Classic Film Guide

Ben-Hur (1959)

This biblical remake (better than the silent original?) saved MGM from bankruptcy and won a record eleven Oscars (out of 12 nominations), unequaled until Titanic (1997). Best Actor Charlton Heston solidifies his typecasting in biblical epics. The spectacularly constructed chariot race set is the kind of great movie special effects that may never be attempted again (since the advent of CGI). Best Director William Wyler's 12th (out of 13, by far the most) nomination. Also Best Supporting Actor for Hugh Griffith; the Adapted Screenplay was nominated. Haya Harareet, Martha Scott, Cathy O'Donnell, and Sam Jaffe are also in the cast. Added to the National Film Registry in 2004. #72 on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies list. #49 on AFI's 100 Most Heart-Pounding Movies list. #21 on AFI's Top 25 Film Scores list. #56 on AFI's 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.

Heston plays the title character, a wealthy Jew who grew up with Messala (Stephen Boyd), who's now the head Roman in the area. Their political clash leads to charges which enslave Ben-Hur as an oarsman on a ship. During a conflict, Ben-Hur saves a Roman general (Jack Hawkins), who takes him under his wing where he wins chariot races. However, he returns to seek his revenge on Messala, and is assisted by a horse owner (Griffith). The great race is the result.

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