When I was building my list, Cindy casually mentioned that she's never seen 'Ben-Hur' in its entirety but that it was always on TV in her house around Easter. So, it became my "Easter" movie. With sensitivity, but without apology, I must preface that I don't invest in the biblical story of Jesus. Which paints the way I interpret this movie, true, but not unfairly (I think!). While I found it to be heavy-handed with its biblical references (it played like bad propaganda), I thought scenes with Jesus were beautifully shot and the emotional high-point of the film.
In fact, once you removed Judah's interactions with the out-of-focus Jesus, you're left with an interesting character arc that meandered around a plot so simple, it could easily be summarized by a two-sentence Netflix content description. However, remember, this is all taking place over 224 minutes!!! With long takes that gave the wooden actors too much time to breath and a liberal interpretation of the phrase "editing", this film dragged on and on and on. The film reeks of its self-importance and, other than its hefty score and beautiful sets, executes its epic-ness in all the wrong ways.
This critique even extends to the film's famous chariot race scene. Despite the gorgeous cinematography (apparently director William Wyler didn't want to shoot in widescreen; can you imagine this famous scene in 4:3???), my family would collectively groan/laugh as shots of the "rotating fish lap markers" reminded us that we still had 15 minutes of racing to go.
As is the case, I left Ben Hur the way I left Avatar in 2009: In appreciation of its spectacle but parched by its lack of substance. Again, perhaps this is because the Christianity stuff whizzed over my head, but I like to think there are plenty of filmmaking reasons why this film deserves my 2/5 rating.