47 - Ben-Hur
At least five versions have reached the silver screen – but the classic 1959 four-hour version with Charlton Heston in the lead is by far the best, considered by many to be the greatest epic film of all time – winning four Golden Globes, a Grammy for the soundtrack and an unprecedented 11 Oscars.
It is based on a bestselling novel by New Mexico governor General Lew Wallace, who intended to debunk Christianity. Instead, he became a devout believer – as does the protagonist, Judah ben-Hur, a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem, a boyhood friend of the new Roman governor, who arrives with legions of Roman soldiers.
At first the old buddies are happy to be reunited, but their vastly different political views doom the friendship. During a parade, a roof tile falls from ben-Hur's house and injures the governor. Furious, he sentences Judah to certain death as a naval galley slave and throws his mother and sister into prison. Judah swears to come back and take revenge. Instead, he becomes a believer in Jesus Christ.
It is no wonder this film won so many awards – it masterfully portrays such vast array of human sentiments: joy, sorrow, despair, pride, jealousy, hope, revenge, anger, compassion, redemption, love, hate, friendship, humor – and impossible, almost unbelievable forgiveness.
~ Rob Kerby