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10 History Movies That Mostly Get It Right


7
"The Passion of the Christ"
Despite -- or sometimes because of -- the extreme violence in the film, Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" attracted huge lines at theaters. Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Despite -- or sometimes because of -- the extreme violence in the film, Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" attracted huge lines at theaters. Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Mel Gibson's 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ" triggered plenty of controversy, some of which centered on issues of historical accuracy and realism. For those who accept the historicity of the gospels, however, the film is stunningly accurate.

In terms of violence, some criticized the movie as too realistic. Indeed, the violence is intentionally gruesome: Gibson set out to facilitate a religious experience for the viewer. This is because Christians believe they're called to meditate on the suffering of Jesus, whom they believe died for our sins.

"The Passion of the Christ" also stands apart from typical historical movies in its use of original language. Rather than stooping to the common Hollywood practice of using English even when it's grossly anachronistic, Gibson opted for authenticity and had his actors speak Aramaic and Latin. However, historians object to Gibson's use of Latin instead of Greek for much of the film, such as in dialogue with Jewish high priests [source: Berlin and Magness].

Because the gospels lack much detail about the crucifixion, Gibson drew from the visions of a mystic nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich. However, historians take issue with many of Gibson's specific choices, which they say wouldn't be typical of Roman crucifixion, such as nailing into Jesus's palms rather than his wrists. Some argue that the brutal scourging depicted in the film would have killed Jesus, or at least made him unable to carry the cross [source: Zugibe]. Others say Gibson did this intentionally to show the superhuman strength Jesus must've had to endure such a beating [source: Crossan].