Jesus in Film and TV: 18 Devilishly Handsome Actors Who've Played the Son of God

12:29 PM 4/1/2018

by Michael O'Connell and Zoe Haylock

'Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert' actor John Legend is just the latest in a long line of attractive gents to play the Messiah, joining Christian Bale, Victor Garber and Jeremy Sisto.

Courtesy of NBC

NBC's production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert airs on Easter Sunday (April 1) this year, and with it comes a new leading man, as John Legend takes on the role of Jesus Christ. He's the latest in a long line of stars to play the Son of God, including Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ (2004) and Will Ferrell in Superstar (1999).

Whether it's in a comedy or a drama, these men have brought Christ to life on the big screen. Take a look at some of the most memorable stars who played the Messiah, below. 

  • John Legend, 'Jesus Christ Superstar' (2018)

    Courtesy of NBC

    Oscar- and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter John Legend will take on the role of Jesus Christ in NBC's production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. Airing on Easter, April 1, the musical also stars Sara Bareilles and Alice Cooper.

  • Haaz Sleiman, 'Killing Jesus' (2015)

    Kent Eanes

    Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman has Jesus' Middle Eastern roots and James Dean's piercing eyes. He tackled the big role in Nat Geo's TV adaptation of Bill O'Reilly's best-selling book of the same name.

  • Ewan McGregor, 'Last Days in the Desert' (2015)

    Courtesy of Sundance International Film Festival

    Ewan McGregor stepped into the sandals for this 2015 Sundance entry.

  • Juan Pablo Di Pace, 'AD: The Bible Continues' (2015)

    Joe Alblas

    Potentially the first Christ to also be a Crossfit devotee, Juan Pablo Di Pace stars in Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's follow-up to The Bible and only appears post-crucifixion. Three cheers for sequels!

  • Gerald "Slink" Johnson, 'Black Jesus' (2014)

    Courtesy of Adult Swim

    Adult Swim's Jesus (Gerald "Slink" Johnson) is a more rough-around-the-edges savior who drinks, smokes pot on stoops and doesn't seem to have washed his clothes in a while.

  • Diogo Morgado, 'The Bible and Son of God' (2013)

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Photofest

    Mark Burnett really upped the game with his choice in Jesus casting for History's The Bible. Diogo Morgado, a relative unknown in the U.S., started his career as a model before moving into Portuguese soap and television series.

  • Robert Torti, 'Reefer Madness' (2005)

    Showtime/Photofest

    Part musical, part stoner spoof, all social commentary, Showtime's TV adaptation of the stage play (itself based on the 1936 feature PSA) features Robert Torti as a buff, crooning Christ.

  • Jim Caviezel, 'The Passion of the Christ' (2004)

    Newmark/Photofest

    Modern cinema's de facto Jesus, Jim Caviezel's starring role in Mel Gibson's controversial pic remains his career-defining role more than a decade after the fact. More than 14 years later, Caviezel is in talks to reprise his role as Jesus in a Passion of the Christ sequel. 

  • Ralph Fiennes, 'The Miracle Maker' (2000)

    Courtesy of ABC/BBC

    The Miracle Maker's claymation Jesus may be a little left-field -- but with powerhouse Ralph Fiennes providing the vocals, it's also impossible to ignore.

  • Jeremy Sisto, 'Jesus' (1999)

    CBS/Photofest

    Somewhere between Clueless and Suburgatory, Jeremy Sisto's career took a bit of an unpredictable turn playing Jesus -- though his hair, at the very least, gave a compelling performance.

  • Christian Bale, 'Mary Mother of Jesus' (1999)

    Courtesy Everett Collection

    Batman himself, Christian Bale, played Jesus well into his career, in the TV movie that focused more on Mary (Pernilla August).

  • Will Ferrell, 'Superstar' (1999)

    Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

    It's only a moment, but Will Ferrell's dream sequence Jesus remains infinitely more memorable than his actual character in the Saturday Night Live film.

  • Willem Dafoe, 'The Last Temptation of Christ' (1988)

    Universal Pictures/Photofest

    Martin Scorsese's 1988 film tackles a darker version of Christ, with Willem Dafoe playing a Jesus who day-dreams about sex.

  • Chris Sarandon, 'The Day Christ Died' (1980)

    CBS/Photofest

    Before he was causing trouble in The Princess Bride or Fright Night, frequently villainous Chris Sarandon played the ultimate nice guy.

  • Robert Powell, 'Jesus of Nazareth' (1977)

    NBC/Photofest

    For those still craving more after History's 10-episode The Bible, check out its 371-minute miniseries predecessor directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Robert Powell makes for a good Son of God, but Anne Bancroft steals it as Mary Magdalene.

  • Victor Garber, 'Godspell' (1973)

    Columbia / Photofest

    What is it about Jesus and musicals? Coming out the same year as Jesus Christ Superstar, this less by-the-book retelling of his life starred Victor Garber as a melancholy, hippy clown version of the lord.

  • Max von Sydow, 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' (1965)

    UA/Photofest

    Before he battled demons in The Exorcist, Oscar nominee Max von Sydow tackled Jesus in George Stevens' epic that counted Charlton Heston and John Wayne among its cast.

  • Ted Neeley, 'Jesus Christ Superstar' (1973)

    Universal Pictures/Photofest

    Perhaps the coolest man to ever play Jesus, Ted Neeley -- a drummer and singer by trade -- originally auditioned for the role of Judas in the Broadway production.

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