaking sets and costumes, huge masses of people, a vigorous sea battle between Roman fleet and Macedonian pirates, a memorable and spectacular chariots race, this inspiring film is an unforgettable solid motion picture, more religious than "The Ten Commandments."
  • demonslayer0620 April 2003
    10/10
    Beautifully Spun
    Ben-Hur is one of the greatest movies of all time! The reason why is because it tells a great story. I have a friend who once told me the whole basic storyline from just reading the book! This is also one of the very few great ones that can probably be seen by the whole family. By the way, I think Charlton Heston deserved that oscar for his role in this movie.
  • ElMaruecan824 January 2018
    10/10
    The Tale of all Tales...
    In the ears and minds of any movie lover, the word "Ben-Hur" resonates like the quintessential Hollywood classic oozing respectability in every inch of celluloid but the same respect we owe to an old relic. In our cynical modern world, who would enjoy a pompous-looking big-budget swords-and-sandals religious epic when you have Tarantino and Appatow?

    I saw "Ben-Hur" for the first time in fourth grade, it was part of our history course and being an Asterix buff, I loved watching real-life legionaries, galley slavery not to mention the chariot race, the film also enlightened me on Christianity and on Judaism (when my only religious reference was monotheism number three) and scared the hell out of me with leper. It worked on a cinematic level as much as educational, I guess even in its TV-sized crappy 80's VHS look, we kids enjoyed "Ben-Hur" especially the rivalry between Judah (Charlton Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd).

    I never watched "Ben-Hur" after that but nor did I have any doubt over its status as a colossal masterpiece. Watching it again a few years ago and then a few days ago, I was surprised by how engraved in my memory "Ben-Hur" was, and how the moments that stood out were still having the same effect. When Ben-Hur and Messala meet after many years, I'm always anticipating that first breech in the fortress of their friendship when the young Roman tribune will have one word too many about Ben-Hur's people, taking for granted their friendship and Judah's nobility as marks of submission. The second encounter is even more thrilling because it's like watching a shaking edifice waiting to collapse.

    It was a nice call from the director Wyler to mark the feud between the two ex-friends at the second encounter, hence putting more gravitas around their relationship, that screenwriter Gore Vidal tried to impregnate with homoerotic subtext. The story is known by movie buffs, Vidal wanted to make the interactions look as the two rivals were former lovers, the subtext works even more when you look at Stephen Boyd's "enamored" eyes toward Charlton Heston. But 'Chuck' never knew the trick and was annoyed about it, I guess I prefer the way their hatred epitomize the conflict between Romans and Jews sealing as one of the most memorable rivalries in history of cinema, with the most heart-pounding climactic face-to-face (or should I say wheel-to-wheel).

    I had positive feelings about "Gladiator" but "Ben-Hur" is the masterpiece that dwarfs any contemporary masterpiece, a sweeping revenge story that doesn't rely at all on fake CGI and special effects. It took William Wyler's expertise built up in three decades of experience to make "Ben-Hur" equal the reference of the time that was Cecil B. De Mille's 1925 version. As a matter of fact, "Ben-Hur" has been blockbuster material from the start, ever since Lewis Wallace's best-seller of the late century, it was played on theaters and not with modest budgets. A revenge story, with galley combats, a chariot race and an oblique take on the greatest story ever told, with a hero going from idealism to anger, from revenge to love, all wrapped up in a subtle religious conversion, "Ben-Hur" was an instant classic Hollywood couldn't ignore.

    If 1925 had the race and the thrills, the 1959 one had a bigger scope, bigger budget, the colors, the talking and all the determination of a big studio like MGM to prove a 50's audience that TV wasn't yet the pinnacle of spectacular entertainmnet. When I hear my Dad talking about going to the movies, like "Ben-Hur", "Spartacus", "Guns of Navarone" or "Taras Boulba" you would think he went there, inside the screen. And right now, I can't imagine the eyes of people staring at the screen during the chariot race, there comes a moment where you stop watching the moment as a plot element, but as a real race, and it never, never suspends your disbelief, it's like at any new viewing, Messalah can finally win.

    There are so many classic moments that filled the three-hour-and-half journey that you're never in a state of non-anticipation, when the new inquisitor's parade starts, you keep an eye on that loose roof tile, the one that started the whole chain of events. In the desert, you wait for the 'greatest cameo ever made', in the galleys, the big fight and Ben-Hur rescuing Arrius (Jack Hawkins) and it goes on and on. I must reckon after the chariot race, the film gets a tad too long, but only because you can't just sweep off such a rich epic with a five-minute resolution, and Charlton Heston, in his greatest role, contributed a lot to the everlasting appeal of the film, I don't think he gets the credit he deserved, he brings to his Judah Ben-Hur a dimension of emotional vulnerability that could have been laughable from a lesser actor.

    Other cast members include Oscar-winning Hugh Griffin enjoying his role as Arab sheikh and Judah's mentor, Israeli actress Haya Harareet as Esther, Martha Scott and Cathy O'Donnell as Judah's mother and sister... the film is served by a solid cast, editing, directing, having swept off all the major Oscar by breaking the record of 11 wins, only to be matched in 1997 with "Titanic" and "The Return of the King" and oddly enough, these titles could somewhat apply to "Ben-Hur".

    I haven't seen the 'original' and I'm in no hurry for the remake, but I don't get I'll be in a minority if I say that this is the ultimate version. I didn't see it many times in my life but it's always present in my memories as if it wasn't about the number of times you watch it but the intensity of each experience. And let's not forget the name of the director: William Wyler who outdid himself by making his masterpiece, which is saying a lot, given his previous streaks.

    "Ben-Hur": A Christ Tale, a tale of vengeance, in fact a tale of all tales...
  • bkoganbing16 April 2006
    10/10
    A "Real" Character
    General Lew Wallace, a somewhat controversial commander of the Union forces in the Civil War happened to be on a train with Robert Ingersoll, noted atheist in the 19th century. Wallace was a moderately religious man and attempted to debate Ingersoll. The story has it that Ingersoll whipped him to a frazzle and Wallace knew it. But he resolved to study the Bible and learn about his faith so that he would be better prepared.

    He never got to debate Ingersoll again, but Wallace got so immersed in religion that he decided to put that knowledge to use. While he was Territorial Governor of New Mexico and while he wasn't dealing with the Lincoln County War and the hunting down of Billy the Kid, he spent his spare time creating what became the widest selling work of fiction in his century, Ben-Hur, A Tale of the Christ.

    He did his research well. Judah Ben-Hur and his mother and sister are descended from a very ancient family of Hebrew nobility. The founder of this house was Hur who in the Bible was the husband of Miriam who was Moses's sister. Hur pops up as a peripheral character during the whole story of the Exodus. He invested the characters that Charlton Heston, Martha Scott, and Cathy O'Donnell play with a heroic lineage which makes their fall all the more tragic.

    So on the consciousness of the public were the Hur family that one often thinks of them as real people. Case in point, many years ago a teacher of mine wanted to demonstrate how many true characters Charlton Heston played on the screen. I count 15 in his list of credits on IMDb, some he's played in more than one film or television show. Inevitably more than just one person named Ben-Hur as a real character. A tribute to the timelessness of the character and to Charlton Heston's abilities as actor.

    The story is that Heston and his family greet an old friend newly arrived back in Judea province, Messala who is now a tribune. Messala played by Stephen Boyd, is one ambitious fellow and he wants Heston to rat out potential leaders of rebellion in this most unruly of Roman provinces. Heston refuses.

    The next day Boyd frames an incident where a piece of old tile accidentally falls from the Hur family home while the new Judean governor is passing by into an assassination attempt. Scott and O'Donnell are thrown in prison and Heston is sentenced to the galleys. The story is then Ben-Hur's adventures in trying to get back to Judea and set things right.

    Ben-Hur meets a whole host of people who aid him in his endeavor. Jack Hawkins as a commander of the galley fleet he's serving on, Finlay Currie as Balthazar one of the Three Wise Men now seeking the child whose birth he witnessed in the year Anno Domini, Hugh Griffith as Sheik Ilderim whose horses Ben-Hur races.

    It's not often mentioned, but among the Oscars collected for this most honored film, besides the ones that the film itself, Wyler, and Heston won, was Hugh Griffith's for Best Supporting Actor. His Arab sheik is a blustering, but very wise and compassionate fellow. The events of this film are taking place some six centuries before the Prophet Mohammed arrived on the scene. The Arab people at that time were involved in a hedonistic animist kind of religion, but it's left up in the air that they might turn Christian. Certainly some of them did and some are Christian to this day as the country of Lebanon attests.

    Griffith had the wildest pair of eyes in film history next to Jack Elam's and he used them to great effect. Watch his expressions during the film, they're what got him the Oscar.

    Stephen Boyd also got rave notices for the evil Messala. When he's not stepping on people to move up in Roman politics, Messala likes to race chariots. During his odyssey Ben-Hur becomes a charioteer and the climax of the film is the thrilling chariot race that turns into a race for survival. You'll see in the film, Messala doesn't exactly play by Marquis of Queensbury rules for charioteers. Boyd did some leads after Ben-Hur, but never really took as a hero. But he was one grand villain.

    While Ben-Hur is a prisoner being led to the galleys the Roman prison convoy stops in a town called Nazareth and a carpenter faces down a Roman guard to give the thirsting Ben-Hur a drink of water. The two men go their separate ways, Ben-Hur's is described in the book by Lew Wallace, the carpenter's way in the first four books of the New Testament. Later on after Ben-Hur discovers his mother and sister and what's become of them, they hear about Jesus of Nazareth, a rabbi with a message of hope and reputation for miracles.

    Of course when they seek Jesus it's when He's just been tried and condemned and on the way to the cross. It's now Ben-Hur's turn to offer the carpenter a drink of water on the way, to show his trust and faith. And as the sky darkens and Jesus breathes his last, the film depicts what the New Testament describes as the blackest day in Earth's history. But even at that point Heston's new found faith is rewarded, a miracle at the point of death. What was the miracle, for that you buy the DVD or wait until Ben-Hur is on television.

    Ben-Hur should really be seen in a theater, even a letter box version doesn't do justice to the chariot race or the sea battle with pirates.

    Ben-Hur is the story of two paths, one of vengeance and one of faith. Our protagonist tries his way and in the end realizes the path of faith is the more rewarding.
  • Lee Eisenberg14 April 2006
    5/10
    Do we remember anything except the chariot race?
    Everyone remembers the blades on the bad guy's chariot, and how he whips the title character (Charlton Heston). But overall, "Ben-Hur" is basically a soap opera (well, how could a biblical epic not be?). And of course, there's a few things nowadays that change how we view the movie. Given how Charlton Heston's character wants revenge, wouldn't it make more sense for him to just get a gun? I mean, we're talking about the NRA president here! Also, there's that one character who it turns out was supposed to be gay (Heston thought that they were just friends).

    All in all, considering that 1959 produced movies like "Some Like It Hot", "The 400 Blows" and "Anatomy of a Murder", was this really the one to give Best Picture? Not in my opinion. It's a classic mainly because of the chariot race.

    I remember a comic strip where Hollywood decides to do dumb remakes of classic epics, resulting in "Gone with the Wit" and "Ben-Huh?". Also, Roberto Benigni said in an interview that this was the first movie that he ever saw in the theater, but his family didn't have enough money for a ticket, so they watched it from behind the screen. So, the first movie that he ever saw in the theaters was "Ruh-Neb"!
  • migio21 October 2005
    10/10
    Jesus Christ in Ben-Hur
    I read many comments about 'Jesus Christ' in Ben-Hur like 'The few moments which have Christ on the screen are still moving' 'Jesus is always shown from behind and never speaks, but we know it's Him by the long-blow-dried brown hair and the white robe'... I have decided to give it a small bit of recognition to the mysterious actor who played the 'big' part of Jesus Christ...uncredited on the screen, his name is Claude Heater...an American opera singer...still alive and living in San Francisco !...the only film he made. After a very long research (years and years)I got Claude Heater on the phone (from Belgium)...after a long 'interview'(difficult because I speak french)...we still very close, and he sent to me two color stills from 'Jesus' from the front, amazing face,just like a traditional Jesus. Then during my trip to California...I met him personally, a tall man with a strong personality. It's was a very choice from William Wyler, Do you want to know more about Claude Heater ?...
  • indel16 December 1999
    Spectacle as bore.
    Overwrought, overblown, overrated, and marked by the usual Charlton Heston (I AM MOSES) performance. The chariot sequence gets A for effort, and must have been quite dangerous for the stunt men, but ultimately it's just a lot of noise sans dramatic tension. The slave galley sequence was 10 minutes of yawn.

    The script is painfully lame, but there wasn't much to work with - the original book being second-rate. Some gorgeous sets, but sets alone do not a great movie make.

    Seeing the movie again after 40 years has only confirmed my original opinion. OK for a Saturday afternoon if one is snowbound, but that's about it.

    By far, the most fascinating aspect of this movie is the insight provided into the process of award selection by the film industry. This movie, like Titanic, is BIG, and sometimes sheer BIGNESS overwhelms critical taste,and sweeps everybody along with it.
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.