The Last Temptation of Christ

Critics Consensus

The Last Temptation of Christ is a surprisingly straight and passionate affair, one that also seeks to redeem Scorsese's '80s career.

80%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 55

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 35,842
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Movie Info

The story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and its aftermath are the subject of this sometimes iconoclastic but always passionate religious drama. On its initial release, the film was the center of a notable controversy, thanks to protests from fundamentalists objecting to the film's unconventional depiction of Jesus.

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Cast

Barbara Hershey
as Mary Magdalene
David Bowie
as Pontius Pilate
Andre Gregory
as John the Baptist
Juliette Caton
as Girl Angel
Roberts Blossom
as Aged Master
Paul Herman
as Phillip
Leo Burmester
as Nathaniel
Tomas Arana
as Lazarus
Barry Miller
as Jeroboam
Paul Greco
as Zealot
Steven Shill
as Centurion
Randy Danson
as Sister of Lazarus
Robert Spafford
as Man at Wedding
Doris Von Thury
as Woman with Mary
Del Russell
as Money Changer
Donna Marie Dawson
as Person at Sermon
Mary "Bunny" Sellers
as Person at Sermon
Russell Case
as Man at Sermon
Mary Seller
as Woman at Sermon
Ahmed Nacir
as Apostle
Donna Magnani
as Crowd Member
Penny Brown
as Crowd Member
Gabi Ford
as Crowd Member
Dale Wyatt
as Crowd Member
Domenico Fiore
as Crowd Member
Ted Rusoff
as Crowd Member
Leo Damian
as Crowd Member
Robert Laconi
as Crowd Member
Jonathon Zhivago
as Crowd Member
Illeana Douglas
as Crowd Member
David B. Sharp
as Crowd Member
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News & Interviews for The Last Temptation of Christ

Critic Reviews for The Last Temptation of Christ

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (11)

  • In an age of post-Christian facetiousness, Martin Scorsese's work daringly attempts to restore passion and melodrama to the Gospel story.

    Mar 19, 2008 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • A film of challenging ideas, and not salacious provocations.

    Mar 19, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Concentrating on the humanity and fallibility of Jesus in continual conflict with his divinity, the film falters as a contemporary statement mainly in its primitive view of women.

    Mar 19, 2008 | Full Review…
  • A sincere, typically ambitious and imaginative work from America's most provocatively intelligent film-maker.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • What emerges most memorably is its sense of absolute conviction, never more palpable than in the final fantasy sequence that removes Jesus from the cross and creates for him the life of an ordinary man.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 5/5
  • This thought-provoking film remains a key work by Scorsese, a courageous and imaginative take on one of the greatest stories ever told.

    Apr 17, 2001 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Sandi Chaitram

    BBC.com
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Last Temptation of Christ

  • Oct 08, 2015
    My reaction to the Last Temptation of Christ is tepid compared to other reviewers. I will only comment on the acting and the vibe and nothing regarding religion. The acting was OK but none of the actors had "it". Did not find Harvey Keitel to give a bad performance. As whole the film has a very 80s vibe -- supernatural and exotic and showy. Overall, it is very much a film of its time and does not have the classic feeling of Raging Bull.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 18, 2012
    A retelling of the Gospels focusing on Jesus' internal struggle between flesh and spirit, humanity and divinity, with a twist at the end. An excellent adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel of theological speculation. It's amazing (and frightening) to contemplate that some Christians protested this deeply pious movie when it came out.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 06, 2012
    Somewhere between Max von Sydow and Christian Bale, there was Willem Dafoe, the biggest mouth of all. I don't know where people started getting in their heads that Jesus had a broad jaw, though I suppose it makes sense, because if you're going to preach as boastfully to the world as Jesus did, then you're going to need a jaw that can handle it. Of course, maybe Willen Dafoe is going a bit too far, because with a jaw like that, Jesus wouldn't need that crazy, super-cool booming voice that von Sydow had going on or an odyssey across the land to educate the world on his views; all he would need is an afternoon and one good shout. Yeah, I know that the size of a jaw doesn't play too terribly big of a part in the volume of your voice, though I think that may just be the case with people who don't have a megamouth shark somewhere in their family tree, because I think the reason why Willem Dafoe tries to stay quiet so often is because when he gets started yelling, that tooth foghorn between his nose and chin isn't gonna let him stop. I could have compared him to some kind of other animal, like whatever in the world Gary Busey is, though he seems like he belongs somewhere in the shark family, being that he always plays such creepy characters, so much so that even his portrayal of Jesus is a little bit off-putting, though I suppose that's what happens when you have the guts to make a film that analyzes the temptations of the most sacred human being to walk upon the earth and its water and expect the guy who directed "Taxi Driver" and the guy who went on to dress in drag as a gay man in "The Boondock Saints" (That's an awesome title, but those saints were hardly sacred) and be in a film called "Antichrist" (Wow, really?) to not make a lustful Jesus come off as too discomforting. Well, at least it's not quite as discomfortingly honest as the similarly "The Passion of the Christ", and note that I said, "honest", because as far as a Jesus film is concerned, it doesn't get more offensive than this, being that it is liberty-tastic in, sometimes, the sickest of ways, yet its problems most certainly don't end there. Now, that's not to say that this film is bad, or even mediocre, as it is ultimately enjoyable, though hit pretty hard by more than a few flaws. Immediate development is all but absent and gradual exposition is scarce, making it difficult to lock investment and even knowledge into this story, as it is riddled to the rim with liberties in the story and even personality of Jesus, as well as the people who surrounded him, leaving even the people who have seen the story of Jesus done to death without the advantage of knowing what in the world is going on. The only thing harder to follow than the liberties is the overall story, as it is structured in a sometimes hurried, sometimes overdrawn and even occasionally overly elaborate fashion that leaves a degree of convolution to set in, with such storytelling flaws as a degree of tonal inconsistency, worsened by Peter Gabriel's sometimes unfitting and uneven score work (As I'll get more into later, it's still a pretty good score, but who in the world thought that it would be a good idea to get Peter Gabriel to do the score for a film about Jesus in the first place? It was because he was in a band called Genesis, wasn't it?), intensifying the confusion, yet the storytelling flaws don't end there. I don't believe that I've given Martin Scorsese enough credit, let alone respect for being an extremely diverse director who experiments with many different storytelling methods, though, of course, that means that it was only a matter of time before he dipped his toes in the dreaded waters of overly meditative storytelling, which arrives in this film as problematic as it almost always is. Okay, now, the storytelling isn't really all that meditative, to where it's overly artistic focus upon the environment and atmosphere, yet it is often very dry, somewhat atmospheric and even sometimes kind of surreal, with moments in which it dips into all-out dreamy, a transition that is occasionally not all that smooth, thus exacerbating the aforementioned tonal unevenness. Still, if the film is consistent in one aspect, it is at least consistent in being slow, with some moments in which it's completely dull and many moments in which it just can't hold onto your attention, let alone investment, though that doesn't stop it from boasting a kind of pretentious arrogance about its artistry that is sometimes a little bit frustating, thus further knocking you out of the film. While wildly and somewhat discomfortingly unfaithful to the worthy tale of Jesus, this premise remains promising and, in its own way, worthy, yet when it comes down to execution, the final product comes out messy and sometimes kind of dull, with a kind of pretensiousness and blow to compellingness that leaves the film to lose steam in too many places, until it should, by all accounts, sputter out as mediocre. However, what this film has a right to be perhaps too proud about is genuinely worthwhile, decidedly not to where it can carry the film past simply decent, yet still to where it gives it more than enough impressive moments to keep you going, particularly if you're into nice style. Michael Ballhaus' cinematography is subtle, yet still quite attractively noticable in its bouncing of color in a handsome and, on occasions, tonally supplemental fashion, while some nifty camera tricks really grab ahold of you and pull you into this world, a sensation that goes complimented by very clever sound design that absorbs the audible environment and gives you a real feel for the atmosphere, and when it's not doing that, it's leaving you with some good and, well, really overstylized tunes. As I said earlier, I don't know if it's because they got a rock musician to score a film about Jesus or what, but Peter Gabriel's score gets to be rather faulty, as well as rather anachronistically overstylized, yet more than that, it's one cool collection of compositions, with sweep and audible dazzle really breathing life into the score in order to create some really good tunes to listen to, as well as some musical atmosphere that may not always work, yet really hits home when it does, and in regards to the part about not always working, but delivering more often than not, you can sure say that about this crazy story. Now, make no mistake, this is an actively and pretty unfaithful dramatisation of the life of Jesus, and there are points where they don't even mildly attempt to be subtle about that (May the man in question himself strike me down if there is not one point in which this Jesus removes and presents his heart in the middle of a speech to his disciples. When did that happen?), because this film is, as it disclaims at the beginning, not looking to be an adaptation of the Gospels, but an uncompromising study on the flaws of humanity through the purest of all humans, and looking at the story as just that, it is thoroughly fascinating and ultimately rather thought-provoking in its messages and studies, yet not without giving us room to get a firm grip on this heavily fictionalized Jesus as a strong character with a strong story (I've got say, the rest of the film may not be up to snuff, but that final forty minutes or so got to be pretty awesome, even if it did get progressively more and more messed up and, well, pretty offensive in its liberties), and for that effectiveness, credit goes out to Scorsese for his doing just a bit more good than underwhelming in his generally inspired direction, as well as out to, of course, to leading man Willem Dafoe. Now, I know that this is still Jesus we're talking about, so I'm expecting some glorification, though not quite as much as I get in a lot of interpretations, as people seem to forget that he was still very much a human, yet this film, on the other hand, isn't about to let you forget that Jesus of was still a human, initially presenting him as a struggling, fearing and overally painfully man who goes unaware of his fate, yet remains aware that he must not succumb to sin, and as things progress and Christ unravels his fate, our lead becomes a strong and confident man, yet still a man nevertheless, tainted by human emotion to break up sacredness. It's a risky role that could have collapsed into a disaster in the hands of a less competent actor, yet Willem Dafoe is no push-over, being thoroughly charismatic, as well as enthrallingly emotional and heavily layered in his portrayal of a sacred figure threatened by human flaws, creating an intensely human yet graceful presence that leaves him to effortlessly transform, and what we're ultimately left with is an interpretation of Jesus Christ that is conceptually all but entirely fabricted and hardly honest to the original person, yet still executed in a clever and engrossing fashion by Dafoe that ultimately, in fact, gives you further insight into the human that was Jesus, making for a fascinating, if not full-on compelling lead. Now, I'm making it sound as though this film ultimately redeems itself and ultimately stands as genuinely good, but really, the flaws stand and drag this film down to underwhelmingness, though it could have further, and through such fine style, story and acting (By the ways, Harvey Keitel is also emotional, layered and all around awesome, because it's evidently not officially a notable Jesus film until you have the guy playing Judas standing out), it ultimately emerges a generally fascinating and enjoyable watch, potential-squandering though, it may be. Overall, the film is limited in exposition, with convoluting story structure faults and momentary tonal unevenness leaving investment to take further damage, yet what is most common and detrimental to the film is its relentless slowness that makes worse the moments of overwhelming meditativeness and occasions of pretensiousness, leaving the film to periodically lose steam and run the risk of collapsing into mediocrity, yet it transcends that, aesthetically impressing with a handsome visual style and hypnotic sound style, while delivering on, an albeit flawed, but generally powerful score, as well as a provocatively fascinating and compelling story - for what it is -, brought to life by Martin Scorsese's flawed, but generally inspired direction, as well as an emotional, layered, transcendent and altogether remarkable lead performance by Willem Dafoe, who helps in making "The Last Temptation of Christ" an enjoyable and ultimately intriguing portrait on the flaws of humanity, as portrayed through the most sacred of humans, even if the final product does leave much too much to be desired. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Mar 05, 2012
    I feel like that, before I write my opinion, that I should clarify something. From the day I was born till I moved from Memphis, I was raised in a Christian home. When I moved I went my own way and became agnostic. As such, I do have a background knowledge on Christianity and going into this film I knew that I would be watching something that is not only made by one of the masters of cinema, but also one of the most controversial films of all time. Plus totally fake as the disclaimer said at the start. I sat in complete silence during the entire two hours and forty four minutes of film and I was left stunned, speechless, and a lost of thought. I had no idea what the hell I saw. I don't know if this is a good film, a bad film, or what. AS a film, this film is both disturbing and yet beautiful to watch. Mainly this has to deal with how Scorsese deals with the subject matter at hand. Anyone could have turned this film into another Passion Play, but Scorsese shows his true power as a film maker by having us see a version of Jesus that is both much wanted by cinema lovers and disturbing: A human Jesus. In the Bible, we are taught that Jesus is the son of God and as such is the only true perfect human. This film, however, presents us with a Jesus that has flaws, gives into temptation, and treats him being the son of God as a burden, not as a gift. When I hear of Jesus, and think of the truth of man, THIS is what I saw. But while I adore this presentation of Jesus, I was also disturbed by what I saw. I am use to seeing Jesus as the way we are taught. Then I see this Jesus that questions his purposes, nearly gives into Satan's temptation, and completely life like. Scorsese is a well known Catholic and this film shows his love for the faith as he presents this version of Jesus. As a film, this film also shocked me with how disturbing the music is. I am a big fan of experimental orchestrations that are known for disturbing it's audience (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross). With this film, the score is... shocking. Scorsese is known for pairing music and image together in a beautiful way, and it is with this film that he has perfected it. Not only does the music compliment what is being shown, but it also enhances it. The score is what kept me wanting to see this film end out and without it, the magic of this movie would be lost. Harvey Keitel is one of those actors I adore. I liked him in Reservoir Dogs, adored him in Bad Lieutenant, and I love him in this film as Judas. The main reason why is because he portrays Judas as someone that is equally important to Jesus. In history, Judas is the man who betrayed Jesus for money and would later kill himself and burn forever in Hell. Here he is shown as someone that originally wanted to kill Jesus, but then followed him while betraying Jesus at Jesus's request. With this view point, Judas has been the subject to numerous criticism only because he was obeying orders. I know this film is fictitious, but it is a thought that I always wondered. Willem Dafoe. My God. He steals this movie as he portrays the best image of Jesus I have ever seen. Like with how Scorsese shoots this film, Dafoe makes Jesus someone who is flawed, questioning, with a hint of madness to kick in. This is how I imagined Jesus, and Dafoe does a damned good job. Normally I would lecture on about how great Dafoe was, but his performance is one that only seeing can make you love how this works. Like with my reaction to this film when I first saw it, I have no idea of how to feel about this film. I know I praise it, but that is through how good the film is. On a personal level, this is not a film or a movie and whoever tells you it is is completely lying. The Last Temptation of Christ is an experience that is unlike any other experience I have sat through. No matter about your religious background, you will be effected by this film. In the end, I am still agnostic but my ideas of religion are changed.
    Zach B Super Reviewer

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