[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the_greatest_story_ever_told_von_sydow.jpg]]

The film so holy, it turned Telly Savalas bald.

A 1965 epic from director Creator/GeorgeStevens, ''The Greatest Story Ever Told'' portrays the life of UsefulNotes/{{Jesus}} and his miracles from Nativity to Resurrection. For a plot synopsis you might as well just read Literature/TheFourGospels.

While ''Story'' was not the first of its kind, this broad scope is one of its notable features and was something the creators wanted to play up. The then-unknown (in the U.S.) Creator/MaxVonSydow was cast as Jesus, but the rest of the cast and crew was [[AllStarCast filled with big names]], some coming in for short cameos. Among the actors seen here are Creator/CharltonHeston, Creator/ClaudeRains, Creator/DavidMcCallum, Creator/DonaldPleasence, Creator/SidneyPoitier, Creator/AngelaLansbury, Creator/JohnWayne (as the Centurion at the crucifixion), and the aforementioned Creator/TellySavalas (who shaved his head for his role as Pontius Pilate in this film and then decided never to grow it back).

Stevens, along with uncredited co-directors Creator/DavidLean (Mr. Epic Sweeping Landscapes) and Jean Negulesco, even added exterior shooting in the great open spaces of the Southwestern U.S. to add a more epic feel than RealLife Israel could offer.

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!! This work provides examples of:

* AdaptationDistillation: Of Literature/TheFourGospels.
** The film also credits "the writings of Fulton Oursler and Henry Denker". It shares its title and subject matter with a 1947-1956 radio drama series written by Denker, based on a novel by Oursler that wasn't actually published until 1949.
* BibleTimes: Naturally, along with many tropes one might find in the New Testament of Literature/TheBible.
* BookEnds: The film opens and ends with shots of a church, which has a mural of Jesus who looks exactly like Max Von Sydow.
* {{Cameo}}: It was the fairly common practice at the time of casting a fresh new actor as the lead and then surrounding him with more familiar faces. Besides the major roles, the film has:
** Most famously, Creator/JohnWayne as the centurion at the Crucifixion
** Creator/SidneyPoitier as Simon of Cyrene
** Pat Boone as the angel at the empty tomb
** Shelley Winters as a woman healed by Jesus
** Creator/AngelaLansbury as Pilate's wife
** Roddy [=McDowall=] as Matthew
** A large number of other famous actors made brief appearances, some only for a few seconds. One reviewer quipped that "it made the Via Dolorosa look like the Hollywood Walk of Fame!"
* CarpetOfVirility: The extremely masculine Creator/CharltonHeston as John the Baptist.
* CompositeCharacter:
** Lazarus of Bethany is equated with the rich (young) man who asks Jesus about eternal life.
** Mary Magdalene is equated with rhe woman caught in adultery.
* GodInHumanForm: Jesus. Emphasized by Creator/MaxVonSydow's solemn portrayal; no JesusWasWayCool here, unlike other film versions.
* LooksLikeJesus: Averted with the long hair. Max Von Sydow has much shorter hair than other movie depictions.
* ReCut: Several versions of the film were officially released at one point or another, with the longest-known version running three hours and forty-five minutes and the shortest running a little over two hours. The most common version seen today runs three hours and fifteen minutes. There was reportedly a four-hour, twenty-minute version, but it is unknown whether or not that it ever was released at that length.
* {{Satan}}: Portrayed by Creator/DonaldPleasence, called "the Dark Hermit" [[NoNameGiven only in the credits.]] The temptation of Jesus in the desert is depicted as an encounter with a hermit on a mountain. He shows up later when things are going bad for Jesus: He helps stir up a crowd to proclaim Jesus king, forcing Jesus to escape; Judas passes by him on the street when he goes to betray Jesus; he makes Peter deny Jesus; finally he leads the crowd in calling for Jesus's death.
* ShownTheirWork: Simon of Cyrene is depicted as black since he's Sidney Poitier in a cameo, but there is indeed a theory that Simon of Cyrene is the same man as "Simeon Niger" (Simeon the Black) in the Literature/ActsOfTheApostles.
* StandardSnippet: Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.
* TitleDrop - In the opening narration.
* TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth - Jesus, obviously. [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] by Mary, Lazarus' sister:
-->'''Mary:''' I'm frightened for him.
-->'''Lazarus:''' Why, Mary?
-->'''Mary:''' He is too good.
* WolverinePublicity: [[http://incinerama.com/gset.htm This early advertisement]] showcases Creator/JohnWayne as the Roman Centurion-- a {{cameo}} role in which he has exactly one line.
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