Ben-Hur

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Ben-Hur Movie Poster Image
New take on classic tale has intense action, few surprises.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 141 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Love and forgiveness are better motivators/ways to approach life than hatred and a thirst for vengeance. Themes include compassion and humility.

Positive role models & representations

Ben-Hur is betrayed by his brother and spends years as a slave, all the while burning for vengeance. But ultimately (and partially through encounters with a carpenter named Jesus...) he learns compassion and realizes that his love for his brother is more important than anything that's happened between them. Few female characters.

Violence

Many scenes of graphic biblical-era combat, though comparatively little blood and gore (which can contribute to minimizing the consequences of the violence). People are run through with swords, hacked at with axes, shot with arrows, set on fire, and more. Galley slaves in chains drown when their ship sinks during a long, harrowing naval battle. An extended chariot-race sequence shows bodies being thrown into the air and trampled by horses; another key moment shows men being crucified, writhing in agony.

Sex

People embrace each other warmly. A married couple kisses and is later shown lying and talking together in bed.

Language

At least one use of "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Characters drink wine at festive events.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ben-Hur is a new version of the epic biblical-era tale, which was most notably brought to the big screen in the Oscar-winning 1959 Charlton Heston classic. This action-packed take follows Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a Jewish prince who's betrayed by his brother and forced into slavery, eventually seeking his revenge on the chariot track. Expect lots of graphic Biblical-era combat, with violent swordplay, people being shot with arrows and set on fire, and more. There are also harrowing scenes of galley slaves drowning when their ship sinks, an extended chariot-race sequence in which bodies are thrown into the air and trampled by horses, and a crucifixion. But helping to counterbalance that are the movie's clear themes of compassion and humility. It also has a strong spiritual component, as Ben-Hur repeatedly crosses paths with Jesus Christ, prompting the former to rethink his need for vengeance.

User Reviews

Adult Written byDavid K. August 18, 2016

Awesome a must see movie. Great storyline, superb acting and very good effects. Chariot race rocked !

Awesome a must see movie. Great storyline, superb acting and very good effects. Chariot race rocked !
Parent Written bynotadoubtingthomas August 19, 2016

Best Movie of the year

This by far the best movie I saw this year. They captured the essence of the book in 2 hour. Some of the story line was changed to move the story along, but t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAriana K. Torres March 9, 2017

Awesome Movie!!!

I personally love this movie!! If you are interested in acton movies, history, and shows like the Bible Series I totally recommend this movie. It is personally... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bylucytidd January 2, 2017

Action packed yet has a great moral story-line

I thought they did an amazing job at condensing the original classic into a shorter movie. It was face-paced, so be ready for action (they had a lot to fit in).... Continue reading

What's the story?

Judah BEN-HUR (Jack Huston) is a wealthy Jewish prince. But then his brother, Messala (Toby Kebbell), betrays him to the Romans, and Ben-Hur is sent off to become a galley slave. When his ship sinks during a fierce battle, he escapes and is taken in by the wise Ilderim (Morgan Freeman), who's on his way to Jerusalem to participate in a grand chariot competition. Ben-Hur, a skilled horseman, agrees to ride the chariot once he learns he'll be competing against Messala in a dangerous race where the losers are often killed on the track.

Is it any good?

This movie is thrilling to watch, and the 21st-century production values definitely stand out when compared to the classic version (and the two will definitely be compared). The fight scenes are filled with mayhem and carnage, and the chariot race is exciting but grisly. But while the effects are strong, the acting is solid, and the themes tie into key aspects of the human experience (love, forgiveness, vengeance, jealousy), Ben-Hur is let down by a script that telegraphs plot points and has plenty of cliched writing.

In other words, there are no surprises here: You can see everything that's coming. It also sometimes feels like there are two different stories happening, one about Ben-Hur and one about a simple carpenter named Jesus with whom Ben-Hur continues to cross paths. And just when it seems like Ben-Hur's tale is about to end in triumph, it shifts gears completely in a more strongly religious section that feels bolted on and makes the movie feel overly long. To be fair, the same can be said of the 1959 version; balancing the two components may just be something that comes with the territory when you make a movie based on this story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Ben-Hur. Do you think all of it was necessary to show the challenges Ben-Hur faced? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Considering all of the violence in the movie, there's not that much blood or gore. Do you think that's realistic? Does it minimize the consequences of battles and fights? What effect can that have?

  • How does the movie convey themes of compassion and humility? Why are those important character strengths?

  • How does vengeance play out in the movie? Does Ben-Hur find solace when he has finally taken revenge on the man who betrayed him? What does he learn?

  • How does this version compare to the 1959 classic? Do you think one is better? Why do you think the filmmakers decided to remake an iconic movie?

Movie details

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