Ben-Hur (1959)

ben-hur poster 1959 movie charlton heston
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking picture with a grand scope

Really long

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Ben-Hur

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Drama/Family/Seasonal

Release Date(s):  November 18, 1959

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


On Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen!

Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is a prince of Jerusalem. When his friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) returns as commander of the Roman garrison, Ben-Hur and Messala find themselves at odds.  An accident causes Ben-Hur to be condemned to the galleys at Messala’s word.  Now Ben-Hur must work his way back from slavery to be reunited with Esther (Haya Harareet) the woman he loves and his mother Miriam (Martha Scott) and sister Tirzah (Cathy O’Donnell) who are suffering from leprosy. As Ben-Hur fights his struggle, a man named Jesus Christ begins reaching the people of Jerusalem and teaching them of God’s love.

Directed by William Wyler, Ben-Hur went down as the winner of the record breaking Academy Awards winner until Titanic (1998) and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) tied it.  It won Best Picture, Best Actor (Charlton Heston), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), Best Director, Best Cinematography—Color, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration—Color, Best Costume Design—Color, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Special Effects, and Best Dramatic Score with nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Ben-Hur is one of those movies that it was event when it was on.  The length of the film often meant it was on divided between nights or one huge airing that took up the whole night. As a result, I did not get to see it much…but it is worth seeking out and is along the lines of The Ten Commandments.


Imagery is still great!

Ben-Hur is a classic with a big screen feel. It is often a holiday film (its alternate title is Ben-Hur:  A Tale of Christ which was the novel’s actual name) and is truly epic. The movie has such grand scope and it is aided by the special Panavision filming technique that provides a big backdrop. The cinematography is pitch-perfect and the religious aspect to the story is refreshing since it is always there, but not the pushing force of the story until the end.

You can’t talk about Ben-Hur without talking about the amazing chariot race. It feels so real and intense. When Star Wars—Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released, there were a lot of comparisons to the pod race and Ben-Hur’s chariot race (which obviously influenced it), but there is no comparison. The action is tense the wrecks seem real and contrary to popular rumor, no one did die in the filming of the scene.


Show me the way!

Ben-Hur almost didn’t go to Charlton Heston who is so closely identified with the role. There were a number of other actors up for the role. The lead actor was Burt Lancaster but he left due to the religious themes (he was an atheist), but others like Rock Hudson were scared off by a few of the gay themes (which he couldn’t be tied to). Paul Newman and Michael Douglas were also considered for the role, but turned it down. Heston works perfectly in the role with his brash over acting, so it all worked out in the end.

Ben-Hur is one of those movies that should be seen in the cleanest transfer like the most recent Blu-Ray and on the biggest screen you can find. It is a great looking movie and is more about the look than the plot. The length of the movie might scare some off, but it is worth making the effort to see…Ben-Hur is a classic.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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