The Last Temptation of Christ
In a way, this shouldn’t be an unconventional Christmas pick at all. The Last Temptation of Christ brings Christmas back to the good ol’ days, when people just referred to it as “that guy Jesus’ birthday.”
Martin Scorsese’s 1988 epic garnered him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, but The Last Temptation of Christ, perhaps due to its controversial subject matter, failed to secure some other deserved nominations like Best Picture, Best Actor (for Willem Dafoe), and Best Supporting Actress (for Barbara Hershey). The Last Temptation of Christ was the best film about the ever-so-popular messiah when it was made twenty-five years ago, and no film about Christ has matched its level of depth, breadth, and quality since then.
What works so brilliantly about The Last Temptation of Christ is that Jesus is not treated as a messiah for the entirety of the film; the audience’s perception of him comes naturally, as we view not a godly figure, but a man of flesh and blood who challenged the political and religious stability of the once-great Roman Empire and was crucified because of it. He was a man with struggles, a man with doubts, a man with dimensions, and of course, a man with temptations. It’s a long film, clocking in at two hours and forty-five minutes, and certainly not the easiest film to watch at all times, but it’s nothing if not fulfilling.
At the very least, if you ever wondered what Judas would be like had he been raised by Italians in New York, Harvey Keitel can expand those horizons.