YMMV / The Last Temptation of Christ

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Several. Jesus and Judas are the most obvious.
  • Awesome Music: By none other than Peter Gabriel.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: That "talking lion" was pretty trippy.
  • Critical Research Failure: On the part of the film's protesters back in 1988, who mainly objected to one brief scene taken way, way out of context. Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch was also a big factor. It's been speculated that a lot of the backlash was because people wrongly assumed that it was the "gay Jesus movie" that had been a longstanding urban legend among conservative Christians.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: "It is accomplished"...
  • Fridge Brilliance: The encounter between Paul and Jesus in the temptation scene. The real-life St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that without the risen Christ, all faith and preaching are in vain. Had Christ fallen to the last temptation, he would not have died on the cross and would not have risen from the dead. If so, Paul's future preaching, if it still took place, would have been a lie. Christ's crucifixion nullifies this by ensuring that there will be the resurrection and renders Paul's future preaching true. Doubles as a sort of Stable Time Loop.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: A film about Jesus starring David Bowie and features in addition a depiction of the Lazarus resurrection. Come 20152016, the release of Blackstar and the single "Lazarus" (followed by a stage show and music video), with Bowie dying just two days after the former's release.
  • He Really Can Act: For those who only associate David Bowie as an actor with the sensual, increasingly-unhinged Thomas Jerome Newton or the campily villainous Jareth, seeing him deliver a subdued, dignified performance as Pontius Pilate can come off as this.
  • Narm: Harvey Keitel keeps his Brooklyn accent.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: The film's modern-day reception.
    • Subverted in regards to how the film actually went down among contemporary audiences. The film barely broke even financially ($8 million box office on a $7 million budget)note , and pundits made more money decrying the film on talk shows than Scorsese earned by making it. The box-office failure and the strong reaction it provoked, including antisemitic outbursts (fundamentalists burnt crosses on producer Lew Wassermann's lawn— Wassermann was Jewish, FYI), made the film industry skeptical of bible films and religious subjects in general. Massive letter-writing and boycott campaigns from various religious groups, most notably the Catholic League (who encouraged Catholics to never set foot into any theater which showed the film ever again), also didn't help the film's box office. To this day, the film is still highly controversial in the conservatively Christian (by Western standards) United States and is outright banned in Singapore and The Philippines.
  • Offending the Creator's Own: Scorsese was Raised Catholic and initially wanted to be a priest, and although he lapsed out of the Church on account of his sympathies with the Vietnam War protest movements, by the time of the '80s, he still identified himself as being religious, and his idea of doing a non-traditional Christ movie was mostly to show that Jesus' central message, stripped of its traditional iconography and presentation, was still relevant and positive. The massive outcry in highly Christian parts of the world (most notably the United States) nonetheless resulted in the near-instantaneous formation of a still-standing stigma against any non-traditional approach to religious subjects in mainstream movies.
  • One True Threesome: Jesus is implied to become one of these during the alternate future when, following Mary Magdalene's death, he ends up living with Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, and having many children with both of them.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: The first half hour kind of drags. It's a bit talky, there's some heavy symbolism, and presenting us with a couple major variations on the gospel account up front (Jesus making crosses for the Romans and Jesus already knowing Judas and Mary Magdalene) makes us unsure which direction the film is headed. But once we get to "cast the first stone" and John the Baptist we're back on familiar narrative turf and we start to appreciate what Scorsese is doing.
  • Vindicated by History: Decades later, some hard-right fundamentalist Christian sects, of all people, like The Promise Keepers would eventually agree that the infamous temptation in the film would be precisely the kind of trickery that Satan would try on Jesus.
    • The movie is also regarded as one of Scorsese's most striking films, and its admired by Abel Ferrara, Steve Erickson and Christian theologian Robert Price. Price went as far as to call the film a 20th-century Gospel for the modern age, one that offers a vision of Jesus familiar to people without the trappings and baggage of organized religion.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Willem Dafoe — known for taking dark, psychotic roles and looking generally Satanic — plays Jesus. Sergio Leone, at least, did not take it well.
    "This is the face of a murderer, not of Our Lord!"
    • Scorsese justified this on grounds of averting Jesus Was Way Cool, wanting a Jesus who wasn't immediately charismatic and obvious in his message but someone who grew into his role and an actor who illustrated the conflict between being fully human and divine.
    • David Bowie as Pontius Pilate raises most people's eyebrows, but Bowie then turns in the most subtle performance of the film, portraying Pilate as intelligent, polite and yet quite cold and pragmatic. Of course, this is David Bowie we're talking about.
    • It can be very alarming to realize that Judas is Mister White.
    • Harry Dean Stanton as Saul/Paul seems odd, until you see that Paul is something of a villain in this story.