Happy Easter to all those who celebrate it! If you need a respite from your family or friends right now, go seclude yourself in a room with a TV because odds are one of these movies is on.
For me, one of the biggest signs that Easter is still primarily a religious holiday is the dearth of Easter movies. There are hundreds of Christmas movies that never mention the birth of Jesus, but there are only a handful of Easter movies – and most of them basically stick to the book. What I’m saying is, some of these Easter movies are a stretch, but I’m working with what I’ve got. Happy(?) Holy Thursday, if that applies to you, and have a good Easter, too!
This is what I’m talking about when I talk about Easter movies! Godspell is my personal favorite Jesus musical, an admittedly small genre. You ever notice that some people are Godspell people, and some are Jesus Christ Superstar people, and then everyone else is like “what are you even talking about?” Godspell is cheerful pseudo-hippie 1970s, whereas JCS is glam rock-y 70s, but both tell the story of Jesus as a (cheesy?) musical that I love. Godspell is based on the Gospel of Matthew and focuses on Jesus’ parables and his more peace-and-love type teachings. I’m going to go all-caps for a second, okay? VICTOR “MR. ANDREWS” GARBER AS JESUS. Okay? I am just warning you, this movie may leave you with a weird crush on both Victor Garber and Jesus.
*(Aside: I absolutely love movies filmed in 1970s-1990s New York, maybe because it looks like the New York I remember as a kid in the 90s, so that’s a bonus.)
Jesus Christ Superstar
While this is mostly an unranked list, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar probably are my top two Easter movies. While I like the stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar, the movie is a bit less visually appealing to me (read: set in the desert). Also, it focuses on the Jesus/Judas relationship. I love a frenemy situation in musical theater (Hamilton! right?), but it also makes it feel a little darker and less uplifting than Godspell. Nevertheless, my corny musical-loving self is always here for an Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice collab.
My advice, if you can find it: watch the 2001 Great Performances version with Glenn Carter and Renee Castle instead of the 1973 film. We watched it in a high school theatre class and it’s when I really started to like Jesus Christ Superstar.
The Passion Of The Christ
I worked in a movie theater during this movie’s 2004 release, and I can honestly say that the worst customers I encountered were some of the church groups who came in en masse to the early morning shows. Also I worked at the concession stand at the time, and it sort of felt like a weird movie to nosh on Skittles and popcorn during, but what do I know. Customers aside, the hype was deserved and … it pains me a bit to say … Mel Gibson did a great job telling the story of the crucifixion in a fresh way. It was also graphically violent and isn’t a movie I’ve ever felt the need to rewatch.
The 10 Commandments
The 10 Commandments is usually on TV on Easter, even if it’s not technically an Easter Movie. It’s a Cecil B. DeMille Technicolor classic from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner, The 10 Commandments focuses on the story of Moses and will set you back almost four hours, including intermission. I guess it’s televised at Easter because the Moses story is kind of the lead-up to the New Testament, or maybe because it’s the only religious movie that was really in the game for a while there.
Plus, Easter and Passover are both in early Spring, and it illustrates the Passover beautifully.
Now that you’ve got your movie fill, how about finishing off that Easter outfit with a sensible and not at all tacky Easter bonnet?
Easter may be the “most important” Christian religious holiday, but it’s no Christmas. Sure, we have some Easter traditions – egg hunts, making children sit on top of a man dressed like a rabbit (and also making a man wear a rabbit suit made of low-pile carpeting), dipping hard-boiled eggs in vinegar-laced food coloring – but as a season of festive joy and anticipation, Christmas clearly wins. Not only do we have fewer Easter traditions, they’re also all geared towards children. And arguably furries.
There’s kind of a reason for this. The Christmas story is fairly cute and approachable – it involves a baby, barnyard animals and a magical star. Easter is sort of unpleasant in comparison, and it takes a bit more work to get kids to understand it. For instance, last Easter my nephew Henry announced “Zurg died on the cross.” If you didn’t know: Zurg is the bad guy from Toy Story. I asked who put Zurg there, because I’m not responsible for this kid; I just get to “yes, and” him. “Jesus did,” he answered. Huh. Yeah, I sort of understand why we’re just like “Don’t worry about the whole Easter thing, just go sit on this man-rabbit and eat some candy.”
A few weeks ago, Henry – now four years old – started asking weird questions again. First: “What’s an orphan?” and then “Well, how would I get my mommy one?” Aunts of the world: just keep “yes, and” -ing that shit. It all started to come together a few days later, when he asked me “Aunt Molly, what’s an Easter bon?” That’s when I realized that (1) he was asking about an Easter bonnet, and (2) these questions were coming from the lyrics to Peter Cottontail, which means, rather reassuringly, (3) It was an orchid for your mommy; and my nephew is not trying to procure a parentless child for his mother. Phew.
Luckily, I didn’t have to try to explain what an Easter bonnet was – that was less a job for Aunt Molly and more a job for Aunt Google Image Search. And holy cow, guys! I thought they were just dumb hats that old ladies wear to church, or little girls’ straw hats with itchy elastic straps under the chin. But no, there is a whole world of wacky Easter Bonnets out there.
That’s when it all came together. We need a fun, stupid Easter activity for grown-ups. Something to get you in the holiday spirit, something that looks entirely ridiculous when you look at it just a month later. Something like EASTER BONNETS. Hear me out for a second. Chances are, you’ve attended an Ugly Holiday Sweater party in the past few years. Holidays make adults want to act like goofy kids again, and ugly sweaters help you do just that. There’s no real Easter equivalent unless you’re a seven-year-old girl or one of those church ladies who wears an Aretha hat. Unless- unless! – we start decorating bonnets in a party atmosphere. There are so many possibilities – just look:
Now, most of these pictures are from the UK, which makes me think that our UK readers are reading this saying “yeah, Easter bonnets. Easter eggs. Everybody knows this.” But no! They really aren’t as big a thing in the U.S., except in the Easter Parade, and I don’t know anybody who has actually gone to that. Oh, also our Easter Eggs are actual EGGS here, not the giant chocolate affairs you can buy overseas. We’re really struggling with the whole Easter thing in the States. So I say next year, we all throw Ugly Easter Bonnet parties, and everyone gussies up their fanciest bonnet. Whoever makes the tackiest one wins! Then we can all go celebrate Jesus’s victory over Emperor Zurg – the real reason for the season.