5 films about the Nativity

Christmas may still be a whole month away but this Friday sees the UK release of yet another festive feature, following on from A Bad Moms Christmas and Daddy’s Home.

Unlike said comedies, The Star is an animation aimed squarely at younger audiences. Through a toonish lens, the film retells the biblical story of the Nativity from the perspective of animals – voiced here by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Kristen Chenoweth and Mariah Carey.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the Nativity has received the big screen treatment but it’s a tale told surprisingly few times in cinema.

We’ve rounded up five (very eclectic) picks but which is your favourite?

1. The Nativity Story (2006)


On November 27, 2006, Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story became the first ever film to hold its premiere in the Vatican City. Starring – a then little known – Oscar Isaac, the film remains the only major adult drama to have focused entirely on the story to date.

The Nativity Story is probably best known, though, for Keisha Castle-Hughes discovering herself to be pregnant during filming. Yes, she was playing Mary; no, her daughter Felicity was not the second coming.

2. Ben-Hur (1959)


The Nativity Story may have required over an hour and half to tell its tale but William Wyler polished off the job in just three minutes for Ben-Hur. Quite something for a film not best known for brevity.

A touch more orthodox than The Star, it’s a sweet scene all the same – even if we’re not convinced that a baby was actually present at the filming…

3. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)


Another epic, and another to treat the story as an episode rather than whole, was George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told. Originally running for a bum-numbing four hours and twenty minutes, the film biographically covers the life of Jesus. Naturally, it kicks off with the Nativity.

That said, Stevens script, co-written with James Lee Barrett does seem, worrying, rather more interested in rushing through to the massacre of the innocents… At least the baby’s real this time.

4. Nativity! (2009)


Ah, this is more like it! Not a retelling of story per se, but a telling of a retelling, Debbie Isitt’s under-rated Nativity! is a gem.

Martin Freeman, Marc Wootten and Ashley Jensen may get top billing but the film’s real stars are its supremely talented children. The film sees the pupils of St Bernadette’s Catholic School put on a performance of the Nativity like no other – for one, they hold it at Coventry Cathedral.

The songs are delightful and the film charming. The two sequels might have been dire but the original has inspired a stage musical.

It’s semi-improvised too.

5. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

life of brian 5

There’s a chance we got confused here…turns out he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!

The Nativity was next door.

The Star is out in cinemas on Friday 25 November. Read our review here!



5 thoughts on “5 films about the Nativity”

  1. I watched the 2009 Nativity film for the first time last Christmas and it was so much better than I ever expected it to be. It had such a great heart and really managed to show what schools do to put them on – if they are allowed of course now I know a lot of schools don’t do them anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

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