4.8 16
Director: William Wyler

Cast: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins


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This 1959 version of Lew Wallace's best-selling novel, which had already seen screen versions in 1907 and 1926, went on to win 11 Academy Awards. Adapted by Karl Tunberg and a raft of uncredited writers including Gore Vidal and Maxwell Anderson, the film once more recounts the…  See more details below


This 1959 version of Lew Wallace's best-selling novel, which had already seen screen versions in 1907 and 1926, went on to win 11 Academy Awards. Adapted by Karl Tunberg and a raft of uncredited writers including Gore Vidal and Maxwell Anderson, the film once more recounts the tale of Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), who lives in Judea with his family during the time that Jesus Christ was becoming known for his "radical" teachings. Ben-Hur's childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) is now an ambitious Roman tribune; when Ben-Hur refuses to help Messala round up local dissidents on behalf of the Emperor, Messala pounces on the first opportunity to exact revenge on his onetime friend. Framed on a charge of attempting to kill the provincial governor, Ben-Hur is condemned to the Roman galleys, while his mother (Martha Scott) and sister (Cathy O'Donnell) are imprisoned. But during a sea battle, Ben-Hur saves the life of commander Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), who, in gratitude, adopts Ben-Hur as his son and gives him full control over his stable of racing horses. Ben-Hur never gives up trying to find his family or exact revenge on Messala. At crucial junctures in his life, he also crosses the path of Jesus, and each time he benefits from it. The highlight of the film's 212 minutes is its now-legendary chariot race, staged largely by stunt expert Yakima Canutt. Ben-Hur's Oscar haul included Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for Heston, and Best Supporting Actor for British actor Hugh Griffith as an Arab sheik.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
After more than 40 years, one of the few biblical epics that doesn’t sacrifice humanity for spectacle, Ben-Hur -- an international box-office smash of legendary proportions and the winner of a then-unprecedented 11 Academy Awards -- still retains its power to enthrall viewers. This third movie adaptation of Lew Wallace’s bestselling novel provided Charlton Heston with perhaps his most memorable role: proud Jewish aristocrat Judah Ben-Hur, falsely accused of a crime and sold into slavery, later to confront his Roman enemies and have his life transformed by contact with Jesus Christ. Director William Wyler (Best Years of Our Lives) ensured success by surrounding himself with some of the industry’s greatest artisans, many of them rewarded with Oscars for their contributions to this flawlessly produced movie. Technical perfection aside, Wyler rated his Best Director Oscar for his superb handling of a fine cast including Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, and Sam Jaffe. But Ben-Hur’s undisputed highlight remains the climactic, breathtaking chariot race, for which Heston and Boyd did most of their own stunt work. That race, and the film’s other spectacular sequences, can now be fully appreciated by home viewers in the newly mastered, wide-screen DVD edition, which augments the film with an illuminating commentary by Heston. Other extras include a documentary on the production ("The Making of an Epic"), a gallery of stills, a theatrical trailer, and recently discovered screen tests.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
William Wyler's Ben-Hur is the quintessential Hollywood biblical epic: a huge story, given a suitably exalted treatment, splashed across a broad canvas, and centered on a pair of well-drawn central characters. It's easy to forget that the film was the culmination of a cycle of religious epics that dated back slightly more than a decade, and closed out the genre as a viable Hollywood phenomenon. Since Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah in 1949, the public had shown a willingness to spend money on screen stories adapted from (or inspired by) the Old or New Testaments; the advent of the Cold War and the threat of thermo-nuclear annihilation likely made filmgoers start thinking about God, heaven, and the hereafter more than usual. Apart from MGM's trouble-plagued Quo Vadis? and 20th Century Fox's The Robe and its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators, however, few of the resulting movies did more than modest business at the box office, and none received any serious critical respectability. Ben-Hur proved to be an exception: Wyler's direction is sure and carefully balanced, avoiding any hint of the campiness and awkward line delivery that broke the verisimilitude of many of the other films; Charlton Heston, though far from the first choice for the title role (Paul Newman and Rock Hudson both turned it down), brings a compelling intensity to his performance; and Jack Hawkins' work as father figure Quintus Arrius lent the film a dignity comparable to Finlay Currie's St. Peter and Leo Genn's Petronius in Quo Vadis? Coupled with Yakima Canutt's stunt direction, those virtues proved unbeatable. Ben-Hur was the most expensive movie in MGM's history (perhaps not coincidentally, the 1926 silent version of the story had also been the most expensive non-sound production in the studio's history), but it ended up playing for two years in venues all over the world. The film earned enough money to keep the studio solvent, allowing them to acquire other films of this kind for distribution, most notably Nicholas Ray's King of Kings. Ben-Hur was virtually the last film of its kind made in Hollywood, or by Hollywood -- costs were too high to do too many more, and it also seemed as though audiences had seen most of the religious stories that were worth their moviegoing dollars. With the exception of box-office disasters such as The Greatest Story Ever Told and The Bible, most subsequent examples of the genre would be produced in Europe.
New York Times - Dave Kehr
By hiring William Wyler...MGM hoped to restore some dignity to a genre that had known its greatest triumphs thanks to the enthusiastic vulgarity of Alessandro Blasetti and the inimitable Cecil B. DeMille. The magnificently produced four-disc version of "Ben-Hur" ... ably advances that claim to respectability. It's an exhaustive, almost scholarly textural compendium, with a gorgeous, crisply detailed new two-disc transfer of the 1959 film.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Charlton Heston Judah Ben Hur
Stephen Boyd Messala
Jack Hawkins Quintus Arrius
Haya Harareet Esther
Hugh Griffith Sheik Ilderim
Sam Jaffe Simonides
Martha Scott Miriam
Cathy O'Donnell Tirzah
Finlay Currie Balthasar
Frank Thring Pontius Pilate
Terence Longdon Drusus
Andre Morell Sextus
Marina Berti Flavia
George Relph Tiberius
Adi Berber Malluch
Stella Vitelleschi Amrah
Jose Greci Mary
Laurence Payne Joseph
John Horsley Spintho
Richard Coleman Metellus
Duncan Lamont Marius
Ralph Truman Aide to Tiberius
Richard Hale Gaspar
David Davies Quaestor
Dervis Ward Jailer
Mino Doro Gratus
Robert Brown Chief of Rowers
Maxwell Shaw Rower No. 43
Emilio Carrer Rower No. 28
Tutte Lemkow Leper
Howard Lang Hortator
John Le Mesurier Doctor
Stevenson Lang Blind Man
Hector Ross Officer
Al Silvani Man in Nazareth
Enzo Fiermonte Galley Officer
Tiberio Mitri Roman at Bath
Pietro Tordi Pilate's Servant
Jerry Brown The Corinthian
Cliff Lyons Lublon
Joe Yrigoyen Egyptian
Joe Canutt Sportsman
Michael Dugan Seaman
John Glen Rower No. 42
Ferdinand "Ferdy" Mayne Captain of Rescue Ship
Reginald Lal Singh Melchior
Karl Tunberg Actor
Raimondo Van Riel Old Man

Technical Credits
William Wyler Director
Edward C. Carfagno Production Designer
John D. Dunning Editor
Arnold A. Gillespie Special Effects
Elizabeth Haffenden Costumes/Costume Designer
William Horning Art Director
Robert MacDonald Special Effects
Andrew Marton Asst. Director
Miklós Rózsa Score Composer
Robert Surtees Cinematographer
Karl Tunberg Screenwriter
Gore Vidal Source Author
Ralph Winters Editor
Sam Zimbalist Producer

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Ben-Hur 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
JL_Garner More than 1 year ago
There's very little to say about William Wyler's 1959 epic "Ben-Hur" that hasn't already been said many times before. Working with a truly amazing cast and crew, "Ben-Hur" was a watershed moment in cinema history, and was rightfully awarded with 11 Oscars for the effort. "Ben-Hur" was the first 'personal epic' -- a film shot with enormous, opulent sets and a cast of thousands to fill it, yet at its core, it's still a deeply personal story of broken friendship, vengeance, and ultimately redemption. With Miklos Rozsa's vibrant musical score, period accurate sets and costumes, and one of the most stunning action sequences ever put to film, "Ben-Hur" pulls out all the stops, and stands far above the other biblical and sword-and-sandal epics of the late '50s/early '60s. Movies like this are why 65mm film and anamorphic lenses were invented -- every shot is framed to make maximum use of the incredible 2.76:1 aspect ratio. This is one DVD that should definitely be in everybody's collection.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BOI WHY YOU BE STEALN MEH NAME?!????????????????????????
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to say that no 2, 3, or 4 star would fit this excellent movie. If you do not know the history of Ben of course, 2 or 3 stars will be given. 5 stars and more in my list is given. It is the most Best true and biblical story given. Go Get It.
JMCostanza More than 1 year ago
This movie has so many good qualities. Great acting, scenery, plot, and music! Charles Heston gives a great performance! It's a long one, but well worth it if you like movies with a 1st century CE theme.
Den-London More than 1 year ago
A well researched script and wonderfully filmed movie takes the viewer back to the time of Rome and Christ. Certainly the best film of it's kind and stands the test of time!
NancyNurseNL More than 1 year ago
I saw this movie as a child with my mother when it was first released. Charlton Heston is truly a warrior god. Stephen Boyd is just a hottie in this movie. The symbolism with the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is awe-inspiring and thought-provoking. I watched it on television with my son when he was young and gave it to him for Easter. I love this movie. The Chariot scenes are fabulous! One of the best Movies of all time.
KendraG More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to see this movie, because I've seen clips of the chariot race so many times. Well, the chariot race did not disappoint. Neither did the rest of the movie. Along with the intense human drama, BEN HUR also stands out with the best of the action movies! And this was made decades ago without the technology of today. Screenwriter, Karl Tunberg, wrote a movie that tugs at al of our emotions. Director, William Wyler, gives a a film with great acting, story telling production design and, of course, the great chariot race. Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins and Haya Harareet are just as impressive .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys historical, epic films, films with a religious overtone (although this film doesn't bludgeon you over the head) or are a fan of Charlton Heston in particular. This is a film that I can watch over and over.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The reason I'm writing this review today is that I just watched Ben Hur, for the hundredth time, on cable TV last night and was reminded once again that the most exciting film sequence ever made is in this movie: the chariot race between Judah Ben Hur and Messalah. No CPG in those days; it was all done live action and is thrilling. I love the movie every time I see it and recommend it to everyone to watch.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This film has great cinematography, acting, writing, and when its scarce action scenes arise, they are very engrossing. However, for such a long romp through Roman Judea politics, they don't arise enough to break the monatany. I believe that this film earned every Oscar it won and then some. My only problem is that with films like The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Pianist, even Monty Python and the Holy Grail it's very difficult to brand this with the title of epic. I suppose that you could throw it into the Citizen Kane category in that you hear alot of hype, and you understand why it's so great, but when it comes right down to it, it's not very interesting. Now one might say, " Oh you just can't appreciate it, because you were spawned into a generation that grows up on Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, so you're not accustomed to intellectual masterpieces." That may be so but my Top ten films of all time list wouldn't show it.