The Passion of the Christ

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Monty Python's Life of Brian was more historically accurate than Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ.
Penn Jillette, Penn & Teller: Bullshit![1]

The Passion of the Christ is an ultra-violent splatter film (gialloWikipedia) directed and produced by Mel Gibson. It purports to follow Christ's final 24 hours on Earth,[note 1] during the events known as the Passion.

With a whip.gifPassion.gif Cry.gif

The script was co-written by Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald, whose most notable previous work was the film adaptation of religious fable Wise Blood, and then translated by Jesuit priest William J. Fulco into Latin and something approximating first-century Aramaic.

Comparative newcomer Jim Caviezel played Jesus (Caviezel had been in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line and starred in a big-budget adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo in 2002, so he wasn't a complete unknown), and since it was filmed in Italy, much of the cast was European. It was released on Ash Wednesday, 2004.[2] Caviezel later appeared in the child trafficking thriller Sound of Freedom, and subsequently became a celebrity QAnon nut.[3]

In 2016, it was announced that a sequel is being planned. Yes, Christ is going to bounce back from the dead a second time![4] (Damn, even Jesus is suffering from franchising!)


We follow Jesus as he is arrested, cruelly kicked, thrown over the side of a bridge, wildly whipped, hugely humiliated, piously punched, whipped a bit more, screams, is whipped even more, screams again, is scourged with a cat o' nine tails (a nice little touch is a bit where the cat o' nines lodge in his ribs. A quick-thinking Roman centurion simply pulls them out, bringing chunks of flesh and bone with them. Sweet, dude!), then drags a giant wooden cross through town, gets nailed to it, gets dropped on the ground while nailed to it, and finally gets hoisted in the air to die. In the process, he loses about five times as much blood as exists inside a human body proving that he is divine. After all, only a god could have that much blood.

There are also a couple of (very short) flashbacks in between all the bloodshed telling us about love and brotherhood and helping humanity and, y'know, namby-pamby stuff like that. Luckily, Gibson realized this stuff was too tame and exorcised it (tee-hee) wherever he could from the film.

Instead, we get to see Jesus, Prince of Peace, Son of Man, Prophet Of Love, Brotherhood, Friendship, and Loyalty, having the shit kicked out of him for the best part of two hours. Anyone who comes away from the film with a full understanding of Christ's message was probably watching the wrong film.

The film ends, more or less, when Jesus expires on the cross. Satan, who has spent the rest of the film wandering around Jerusalem looking all Satan-y, now looks very pissed off (but in a Satan-y sort of way) because God is dead and he… didn't… er… want God to die… yeah, we'll just leave that bit for now.

The final scene shows Jesus in the tomb, resurrected, and ready to kick some non-Christian ass. Yeah, dude, awesome!


James Caviezel Jesus
Maia Morgenstern Mary
Christo Jivkov John
Francesco De Vito Peter
Monica Bellucci Mary Magdalene (Seriously, are you trying not to be subtle here?)
Mattia Sbragia Caiphas
Toni Bertorelli Annas
Luca Lionello Judas
Hristo Shopov Pontius Pilate
Rosalinda Celentano Satan

Difference between film and novel[edit]

Christ, from the BibleChrist, from The Passion
Matthew 5:43-47: You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? AGGGH! Oh, me, oh, me, is that a crown of thorns?! Is it?! What... what... what are y–geeeeaaaaaggghhhhhhhh! Aggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Matthew 7:12: Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuuugggggghhhhhhhhh! Agggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Oh, man, Mel Gibson is so gonna make an anti-Semitic propaganda film about this one day!


I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. I want to kill his dog.
—Gibson, referring to the New York Times film reviewer Frank Rich for writing that the film could increase antisemitism.[5] How metal.

The film holds a score of 50% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[6] That means 50% of critics liked it. Which while by no means proof of God, is surely evidence for Satan's existence. The Campus Crusade for Christ also did not particularly like it; they sued claiming copyright infringement, saying they made a similar film.

It did very well at the box office, both through mainstream multiplex screenings and churches. With a worldwide gross of $612 million, it was the highest-grossing non-English-language film in the world (more than anything from India or France or Latin America or Japan) until 2017 when the Mandarin Chinese propaganda[7] action movie Wolf Warrior 2 overtook it.[8] It was also the highest-grossing R-rated movie in the USA until Deadpool (2016).[9]

Christopher Hitchens put things into perspective about the film:[10]

In 2004, a soap-opera film about the death of Jesus was produced by an Australian fascist and ham actor named Mel Gibson.

Mr. Gibson adheres to a crackpot and schismatic Catholic sect consisting mainly of himself and of his even more thuggish father, and has stated that it is a pity that his own dear wife is going to hell because she does not accept the correct sacraments. (This foul doom he calmly describes as "a statement from the chair.") The doctrine of his own sect is explicitly anti-Semitic, and the movie sought tirelessly to lay the blame for the Crucifixion upon the Jews.

In spite of this obvious bigotry, which did lead to criticism from some more cautious Christians, The Passion of the Christ was opportunistically employed by many "mainstream" churches as a box-office recruiting tool. At one of the ecumenical prepublicity events which he sponsored, Mr. Gibson defended his filmic farrago — which is also an exercise in sadomasochistic homoeroticism starring a talentless lead actor who was apparently born in Iceland or Minnesota — as being based on the reports of "eyewitnesses."

At the time, I thought it extraordinary that a multimillion-dollar hit could be openly based on such a patently fraudulent claim, but nobody seemed to turn a hair. Even Jewish authorities were largely silent. But then, some of them wanted to dampen down this old argument, which for centuries had led to Easter pogroms against the "Christ-killing Jews." (It was not until two decades after the Second World War that the Vatican formally withdrew the charge of "deicide" against the Jewish people as a whole.)


The film isn't dangerous in and of itself because of the violence. It is dangerous because it takes Jesus' message and tosses it out of a very high window where it splatters in an unrighteous mess on the unforgiving cobbles below.

Let's say for the sake of argument that Christ really was the Son of God. From his teachings in the New Testament, we learn much about God as a being of intelligence. God hates violence. God hates fundamentalism. God hates misinterpretation – especially deliberate misinterpretation. God did not send Jesus to die on the cross and nothing else. He sent him to preach tolerance and forgiveness, die on the cross, and then be reborn. Sort of like Tyler Durden's philosophy: "Lose everything and you're free to do anything." It's a metaphor for our own lives.

In other words, a very Buddhist sort of philosophy. Struggle, conquer your demons, and be reborn as a better person. No need to follow others' gods. Simply trust in yourself to do the right thing when it's most needed. But if you must, you can ask God, or his secretaries in the church, for guidance, because God doesn't judge, doesn't guilt trip, and definitely doesn't resort to emotional blackmail. God is there if you need him. If you don't, more power to you.

If you want a film which accurately examines the power of faith in the face of despair, try Schindler's List. If you want one with a similar amount of violence yet takes its ultimate message seriously, try 12 Years a Slave.

In contrast, The Passion seems to say: This guy was beaten within an inch of his life and nailed to a piece of wood so you could have your iPod. You must admit you are guilty of a human sacrifice which happened 2,000 years before you were born and join a church to prove you want forgiveness.

To which the rational rightly respond: "No thanks."

If, on the other hand, you consider the proposition, "Christ was the son of God" to be simply laughable, then the film is just a pointless, thoroughly unpleasant, blood-splattered gore-fest, and little more than a thinly-veiled snuff film. Unless you're into that sort of thing, in which case the film may well have some merit, albeit not the merit that Mel Gibson had in mind.


After the film, Gibson's career took something of a nosedive with allegations of antisemitism and domestic violence,[11][12] but it began to pick up again with the positive reception of vaguely pacifist war movie Hacksaw Ridge (2016).[13] Gibson's thoughts turned to a sequel, apparently to be called The Resurrection of the Christ which would be written by Braveheart screenwriter Randall Wallace and would feature Caviezel again as Jesus, but focus more on the disciples.[9] All those involved seem to believe it will take a long time to come to the screen.[9]

Without Gibson, Caviezel also starred as the evangelist Luke in another almost-sequel, biopic Paul, Apostle of Christ (2018), directed by Andrew Hyatt and coproduced by Christian cinema company Affirm Films. This received luke-warm reviews.[14]

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about The Passion of the Christ.

External links[edit]


  1. Though as the son of a God who was also in heaven at the same time, the metaphysical implications of this are truly head-spinning.