RANKED! The Most Convincing Actors to Play Jesus
Photo: See-Saw Films
Jesus has risen again! This time it’s in a movie and Hollywood chameleon Joaquin Phoenix is playing the role. But how does he stack up against the competition? When asked to heal a woman’s eyes as Jesus did in the Bible, he refused, saying that throwing mud in someone’s eyes was cruel. Um, Joaquin…WWJD?
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Mudslinging aside, Joaquin is perhaps the perfect gentleman to play the son of God in a movie whose story is told from the perspective of Mary Magdalene (not the prostitute the Pope would have you believe). The jury is out on how Catholics will receive a modern, feminist retelling of their beloved resurrection story, but one thing is certain: Phoenix delivers an enlightened performance as one-third of the holy trinity. Here’s how he ranks against the other great Jesuses of cinema history.
Max Von Sydow: 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'
This movie was a disaster of epic proportions. Clocking in at 4 hours and 20 minutes, the studio hacked it down to just over 2 hours for its 1965 U.S. release. Even still, He came off as a total bore, making the title a laughable lie and tanking it at the box office. The silver lining? Biblical epics were "out" for the next two decades, sparing audiences everywhere.
Jeremy Sisto: 'Jesus'
After Clueless won America’s heart back in the ‘90s, Sisto was something of a heartthrob. So, what makes more sense at a time like that than to take one’s hunkiness and apply it to the Lamb of God? Sadly, when it came time to play the Big Guy's little guy, Sisto looked more like the caveman from the Capitol One commercials than the omniscient son of God.
Diogo Morgado: 'Son of God'
Diogo nailed the fair-skinned, uber-handsome postcard Jesus that you often see on your friend's grandma’s refrigerator, but the dude’s acting chops were unholy.
Ewan McGregor: 'Last Days in the Desert'
One of Scotland’s finest exports playing the Almighty? We prefer him as a maladjusted Glaswegian junkie. But credit goes to McGregor for portraying His humanity - and for also playing opposite himself, as Satan.
Jim Caviezel: 'The Passion of the Christ'
First, Mel Gibson made a movie about Jesus. Then Jim Caviezel crushed it as the O.G. J.C. - and the movie killed it at the box office. Then Mel Gibson killed his career by behaving very un-Jesusy in public (a bunch of times). In the end, much like the Man on the Cross, Mel’s career has been resurrected and Jim will be remembered as one helluva Jesus.
Ted Neeley: 'Jesus Christ: Superstar'
He sings, he dances, he dies for our sins. Neely could really do it all. Hats off to this superstar Jeezy.
Robert Powell: 'Jesus of Nazareth'
Sure it was made for TV, but it was British TV. And this miniseries had a cast of legends longer than Pontius Pilates frown. Robert Powell’s Jesus had the giant-eyed chiseled look that we all assume the pot-smoking Jesus had on his face as he turned water to wine. A pure classic.
Willem Dafoe: 'The Last Temptation of Christ'
Looking like he just stepped off the set of a BeeGees music video, Dafoe carries this much-loathed film like a champ. Marty Scorcese took a break from directing mob movies to make a completely new type of Jesus movie, one in which the titular character is portrayed as a human being. The result is a peculiar slow-burn that angered Christians around the world and is still banned in several countries today. Nice.
'Kenneth Colley: Life of Brian'
Let us not forget Kenneth Colley, in Life of Brian, who plays Jesus on the mount as seen from very far away. Latecomers to the sermon can't decide whether or not to go to a stoning instead, then get into an argument over being unable to hear what God Jr. is saying.
Die-hard Jesus fans will disagree, but this could be the most realistic depiction of what the sermon was actually like for most people – before the time of PA systems and the posthumous explosion of Jesus-fame.