Over forty years ago, Ben-Hur raced into movie theaters and garnered 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for a young Charlton Heston. With the recent releases on DVD and Blu-ray, Warner Home Video (who now hold the movie's rights) may be hoping this epic saga of betrayal and revenge, will win again.
Heston plays Judah Ben-Hur, a wealthy Jewish prince and merchant living under Roman rule in the city of Jerusalem during the time of Christ. When his childhood friend Messala (Stephan Boyd) returns to the city as Commanding Officer of the Roman Legion, Ben-Hur is pleased to renew their friendship. But an unlikely accident soon pits the two men on opposite sides of the law. Seeing a chance to secure his position with his ruling peers and leaders, Messala withholds important information about the incident and allows Ben-Hur to be sentenced as a galley slave while his family is sent to the dark cells of an underground prison.
Harboring a rage that grows with each stroke of the oars, Ben-Hur vows to avenge their unwarranted betrayal. During a seemingly disastrous sea battle, he escapes the sinking ship and is set adrift in the company of Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), the commanding officer of the Roman warship. Impressed by the captive's will to live, Arrius takes Ben-Hur as his slave, training him to become a renowned charioteer in the Roman Coliseum.
Years later, after finally earning his freedom, Ben-Hur returns to Jerusalem and confronts Messala in one of the best-known chariot races ever recorded in cinematic history. Yet the malice Ben-Hur feels continues to haunt him and sour his personal relationships until he hears of Jesus and his teachings.
Clocking in at 212 minutes, this movie, littered with a heavy dose of Roman violence, is a full evening of entertainment. However the impressive sets, intriguing cinematography and solid storyline of personal struggle make this classic 1950's film worth every minute of watching.