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The winner of 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, Ben-Hur stands as one of the greatest Hollywood epics ever filmed. A member of the Jewish nobility living in Jerusalem, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) lives a religious life and peacefully opposes the tyrannical occupation of Judea by Rome. When a boyhood friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd), returns to the region as a Roman official, he and Judah become estranged due to Messala's fanatical loyalty to Rome and ruthless indifference to the fate of Judea. Casting friendship aside, Messala fabricates a charge of treason against Ben-Hur, his sister and mother, all of whom are arrested by Roman soldiers.
Rotten Tomatoes® Score
Critics Consensus: Uneven, but in terms of epic scope and grand spectacle, Ben-Hur still ranks among Hollywood's finest examples of pure entertainment.
The biggest and the best of Hollywood's super-spectacles.
February 15, 2019
June 21, 2017
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Common Sense Media
Common Sense Says
1959 biblical epic has fierce blood-spilling, cruelty.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, as early "spectacle" movies go, Ben-Hur has few peers. It was a landmark achievement in grand biblical storytelling. Set in ancient Israel during Christ's young adulthood and focused on a stalwart Jewish patriot and his family, spiritual beliefs and Judeo-Christian values inform both the characterizations and the plot. Clear messages from the gospel are delivered throughout ("blessed are the merciful," "love your enemy"). The Roman villains are brutal slave masters, whipping and beating their way into town, and bent on destroying the peaceful citizens of ancient Israel. Several scenes take place in a leper colony where two principles are shown with open, rotting sores. The climactic chariot race, which includes collisions, men dragged under chariots, bloody injuries, and intensely suspenseful competition, set new standards for action-filmmaking without modern cinematic razzle-dazzle. By modern standards of gore and gristle (seen in some horror movies and their parodies), however, Ben-Hur is not shocking as it once was but still is bloody, savage in parts, and too intense for younger kids.
A Lot or A Little?
The parents’ guide to what’s in this movie.
Positive Role Models
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
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- Genre:Drama, Action
- Release Date:November 18, 1959
- Audio Format:5.1
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