The Last Temptation of Christ

1988 Drama

Willem Dafoe plays Jesus Christ in this extraordinarily controversial adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis's novel. The film depicts a sometimes reluctant, self-doubting Jesus, gradually coming to accept His divinity and the inexorability of His ultimate fate. The much-maligned sex scene with Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey) occurs as an hallucination experienced by Jesus as he suffers on the cross. This particular sequence was what infuriated the film's most rabid critics, but in fact it is just one of many iconoclastic musings to be found in the film and its source novel. Equally volatile are the intimations that, as a carpenter, Jesus indifferently shaped the crucifixes for other condemned prisoners long before his own fate was sealed, and that Judas (Harvey Keitel) was literally manipulated into betrayal by a Christ whose preoccuption with his own destiny compelled him to "use" others. None of these departures from the normal interpretation of the scriptures are offered as any more than theory; as such, it was accepted as food for thought by the more open-minded clerics and Biblical scholars who recommended the film. more..

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Barbara Hershey, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie


  • Here is a film that engaged me on the subject of Christ's dual nature, that caused me to think about the mystery of a being who could be both God and man. I cannot think of another film on a religious subject that has challenged me more fully. The film has offended those whose ideas about God and man it does not reflect. But then, so did Jesus.

    Roger Ebert - The Chicago Sun-Times

    27 April 2013

  • The crucifixion is the strongest such scene of all time.

    Mike Clark - USA Today

    27 April 2013

  • Powerful, haunting, and at times very moving, The Last Temptation of Christ presents its account of the events and conflicts of Christ's life with a depth of dramatized feeling and motivation that renders them freshly compelling.

    - TV Guide

    27 April 2013

  • It would seem impossible that anyone looking into the heart and the clear intent of the film would fail to see Scorsese's passion for his subject. And if our world is becoming so dangerously constricted that we're forbidden even to look, that is something we should all worry about.

    Sheila Benson - Los Angeles Times

    27 April 2013

  • Dafoe manages to draw us into the mystery, anguish and joy of the holy life. This is anything but another one of those boring biblical costume epics. There is genuine challenge and hope in this movie.

    Gene Siskel - The Chicago Tribune

    27 April 2013


  • Best Director

    Academy Awards (1989)

  • Best Original Score - Motion Picture

    Golden Globes (1989)

  • Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television

    Grammy Awards (1990)

  • Best Director

    Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (1988)

  • Most Divine Miracle in a Movie (Milagro más Divino en una Película)

    MTV Movie Awards, Mexico (2004)