From ‘Passion of the Christ’ to ‘Noah’: A Look Back at the Seven Most Controversial Films with Biblical Reference

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By Alyssa Ashley Lucas | April 17, 2014 12:57 PM EST

Eye-catching cinematography, interesting characters and exciting plot but with questionable content; here are just the few elements that mostly define the movies that draw attention from a large crowd.

Throughout the years of filmmaking, critics have been a regular presence. It's actually rare to see critics in a deep and untroubled sleep. And to prove that critics never sleep, here are the seven most controversial films with biblical reference that have been ultimately and openly criticized:

1. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Igniting the biggest controversy among all films with biblical reference is the movie "Passion of the Christ" directed by Mel Gibson, which opened in theatres on Feb. 25, 2004. The movie depicts the story of Jesus Christ before he was crucified, but what set it apart was the totally inhumane process of inflicting pain on Jesus Christ during the 12 hours before He died on the cross. It yielded clear-cut reactions ranging from hatred of the way the story was told and love with how "artistic" the movie was.

But despite its controversial storytelling, The Passion of the Christ is considered the "highest grossing R-rated movie" with a total lifetime domestic gross of $370,782,930 and foreign gross of $241,116,490, according to Box Office Mojo.

2. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Before there was passion, there was actually temptation. "The Last Temptation of Christ" movie directed by Martin Scorsese, which was released on Aug. 12, 1988, is probably the most controversial biblical film if Mel Gibson didn't step in.

The 1988 film is also a story about the life of Jesus Christ. Variety calls it "a film of challenging ideas, and not salacious provocations" while Hal Hinson of Washington Post says that "watching it, you feel as if you're trapped inside a hallucination, the meaning of which is only partly comprehensible."

3. The Da Vinci Code (2006)

A book by Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code" is considered to be one of the best selling novels of all time. The book has been a subject to many intellectual debates that it came out a surprise when Ron Howard decided to put it into film. The release of its movie adaptation in May 19, 2006 sparked negative reactions from the church and there were countries that reportedly banned the movie in theatres.

4. Angels and Demons (2009)

Three years later, another book by Dan Brown was made into film, courtesy of director Ron Howard. "Angels and Demons" was written before The Da Vinci Code, but apparently its story actually happened after the events of the earlier movie. Angels and Demons was released in May 15, 2009.

5. Dogma (1999)

The 1999 movie "Dogma" is about the last "living descendant" of Jesus Christ who apparently, according to the movie, works at an abortion clinic in the state of Illinois in the U.S.

Variety calls it "a very vulgar pro-faith comedy rather than a sacrilegious goof" and "seriously belabors its assault on the established denominations and institutions, in particular the Roman Catholic Church."

6. Priest (2011)

The movie "Priest" directed by Scott Stewart is a fantasy, action horror movie. It wasn't a biblical film but it referenced a figure from the church and the church, itself, that it eventually brought out varying reactions from critics, especially that Stewart used the Church in the movie to rule the human inhabitants in dystopian cities.

Stephen Witty of Newark Star-Ledger thinks the Priest "manages to insult Catholics" in less than an hour and a half. Rotten Tomatoes loosely gave the movie an average of 16% from critics and 46% from users.

7. Noah (2014)

Last but not the least is the movie "Noah" starring Russell Crowe that hit theatres on Mar. 28, 2014. The movie about a man who was chosen to embark on a mission pulled in critics from all parts of the world. Many countries had even banned the movie after the Church had not approved of its content.

At one point Noah was even compared to the movie The Last Temptation of Christ.

"On one hand, it's [Noah] a remarkably earnest and heartfelt Bible parable, not unlike Martin Scorsese's darkly existential The Last Temptation of Christ," Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly stated.

But what made most of these films really controversial is that all of them were either Anti-Christian movies or with stories that go beyond the norms of the church and the society that it yielded mixed reactions.

READ MORE:

Pope Francis Chats, Waves and Poses for 'Selfie' After Palm Sunday Mass 

'Son of God' Hits Box Office; Audience Reacts, Diogo Morgado Named #HotJesus on Twitter 

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