Jesus Christ Superstar Movie Review – Easter Style – The Worst Movies Ever


A trophy of sadness.


Passover got its due, now it’s Easter’s turn – except I think we can all agree that Easter is getting the worst of it.  In fact, Jesus Christ Superstar (1973 version) is more like a few weeks after Easter when you find some of those hard boiled eggs you so painstakingly colored and forgot about, tucked away in the fridge behind one of those unnecessarily huge jars of Miracle Whip.  Hence, JCS earns my award for The Worst Movie Ever, Movies About Religion Category – it probably also deserves to be the worst musical ever, but I’m saving that one for now.

If you made it through that entire clip, you’re a stronger person than I am.  But if you made it through even some of that clip, the first question on your mind was probably, “What the fuck is this?”  I’m betting the second question was, “Why?”  I bet it was also the third, fourth and fifth questions  you thought of, too.  Why ask why?  Where to begin…

  • Why are people singing boisterously about the death of Jesus?
  • Why do the guys crucifying Jesus appear to be stereotypically gay construction workers?
  • Why is that cross fade on Jesus so awkward? 
  • Why does the camera keep cutting like that?  What’s with the dancing spot lights in the background?  What’s with the half naked  dancers?  And why do they keep multiplying?  Where the hell do they keep coming from?  Who directed this piece of shit?  Norman Jewison, which is strange, because he directed good movies, too.  So why does Jesus Christ Superstar suck so bad?  Probably for the same reason that after Al Pacino’s rousing “You’re out of order!”  speech from ...And Justice For All ends on a freeze frame.
  • Why do the lyrics run out of steam after just one verse?  “Do you think you’re what they say you are?”  Uhm, you really think the guy who said, “…if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do” had doubts?
  • Really, you cast a black guy as Judas?  Really?  And he rode into the scene on a cross?
  • This song is at least a minute two long.

Ugh.  And that’s just four minutes out of the movie.

For me, the most important ‘why’ question that needs answering is, why would you want to make a musical out of the passion play?  Aren’t there some topics that just don’t translate from the page to a full blown musical?  I say yes, and this is one of them.

This movie is terrible.  The fake opera dialogue is terrible, the lyrics are terrible, the choreography is terrible, the directing is terrible, the music is terrible and for the love of Jesus, couldn’t they get a better actor to play Jesus?  But it must have been tough – he’s written so poorly.  But then, sometimes, just for fun, the director steps in to make things worse:  fast forward to 3:50 at the previous clip…  if you dare.  “Just watch me die!”  You got that right.

I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not an attack on Jesus, the Bible, Christianity or religion.  This is a verbal attack on Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, Norman Jewison, Melvyn Bragg and anyone else who had anything to do with this terrible, terrible movie musical.  In fact, Christians should be outraged at how awful this is – they should collect and destroy all copies of this awfulness and ask YouTube to take this abomination off their servers.  If you want to see a movie about Jesus, stick with King of Kings.  That’s how it’s done.  “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” that’s it – that’s where it’s at – not this, “Who are you, What have you sacrificed/Do you think you’re what they say you are?” nonsense the show’s title song repeats over and over and over and over and over and over!

Oh and one more thing – obviously when it comes to movies about Jesus, King of Kings is the best, but to take it a step further, that movie ends at the logical closure point – after the resurrection of Jesus!  If you must have a musical about the end of Jesus’ life, couldn’t you end it with the resurrection instead of the crucifixion?  If you were going to sing about any part of Jesus’ life, would that be the part?  I just don’t get it.  Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the worst movies ever.

(Oh, and the play sucks too – I only worked on it for about two weeks, but it was my own personal Vietnam and was a direct cause of the end of my career in technical theater.  It’s that bad.  I was thinking, “If these are the kind of shows I’m going to have to work on to stay in this business, then forget it.”)

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on April 26, 2011, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thanks for commenting! I really appreciate the time you took, and I hope you come by the site and comment again.

    the quotes from the original post are in bold
    your comments are in plain text
    my responses are in italic

    * Why are people singing boisterously about the death of Jesus?
    Because his god given destiny is being fulfilled, he is sacrificing himself for humanitie’s sins. They are very obviously not happy because he is going to die.
    The scantly clad women look pretty happy to me!

    * Why do the guys crucifying Jesus appear to be stereotypically gay construction workers?
    It’s a 70’s thing. You will see it in many films making trying to draw political connections to modern times. I think Holy Mountain did the same thing.
    Wow, really? There’s another movie where Jesus meets his demise at the hand of stereotypically gay construction workers? Now THAT is a miracle!

    * Why is that cross fade on Jesus so awkward?
    Because you are trying to pass off minute details as major cinematic flaws.
    Did you notice the awkward dancing spot lights? The awkward editing? The light cues? The blocking? EVERYTHING is awkward, but when you do a composite shot like that on Jesus and he’s the only thing on camera, it really sticks out!

    You continue to do so for the next few “questions”.

    Why do the lyrics run out of steam after just one verse? “Do you think you’re what they say you are?” Uhm, you really think the guy who said, “…if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do” had doubts?
    This was a motif you would recognize if you watched the film, something that I am inclined to doubt. The entire film takes on the premise that many people did not view Christ as the son of god, but rather just a man, even Christ himself. It is Christ’s tremendous faith that makes his actions throughout this film so remarkable. He views himself as a servant of god, and carries out his will among even among personal doubts. If the movie is true to itself, in that Jesus was a man, then yes, he would have doubts. Very poor criticism with that comment.
    I just don’t think the character or story presented in the film is true to who appears in the bible. I would argue that The Last Temptation of Christ does a better job

    * Really, you cast a black guy as Judas? Really? And he rode into the scene on a cross?
    Did you ever think that maybe he was the best man to play the part? Did you even watch the movie? Judas was not even cast as a villain, but rather a tragic hero, nothing about the role was racist. Great character, awesome performance. I again have to question whether you viewed the movie, and express my disapproval over your reviewing skills. Questioning casting based on race only reveals your own bias.
    I don’t know anything about the casting process on this movie. What I do know is that casting a black guy as the character that betrays Christ is more than a little bit suspect in a country with such a long (and recent) history with racism.

    * This song is at least a minute two long.
    This might be true, In fact of all the songs in the movie, this might be my least favorite. Especially when view out of context as you have presented here. However again that point fails to address any major flaws in the film. The script, which you criticize is quite good here too.
    I just can’t agree there; but I’m sure you know that saying about opinions as well as I do. =) Of all the songs in the show, this one is so repetitious…

    “Every time I look at you I don’t understand, why you let the things you did get so out of hand. You’d of fared much better if you’d had a plan. Now why’d you choose such a backward town in such a strange land? If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation, Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”
    If you actually think about it it’s a big question. If Jesus was what they said he was ( the son of god) then why DID he come when he did? Why not in modern times? Did Jesus at the time know what impact his life would have on human history? What about Buddha and Muhammad? This scene essentially celebrates Jesus’s life and death all the while thrusting forth mighty iffs and why’s to the man himself.
    You might not have liked the film due to a matter of tastes, but I don’t understand how you failed to witness anything compelling or beautiful at all.
    You certainly have the right to an opinion, but perhaps you shouldn’t maintain your reviewing rights if you are going to make them as poor as your one for Jesus Christ Superstar.
    (PS, I do however commend your championing of James Rolf and Venture Bros. Not Inception though…just a condescending Matrix copy)
    Huh… a lot to chew on there. Well, I guess when considering, “Did Jesus at the time know what impact his life would have on human history?” we’d have to first decide if Jesus – or God – or the holy trinity? – is seeing the world without time, or is he just considering human history up to that point? This is already starting to sound like an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, so I’ll stop there. What about Buddha and Muhammad? Uhm, what about them? You mean in terms of when they showed up in the time line? That’s not really the sort of questions I was trying to raise or answer here, so I won”t start now. Once you throw time into the equation, things get a bit too complicated. Again, when It comes to Jesus on film, I’d stick with King of Kings.

  2. It really is quite strange to have come across your blog. I am Vegan. I am a huge Dodger fan, and active in the baseball blogging world. I went to the New York Film Academy. I love the Venture Bros and the Angry Video Game Nerd. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the death of Osama Bin Laden (with mixed feelings), pondering how our recycling system runs, and watched Jesus Christ Superstar. Strange indeed.

  3. I had initially planned this post to cover Jesus Christ Superstar from top to bottom, but I decided that I disliked the show so much that I couldn’t bare it. Instead, I chose to simply pick a scene or two which I felt was a microcosm of the disorganized, nonsensical story telling and overall bad writing (both music and book) which plagues JCS. The story really has no protagonist – I guess you could argue that Judas is the tragic hero, but there isn’t anything especially heroic about betraying Jesus… You could also argue that Jesus is the protagonist, but there is no way to relate to Jesus at all; you can’t go on the journey with him, he’s too whinny, to unsure of himself and too contradictory; or, at least too contradictory with the source material. Worst Movie About Religion Ever.

  4. The scene you chose definitely was a good example of how the movie doesn’t work, but I guess as somebody who likes the movie, that’s what annoyed me. It really is one of the weakest scenes. Though I suppose that doesn’t speak well of the film as a whole if the ending scene is the weakest.

    I would say that Judas is the tragic hero in this case and applaud the originality of the script in showing his actions under a different light. It’s not as if Jesus’s death could have been prevented by Judas, it was both god’s will and the Romans would have been able to find him easily without Judas’s aid. In fact if you consider that Jesus needed to be betrayed and crucified in order to save humanity then it is as if Judas is also performing a great sacrifice in his doing the dirty deed that had to be done. He is as the movie says “damned for all time”, truly given the short end of the stick. I suppose if you want to draw a connection to his race that way it might be appropriate. In other words, sure it might be questionable to have a black man play Judas in most films, but in one in which Judas’s image is reviewed, I see no issue.

    The script may have been lacking in some biblical content, however there was too much for me too like dramatically about how music was used to show the emotions involved in Jesus death. I think if you realize how many people in the world celebrate religion via boisterous song you might be more accepting of this film’s concept.

    Also, you just can’t miss some of the humor. A jaded faded mandarin man!! A faded jaded jaded faded jaded mandarin!!!!

    If you want JCSS to be a film closer to other religious movies and telling of Christ’s death then you might not like it. If you accept it for what it is though, it has allot to offer. ( I for one really dug the desert landscape used as the setting, and in Jerusalem no less).

    Sorry if my original post was a bit harsh, I appreciate your response and am interested in your blog. It seems like a goody.

    Until next time, peace!

    • “It’s not as if Jesus’s death could have been prevented by Judas” is an excellent point, and I do think that emphasizing this is JCS at it’s best… but what can I say? the show just doesn’t work for me like it does for you. And, if they really wanted to knock my socks off, the would have cast a black guy as Jesus! Or, at least somebody who wasn’t white.

      thanks for coming back and commenting again – I really appreciate it! You are always welcome!

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