WHAT IT IS A tepidly received TV movie in which the story of Jesus is seen through the eyes of his mom (Pernilla August), who is portrayed as feisty and outspoken instead of a quiet bystander. FINAL JUDGMENT Bale had the right first name for playing Christ, but it was the role of Bruce Wayne that finally made him a star — and a partnership with David O. Russell that finally welcomed him among the Oscar-anointed.
Credit: The Passion of The Christ: Philippe Antonello
JIM CAVIEZEL The Passion of the Christ (2004)
WHAT IT IS Mel Gibson's ancient-language take on Jesus's final 12 hours, which withstood controversy over its extreme gore and alleged anti-Semitic content to become one of the top-grossing movies of all time. FINAL JUDGMENT Until he booked CBS series Person of Interest, Caviezel's post-Passion career was less than heavenly. Maybe he should have made another movie in Aramaic.
WHAT IT IS Controversial drama directed by Martin Scorsese, in which Jesus hallucinates — during the crucifixion — about what his life might have been had he married Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey). FINAL JUDGMENT An acting range that goes from soldier to Satan-tormented Christ to Green Goblin? Only a higher power could stop this guy's talent.
WHAT IT IS In Hal Hartley's hipster dramedy, it's Dec. 31, 1999, and a modern-day Jesus and his loyal secretary Magdalena (P.J. Harvey) debate whether to open the Seven Seals, which are stored inside his PowerBook computer, an act that would bring on the Apocalypse. FINAL JUDGMENT Though Donovan's never reached A-list status, his earthly toil seems likely to be rewarded handsomely in Hollywood heaven.
WHAT IT IS A critically reviled comedy starring SNL alum Molly Shannon as geeky Catholic schoolgirl Mary Katherine, in which Ferrell plays dual roles: Sky Corrigan, her unattainable love interest, and a laid-back, advice-offering son of God (pictured). FINAL JUDGMENT A 2005 slump seemed to be a sign of God's delayed wrath over Ferrell's jokey Jesus, but a varied career in film and TV has kept the funnyman walking in the light.
WHAT IT IS Set in 1970s New York, it's a funky, multi-culti song-and-dance interpretation of Jesus' life according to the Gospel of St. Matthew. A Broadway hit (and high school performance staple), the movie's rock-opera theatrics may seem dated to some today. FINAL JUDGMENT Not quite 40 years in the desert, but this veteran character actor has always managed to find his way out of a dry spell and back into the spotlight.
WHAT IT IS Orson Welles' narration — rumored to be written by none other than Ray Bradbury — helps director Nicholas Ray's (Rebel Without a Cause) telling of Jesus' short life rise above the competition as an engaging, thoughtful biopic. FINAL JUDGMENT His untimely death cut short his career.
WHAT IT IS Written and directed by Norman Jewison (Agnes of God), this multiethnic musical version of the story of Christ goes rock and roll thanks to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita), who created the original 1971 Broadway hit. FINAL JUDGMENT Years spent touring with various stage productions of Jesus Christ Superstar showed Neeley always kept the faith.
WHAT IT IS Franco Zeffirelli's respectful, thorough, and celebrity-packed — featuring Anne Bancroft, Laurence Olivier, James Earl Jones, Anthony Quinn, and Rob Steiger — six-hour account of the life and death of Jesus is considered one of the most moving screen portrayals. FINAL JUDGMENT He's a TV star in his native England, but Hollywood seems to have forsaken him.
WHAT IT IS A straightforward, minute-by-minute account of the moments leading up to Christ's death. Despite intriguing political overtones (Pilate's character reminded some critics of Richard Nixon), critical response was only so-so. FINAL JUDGMENT Unfortunately, turning water into wine might be easier for him than matching the successful career of ex-wife (and Oscar winner) Susan Sarandon.
WHAT IT IS This three-hour CBS miniseries earned mixed reviews for its portrayal of Jesus as a regular guy who enjoys his job as a carpenter, isn't above singing and dancing at a wedding, and might have wanted to settle down with the right girl (Debra Messing's Mary Magdalene) if not for his higher calling. FINAL JUDGMENT The fact that he was able to keep working after the wretched The '60s is the real miracle here.
Credit: The Greatest Story Ever Told: Kobal Collection
MAX VON SYDOW The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
WHAT IT IS Don't let the name fool you. It's a plodding, cameo-packed mess. Despite five Oscar nominations (for art direction, cinematograpy, costume design, effects, and score), it is widely considered director George Stevens' (Giant) most expensive misstep. Von Sydow has called it ''a beautiful, very moving failure.'' FINAL JUDGMENT His career is still burning bright, but whom should he thank? After all, he also played Satan in 1993's Needful Things.