Well, it’s Easter. You know, that springtime holiday filled with bunnies, chocolate eggs, and one of the most horrendous ways to die imaginable. We here at CGM like to do lists around holidays because that’s just good old fashioned Internet fun. This Easter we decided to do something a little different than usual. Sure we could have done a “Top Ten Scariest Bunnies In Film” article or something related to chocolate, but that seemed too easy. Nope, instead we’re going to serve up a list of the five greatest crucifixion scenes in cinematic history, just in time for Good Friday. After all, it is the only crucifixion-based holiday around. You gotta recognize.
To keep things from getting too repetitive, we decided to only give the OG JC one spot on this list. After all, Jesus’ very bad day has been done on film so many times and in so many ways that he could hog this whole list to himself and that man didn’t care for selfishness, so it doesn’t seem right. We also didn’t want to include too many symbolic crucifixions either as that could be a list unto itself. So, we stuck with the best one and left out so many others like Murphy’s death in Robocop or the ending to the amazing train chase in Spider-Man 2 that features more Jesus symbolism than a Bryan Singer Superman movie. Don’t worry though, we’ve got five crucifixion sequences coming up that are guaranteed to brighten up your day. Enjoy!
5) Carrie (1976)
Poor Carrie. She really had a rough time in high school, didn’t she? Even worse than most kids! Aside from the almost ritualistic abuse that she faced from her classmates and the painful psychic powers that she developed, Carrie had a hellish homelife. Her mommy was a psychotic bible thumper who made life almost impossible for little Carrie. Thankfully, during her nightlong psychic rampage, Carrie got the best and most symbolic revenge possible. When her mother got violent, Carrie used her psychic powers to stab her mother to death in a very specific crucifixion pose. Shot with director Brian DePalma’s typical mastery of cinematic style, the sequence is equally beautiful, horrifying, and perversely satisfying. There aren’t many movies in which a crucifixion feels like a win, but then again there aren’t many movies like Carrie.
4) Spartacus (1960)
Throughout the 50s and early 60s, Hollywood cranked out a series of Biblical epics that were as massively expensive and as ubiquitous as comic book movies are today. Thankfully, when the great Stanley Kubrick got a crack at the genre (after another director was fired for feuding with Kirk Douglas), he was wise enough to make a sword and sandal epic that was completely secular and also doubled as a harsh metaphor for the Hollywood blacklist. Not many filmmakers would dare to turn a populist epic into a harsh political commentary, but there aren’t many filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick are there? As a matter of fact, there’s only the one. Kubrick was smart enough to stick with the crucifixion finale inherent in the genre though. That’s just a great way to end a movie. He still found a way to conclude with a noble crucifixion sacrifice, just without all the Jesus stuff. It’s a great movie moment, even if Douglas’ acting isn’t exactly fantastic.
3) Conan The Barbarian (1982)
Only one man is so damn badass that he could survive a crucifixion and shake it off like it was no big deal. That man is Arnold Schwarzenegger and that scene was one of the first gifts that he gave to the world during his reign of action movie dominance with Conan The Barbarian. Arnie is so unfazed by being crucified that he even bites back the buzzards who dare to attempt to eat him and he comes out the other side of the ordeal strong enough to do a little more sword slaughtering before the end of the movie. It’s a truly great movie moment that any lover of 80s sleaze needs to sample at least once. Just keep reminding yourself one thing while you watch it: this man went on to become the governor or California. For realz.
2) Monty Python’s Life Of Brian (1979)
Only one group of comedians would be daring enough to turn crucifixion into a pure laugh factory: the nutty Brits behind Monty Python. Their controversy-courting 1979 masterpiece Life Of Brian turned the concept of religion and the Biblical epic genre into vehicle for their surreal brand of comedy. It remains one of the funniest and most brilliant comedies ever produced to this day. There was only one way for a comedy like that to end and Monty Python didn’t pull their punch. They went for full on crucifixion comedy and delivered some of the finest work of their careers. Following a collection of gags faking out audiences into thinking that their hero wouldn’t actually get crucified, Brian does indeed die like the son of God. But don’t worry! The sequence isn’t really a downer. It ends with a delightful musical number. One of the happiest songs ever written: ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.” See? Crucifixion doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, regardless of what you may have heard.
1) The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
Finally, only Jesus could possibly top this list. After all the main reason that the world still knows what a crucifixion is can be directly attributed to that martyr’s noble sacrifice. There are many options from the acid trip musical rendition in Jesus Christ Superstar to the endless graphic gore of Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ. However, we can only pick one and only one Christ crucifixion scene was directed by the great Martin Scorsese. As a result, it’s the best one there is. As viscerally disturbing as Gibson’s take, as moving as any of the 50s epics, and boasting a deeply unexpected (and controversial) twist ending, Scorsese’s crucifixion sequence is easily the greatest ever filmed. If you only watch one rendition of the life of Jesus this Easter, make sure that it’s The Last Temptation Of Christ. We also recommend that if you watch it with any Christians, make sure that they are open-minded. No spoilers, but this movie ain’t exactly yo’ Daddy’s Jesus movie.