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This is the 1988 film by Martin Scorsese, based on the 1960 novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba the Greek). Starring Willem Dafoe as Jesus, what follows is a fairly loose reinterpretation of the Biblical story of Jesus' life and Crucifixion (sorry, the film's long enough without him coming back).

As stated earlier, the film/novel depart substantially from The Bible's account of Jesus' life. First to come to mind is that Jesus, while still capable of miracle working, is a deeply flawed human being, with the same weaknesses and vulnerabilities as everyone else. Secondly, Judas isn't that bad of a guy. Instead of outright betraying Jesus, he's practically forced into it by the man himself. Finally, Jesus wanted to have kids.

Yes, you heard right, spoiler readers: in what's probably the major reason this film was protested so heavily when it was released, The Last Temptation of Christ is simply the opportunity for Jesus to have a normal life. This caused nothing but consternation from the religious groups, as this nicely describes. The really weird thing is that the Bible mentions Jesus was "tested in every way." While the text does not explicitly mention sexual temptations, he must have endured them, or else he would not have been tested in every way. The implication that Jesus built crosses for the Romans to crucify people on and a few theologically wonky lines (like Jesus wanting God to stop loving him and later calling fear his god) might have also caused a few to protest as well.

The film won Scorsese a nomination for best director, but he'd have to wait about 20 years before The Departed would finally give it to him.

Tropes used in The Last Temptation of Christ include:

  • Affably Evil/Punch Clock Villain: The way Pontius Pilate is depicted
  • All Just a Dream, Daydream Surprise, Lotus Eater Machine, The Final Temptation: Take your pick, it's all there.
  • Beat Still My Heart: Yeah, it's kinda crazy.
  • Biblical Times
  • Came Back Wrong
  • Celibate Hero
  • Censor Decoy: An unintentional example. People got all up in arms over the fact that the movie included a brief sex scene between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but ignored the part of the movie that was actually sacrilegious: the film's portrayal of Judas as a man who only betrayed Jesus because he was following orders.
  • The Chosen One
  • Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: The film's trailer was intentionally misleading, causing the trope listed below.
  • Creepy Child/Louis Cypher: Don't worry, it's only Satan.
  • Devil in Disguise: This trope is invoked during Jesus's final temptation while on the cross. A young girl introduces herself as an angel, says that Jesus has done enough, and offers him an escape from the cross. This boy accompanies as a friend him through a happy life with a wife and children. But this friend is actually Lucifer, and these years after escaping the cross were All Just a Dream to tempt Jesus into abandoning his role as Sacrificial Lion. As soon as Jesus rebukes this temptation, the illusion ceases and he instantly returns dying on the cross, accepting it as his destiny.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Foregone Conclusion: Duh.
  • Foreshadowing: The first scene in the movie is Jesus making a cross, carrying it, then watching someone get crucified.
  • God Is Flawed: Played with, the point of the the novel is to examine Christ as both entirely God and entirely Human. He is shown as being subjected to many of fears and temptations that humans are. In the end, however, he makes every decision the Christ of The Bible chooses to make.
  • Go Out with a Smile
  • Inner Monologue: Jesus does this quite a bit.
  • Jesus Was Crazy: The film start out with portraying Jesus as a paranoid schizophrenic who start preaching because he hear voices in his head. The movie start with him working as a carpenter building crosses for the Romans and rambling on about how he want to crucify all the messiahs. The story goes through many plot-twists, and the psychiatric perspective gets obsolete after a while - but Jesus being crazy in one way or another remains the only constant throughout the movie. And trying to live a decent life turns out to be the craziest thing of them all.
  • The Messiah: Mildly subverted — this ain't yo momma's Jesus.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: All of the actors, but Harvey Keitel got the most crap for it. This was a deliberate artistic decision by Scorsese:

 I mean, basically, they say, okay, this is a defense, in a way. We don't have to get too emotionally involved because this happened a long time ago and people spoke funny. We said no, this man talks like you, talks like me, some guy has a Brooklyn accent, another guy has a Canadian accent... where does it say that everybody in ancient Judea spoke by listening to the BBC?

  • The Obi-Wan
  • Oh Crap: JESUS has one, when he resurrects Lazarus. Not even HE thought he'd be able to do it, and when he does, his quiet little "God Help Me" shows just how overwhelmed he is by his own power.
  • One-Scene Wonder: David Bowie as Pontius Pilate.
  • The Queen's Latin
  • Refusal of the Call
  • Stylistic Suck: The stilted and rambling preaching of Paul of Tarsus. According to historical accounts, Saul/Paul was very bad at public speaking, which is why he's most remembered for his letters.
  • Temporal Paradox: Averted. The alternate future Jesus is shown still depicts Paul preaching the resurrection of Jesus and thus ensuring the proliferation of Christianity with or without Jesus' help.
  • Voice of the Legion: Naturally, by Legion's boss, who gets to speak in quite a few voices throughout the film in addition to having this special effect.
  • Windmill Crusader: Jesus is portrayed as the insane kind of Windmill Crusader. This is played straight for most of the movie; he even gets cured of his messiah complex and gets to live a normal life.
    • In the Twist Ending, however, Judas accuses Jesus of betraying him by not going through with dying on the cross as they had previously agreed. Jesus’ guardian angel is then revealed to be the devil, who had tricked him into believing that he’s not the messiah. Thus, it turns out that it was No Mere Windmill after all.
    • In the same movie, Paul is briefly portrayed as the misguided kind of Windmill Crusader. However, he is quickly shown as a Straw Hypocrite who simply doesn’t care if the gospel he preaches is true or not.
  • Windmill Political: Paul, see Windmill Crusader above.