Hollywood Jesuses: The Definitive Ranking

The ultimate casting Call.

In the past few weeks, Hollywood studios have announced the latest two actors to portray Jesus on the big-screen will be Ewan McGregor in Last Days in the Desert and Rodrigo Santoro in the new Ben-Hur adaptation. The two join a long list of Hollywood names to take on the role of Christ. Though some have been less than miraculous, a few have left some big sandals to fill.

Considering Hollywood is known to take some creative liberties with historical texts—and has a penchant to cast mostly white actors, despite the ethnicity of the figures who they are playing—portraying Christ is a heavy cross to bear. It's hard to know where to begin when researching the role.

Thankfully, we’ve created this absolutely definitive, completely inerrant list of the best Jesus performances of all time.

1. Selva Rasalingam – The Gospel of John (2014)

Historically Accurate Jesus

This portrayal of Jesus from the Lumo Project (it’s on Netflix) is easily the most Biblically accurate on the list. Not only do the performers speak Aramaic, but Shakespearian actor Selva Rasalingam is also of partly Tamil descent. Hollywood, take note.

2. Christian Bale - Mary, Mother of Jesus (1999)

Not the Jesus We Need, but the One We Deserve

Before he was Moses, before he was Batman—and only a little while after he was Newsies' Cowboy—Christian Bale was Jesus. A made-for-TV offering, Mary, Mother of Jesus is a largely forgotten addition to the Bible movie catalog. Bale's performance is adequate but, let's face it, he could have scored the role on the basis of his first name alone.

3. Diogo Morgado - The Bible (2013) / Son of God (2014)

I Dream of Jesus

Undisputedly the most handsome Jesus on the list (in addition to being an actor, Diogo Morgado is also a model), Morgado brought many things to the role: Emotional vulnerability, intellectual sincerity and a dreamy smile.

4. Brian Deacon – Jesus (1979)

Multilingual Jesus

Thanks to Bill Bright’s Jesus Film Project, Brian Deacon’s portrayal of Christ is one of the most-watched performances in the history of movies. The organization has translated the film into hundreds of languages and has screened it in some of the most remote locations on earth in with their missions work.

5. Jim Caviezel – The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Blockbuster Jesus

If you’ve seen The Count of Monte Cristo or The Thin Red Line, then you know that Jim Caviezel is actually a pretty great actor. Unfortunately, in Mel Gibson blockbuster The Passion of the Christ, Caviezel isn’t given much to do other than holler in agony. It's a quite a film—one which went on to become the most success Bible movie ever made—but it is not for the squeamish.

6. Willem Dafoe- The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Willem Dafoe Jesus

Martin Scorsese’s Messiah movie is one of the most controversial ever made, featuring a emotionally tortured, morally conflicted Jesus. There's no denying Defoe brought the same dramatic commitment to his role that he always does, but Christians were not happy with this movie.

7. Max von Sydow - The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

Boring Jesus

This three hour 1965 Hollywood epic was certainly ambitious: At the time, it was one of the most expensive movies ever made. Unfortunately, while the movie's heart is definitely in the right place, the execution is way off. The Greatest Story Ever Told is also one of the most boring. Nevertheless, Von Sydow has the distinction of playing both Jesus in a largely conservative, by-the-book retelling of the Gospel, as well as having a prominent role in one of the most religiously controversial movies ever made: The Exorcist. He's also in the new Star Wars movie, so this guy's resume has a little something for everyone.

8. Robert Powell - Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

Crazy Eyes

Powell took the phrase "a man of sorrows" to the absolute extreme, and his Jesus is without a doubt the most humorless on the list. Look, we get it. It’s a serious, dramatic role. No one expected the miniseries to be high comedy, but those creepy, stoic eyes don’t exactly say “The Joy of the Lord.” Crazy but true fact: Powell literally only blinks once during the entire 6 (six!) hour long movie.

9. Ted Neeley – Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

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Jazz Hands Jesus

Ted Neeley’s rock opera Jesus has garnered its share of criticism from many religious viewers, but the dude’s definitely got the best pipes out of anyone on the list.

10. Jeffrey Hunter - King of Kings (1961)


The filmmakers behind Kings of Kings made zero effort at even attempting ethnic accuracy, casting a strawberry blonde, blue-eyed Californian. Even reviewers at the time—who were accustomed to American actors like Charlton Heston in Biblical roles—thought it was a little ridiculous, jokingly referring to the film as "I Was a Teenage Jesus."

11. Jeremy Sisto - Jesus (1999)

Blow Dried Jesus

Sorry, Jeremy Sisto. Your depiction of Jesus in the 1999 miniseries Jesus may have been critically praised, but your low ranking is warranted solely on the merits of these promotional images which make Jesus look like he just left a blow dry bar. Bonus: This made-for-TV series inspired one of the most '90s crossover soundtracks of all time, with songs from DC Talk, Hootie & the Blowfish, 98 Degrees, Jaci Velasquez and Edwin McCain.

Top Comments

Michael Winters


Michael Winters commented…

my favorite, which seems to have been left off the list, is The Gospel of John with Henry Ian Cusick from 2003. it was a word for word from the Good News Bible.

Stephen Pattavina


Stephen Pattavina commented…

bruce marchiano plays an awesome Jesus in Matthew, The Encounter 1&2, and others. Check it out the Spirit of God is definitely working through him in his movies, and he is a brother in Christ. I don't know about some of the Jesus portrayals above but to play the role of Jesus with excellence is to be a Christian; filled with the Spirit of God.


Barry Sellers


Barry Sellers commented…

We seem to either make Cheesy Jesus (Cheesus?) or White Jesus, or bone-crunchingly violent death Jesus.
Wonder if one day we might get around to that Biblically accurate saviour of the world healer and generally awesome Jesus we read so much about in that book he was in...

Cathya Jp


Cathya Jp commented…

I will also make Deisre Mondesir's point: "Hair like wool and feet like brass". A depiction that most don't want to believe. None of them meat that category. If I had to pick from the pictures given, I would have to go with Selva Rasalingam.

H.e. Pennypacker


H.e. Pennypacker replied to Cathya Jp's comment

How do you know? Have you had any visions?

Dirk the Dragon Slayer


Dirk the Dragon Slayer commented…

I always thought Caveizel's portrayal, during the parts where he isn't screaming in agony, were amazing. The garden scene in the beginning, the flashbacks where he's doing human things with his family and friends, etc.

I always wished there was a similar movie done for other aspects of the story, maybe like the resurrection or first few chapters of Acts, etc.

Peace Revo Lution


Peace Revo Lution commented…

There's no need to say Jesus didn't have blonde hair and blue eyes - nobody knows... People in Spain all had blue eyes until the invasion of the Moors, same with Sicily. America will be a brown nation shortly and certainly in 2000 years, will we then claim that George Washington was brown? Maybe we should just focus on his message instead of the color of his eyes.

H.e. Pennypacker


H.e. Pennypacker commented…

"and has a penchant to cast mostly white actors, despite the ethnicity of the figures who they are playing"

Oh here we go, the obligatory "opinion disguised as historical fact" history revisionism. As far as what Jesus of Nazareth looked like, we can only look to the Shroud of Turin for any real historical veracity. I'm not sure what the blogger means by "Biblically accurate" since the gospel writers do not concern themselves with Jesus' exterior appearance.

The reason we have the traditional depiction of Jesus is because of the earliest Christ Pantocrator icons -- one dating back to the 6th century.

Also, Faustina Kowalska (canonized a saint) had claimed to have been visited by Jesus and had a painting (Divine mercy) completed. (believe if you want)

Jesus and His Apostles were Jewish and therefore it's fair to say they probably looked like Jews from Israel.

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