The Passion of the Christ
By Nell Minow,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Controversial film is extremely violent and powerful.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Messages about perseverance and faith are conveyed through a Christian perspective.
Positive Role Models
A woman tries to help the wounded Jesus by wiping his face and offering water, showing the importance of kindness to strangers.
Jewish characters portrayed as bloodthirsty villains. Though characters hail from the Middle East, they're mostly played by White (European and American) actors. Women are shown as supportive mothers and friends but have no real agency. No representation of diverse body sizes or disabilities.
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Violence & Scariness
Extremely graphic and intense violence, including whipping and crucifixion. Creepy imagery involving demonic figures. A character dies by suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nonsexual nudity: Jesus appears naked during one scene in which you can partly see his behind. Jesus and other men spend many scenes in loincloths.
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Although we don't know exactly what's being said, it's clear that many people throughout the film insult Jesus in ancient Aramaic. "Jew" is used as an insult.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several characters, including Jesus, drink wine. Some characters appear inebriated.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Passion of the Christ is a 2004 film from director Mel Gibson in which he explores the last days in Jesus' life in an extremely violent and graphic manner. Jesus (Jim Caviezel) is brutally beaten for much of the movie. Viewers hear his flesh tear as he's whipped and see his blood splatter and drip. Nails are driven through his hands and feet, and his side is pierced with a spear. Two other men are crucified, and one's eyes are pecked out. There are other disturbing aspects, including the character of Satan and some children suggested to be demons. Judas (Luca Lionello) dies by suicide. Jewish characters are portrayed as bloodthirsty villains. Women are given little agency, and although the characters are supposed to be from the Middle East, they're mostly played by White actors. Director Gibson has said that the agonizing, unbearable torture is a key part of the story, and parents who are considering whether this movie is appropriate should see it themselves to judge how their kids might respond to its brutality.
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The Passion of the Christ
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What's the Story?
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is writer-director Mel Gibson's interpretation of the last hours of the life of Jesus (Jim Caviezel). It's neither fully history nor drama, though it has elements of both; rather, it's Gibson's personal statement on how Jesus' suffering and sacrifice proved his divinity. The movie takes place almost entirely during the last 12 hours of Jesus' life. The characters speak in the languages of the time: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin (with subtitles). Little effort is made to explain what happened before Jesus was captured in the Garden of Gethsemane, why his followers were so loyal, why his accusers were so threatened, or who all of the characters are and how they relate to each other.
Is It Any Good?
This movie is technically well-executed, but its narrow and harrowing perspective could be told with less on-screen brutality. The Passion of the Christ reverently treats a story that has influenced many religions and people all over the world, using moments of extraordinary cinematography and stunning images. But it doesn't give those unfamiliar with the details or significance of the original tale enough of an understanding of Jesus and the other characters to convey all that it hopes to. The excessive violence is intended to be upsetting, but it can become an endurance test for audience members.
The movie is also controversial due to how it portrays the Jewish elders who ordered the capture of Jesus and urged Pontius Pilate (Hristo Naumov Shopov) to sentence him to death, not to mention the use of the word "Jew" as an insult. Ultimately, the film will likely mean something different to viewers based on their religious background and their tolerance for on-screen gore and violence.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how The Passion of the Christ and the biblical story it dramatizes fits into their own religious traditions. Did the movie tell you something new about the story? How does the film's view of Jesus fit into what you knew about him?
Take this opportunity to explore the controversy this film has raised about antisemitism, and consider it within the context of Mel Gibson's real-life antisemitic remarks. How does Gibson portray Jewish characters in the film? Is it different from the portrayals of non-Jewish characters? Are there stereotypes?
What other biblical stories have you heard or seen? How does this one compare? Do you think the violence here is necessary to the story?
- In theaters: February 25, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: August 31, 2004
- Cast: Christo Jivkov, James Caviezel, Monica Bellucci
- Director: Mel Gibson
- Studio: Newmarket Film Group
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sequences of graphic violence
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
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