"The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988)
During my inexplicable decade-long tenure as a born again Christian, I attended and graduated (twice) from fundamentalist stalwart Bob Jones University. In my first semester, during a class called “The Gospels,” we were told by the instructor that there was a movie out there called The Last Temptation of Christ, and no matter what anyone told us about this movie, and no matter what we heard about it, the movie WAS blasphemous, and we should never let anyone tell us differently, and since we had it on his word that the movie was blasphemous, we don’t need to watch it ourselves. Because why think when we can get someone else to do that for us, eh? (Never mind the fact that it was against the rules to watch movies rated PG or above while enrolled as students at BJU. And this one was rated R!)
Around that same time, I started working part-time as a temp at a bank. One day at work I overheard two women talking about The Last Temptation of Christ, so I put on my big boy pants, walked in on the conversation, and waxed eloquent about what a despicable, blasphemous movie it was (I was actually polite about it, but still, I was being a dick). Specifically, I cited the fact (passed on to me by the instructor at BJU) that the movie depicts Jesus as having sex with and marrying Mary Magdalene.
One of the two women, more than a little annoyed, asked me if I had ever SEEN the movie for myself. I sheepishly replied that no, I had not seen it for myself, but that I didn’t have to because a very educated and trustworthy man gave me the lowdown on it. She told me that, for one thing, I should watch the fucking thing for myself before I cast judgment on it and, for another thing, the whole thing with Jesus having sex with Mary M and getting married and having kids (sidenote: would it really have been so fucking bad if Jesus HAD been married and had kids?) was actually a dream/fantasy/temptation sequence in the movie designed by Satan to tempt Christ to come down from the cross, and in the end Jesus rejects that alternate life for himself and goes back to the cross and dies as he was supposed to. In other words, he overcomes the titular “last temptation.” I got fucking pwned.
So now, 13 years later, watching this movie as a non-Christian, I don’t give a fuck whether it’s blasphemous to Christians or not, and because of that I can enjoy it for what it is: a unique, beautifully shot work of art, with some genuinely heart-wrenching lines delivered with real conviction and pain by Willem Dafoe’s Jesus (yeah, he’s an odd looking cat, but he’s excellent in this film).
“I’m a liar. A hypocrite. I’m afraid of everything. I don’t tell the truth. I don’t have the courage. When I see a woman, I blush and look away. I want her, but I don’t take her, for God, and that makes me proud. Then my pride ruins Magdalene. I don’t steal, I don’t fight…I don’t kill. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m afraid. I want to rebel against you, against everything…against God, but…I’m afraid. You want to know who my mother and father are? You want to know who my God is? Fear. You look inside me and that’s all you’ll find.”