The Last Temptation of Christ

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Last Temptation of Christ Movie Poster Image
Controversial epic with brutality, sex. Mature teens only.
  • R
  • 1988
  • 164 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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

Positive Messages

The movie dramatizes many themes and messages that are key parts of being human: embracing love as a guiding light, refraining from judgment, and emphasizing the importance of compassion, justice, and sharing. The constant challenges of self-doubt and fear also are dealt with.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite his moments of self-doubt and often erratic behavior, Jesus is portrayed as selfless, brave, compassionate, and wise. This film attempts to endow Christ with human traits as well as the divine. Judas is a heroic character, as opposed to his usual assignment of "betrayer." It's set in the Holy Land, and background players, as well as some principal players, reflect the dark-skinned ethnicity of the area.


No holds barred in this representation of Christ's violent world. Characters suffer at the hands of their fellow man: multiple incidents of stabbing, crucifixion, whipping, and stoning. Blood flows in many scenes; nails are pounded into flesh; characters die in anguish. Christ pulls his heart from his body. Screaming in response to torture and agony is heard frequently.


Frequent nudity and sexual activity. Full frontal nudity (both male and female) is shown in several scenes, bared breasts in many. In one lengthy sequence a woman performs sexual deeds with a series of men, witnessed by a large audience. Frenzied sensuality (dancing, reveling) fills the screen upon occasion as an example of "the flesh" that Jesus is exposed to. Jesus is seen naked from behind and, in a hallucinatory moment, engages in sex with Mary Magdalene. No actual intercourse is shown, but suggestion of such activity is clear.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Historical characters occasionally consume wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Last Temptation of Christ is based on a novel (thought to be radical by some religious institutions) by Nikos Kazantzakis, published in 1953. The author departs from the traditional gospel story of Jesus Christ and his disciples. Because of that, when it was released in 1988, there was considerable controversy about the film's portrayal of Jesus and some elements of the story (Jesus's self-doubt, confusion about his role as the son of God, his sensuality). Other long-established orthodoxies were challenged as well (depictions of the disciples and Mary Magdalene). The film has many graphically violent scenes and no shortage of blood, brutality, screaming anguish, and death. Frontal nudity, both male and female, appears in a number of sequences, sometimes paired with frenzied sexual activity. Many scenes may be disturbing to audiences of any age and are not meant for children.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bycmadler April 11, 2020

An outstanding movie that is absolutely not for children

This is a fantastic film, but it is not for children, period. This is what I'd call a "hard R" movie -- not talking about comic-book-style viole... Continue reading
Adult Written byJenniferSpears March 7, 2020

Not for kids

Not appropriate content, my kids will not be seeing this.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST a distinctly humanized Jesus Christ (Willem Dafoe) begins to build his ministry and preach the gospel of love and compassion. Set in a time leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus struggles against the aggression of the forces of the Roman Empire on a quest to conquer the Holy Land. He attempts to protect the land's citizens while bringing a new and relevant spirituality into their lives. At the same time, supported by a growing band of disciples, Jesus battles the demons and weaknesses within himself: self-doubt, a complex and difficult relationship with God, and the temptations of the sensual world around him. In opposition to most doctrine about the Christ figure, in this film (and the novel upon which it's based) Jesus must make a momentous choice between a life of the spirit and a life of "the flesh." 

Is it any good?

In a film infused with artistry and passion, director Martin Scorsese has created a new kind of religious epic. The film is original, intense, and technically solid. The integrity of the music, production design, attention to time and place, and portrayal of the masses of people who inhabited that part of the world all contribute to the film's authenticity. Certainly, having based his film on a novel thought radical by many, Mr. Scorsese doesn't expect his audience to accept the premise as truth but has offered another way of imagining and exploring the life of Jesus Christ. The film's violence and sexuality may make some uncomfortable. A few odd-sounding dialects may distract. But it's another impressive effort from a master filmmaker. Not recommended for kids; mature teens only. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the brutality in this movie. How did it make you feel? How do you determine when a film is too violent? 

  • How was this portrayal of Jesus different from others you've seen? In what ways did this Jesus seem more like a real person? Why do you think the filmmakers made this choice?

  • This movie had staunch critics who wanted to prevent its release and later protested in front of theaters. What do you think they objected to? Define "censorship." How do you feel about it? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

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