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The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

R  |   |  Drama  |  22 September 1988 (Netherlands)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 37,769 users   Metascore: 80/100
Reviews: 302 user | 111 critic | 18 from Metacritic.com

The life of Jesus Christ, his journey through life as he faces the struggles all humans do, and his final temptation on the cross.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Greco ...
Centurian (as Steven Shill)
Michael Been ...
Nathaniel, Apostle


The carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth, tormented by the temptations of demons, the guilt of making crosses for the Romans, pity for men and the world, and the constant call of God, sets out to find what God wills for Him. But as His mission nears fulfillment, He must face the greatest temptation; the normal life of a good man. Based, not on the Gospels, but on Nikos Kazantzakis' novel of the same name. Written by Nick Lopez <ntlopez@fas.harvard.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

22 September 1988 (Netherlands)  »

Also Known As:

Passion  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$7,000,000 (estimated)


$8,373,585 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Martin Scorsese's friend and New Yorker's magazine critic Jay Cocks worked uncredited to revise the screenplay by Paul Schrader. Cocks' contribution could not be credited due to contractual obligations as well as WGA regulations, which Schrader himself admits that it was unfair. See more »


In the market when Saul pulls Judas aside and asks "what are you doing with this magician?", the shadow of the boom mic is visible on the stone above Saul's head. See more »


Rabbi: That is blasphemy.
Jesus: Didn't they tell you? I am the saint of blasphemy. Don't make any mistakes, I didn't come here to bring peace, I came to bring a sword!
Rabbi: Talking like that will get you killed.
Jesus: Me, killed? Listen to me. This temple will be torn down in three days, torn down to the ground!
See more »

Crazy Credits

"This film is not based upon the Gospels but on this fictional exploration of the eternal spiritual conflict." See more »


Referenced in Cybill: The Last Temptation of Cybill (1995) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Offensive - no. Fantastic film-making - yes!
14 April 2005 | by (Todmorden, England) – See all my reviews

Has there ever been a more misunderstood film than Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation Of Christ? Released amid great controversy and accused of being an offensive and unholy film, the truth of the matter is that it is a deeply reverent work which has the courage to ask challenging questions about the pressures and doubts Jesus must have experienced as the appointed Messiah. It also shows the violence of the times in graphic detail. If viewers consider it blasphemous to explore on film the immense burden of duty that Jesus bore through his life, then they are narrow-minded and ignorant. If people feel that to show the brutality and harshness of life in Roman times is tasteless and inappropriate, then they are guilty of glorifying difficult but factual truths. There is NOTHING offensive about this film. There is, however, much that is challenging.

Jesus (Willem Dafoe), an honest carpenter, saves Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey) from a stoning. Already dimly aware that he is destined to lead an extraordinary life, he soon finds himself being drawn into the role of a religious figurehead. But Jesus finds it hard to accept that he is a Messiah, and as his reputation and following grows he constantly questions if he is a strong enough man to handle the burden of being God's son. After isolating himself in the desert, where he experiences several hallucinations in which he is confronted by visual manifestations of good and evil, Jesus finally concludes that he IS the true son of God and whole-heartedly sets about imparting his love and wisdom to all who'll listen. Later betrayed to the disgruntled Romans by his friend Judas Iscariot (Harvey Keitel), Jesus is crucified. While on the cross, he imagines what his life would have turned out like if he had shied away from his duty as the Messiah and lived life like a mere mortal.

It is this final section of the film that has provoked the most vociferous outrage. The sequence shows Jesus as he slowly dies on the cross, dreaming of an alternative life in which he sins and copulates and hates like all normal people. Many people have criticised the film on the grounds that these scenes are blasphemous. Such claims are nonsense - the film is not saying that Jesus was a sinner, nor that he gave in to temptation of the flesh, nor still that he was a man filled with hate. The film is merely saying that, in such great pain and so close to death while still just a young man, he might - just maybe - have wondered if it was all worth it. At the end of the film, we see Jesus accept his role knowing that his death is the ultimate act of unselfish love, so the film actually is totally in agreement with what all Christians believe. If the film had come to the conclusion that Jesus's whole life was a waste, his death too, then maybe the detractors would've had cause to complain. But how can they possibly be offended by the film as it stands? For goodness sake, it's a film about absolute faith!!! In truth, The Last Temptation Of Christ is an excellent movie. Compellingly acted, beautifully shot on Moroccan locations, and full of telling ideas, it is a work of real depth and power. The accents are sometimes distracting and some of the dialogue occasionally betrays ill-suited modernisms, but apart from these minor drawbacks it is one of the most important and thought-provoking films ever made.

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