Few things get us into the Christmas mood more than a solid Christmas movie, and we all have our favorites. Ask anyone to name theirs, and even the Grinchiest Grinch will have a few answers ready. But ask the same people to name a favorite Easter movie and you’ll probably just get a lot of blank stares, or some reminiscing of watching The Ten Commandments as a child.
Easter is the most important religious holiday on our calendar, but it rarely gets any attention from Hollywood aside from some animated springtime flicks for kids. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good Christmas movie, but we think Easter is just as worthy of a solid Netflix experience.
So, while there’s not a ton of quantity in the Easter genre of films — the good news (or, should we say THE Good News) is that the story of Easter transcends time, shaping human history as we know it, and the story can be told in a myriad of ways. Here are a few of our favorites.
For the crime fanatic: Risen (2016)
Think of crossing the Bible with both CSI and Game of Thrones — this fresh retelling of Jesus’ resurrection follows Roman military tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), who is tasked with investigating the mystery of what happened when a certain Nazarene’s body disappears after burial. With top-notch modern cinematography, this tells the Easter story through a distinctively different lens.
For the fantasy fan: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
This classic story is actually an Easter story in the disguise of the fantasy of four siblings arriving in the magical land of Narnia. They find a land dominated by the phrase “always winter but never Christmas,” which perhaps sounds like a Christmas re-telling, but the real apex of the film comes down to Aslan’s sacrifice — and what happens after.
For the history buff: Ben-Hur (1956 and 2016)
A similar story to the classic Count of Monte Cristo, but with less swash-buckling and more chariot racing — and definitely more Jesus. In this classic epic, a wronged innocent is hell-bent on revenge, until he discovers the life of another very wronged innocent. There are two versions — 1956 and 2016 — but if you’re going to pick one, go with the original.
For the realist: The Passion of the Christ (2004)
People thought Mel Gibson was throwing his career — and money — away when he took on this retelling of the Gospel. Instead, it was a blockbuster: the biggest-grossing independent film in history, with $612 million in ticket sales worldwide. It’s one of the top grossing non-English language films of all time. That said, this adaption is not for the faint of heart, as it realistically depicts Jesus’ torture and death.
For the critic: Babette’s Feast (1987)
With a shockingly high 97% Rotten Tomatoes score, it’s clear that even the critics loved this Danish film. Set in the desolate small fishing village, the story focuses on two beautiful sisters who say “no” to romance in their youth to adhere to the wishes of their strict, pious father — and become dutiful spinsters within their small (and small-minded) puritan community instead. Their routine is quietly upset when a French woman comes to town, eventually sacrificing everything to cook a damn good meal that blows everyone’s minds and saves the community.
For the artist: Mrs. Potter (2006)
No — this movie doesn’t have overt references to the Biblical Easter story, but it is a beautiful, quirky, historical drama that provides the background of Easter’s famous mascot: the rabbit. This is the tale of Beatrix Potter’s famous depiction of Peter Rabbit comes to life in this movie as we watch her create beautiful watercolors and stories that continue to bounce into the imaginations of children around Eastertime.
For the adventure junkie: Noah (2014)
If you want to watch a Biblical story done epically — with sweeping visuals that harken back to the epic of Lord of the Rings — look no further. “God, creation, providence, sin, obedience, salvation: not bad for a major Hollywood movie!” explains cultural commenter, Bishop Robert Barron. “Just as Noah’s Ark carried the seeds of a new creation, so the Church is meant to let out the life that it preserves for the renewal of the world.” How’s that for an Easter film?
For the rom-com lover: Pieces of Easter (2013)
Rotten Tomato critics didn’t even detect or deign to review this small budget film — and at first glance, I thought I knew why, assuming this was just the run-of-the-mill formulaic rom-com, but I was wrong. Turns out, I think the critics might have missed something in this Easter-themed film inspired by the prodigal son — I found that it actually holds water as a romantic comedy. Bonus? It’s free on Amazon Prime.