In my childhood home, there was never much time for watching television in the days leading up to Easter – we dyed eggs, brought our baskets down from the attic, and went with our grandma to the speciality markets.

We helped her prepare the traditional Slovak Easter meal: the little butter lamb needed to molded, and the kuchen, beet horseradish, deviled eggs and bread with a braid across the top were made in advance. We cut the pussy willows in our yard to bring to church, along with a basket filled with some of our Easter foods, to be blessed.

On Easter morning there was the excitement of finding our carefully hidden baskets, and the rush to get dressed for church wearing our fresh gardenia corsages, trying not to crush them under the heavy coats we wore because it was cold and rainy again that Easter.

There was a long lunch with family, which was followed by eating the chocolate bunnies from our baskets, maybe an egg hunt, playing with our friends and falling asleep early, worn out from the day.

white-rabbit-dye-kit

At this time of year I hope to dye eggs, make chocolate bunnies from my vintage molds and put together baskets, but there is some room around the Easter holiday to watch a period drama. Being new to watching movies at Easter, I found myself wondering, what are the best period dramas for the spirit of the week?

The Song of Bernadette, Courtesy 20th C Fox

Willow and Thatch did some research to find out what period films are Easter themed.

bunny-stampThe period movies and costume dramas that are marked with a BUNNY are set around Easter or are connected to Easter in a general way, though they may also have a spiritual component.

christian-fishThe period films and historical dramas that are marked with the Icthus FISH are based on the bible, Christ, and / or the resurrection, mostly set in the *Classical Period. Some are Hollywood epics, some are quite old movies, and others are just in their theatrical releases now.

Where possible, there are links to where the DVD can be purchased, or where the movie can be streamed online. Happy Easter!

 

christian-fishA.D. – The Bible Continues (2015): This epic story picks up exploring a tiny band of followers, every day is a fight for survival, and their mission to spread the Word to the world seems impossible. The growing church brings growing challenges for Peter, John and Mary Magdalene, and they are pushed to the limit, facing trials and imprisonments, persecutions and punishments, whilst trying to understand the God-given power granted to them. Jerusalem hurtles towards full-blown war, and Jesus’ followers struggle amidst the chaos. But when Peter is asked for salvation through Jesus Christ, Peter finally understands just how far they have come.

Starring Adam Levy, Richard Coyle, Vincent Regan. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated G

Watch it now.


christian-fishApostle Peter and the Last Supper (2012): Two jailers at the ancient Marmertine Prison take custody of a famous criminal. He is Simon Peter of Galilee-apostle, disciple, and personal friend of Jesus, also called The Christ. Condemned to death, the elderly Peter (Robert Loggia) recounts his life as a simple fisherman who became one of the boldest figures in all of Christianity. As Peter prepares to depart this earthly life, he will make an unforgettable impression on his jailers through the saving power of the Gospel.

Starring Bruce Marchiano, Robert Loggia, Bill Oberst Jr., Leon Melas, Laurence Fuller. Set in the Classical Period in Rome, AD 67.

Not rated.

Own it now.


bunny-stamp-smA Walton Easter (1997):  There is a circle-of-life satisfaction to the television movie special, A Walton Easter, in which John and Olivia celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, and John-Boy contemplates returning to Walton’s Mountain for good. 

This is the sixth Waltons reunion movie, featuring John-Boy as the TV news anchorperson in New York as he is in the throes of writing a new book. He and a very pregnant Janet are making plans to return to Walton’s Mountain for the celebration of John and Olivia’s 40th wedding anniversary. Accompanying them to see the place John-Boy lived as a child is Aurora, a Time Magazine photographer, who is doing a story on John-Boy. Meanwhile, Elizabeth arrives back from her travels and announces to Drew, who is still working at the mill with Ben, that she is back to stay. She is very upset to find that Drew did not wait for her, and that he has a new girlfriend. Also, problems arise for John-Boy and Janet because the longer John-Boy stays on the mountain, the more he becomes convinced that he would like to settle down there, raise his family, and continue with his writing whereas Janet wants to stay in New York.

Starring Michael Learned (Olivia), Ralph Waite (John) John-Boy (Richard Thomas), Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton), Jon Walmsley (Jason), Judy Norton (Mary Ellen), Mary McDonough (Erin), Eric Scott (Ben), David harper (Jim-Bob) and Kami Cotler (Elizabeth). Set in 1969 in the post-war era.

Not rated.

Own it now. 


christian-fishBarabbas (1961): Barabbas, the criminal that Pontius Pilate induced the populace to vote to set free, so that Christ could be crucified, is haunted by the image of Jesus for the rest of his life.

Starring Anthony Quinn in the title role, Barabbas was released in 1961 in the midst of a wave of widescreen epics based on biblical characters. The screenplay, by playwright Christopher Fry (who also contributed to Ben-Hur), is an unusually intelligent one. Further assets are the imaginative, sparingly orchestrated score by Mario Nascimbene and a handsome production design by art director Mario Chiari that is so rewarding to the eye in Aldo Tonti’s often dazzling cinematography. Many scenes, such as Christ’s crucifixion, are shot and staged like tableaux in a style reminiscent of the great masters of art. And director Richard Fleischer surpasses anything Ridley Scott achieved years later in Gladiator: he fills the huge arena–a vast Roman amphitheatre–with a gladiatorial school of hand-to-hand combat, a parade of elephants, and a den of lions, and then caps his production with a riveting and thrillingly mounted duel between Jack Palance, careering round the circumference of the arena in his chariot, and Barabbas dodging him on foot. –Adrian Edwards

Starring Ernest Borgnine, Arthur Kennedy, Jack Palance, Silvana Mangano, Anthony QuinnSet in the Classical Period.

Not rated.

Watch it now.


christian-fishBarabbas (2014): Based on the novel by Par Lagerkvist, winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature, Barabbas is a four-part mini-series that explores the story of a man whose life was spared because of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. To be shot on location in Tunisia, this sweeping epic is an ultimate story of redemption that will pick up where the Bible left off.

Billy Zane stars as Barabbas–the man whose life was spared because of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Based on the Nobel Prize in Literature winning novel by Par Lagerkvist, Barabbas is a story rooted in the Bible which will come to life on REELZ as a four-hour miniseries and tells the ultimate story of redemption. Directed by Emmy Award winner Roger Young.

There’s something for everyone in this piece. For atheists, for believers, for people who simply like a great gladiator epic. – Billy Zane

Starring Billy Zane, Hristo Shopov, Paolo Seganti, Christina Capotondi, Filippo Nigro, Set in the Classical Period.

Watch it now.


christian-fishBen Hur (1959): Charlton Heston plays a Palestinian Jew who is battling the Roman empire at the time of Christ. His actions send him and his family into slavery, but an inspirational encounter with Jesus changes everything. Heston finally meets his rival in a justly famous chariot race and rescues his suffering family.

The American epic historical drama film was the fastest-grossing as well as the highest grossing film of 1959, in the process becoming the second-highest grossing film in history at the time after Gone with the Wind. It won a record 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Wyler), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Heston), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Griffith), and Best Cinematography, Color (Surtees), an accomplishment that was not equaled until Titanic in 1997 and then again by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. Ben-Hur also won three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for Stephen Boyd. Today, Ben-Hur is widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, and in 1998 the American Film Institute ranked it the 72nd best American film and the 2nd best American epic film in the AFI’s 10 Top 10. In 2004, the National Film Preservation Board selected Ben-Hur for preservation by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” motion picture.

Based on the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace, published in 1880. Running in parallel with Judah’s narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, who comes from the same region and is a similar age. The novel reflects themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion.

Starring Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Hugh Griffith and Haya Harareet. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated G

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smChocolat (2000): A free-thinking single mother and her daughter open a chocolate shop in a morally rigid French village during Lent. She further becomes the target of the mayor’s ire by embracing a group of gypsy boat travelers who arrive in the town. Meanwhile, her chocolates have magical effects on the town’s residents. The period drama end at Easter.

Chocolat, Courtesy Bac Films

Vianne Rocher, an expert chocolatier, drifts across Europe with her daughter Anouk, following the north wind. In the beginning of the Lenten season in 1959, “fifteen years after the War,” they travel to a quiet French village that closely adheres to tradition, as led by the village mayor, the Comte de Reynaud. Just as the villagers begin observing the forty days of Lent leading up to Easter, Vianne opens a chocolate shop, much to Reynaud’s displeasure.

Starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Lena Olin, Alfred Molina, Carrie-Ann Moss, and Judi Dench with a cameo by Leslie Caron. Set in the post-war era.

Rated PG-13

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smDiary of a Country Priest (1951): A young priest arrives in the French country village of Ambricourt to attend to his first parish, but the apathetic and hostile rural congregation rejects him immediately. Through his diary entries, the suffering young man relays a crisis of faith that threatens to drive him away from the village and from God. The fourth film by Robert Bresson (Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne) finds the director beginning to implement his stylistic philosophy as a filmmaker, stripping away all inessential elements from his compositions, the dialogue and the music, and exacting a purity of image and sound. Not strictly Easter-themed, but a great film and suitable for watching at Easter.

Diary of a Country Priest is the first masterpiece by the great Robert Bresson, a towering and slow-working figure in French cinema. Starkly adapted from a successful novel by Georges Bernanos, the film locks in to the mind of a sickly, ineffective young priest trapped in an unfriendly rural area. Bresson charts the priest’s collapse with a series of brief scenes, a minimalist style that makes the slightest touch of a hand or far-off sound of a dog barking seem magnified in importance. (This is a movie that must be watched and listened to–it is not a casual experience.) Bresson’s luminous portrait of faith and worldly humiliations takes on the intensity of a saint’s notebook. In the central role is Claude Laydu, one of Bresson’s early experiments with non-actors; his sad, open face is often in close-up, lighting our way into a world of private salvation. –Robert Horton

In French with English subtitles.

Starring Claude Laydu, Nicole Ladmiral, Jean Riveyre, Adrien Borel, Rachel Bérendt. Set possibly in the 1930s like the book, or a bit later, during the 1940s.

Not rated.

Own it now. 


bunny-stamp-smEaster Parade (1948): If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em! When his long-time dance partner abandons him for the Ziegfeld Follies, Don Hewes decides to show who’s who what’s what by choosing any girl out of a chorus line and transforming her into a star. So he makes his choice and takes his chances. Of course, since Fred Astaire portrays Don and Judy Garland plays the chorine, we know we’re in for an entertainment sure thing.

Easter-ParadeCourtesy of MGM

The musical is set around the time of Easter: Broadway star Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) is buying Easter presents for his sweetheart, starting with a hat and some flowers (“Happy Easter”). He goes into a toy shop and buys a cuddly Easter rabbit, after persuading a young boy to part with it and buy a set of drums instead (“Drum Crazy”)…and later there is a date at the Easter Parade.

Starring Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Peter Lawford, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin. Set in 1912 in the Edwardian era.

Not rated.

Watch it now.


christian-fishJesus Christ Superstar (1973): This dazzling interpretation of the hit Tim Rice – Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera tells the story of Christ’s (Ted Neeley) final weeks in a bold and epic production. Shot entirely on location in Israel. Nominated for several Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress.

The rock opera is loosely based on the Gospels’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’s life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. It highlights political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus that are not in the Bible narratives.

Starring Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen, Bob Bingham. Sort of a post-war era meets the Classical era setting, and not strictly a period drama, but a classic.

Rated G

Watch it now.


christian-fishJesus of Nazareth (1977): Beginning before the Nativity and extending through the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth brings to life all the sweeping drama in the life of Jesus, as told by the Gospels. From the Nativity to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the life of Jesus (played by Robert Powell) is presented with stunning depth, gravity, and emotion. Acclaimed by critics and viewers alike, Jesus Of Nazareth remains one of the finest depictions of the story of Christ nearly forty years after its release. The life of Jesus is majestically and movingly portrayed in one of the most magnificent (“rewarding, uplifting and faith-affirming portrayal) miniseries ever created.

Starring Robert Powell, Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, Laurence Olivier, Ian McShane. Set in the Classical Period.

Not rated.

Watch it now.


christian-fishKing of Kings (1961): Portraying the birth, life and death of Jesus, this film tells one of the greatest stories in history of mankind, a life and teaching that form the basis of the Christian faith. In this reenactment of the life of Jesus Christ, when word spreads throughout Judea that the son of God is to be born in Bethlehem, King Herod demands that all infants be killed. Mary (Siobhan McKenna) steals away with her young son, Jesus, who grows up preaching, performing miracles and acquiring devotees. One of Jesus’ (Jeffrey Hunter) followers, Judas (Rip Torn), betrays him, and he is sentenced to crucifixion. But Jesus has always known of his fate and has prepared himself for death.

This is one of the most interesting screen versions of the Gospels. – Time Out

Starring Siobhan McKenna, Hurd Hatfield, Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Ryan, Viveca Lindfors. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated PG-13

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smLilies of the Field (1963)Lilies of the Field is a film about faith. This classic film tells the story of an African-American itinerant worker who encounters a group of East German nuns, who believe he has been sent to them by God to build them a new chapel.

In this film, a traveling laborer meets five nuns in the Arizona desert. The appearance of Homer Smith convinces the Mother Superior he is an answer to her prayers. He wins the hearts of the nuns and the thanks of the town, as initial reluctance turns into public acceptance. Nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and winner of the Best Actor Oscar. Ralph Nelson wonderfully directed this gem of a motion picture featuring stunning black-and-white cinematography by the great Ernest Haller (Gone with the Wind, Mildred Pierce). The title comes from Matthew 6:27-33, a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, and its parallel scripture from Luke 12:27-30.

Lilies of the Field, Courtesy Rainbow Productions

Starring Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala, Lisa Mann, Isa Crino, Stanley Adams. Not strictly a period drama, as it is set in the post-war era close to when it was made, but it is a great classic older film perfect for Easter, and Easter is in the song “Amen” in the final scene.

Not rated. 

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smLittle House on the Prairie: The Last Farewell (1984): This final adventure finds Walnut Grove being purchased by an evil miner. Rather than being thrown off their land, the townsfolk exact a more spectacular method of leaving their beloved town. A two-hour movie special that ended the long running television mini-series.

During Charles and Caroline’s visit to Walnut Grove, in 1901, the residents of Walnut Grove learn that a railroad tycoon, Nathan Lassiter, actually holds deed to Hero Township. Apparently, when they claimed the land, it had not been legal since it was not deemed as homesteading land. Meanwhile, Mrs. Oleson is seriously ill and is in a hospital in Minneapolis. The residents ask Charles to contact an attorney, but despite their best efforts, the residents are unable to drive Mr. Lassiter away. When they attempt to resist with force, Mr. Lassiter comes back with a detachment of Union troops who order everyone to leave. Though Mr. Lassiter demands the residents’ instant evacuation, the soldiers allow the residents to remain until Easter Sunday.

Starring Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Dean ButlerRichard Bull. Set in 1901 in the Edwardian era.

Not rated. 

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smMiss Potter (2006): Written by Richard Maltby, Jr., “Miss Potter” explores the life of Potter (Renee Zellweger), the author of beloved and best-selling children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, her struggle to overcome a domineering and unsupportive mother and the chauvinism of Victorian England to become a published author.

miss-potterCourtesy of the UK Film Council

Not strictly Easter, but it’s a period drama filled with bunnies! (The costume drama is really aimed more at adults than kids and deals with some mature themes, including the death of a loved one.)

Starring Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Barbara Flynn, Bill Paterson. Set in the Victorian era.

Rated PG

Watch it now.


christian-fishRisen (2016): In 33 AD, a Roman Tribune in Judea is tasked to find the missing body of an executed Jew rumored to have risen from the dead.

Risen is the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection and the weeks that followed, as seen through the eyes of an unbelieving Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a high-ranking Roman Military Tribune. Clavius and his aide Lucius (Tom Felton) are instructed by Pontius Pilate to ensure Jesus’ radical followers don’t steal his body and claim resurrection. When the body goes missing within days, Clavius sets out on a mission to locate the missing body in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.

Starring Joseph Fiennes, Tom FeltonPeter Firth, Cliff Curtis. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated PG-13

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smTales from the Madhouse (2000): Inside a run-down Victorian sanatorium, eight peculiar individuals share their confidential stories of encounters with Jesus of Nazareth, an incident that’s had a lasting effect on them. It soon appears that each of these odd characters bears a contemporary resemblance to characters found in the Gospels, including Barabbas, Judas, a female servant, the widow of Nain and more.

Imaginatively based on half-forgotten characters from the Easter-Story, these eight, power-packed, mini-films has received a rapturous response from both the critics and the public alike. – A 1A Productions/BBC TV co-production.

Starring Joss Ackland, Tony Robinson, Peter France and Jonathan Pryce. Set in the Victorian era.

Rated G

Watch it now.


christian-fishThe Bible (2013): A television mini-series docudrama telling the story of God’s creation of the Earth and the landmark events leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The Bible is an epic 10-part miniseries retelling stories from the Scriptures for a whole new generation. Breathtaking in scope and scale, The Bible features powerful performances, exotic locales and dazzling visual effects that breathe spectacular life into the dramatic tales of faith and courage from Genesis through Revelation. This historic television event is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.

Each of the 10 episodes is powerfully rendered–the subject matter is by nature moving, and the costuming, special effects, settings, and filming choices are fitting and realistic. The performances of the entire cast are stirring, but special recognition is deserved by Diogo Morgado for his performance as Jesus, Downey as Mother Mary, Darwin Shaw as Peter, Joe Wredden as Judas, and William Houston as Moses. The best thing about this miniseries is that it functions so well on three very disparate levels: it serves as an affirmation of faith and a bringing to life of a beloved story for the devout, a reminder and re-igniter of faith for those raised in faith who may have strayed from religion, and an overview of the Bible’s stories and a catalyst for faith for those who may never have been exposed to the Bible. One hesitates to characterize the series as “highlights of the Bible” because the moniker trivializes the subject (though Downey calls it just that), but indeed the film views like a “highlights of” in the best sense of the phrase: it offers an overview of most of the major, as well as some of the minor events related in the Bible and conveys a strong sense of the emotion, faith, devotion, and even fervor that has driven religious belief for thousands of years. The Bible: The Epic Miniseries is well crafted and powerfully delivered and it absolutely lives up to its professed desire to preserve the true spirit of the Bible. –Tami Horiuchi

Starring Keith David, Darwin Shaw, Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey, Andrew Scarborough. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated TV-14

Watch it now. 


bunny-stamp-smThe Chronicles of Narnia (1988) BBC: C.S. Lewis’s enchanting tale comes to life in this classic family-friendly BBC adaptation. When young Second World War evacuee Lucy Pevensie hides in an old wardrobe during a game of hide and seek, she finds herself transported to the magical land of Narnia, locked in eternal winter by the evil White Witch. Her siblings do not believe her when she tells them of this strange new world, but they are soon in Narnia themselves, fighting alongside the noble lion Aslan to defeat the witch and her mighty army. This set includes the following complete stories from the book series: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair.

Narnia-BBCCourtesy of BBC

In the allegory of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the lion Aslan represents Christ. Aslan’s death to save Edmund’s life and his subsequent resurrection are clear references to the life of Christ.

The made for television mini-series was nominated for a total of 14 awards, including a nomination for an Emmy in the category of “Outstanding Children’s Program.”

Starring Richard Dempsey, Sophie Cook, Jonathan R. Scott, Sophie Wilcox. Set in the Second World war era.

Not rated.

Own it now.


bunny-stamp-smThe Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (2005): Four siblings play a game of hide and seek and wind up entering a magical land. Once there, they discover a world inhabited by beasts, dwarfs, and giants and find themselves in a battle to defeat a witch.

In the allegory of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the lion Aslan represents Christ. Aslan’s death to save Edmund’s life and his subsequent resurrection are clear references to the life of Christ.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tells the story of the four Pevensie children, Lucy, Peter, Edmund, and Susan, and their adventures in the mystical world of Narnia. Sent to the British countryside for their own safety during the blitz of World War II, they discover an entryway into a mystical world through an old wardrobe. Narnia is inhabited by mythical, anthropomorphic creatures suffering under the hundred-year rule of the cruel White Witch (Tilda Swinton, in a standout role). The arrival of the children gives the creatures of Narnia hope for liberation, and all are dragged into the inevitable conflict between evil (the Witch) and good (Aslan the Lion, the Messiah figure, regally voiced by Liam Neeson). Narnia is, of course, a Christian allegory and the symbology is definitely there (as it should be, otherwise it wouldn’t be the story Lewis wrote), but audiences aren’t knocked over the head with it, and in the hands of another director it could easily have become pedantic. –Dan Vancini

Starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Mosley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton. Set in the Second World War era.

Rated PG

Watch it now. 


bunny-stamp-smThe Easter Promise (1975): In a small Nebraska town in the late 1940s, Addie Mills and her young friends are excited over the visit of a celebrity, a local woman who became a successful Broadway actress and has returned home for a short time following the death of her mother. Addie brings the woman home for the family Easter celebration, and the little girl’s concern and kindness help the woman see the promise of better days ahead.

This is the third installment of A House Without a Christmas Tree. With each heartwarming adventure in this Dove Family-Approved collection, Addie, James, and Grandma Mills remind us of the importance of kindness, community, and family.

Starring Jason Robards, Lisa Lucas, Mildred Natwick, Jean Simmons, Frannie Michel. Set in the 1940s.

Not rated.

Own it now.


christian-fishThe Final Inquiry (2006):  A Roman tribune is sent to Palestine to investigate the death and possible resurrection of a certain Jesus from Nazareth.

When a solar eclipse and earthquakes simultaneously occur throughout the Roman Empire, Emperor Tiberius calls upon Tito Valerio Tauro (Daniele Liotti), a prominent Roman investigator, to seek out the proposed cause… an alleged resurrection of a Jewish rabbi… a powerful mystery that could bring down an empire.

In The Final Inquiry, a crisis of faith leads the Roman emperor Tiberius to send a special envoy to Jerusalem to find out the truth: Did Jesus of Nazareth truly rise from the dead? Of course, the truth proves dangerous, as wily Pontius Pilate (Hristo Shopov, who played the same role in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ) wants to keep anything to do with Jesus under wraps. The envoy doubts that the followers of Jesus are anything but frauds until he falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Tabitha (Monica Cruz, Penelope’s just as lovely little sister) who opens his eyes to another world. The Final Inquiry spruces up a classic story of finding faith by mixing in moments straight out of Mission: Impossible and CSI, but such elements will be inoffensive to Christians and entertaining to secular viewers. More problematic is the dubbing (a bit hard to understand at times and woefully hammy at others) and the often clumsy fight scenes. The producers try to class up the joint by casting F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) as Tabitha’s father and Max von Sydow (The Seventh SealHannah and Her Sisters), but it’s actually Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV) as the envoy’s German slave who makes the strongest impression–his mammoth frame and melancholy eyes suit the Biblical milieu perfectly. —Bret Fetzer

Starring Daniele Liotti, Dolph Lundgren, Mónica Cruz, Hristo Shopov, Christo Jivkov. Set in the Classical Period, in 35 A.D.

Rated PG-13

Watch it now.


christian-fishThe Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964): Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Biblical drama follows the life of Jesus Christ (Enrique Irazoqui) as depicted in the Gospel of Matthew from the New Testament. Much of the dialogue in the Italian film hews closely to the text, which focuses on the teachings of Jesus, including his parables, and on their revolutionary nature. As Jesus travels along the coast of the Sea of Galilee, he gradually gathers more followers, leading him into direct conflict with the authorities.

Pasolini’s is one of the most effective films on a religious theme I have ever seen, perhaps because it was made by a nonbeliever who did not preach, glorify, underline, sentimentalize or romanticize his famous story, but tried his best to simply record it. – Roger Ebert

In Italian with English subtitles.

Starring Enrique Irazoqui, Susanna Pasolini, Mario Socrate. Set in the Classical Period.

Not rated.

Watch it now.


christian-fishThe Gospel of John (2014): The life and toils of Jesus Christ, depicted as written in the gospel of John. Narrated in English, following the New International Version of the scripture, while the actors speak in Aramaic.

Jesus-FieldCourtesy of Netflix

The Gospel of John is the first-ever filmed version of the biblical text as it was actually written. Using the original Jesus narrative as its script word for word this profound and stunning film sheds new light on one of history’s most sacred texts. Beautifully shot, wonderfully performed, and informed by the latest theological, historical, and archaeological research, this film is something to be enjoyed and treasured.

Starring David Harewood, Selva Rasalingam, Mourad Zaoui, El Mahmoudi M’Barek, Abdelilah Wahbi. Set in the Classical Period.

Not rated.

Watch it now.


christian-fishThe Greatest Story Ever Told (1965): The life of Jesus unfolds according to the Bible, from birth to the Resurrection, on an epic scale.

From his birth in Bethlehem to his death and eventual resurrection, the life of Jesus Christ (Max von Sydow) is given the all-star treatment in this epic retelling. Major aspects of Christ’s life are touched upon, including the execution of all the newborn males in Egypt by King Herod (Claude Rains) ; Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist (Charlton Heston); and the betrayal by Judas after the Last Supper that eventually leads to Christ’s crucifixion and miraculous return.

If not the greatest, it’s still a remarkable and heartfelt cinematic telling of the greatest story ever told. – Decent Films

Starring Max von Sydow, Dorothy McGuire, Charlton Heston, Michael Anderson Jr., Carroll Baker. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated G

Watch it now.


christian-fishThe King of Kings (1927): Jesus Christ faces religious and political oppression during his ministry and in the days before his death and resurrection. With this silent-era spectacle, Cecil B. DeMille cemented his reputation as the master of the biblical epic. DeMille tells the story of Christ’s life and Passion with great attention to historical accuracy, along the way paying homage to the religious illustrations of Da Vinci and Doré, and, in a modern flourish, restaging Christ’s resurrection in luminous Technicolor.

The King of Kings is the Greatest Story Ever Told as only Cecil B. DeMille could tell it. In 1927, working with one of the biggest budgets in Hollywood history, DeMille spun the life and Passion of Christ into a silent-era blockbuster. Featuring text drawn directly from the Bible, a cast of thousands, and the great showman’s singular cinematic bag of tricks, The King of Kings is at once spectacular and deeply reverent—part Gospel, part Technicolor epic.

Starring H.B. Warner, Dorothy Cumming, Ernest Torrence, Joseph Schildkraut, James Neill. Set in the Classical Period.

Not rated.

Own it now.


christian-fishThe Last Temptation of Christ (1988): The life of Jesus Christ, his journey through life as he faces the struggles all humans do, and his final temptation on the cross, directed by Martin Scorsese.

Powerful, passionate and thought-provoking, The Last Temptation of Christ is the extraordinary film that follows Jesus Christ’s journey as He accepts His divinity and ultimate fate. Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese directs an all-star cast of Willem Dafoe, Barbara Hershey and Harvey Keitel through this visually breathtaking re-imagining of faith and sacrifice, guilt and redemption, sin and atonement. Based on the acclaimed novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, it is a masterpiece of cinematic achievement that has endured as one of the must-see films of all time.

Starring Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, David Bowie, Set in the Classical Period.

Rated R

Watch it now.


christian-fishThe Passion (2008) BBC: This historical period drama mini-series from the BBC follows Christ’s last days and crucifixion.

It’s the start of Passover week. In the next few days thousands of pilgrims will pour into Jerusalem to celebrate the most important festival in their religious calendar. For their Roman masters, led by Pontius Pilate, it is the most difficult time of the year. For the High Priest Caiaphas and his Temple priests the workload will be heavy and the pressure to maintain civil order will be intense. Then news is brought that Jesus the Galilean is approaching the city on a donkey’s colt, and will be entering Jerusalem through the East Gate – thus fulfilling two of the most powerful religious prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. The one who many believe will lead them to military victory or spiritual salvation. On the streets a crowd is beginning to gather. And the week has only just begun…

Starring Joseph Mawle (Jesus), James Nesbitt (Pontius Pilate), Paul Nicholls (Judas),Ben Daniels (Caiaphas), Penelope Wilton (Mary), Denis Lawson (Annas) and David Oyelowo (Joseph of Arimathea). Set in the Classical Period.

Not rated.

Own it now.


christian-fishThe Passion of the Christ (2004): The film focuses on the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life and begins in the Garden of Olives where Jesus has gone to pray after the Last Supper. Betrayed by Judas, He is then arrested and taken within the walss of Jerusalem where the leaders confront Jesus and his trial results in condemnation to dedeath.

If ever there was a film with the correct title, that film is Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Although the word passion has become mixed up with romance, its Latin origins refer to suffering and pain; later Christian theology broadened that to include Christ’s love for mankind, which made him willing to suffer and die for us. The movie is 126 minutes long, and I would guess that at least 100 of those minutes, maybe more, are concerned specifically and graphically with the details of the torture and death of Jesus. This is the most violent film I have ever seen. This is not a criticism but an observation; the film is unsuitable for younger viewers, but works powerfully for those who can endure it. – Roger Ebert

Starring Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Maia Morgenstern, Christo Jivkov, Francesco De Vito. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated R

Watch it now.


christian-fishThe Robe (1953): A Roman tribune, his Christian lover and a Greek slave are linked by the red robe worn by Christ.

Historically important as the first CinemaScope feature film, 20th Century-Fox’s The Robe is fine dramatic entertainment in its own right. Based on the best-selling novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, the film stars Richard Burton as the wastrelly Roman tribune who is assigned by a weary Pontius Pilate (Richard Boone, who spends the whole of his single scene washing his hands) to supervise the crucifixion of Christ. After the Seven Last Words, the jaded Burton wins Christ’s robe in a dice game. Gradually, the mystical influence of the holy garment transforms Burton from a roistering cynic into a True Believer–at the cost of his own life, which he willingly gives up in the service of his Lord. Also starring in The Robe are Jean Simmons as Burton’s pious childhood sweetheart, Victor Mature as his Christian-convert slave Demetrius, Michael Rennie as the disciple Peter, and Jay Robinson as the raving Emperor Caligula. Watch and listen for the unbilled contributions of Michael Ansara as Judas and Cameron Mitchell as the voice of Jesus. The film won three Academy Awards, and a special Oscar bestowed upon Fox for the development of CinemaScope.

Starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Michael Rennie, Jay Robinson. Set in the Classical Period.

Not rated.

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smThe Song of Bernadette (1943): Based on the popular novel by Franz Werfel, this drama focuses on Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones), a young French woman who experiences vivid visions of the Virgin Mary. While many dismiss her claims, certain people, including the priest Dominique Peyramale (Charles Bickford), slowly begin to believe her. Eventually, Bernadette is deemed a saint, and becomes a nun at a convent, where she must deal with jealousy from others who resent her revered status. Not strictly Easter, but a classic film that is a good watch around Easter.

The Song of Bernadette, Courtesy 20th C Fox

Starring Jennifer Jones, Charles Bickford, Vincent Price, Lee J. Cobb, Gladys Cooper, Anne Revere, Roman Bohnen, Mary Anderson, Patricia Morison. Set in France in 1858, in the Victorian era.

Not rated.

Watch it now.


christian-fishThe Ten Commandments (1956): An epic telling of the life of Moses (Charlton Heston), once favoured in the Pharaoh’s (Yul Brynner) household, who turned his back on a privileged life to lead his people to freedom.

Enjoying a life of ease in the court of Egypt’s pharaoh, Moses discovers his Hebrew heritage and, later, God’s expectations of him. He dedicates himself to liberating his people from captivity and — with the aid of plagues and divine intervention — manages to lead them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. A greater challenge comes in the form of the golden calf idol, however, and it takes an unforgettable visitation by God on Mount Sinai for Moses’ mission to prevail. Not strictly Easter, but a classic based on the bible. 

Starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, John Derek, Cedric Hardwicke. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated G

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smThe Vanishing of Pato (2010):  If you think Detective Montalbano’s hometown of Vigata can get a little nutty sometimes, you should see it in 1890! Based on the historical mystery novel by Andrea Camilleri, The Vanishing of Patò is set in the same seaside town that Detective Montalbano fans know and love. It’s a story of the desperate search for one of Vigata’s most upstanding citizens – a man who vanishes right after his appearance in the annual Passion Play.

The Vanishing of Pato, Courtesy 13 Dicembre

South collides with North as a local Sicilian carabiniere teams up with a Neapolitan police officer to unlock the mystery of his disappearance. Despite their cultural, linguistic and personal differences the two men have enough in common to forge an alliance which is as comic as it is productive. Together, they wade through local politics, personal agendas and the general wackiness that is Vigata to find out what really happened to the banker and father of two who mysteriously disappeared. And perhaps most surprising of all, the policeman and the carabiniere find that they can trust each other more than they can trust anyone else in Vigata. Detective Montalbano fans will recognize it all: Sicilian characters, Italian culture at its highest (and lowest) and the breathtaking countryside of southern Italy.

In Italian with English subtitles.

Starring Nino Frassica, Neri Marcore, Flavio Bucci, Maurizio Casagrande, Simona Marchini. Set in the Victorian era.

Watch it now.


bunny-stamp-smThe Waltons, An Easter Story (1973): When Olivia is stricken with polio, John-Boy refuses to accept the doctor’s prognosis that she may never walk again.

One Sunday in February was the beginning of a very long and frightening leadup towards Easter. Olivia became ill after church and it was determined that she had polio. She, and her family refused to believe that she would never walk again and although the whole family were scared by the knowledge that Livvy might never fully recover, they provided her with much-needed support…and wait for a miracle.

Starring Michael Learned (Olivia), Ralph Waite (John) John-Boy (Richard Thomas), Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton), Jon Walmsley (Jason), Judy Norton (Mary Ellen), Mary McDonough (Erin), Eric Scott (Ben), David harper (Jim-Bob) and Kami Cotler (Elizabeth). Set during the Great Depression.

Watch it now (S1, episode 24).


christian-fishThe Young Messiah (2016): Mary (Sara Lazzaro), Joseph (Vincent Walsh) and 7-year-old Jesus (Adam Greaves-Neal) embark on a journey from Egypt to Nazareth after the young boy miraculously brings someone back to life. When King Herod (Jonathan Bailey) orders the death of the child, Roman centurion Severus (Sean Bean) starts to pursue the family across the desert. As Mary and Joseph worry about his safety, Jesus’ natural curiosity allows him to understand more about the world and his remarkable powers. Not strictly Easter. 

The Young Messiah, Courtesy 1492 Pictures

Starring Adam Greaves-NealVincent WalshSara Lazzaro. Set in the Classical Period.

Rated PG-13

Watch it now. 


Young-messiah*In general, the classical period of world history spanned the millennium from 500 bce to 500 ce. During this time, powerful empires developed (Rome, Persia, India, China, etc.) that were much larger in scale and scope than any of the kingdoms of the early river valley societies. The period was characterized by indigenous intellectual developments in each cultural empire (Confucius in China; Buddha in South Asia; Jesus of Nazareth in Rome), the creation of large unified economic units and trading zones, cultural and religious integration, art and architectural innovation. – C.T. Evans

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Short descriptions of the films are either the official synopses, and/or are from Amazon or IMDB.

Did Willow and Thatch miss any historical, period or costume drama that takes place around Easter, is faith-based and Easter related, or has to do with the Easter story? 

easter-postcard-01You can get your own little bunny stamp or the ecclesiastical fish symbol (the Ichthus) stamp on Etsy.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to wander over to the Period Films List – the best costume dramas, heritage films, documentaries, period dramas, romances, historical reality series and period inspired movies, sorted by era and theme.

You may also like Haunting Period Dramas for HalloweenVictorian Era Family Christmas Period DramasSt. Patrick’s Day Period Dramas, and Victorian Valentine: Be Mine and the Best Christmas Classics Period Dramas list.

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