Jesus Christ Superstar
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNorman Jewison
Screenplay by
Based on
Produced by
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byAntony Gibbs
Music byAndrew Lloyd Webber
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • June 26, 1973 (1973-06-26) (Uptown Theater)
  • August 15, 1973 (1973-08-15) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million[2]
Box office$24.5 million[3]

Jesus Christ Superstar is a 1973 American musical drama film directed by Norman Jewison, and co-written by Jewison and Melvyn Bragg, based on the 1970 concept album of the same name written by Tim Rice and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which in turn inspired a 1971 musical. The film, which stars Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman and Barry Dennen, depicts the conflict between Judas and Jesus[4] and the emotions and motivations of the main characters during the week of the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus Christ Superstar premiered at the Uptown Theater in Washington D.C. on June 26, 1973,[5] and was released theatrically in the United States on August 15, 1973. Neeley, Anderson, and Elliman were nominated for Golden Globe Awards in 1974, for their portrayals of Jesus, Judas, and Mary Magdalene, respectively. Despite criticism from a few religious groups and mixed reviews from critics,[6] the film was a box office success.


See also: Jesus Christ Superstar § Plot

The film's cast travel by bus to the Negev Desert, in order to re-enact the Passion of Christ with modern-day costumes and props. As they make their preparations and dance to the film's overture, Carl Anderson, already in character as Judas Iscariot, wanders away from the company.

Judas is worried about Jesus' popularity; he is being hailed as the son of God, but Judas feels he has too much faith in his own message and fears the consequences of their growing movement. He questions Jesus' association with Mary Magdalene (historically accused of being a prostitute) and why he does not instruct his followers to give money to the poor, to which Jesus says that mortals can not help everyone. Meanwhile, temple priests including Caiaphas, Annas and the Pharisees are worried that the Romans see Jesus' popularity as an uprising and all agree he must be executed.

When Jesus and his followers joyfully arrive in Jerusalem, he rejects both Caiaphas' orders to disband the crowd and the suggestions of Simon and fellow Zealots to start an uprising against their Roman occupiers. Jesus visits the Temple, where he becomes enraged seeing it full of money lenders and merchants and forces them all to leave by destroying their stalls, much to Judas' horror. While Jesus then wanders in the desert and heals a leper colony, Judas goes to the priests and expresses his concerns, along with his worries about the consequences of betraying Jesus. Once the priests offer him money for leading them to Jesus, a conflicted Judas reveals that Jesus will be at the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night.

The apostles gather in the garden for Passover Seder with Jesus, who expresses scepticism about their loyalties, stating that Peter will deny him and Judas will betray him. A bitter argument between Jesus and Judas ensues, as Judas angrily accuses Jesus of losing sight of their cause. Judas leaves and returns with guards, fulfilling his betrayal, while Peter denies being with Jesus to members of the populace. The guards take Jesus to Caiaphas, who finds him guilty of blasphemy. He is then sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, but since he does not deal with Jews, Pilate sends Jesus to King Herod, who urges Jesus to perform miracles for him, but dismisses him as a fraud when he does not. Blaming God for giving him the role of the betrayer, Judas is overcome by grief and regret and hangs himself.

Jesus is taken back to Pilate, who believes Jesus is delusional but has committed no actual crime, yet he is pressured by the crowd to condemn Jesus to death. Confused and enraged at Jesus' inexplicable resignation and refusal to defend himself, Pilate realizes he has no option but to order Jesus' execution to quell the angry masses. After Jesus is led up to Golgotha and crucified, the film's cast, now out of costume, reunite and board the bus to leave. Barry Dennen, Yvonne Elliman and Carl Anderson are the only ones who notice that Ted Neeley, who played Jesus, is missing.


Yvonne Elliman and Ted Neeley as Mary Magdalene and Jesus


During filming of Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Barry Dennen, who had a minor role in the film, provided a concept album by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to Norman Jewison, Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), where Dennen voiced Pilate. At that time, the LP, despite its title song being a hit single, was "met with a massive dose of British indifference, even condescension", recalled Webber, and was thought of by Fiddler on the Roof producer Patrick Palmer as an "obscure album from England" when Jewison first obtained it.[7] Jewison described himself as "curiously moved" and "flooded with exciting visual images" when first hearing the record, amazed by its ability to execute so much without spoken lines.[7][8]: 216  He first publicly expressed interest in directing a film based on the album in an interview at the New York premiere of Fiddler on the Roof: "I could see it as an exciting innovative movie just as it was—just music and lyrics, no dialogue."[8]: 216 

Jewison, after finding out MCA Records owned the film rights, contacted Lew Wasserman for the chance of directing a film adaptation of the musical. Although other directors were considered, Jewison's past filmography plus his blueprint for the film influenced Universal to hire him.[8]: 216  A meeting between Jewison, Webber, and Universal Pictures executive Ned Tanen soon followed.[7] Webber agreed to the film project, citing Jewison's experience with Fiddler on the Roof, an adaptation of a musical with religious themes.[7]

The latest stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar before the film was a Robert Stigwood-produced Broadway run in 1970. Budgeted at more than $1,000,000, not counting Stigwood's own financial contributions, the show profited $700,000 with an overcall $8,557.83. However, its run was shorter than planned. Professional reviews were overwhelmingly abysmal, and, commercially, the show declined by its eighth month as a result of decrease in advance ticket purchases and prices being too high for the show's young fanbase. Within 11 months, the run sustained with Sunday matinees and discount prices for certain shows. Broadway insiders felt it would last up until the film adaptation's release.[8]: 212 

Work on the script began with drafting from Tim Rice. His vision was an epic film in the style of Ben-Hur (1959), summarizing his workflow as figuring out "which massive visual effect accompanied which song".[7] However, Jewison's concept differed, and thus Rice's draft was scrapped.[7] Alongside Melvyn Bragg, Jewison wrote a screenplay as a pastiche that combined biblical and modern elements of culture, particularly with its theater group framing device.[7] Bragg, who had already established himself as a television writer, was a co-writer of the screenplay. He described entering the project as "a sort of fluke", getting signed only after a colleague asked "Would you like a go?"[9] Summarized Bragg, "all the good bits were what [I] worked on", although Bragg did provide input to Jewison about what he perceived to be the director's overuse of crowds in shots.[9] Bragg and Jewison wrote the script while scouting locations, as moving around deserts in Israel while the concept album played on a tape recorder immersed them in the film's setting.[7]


Actor Role
Ted Neeley     Jesus Christ
Carl Anderson     Judas Iscariot
Yvonne Elliman     Mary Magdalene
Barry Dennen     Pontius Pilate
Bob Bingham     Caiaphas
Larry Marshall     Simon Zealotes
Josh Mostel     King Herod
Kurt Yaghjian     Annas
Philip Toubus     Peter

Jesus Christ Superstar was the first film credit for all actors except Dennen and Josh Mostel.[10] The cast consisted mostly of actors from the Broadway show, with Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson starring as Jesus and Judas respectively. Neeley had played a reporter and a leper in the Broadway version, and understudied the role of Jesus. Anderson also understudied Judas, but took over the role on Broadway and Los Angeles when Ben Vereen fell ill. Along with Dennen, Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene), and Bob Bingham (Caiaphas) reprised their Broadway roles in the film. (Elliman, like Dennen, had also appeared on the original concept album.)

According to casting notes Jewison wrote on stationery paper at the Beverly Hills Hotel, he considered Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Barry Gibb, Robert Plant, and Ian Gillan for the titular character.[7] Gillan, who played Jesus on the concept album, turned down Jewison's offer because he thought he would please fans more by touring with Deep Purple.[11] The producers also considered Micky Dolenz (from The Monkees) and David Cassidy to play Jesus.[11] Then, in 1971, Jewison drove from Palm Springs, California to Los Angeles to view Neeley on stage in a musical adaptation of The Who's Tommy (1969), after an invitation from Neeley's agent.[7] Neeley did not appear the night Jewison arrived, as he was taking a break. However, Neeley, wearing Levi's clothing and a fake mustache and beard, encountered Jewison at a motel the next morning to apologize about his absence from the performance, his rationale being illness.[7] Following a 20-minute meeting, and without seeing Neeley perform the part, Jewison said to his production partner Pat Palmer that "I had a hunch that I had found our Jesus".[7]

In responding to a question from the Vatican Press about why Jewison cast a black actor for Judas, the director responded that Anderson "tested along with many others in London, and as always happens, the film really told us what to do. The test was so successful that there really wasn't any doubt in my mind at all that he was the most talented actor to play the role".[7]


We already had one Jesus here, and he gave us more than enough trouble.

— Tel Aviv policeman[8]: 215 

Shooting of Jesus Christ Superstar took place at more than 20 locations in four Palestinian and Israeli camp bases, those being Jerusalem, Dead Sea, Beersheba, and Nazareth; the most utilized location was Herodium in the Palestinian West Bank.[7] The budget was set at just under $3.5 million, partially supported by the Israeli government; in addition to a 23.5% rebate on import of foreign currency, some senior officials, who were trying to start an Israeli Film Centre, funded the project.[7] Jewison, in return, wrote a piece for Variety promoting Israeli areas for shooting locations. As he wrote, "there is a spirit in the country and among its people that grabs you, and if you spend any time there you will never be the same."[7] Elliman, Neeley, and Anderson each received $16,500 for their roles ($108,624 in 2022), while Jewison was paid a reduced fee of $15,000 ($98,749 in 2022), in exchange for 10% of the film's worldwide profits.[7]

Shooting began on August 18, 1972, in the caves of Beit Gubrin (today the Beit Guvrin National Park), following days of cleaning up fecal matter from birds and bats. Used for the segments for "What’s the Buzz?", "Strange Thing Mystifying", and "Everything's Alright", the location was chosen by Jewison to make Jesus and his Apostles look like an underground movement of rock artists; in fact, he cast little-known rock musicians for the Apostles, and only two of them had prior experience in film.[7] Production then moved to the West Bank, which had been occupied by Israel following the Six-Day War. Choreographer Robert Iscove recalled, "Arabs with machine guns came over the hill, pointing at us. They were from a neighbouring village and there had been some tiff that had nothing to do with the actual war."[7] For most sequences, Iscove determined the location on the first day of its choreography, and the dancing and camerawork would be improvised based on the location. "King Herod's Song" and "Superstar" were the only ones that had their locations planned before production commenced.[7] The abandoned Nabataean city of Avdat was used for the scenes with the Roman priests.[7]

For most of the actors, who were secular hippies, filming the musical submerged them in the religious setting. During breaks, they played the concept album loudly, read Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ (1908), and had volleyball matches the teams being "Judas" and "Jesus".[7] The 46-year-old Jewison, when not filming, rarely interacted with the cast members.[7] Neeley wrote that, during filming of the crucifixion, the cast felt like they were walking on the path Christ took, and cried at Neeley's performance on the cross.[7]


Like the stage show, the film gave rise to controversy even with changes made to the script. Some of the lyrics were changed for the film. The reprise of "Everything's Alright", sung before the song "I Don't Know How to Love Him" by Mary to Jesus, was abridged, leaving only the closing lyric "Close your eyes, close your eyes and relax, think of nothing tonight" intact, while the previous lyrics were omitted, including Jesus' "And I think I shall sleep well tonight.". In a scene where a group of beggars and lepers overwhelms Jesus, "Heal yourselves!" was changed to "Leave me alone!", and in "Judas' Death", Caiaphas' line "What you have done will be the saving of Israel" was changed to "What you have done will be the saving of everyone."

The lyrics of "Trial Before Pilate" contain some notable alterations and additions. Jesus' line "There may be a kingdom for me somewhere, if I only knew" is changed to "if you only knew." The film version also gives Pilate more lines (first used in the original Broadway production) in which he addresses the mob with contempt when they invoke the name of Caesar: "What is this new/Respect for Caesar?/Till now this has been noticeably lacking!/Who is this Jesus? Why is he different?/You Jews produce messiahs by the sackful!" and "Behold a man/Behold your shattered king/You hypocrites!/You hate us more than him!" These lines for Pilate have since been in every production of the show.

The soundtrack contains two songs that are not on the original concept album. "Then We Are Decided", in which the troubles and fears of Annas and Caiaphas regarding Jesus are better developed, is original to the film. The soundtrack also retains the song "Could We Start Again Please?" which had been added to the Broadway show and to stage productions. Most of the other changes have not been espoused by later productions and recordings, although most productions tend to retain the expanded version of "Trial Before Pilate".



See also: 1973 in film

1972–1973 was a period of declining interest in religion worldwide, but also filled with movies with religious themes, such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Siddhartha, Greaser's Palace, Marjoe, and The Exorcist.[12] Ellis Nassour and Richard Broderick, writing a book on the musical's history published the year of the film's release, declared 1973 to be "a year of Jesus films" not shot in Hollywood, such as the New York City-filmed Godspell, the Tunisia-shot The Rebel Jesus, and the Holy Land-filmed Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus.[8]: 215  David W. Pomeroy, in a piece for Theology Today, attributed the trend to studios capitalizing on counter-cultural spirit movements, such as the Jesus movement.[12] The 1970s decade also saw Jesus films become more flamboyant in works like Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, and Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979).[13] Nassour and Broderick noted Gospel Road, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Godspell in particular, deviated from the Cecil B. DeMille drama style typical of earlier mainstream religious films.[8]: 215 

Box office

Jesus Christ Superstar grossed $24.5 million ($161.3 million in 2022) at the box office[3] and earned North American rentals of $10.8 million ($71.1 million in 2022) in 1973,[14] against an estimated production budget of $3.5 million.[2] It was the highest-grossing musical in the United States and Canada for the year.[15]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 50% based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Jesus Christ Superstar has too much spunk to fall into sacrilege, but miscasting and tonal monotony halts this musical's groove."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100 based on 7 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[17]

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "a bright and sometimes breathtaking retelling" of the source material. He praised it as an improved version of the "commercial shlock" of the source material, "being light instead of turgid" and "outward-looking instead of narcissistic".[18] He applauded the portrayal of Jesus as "human, strong and reachable", only achieved elsewhere by The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).[18]

Conversely, Howard Thompson of The New York Times wrote, "Broadway and Israel meet head on and disastrously in the movie version of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, produced in the Biblical locale. The mod-pop glitter, the musical frenzy and the neon tubing of this super-hot stage bonanza encasing the Greatest Story are now painfully magnified, laid bare and ultimately patched beneath the blue, majestic Israeli sky, as if by a natural judgment."[19] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote that the film "in a paradoxical way is both very good and very disappointing at the same time. The abstract film concept ... veers from elegantly simple through forced metaphor to outright synthetic in dramatic impact."[20][21] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and called the music "more than fine," but found the character of Jesus "so confused, so shapeless, the film cannot succeed in any meaningful way." Siskel also agreed with the accusations of the film being anti-Semitic.[22] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The faults are relative, the costs of an admirable seeking after excellence, and the many strong scenes, visually and dramatically, in 'Superstar' have remarkable impact: the chaos of the temple, the clawing lepers, the rubrics of the crucifixion itself."[23] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post panned the film as "a work of kitsch" that "does nothing for Christianity except to commercialize it."[24]

Response from religious groups

Headshot of Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI praised the film and suggested it would bring more people to Christianity.

Jewison was able to show the film to Pope Paul VI. Ted Neeley later remembered that the pope "openly loved what he saw. He said, 'Mr. Jewison, not only do I appreciate your beautiful rock opera film, I believe it will bring more people around the world to Christianity, than anything ever has before.'"[25][2] For the Pope, Mary Magdalene's song "I Don't Know How to Love Him" "had an inspired beauty".[26] Nevertheless, the film as well as the musical were criticized by some religious groups.[6] As a New York Times article reported, "When the stage production opened in October 1971, it was criticized not only by some Jews as anti-Semitic, but also by some Catholics and Protestants as blasphemous in its portrayal of Jesus as a young man who might even be interested in sex".[27] A few days before the film version's release, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council described it as an "insidious work" that was "worse than the stage play" in dramatizing "the old falsehood of the Jews' collective responsibility for the death of Jesus", and said it would revive "religious sources of anti-Semitism".[28] Jewison argued in response that the film "never was meant to be, or claimed to be an authentic or deep theological work".[29]

Tim Rice said Jesus was seen through Judas' eyes as a mere human being. Some Christians found this remark, as well as the fact that the musical did not show the resurrection, to be blasphemous. While the actual resurrection was not shown, the closing scene of the movie subtly alludes to the resurrection (though, according to Jewison's commentary on the DVD release, the scene was not planned this way).[30] Biblical purists pointed out a small number of deviations from biblical text as additional concerns; for example, Pilate himself having the dream instead of his wife, and Catholics argue the line "for all you care, this bread could be my body" is too Protestant in theology, although Jesus does say in the next lines, "This is my blood you drink. This is my body you eat."


Award Category Nominees Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Scoring: Original Song Score and Adaptation or Scoring: Adaptation André Previn, Herbert W. Spencer, and Andrew Lloyd Webber Nominated [31]
British Academy Film Awards Best Cinematography Douglas Slocombe Nominated [32]
Best Costume Design Yvonne Blake Nominated
Best Soundtrack Les Wiggins, Gordon McCallum, and Keith Grant Won
United Nations Award Norman Jewison Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers Awards Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Douglas Slocombe Won [33]
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film Norman Jewison Won [34]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated [35]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Carl Anderson Nominated
Ted Neeley Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Yvonne Elliman Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer – Male Carl Anderson Nominated
Ted Neeley Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Carl Anderson Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Yvonne Elliman Nominated
Valladolid International Film Festival Golden Spike Norman Jewison Nominated

In the 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards by Michael Medved and Harry Medved, Neeley was given "an award" for "The Worst Performance by an Actor as Jesus Christ".[36] Neeley went on to recreate the role of Jesus in numerous national stage tours of the rock musical.

Years later the film was still popular, winning a 2012 Huffington Post competition for "Best Jesus Movie."[37]


The film's soundtrack was released on vinyl by MCA Records in 1973.[38][39] It was re-released on CD in 1993[40] and reissued in 1998 for its 25th anniversary.[41][42] It must be pointed out that the soundtrack for the film is a new recording, different from the 1970 album, despite sharing some performers.


Chart (1973–74) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[43] 25
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[44] 1


Hyupsung University's Dr. Jayhoon Yang said that "Jewison and Bragg's Jesus Christ Superstar has its own creativity, bringing the Jesus film business a fresh inspiration and a new break-through."[45]: 2  According to Jaime Clark-Soles, Jesus Christ Superstars "continues to captivate and provoke viewers", with perspectives ranging from it being a "mere cultural artifact", to being "a political statement that still enjoys some relevance", to being "an existential journey of sorts".[46]: 145 

Atom Egoyan, an Armenian-Canadian director most known for The Sweet Hereafter (1997), repeatedly viewed Jesus Christ Superstar at the Haida Cinema in Victoria, British Columbia. As he explained, its cinematography and production design was a learning experience for him: "The way the camera is moving, the way it moves in time to the music, the way the film is cut, the production design, the framing device … it was just brilliantly conceived as this pageant within a film."[7]

Academic analysis

During the "Gethsemane" scene, a presentation of various paintings of Jesus Christ on the cross flash on screen, such as the works of Goya, Tintoretto, Velázquez, Grünewald, and Bosch. This is Grünewald's painting The Crucifixion (c. 1512–1516).[7][47]

Jesus Christ Superstar is a passion narrative that follows most closely the Gospel of Mark's portrayal of the story. In addition to the introduction reflecting 1:4 of the Gospel of Mark in terms of foreshadowing the crucifixion, the screenplay encompasses many themes of Mark, such as "way (Greek: ὁδός, hodos)", "blindness of the disciples", "servanthood" and "thinking the things of God".[45]: 1 [46]: 141 

The film mostly focuses on the conflict of its characters, especially Jesus and Judas.[46]: 141  The characterisation is either not based on the Gospels or formed from composite characters from various gospels; Judas, for example, is derived from both the Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of John's portrayals of him.[46]: 142, 144  Mary's character, on the other hand, is different from any scripture, "a mulatto whore who is a site of contest between two alpha males", wrote Clark-Soles.[46]: 144 

Judas plays the role which Satan symbolically had in the Gospels, as an opposition to Jesus' mission. This is symbolized by Judas wearing red and Jesus wearing a light robe.[46]: 142 [46]: 142  Within the 1970s context of the film's release, Judas is a revolutionary who is part of a grassroots movement against "the man" of society, his pragmatism rendered in his worries about the movement getting carried away.[46]: 142  However, he is confused, which opens the door for the priesthood to take advantage of his sympathy for the downtrodden.[46]: 142 

Jesus also quarrels with the Apostles, who are portrayed as self-absorbed, only enjoying their association with a sacrificial figure like Jesus, [46]: 143  as they sing at the last supper, "always hoped that I'd be an apostle / Knew that I would make it if I tried / Then when we retire we can write the gospels / So they'll still talk about us when we've died".[48]

A highlight for critics and scholars is the human presentation of the biblical figures, particularly Jesus.[46]: 143–144  Clark-Soles summarized: "[the film] helps us to imagine these people as real people, with mixed motives, bodies that sweat, yearn for sex, get sleepy after too much wine, and die".[46]: 144  Jesus is seen as impatient, tortured, and irritated, lashing at the Apostles for being "so shallow, thick and slow" in one scene.[46]: 143  In public meetings, he gives appreciative looks at the crowd; however, in one instance where the Romans enter in the middle of a dance sequence, Jesus' mood switches and sings, "Neither you Simon, nor the 50,000; nor the Romans nor the scribes, nor doomed Jerusalem itself, understand what power is, understand what glory is, understand at all, understand at all".[46]: 143  Following "The Temple" sequence, he encounters an overwhelming number of those needing to be healed, and is only able to heal a few of them.[46]: 143  The turning point for Jesus is "Gethsemane", where he laments that he has become "sad and tired" after being "inspired" to form a movement, and lashes out at God: "Show me there's a reason for your wanting me to die […] Watch me die. See how I die."[46]: 143 

Kim Paffenroth felt Judas and Mary had the most depth of all characters, even more than Jesus: "their songs are haunting or jarring, and their depictions are passionate, much more so even than the depiction of Jesus, who seems rather too passive, confused, and weak."[48]

Jesus Christ Superstar is one of Jewison's many productions to have betrayal as a primary theme.[7] Another major theme is religious authorities colluding with the government for greed.[46]: 140  The Romans, focusing on keeping their state together, crucify Jesus after noticing his challenges to the political, economic and religious establishment, such as Jesus destroying modern paraphernalia sold at "The Temple".[46]: 140–141 

Jesus Christ Superstar is different from other Jesus films in terms of its lack of fidelity to, as well as modernization of, the original Bible text in terms of costumes, staging and behavior.[45]: 1–2  Jesus Christ Superstar has most of its characters reflect the hippie movement and youth culture of the 1960s and 1970s in terms of their dances and contemporaneous dresses, apart from the garb-wearing titular character.[45]: 1–2 [49] There is tension created in the film's implication that social issues prevalent in the era of Jesus are still important in the present.[7][46]: 144  The opening depicts the cast riding a bus, with Arabic and Hebrew language on it alluding to the Six-Day War, and excitedly carrying the cross out of the bus.[46]: 141  The market in "The Temple" has ancient goods such as birds and sheep sold alongside mirrors, weapons, grenades, guns and drugs.[46]: 140 

Although interpreting biblical scripture to comment on contemporaneous political social issues is a common aspect of religious films, Jesus Christ Superstar is one of few to encompass several subjects at once.[49] There is an anti-war and Vietnam War sentiment, with machine-gun-armed soldiers in military uniform, thieves trading grenades, machine guns and drugs, and Judas encountering tanks and fighter jets.[45]: 2 [46]: 142  The Israeli locations were interpreted by Paul V. M. Flesher and Robert Torry as referencing the Mideast conflict.[49] The use of a black actor for Judas adds a civil rights movement component, most displayed in his suicide where he hangs himself with a rope on a tree, reminiscent of the lynchings associated with the era.[49][46]: 142  Clark-Soles analyzed race as playing "a crucial, if ambiguous, role in the film", as a white actor and a black actor portray figures who, in the first century, were of the same Jewish race.[46]: 142  In "Heaven On Their Minds", Judas asks Jesus, "Do you care for your race?"[46]: 142 

Remakes and related productions

In a 2008 interview with Variety magazine, film producer Marc Platt stated that he was in discussions with several filmmakers for a remake of Jesus Christ Superstar.[50]

In 2013, a Blu-ray "40th Anniversary" edition of the film was released, featuring commentary from the director and Ted Neeley, an interview with Tim Rice, a photo gallery and a clip of the original trailer.[51]

In 2015, Neeley announced the upcoming release of a documentary entitled Superstars: The Making of and Reunion of the film 'Jesus Christ Superstar' about the production of the film.[52]

See also


  1. ^ "Jesus Christ Superstar (A)". BBFC. Retrieved June 1, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Jesus Christ Superstar at the TCM Movie Database
  3. ^ a b "Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Archived from the original on August 24, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  4. ^ Jewison, Norman (2004). This Terrible Business Has Been Good to Me. An Autobiography. Toronto: Key Porter Books. p. 164. ISBN 1-55263211-3. Archived from the original on May 1, 2021. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  5. ^ "Stereotype 'Superstar'". The Washington Post. June 25, 1973. B5. "The film premieres Tuesday evening at Washington's Uptown theater and opens to the public Wednesday."
  6. ^ a b Forster, Arnold; Epstein, Benjamin (1974). The New Anti-Semitism. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. pp. 91–101.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Wells, Ira (June 3, 2021). "When Norman Jewison Turned His Camera on the Ultimate Superstar". Quillette. Retrieved March 3, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Nassour, Ellis; Broderick, Richard (1973). Rock opera; the creation of Jesus Christ superstar, from record album to Broadway show and motion picture. New York, Hawthorn Books. pp. 215–248. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
  9. ^ a b Larson, Sarah (August 1, 2021). "The Education of Melvyn Bragg". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 3, 2022.
  10. ^ Martinfield, Sean (August 20, 2013). "A Conversation With Ted Neeley, Hollywood's 'Jesus Christ Superstar'". HuffPost. Archived from the original on September 15, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Campbell, Richard H.; Pitts, Michael R. (1981). The Bible On Film. A Checklist, 1897-1980. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. p. 169]. ISBN 0-81081473-0. Archived from the original on May 1, 2021. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Pomeroy, David W. (April 1, 1974). "1973—Year of the Religious Film". Theology Today. 31 (1): 47–49. doi:10.1177/004057367403100106. S2CID 170365840. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  13. ^ Vredenburgh, Steven (October 2016). "Screen Jesus: Portrayals of Christ in Television and Film". Journal of Religion and Film. 20 (3). ProQuest 1860270444. Retrieved March 5, 2022.
  14. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, January 9, 1974, p. 19.
  15. ^ Frederick, Robert B. (January 8, 1975). "'Sting', 'Exorcist' In Special Class At B.O. in 1974". Variety. p. 24.
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