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Film / The Passion of the Christ

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"He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; by His wounds we are healed."
Isaiah 53; 700 B.C.

The Passion of the Christ is a 2004 Biblical drama film produced, directed and co-written by Mel Gibson, dramatizing the Passion of the Christ — the last hours of Jesus Christ's life. All the dialogue is in the ancient languages of Aramaic and Latin, although some cuts of the film include subtitles to assist the audio-centric viewer.

The film stars Jim Caviezel as Jesus Christ and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene. The rest of the cast is mostly unknown theater actors from Europe (including Italy) and the Middle East.

From its release to this day, a mention of the film's name will likely invoke its legacy of infamy and controversy, owing to its portrayal of the sheer horror of what happened to Jesus in unbearably prolonged, bloody and gory detail. Gorn doesn't even begin to describe the content of the film; once things start getting bloody an hour in, they don't stop until near the very end.

Obviously, the film is based on The Four Gospels, but some scenes take from other sources; some aspects of the film are based on Catholic devotions like the 14 Stations of the Cross and the Five Sorrows of Mary, while other parts are derived from the visions of a nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich. The film also includes wholly original scenes that flesh out the roles of the Virgin Mary and the Devil. The film also separates itself from other Jesus films with its focus on Christ's relationship with his mother and the centrality of his Last Supper.

The film was rated R, though this was not so much an indicator of "may contain violence" as "may contain some non-violence". Roger Ebert criticized the ratings board for this alongside many others, as he, who'd watched far more movies than most, called it "the most violent film [he had] ever seen". While Mel Gibson recommended it to people 13 and up, some Christian parents and even youth pastors chose to take advantage of the "accompanied by someone over 17" clause to get children under that age into the movie. In the UK, where film ratings aren't advisory, under-18s weren't even allowed in the cinema, although some Christians have been known to recommend the DVD to under-18s.

A sequel, also directed by Gibson, is planned, with Caviezel to reprise his role as Jesus.

When the film was re-released on Blu-ray and DVD in 2017, it came with brand new dubs in English and Spanish.

Compare The Last Temptation of Christ, another controversial religious movie focusing on the life of Jesus Christ only in English and directed by none other than Martin Scorsese.


  • Adaptation Distillation: Many additional details not in the Gospels themselves were taken from Catholic tradition and literature (Emmerich). For instance, during the walk to the crucifixion site, Jesus falling down exactly three times, having his bloody face wiped by a Jewish woman and meeting his mother Mary on the way is all straight from the Catholic "Way of the Cross" (Via Crucis), also known as the "Stations of the Cross". Meanwhile, Judas's encounter with a horde of demons is derived from Emmerich's writings.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Half-blind children biting Judas's flesh were not mentioned by Luke or Mark, but Gibson thought it was important to include in his film. His other additions are less demonic, especially the flashback showing the Mother of God making fun of God the Son's wonky homemade table and Mary's memory of picking up the child Jesus after he stumbles as she watches her son fall under the weight of his bloody cross.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: The baby carried by Satan, if interpreted to be the Anti-Christ.
  • Adaptational Heroism: A few details added to the Biblical accounts fall into this.
    • Simon of Cyrene confronts the Romans who are whipping Jesus nonstop while he carries his cross, even after Jesus falls to the ground.
    • Pilate's wife sympathizes with Jesus' mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, and gives them cloths to mop up Jesus's blood at the scene of his scourging.
  • Adrenaline Time: When Peter attacks the men arrested Jesus, the speed of the action shifts from normal to slow with every punch landed by one of the Apostles or their opponents, giving a sense of chaos and inconsistency while emphasizing the pain of those in the struggle.
  • All for Nothing:
    • Judas betrays Jesus to the Pharisees so that he could have his 30 pieces of silver. Instead, he is too guilt-ridden to accept it and ends up killing himself.
    • The Pharisees desperately want Jesus killed badly for heresy. Not only is their temple destroyed with them realizing they killed an innocent man, but we all know the rest of the story: Jesus is resurrected on the third day.
    • Satan goes through all the trouble in allowing the dark side of humanity to kill Jesus just so that he can convince the latter to stop saving them. It fails miserably.
  • Antagonistic Governor: Pontius Pilate, the Roman in charge of keeping the peace in Jerusalem, condemns Christ to his Passion. Unlike other portrayals of him, which show him to be a brutal dictator, he is only interested in maintaining the peace in Judea, even if that means sentencing an innocent man to death. This article discusses it in a detailed fashion.
  • Anti-Villain: Pontius Pilate, neither the first nor the last politician ever to wimp out in the face of death. While the film touches on this fact only very briefly, Emperor Tiberius had recently sent him a threatening letter over complaints he'd received from the Jewish priests, and was busy purging the Roman administration of anyone connected with the traitor Sejanus (the former consul), who happened to have been Pontius Pilate's sponsor for his position as governor of Judea. The priests complaining to Tiberius that he was no Amicus Caesaris—friend of Caesar—would have gotten Pilate sent to the chopping block. This is also why he tried to pass the buck to Herod when it came to handing down sentences.
  • Artistic License – History: Given that Gibson is focused on the Biblical narrative, there are a few scenes that are in line with Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant tradition (no artistic license in terms of religion) but questioned by historians:
    • One of the more obvious is in regard to Jewish laws and traditions, which utilized an Orthodox understanding, in that the Seder he is eating have leaven bread instead of matza, which is one of the reason why Orthodox utilized leaven host too. Also Christ makes them eat while sitting upright even though a Seder is supposed to be eaten while reclining; one of the four questions makes this perfectly clear. (There is considerable dispute among Catholic theologians as to whether the Last Supper actually started out as a Seder meal or not. It may well be that Gibson had not intended to depict a Seder at all.)
    • Unlike most artistic depictions, some historians believe that nails were driven through the bones of the wrist rather than through the palms, given that the soft tissue of the hand couldn't support the weight of the victim. The gospels have some wiggle room in that the Greek word usually translated as "hand" can include the wrist. But after all, Gibson is telling a biblical story, not a historical film, so any difference that originate from the Bible and Traditions will carry over (as acknowledged by Gibson himself, who knew of this, but decided the power of imagery won out over accuracy).
    • Similarly, unlike artistic canon, some historians argued that victims of crucifixion only carried the cross-beam, not a whole cross. Places of crucifixion like Golgotha would have had permanent standing posts where the beam would be attached as necessary. A few earlier Biblical films like From the Manger to the Cross, Jesus of Nazareth, and The Last Temptation of Christ already had depicted Jesus carrying only the beam. But again, Gibson decide to accurately depict the Passion according to artistic tradition. The two men crucified besides Jesus, however, carry only the beams.
    • The only point where artistic license is taken regarding history AND religion is during the scourging of Christ. The gospels do not say how many strokes Jesus received when Pilate ordered him to be flogged. But as attested by Paul, he himself was sentenced to "forty minus one" (39) strokes on five occasions by the Jewish authorities. This is in line with Deuteronomy chapter 25, which states that criminals may not receive more than 40 strokes, so the Jewish authorities tended to stop at 39 in order not to break the law accidentally — again, showing Gibson is accurate in terms of the Bible. In terms of history, however, this brought about a question: Jesus was flogged by Romans not Jews, so this might be irrelevant. Needless to say, the film goes way beyond 39 strokes (with a soldier counting in Latin all the while), and both rods and scourges are used on Jesus. The beating is only halted due to an officer pointing out that they weren't ordered to flog the prisoner to death.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics:
    • While credited for being "authentic" in using Aramaic to tell Jesus' story in his language, there's a great deal of guesswork involved. Aramaic is indeed a living language, but the dialect that was spoken in Judea during Jesus' time, Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, has been dead since the 13th century. It is certainly not the same as the Neo-Aramaic varieties spoken in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria today, which are descended from different dialects. There is also the factor of time, because languages change overtime; even the Aramaic spoken in today's Iraq is not the same as the Aramaic spoken in the same area 2000 years ago. To give you an idea, it is like comparing the Vulgar Latin spoken in Hispania at the time of Augustus with modern-day Italian. As a result, the filmmakers had to consult a linguist to reconstruct the dead language, as nobody has a real idea of how it sounded beyond educated guesses, which are still guesses nonetheless.
    • Related to this is the fact that the oldest manuscript of the New Testament is written in Koine Greek, and with one notable exceptionnote  along with other, much shorter phrases like "Abba" (Father) or "Mammon" (material wealth), It contains no transcriptions or transliterations of Jesus' sayings in Aramaic. Even if the film was translated from Greek (assuming they didn't use English translations as source) back into Aramaic, that would still involve a lot of guesswork at best and would not in any way be authentic in a historical sense.
    • Pilate speaks to Jesus in Latin in the film, when it is more likely that an educated Roman official would speak in Koine Greek to the provincials, as Koine Greek was the international language in the Eastern Mediterranean at that time due to the conquests of Alexander the Great. This was a deliberate choice, though - Aramaic and Latin are easier to distinguish from each other than Aramaic and Greek, and making the Judeans and the Romans speak different, distinctive languages helps create a bigger gap. The Romans, though, would have spoken Latin among themselves, and that indeed is depicted in the film.
    • The Latin pronunciation used is Ecclesiastical, based on Italian phonology, and not the Classical pronunciation that would have been used at the time.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Satan is made into a visible antagonist figure throughout the film. The Passion narratives in the Gospels only mention Satan as entering into Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrays Jesus.
    • Pilate's wife has a larger though still minor part than in the Gospels where she has a single mention.
    • Depending on denomination, Mary the mother of Jesus is considered as such. Of the four Gospels, only the Gospel of John mentions Mary the mother of Jesus being present, and only after Jesus has been crucified. However, in the Catholic tradition, Mary is present during Jesus' passion, which is reflected as the 4th Station of the Cross and all 5 Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Thus, being a Traditional Catholic, Gibson reflect these in his film and have her witnesses the events throughout.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • It's hard to feel sorry for Judas after he hangs himself for the coward that he is after he betrayed his master for money.
    • Pretty much everyone who persecuted Christ gets their well-deserved comeuppance after Christ dies, with the most satisfying being the Pharisees and their temple ruined in the earthquake.
    • Satan could do nothing but scream in horror and defeat as Jesus saves humanity by dying on the cross. He had it coming.
  • Batman Gambit: This entire film is one big one from God and Jesus themselves. Jesus (being God in the flesh) knew he was going to die. He knew Judas would betray him prior to the events of the film. He knew Peter would deny him three times, even though Peter denies it would happen. Jesus knew he was going to persecuted. And he lets it all happen for the sake of saving humanity from all their sins.
  • Big Bad: Joseph ben Caiaphas, High Priest of the Temple of Jerusalem, is the primary agent calling for the execution of Jesus, taking great pleasure at seeing him scourged. Like all other sinful human beings, he's just a mere pawn for Satan's ultimate scheme in destroying humanity.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The original plan was to have the entire film in Aramaic with no subtitles at all. As it stands, only lines central to the plot are subtitled, leaving a lot of lines from bystanders and Romans which someone who knows the language can translate themselves. (As a side note a few of the languages are actually wrong, for instance the Roman characters all speak with the modern Ecclesiastic pronunciation, not the historical Classic pronunciation. A few important lines are also left untranslated, including the infamous one where the Jews take responsibility on themselves and their descendants).
    • Pilate starts talking with Jesus in Aramaic... and gets a response in Latin, proving to Pilate that this supposed Messiah is too well-learned to be a delusional hermit.
  • Body Horror: Invoked, which the movie is infamous for. One particularly prominent example is a few pieces of metal tied into a scourge implant themselves into Jesus’ side, and have to be torn out. Everyone watching flinches, and it leaves a portion of His rib cage completely exposed.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: A Real Life example. During the filming, Jim Caviezel was struck by lightning, and assistant director Jan Michelini was struck by lightning twice. Everyone's a critic. (Admittedly, it probably has more to do with hanging around a hilltop in stormy weather carrying lots of metal objects than actual divine retribution.)
  • Bowdlerise: In response to the film's criticisms regarding its violent and gory content, an edited version was released for Easter 2005 to make it more accessible for families. This version was intended to receive a PG-13 rating; however, the MPAA still thought it was too violent, and as such, it was released unrated. note 
  • Butt-Monkey: The centurion who impales Jesus with a spear, here named Cassius, is depicted as "not all there" and the frequent butt of his comrades taunts.
  • Call-Forward: In a flashback to his Last Supper, Jesus offers bread and wine to his disciples, speaking about how he is the bread and the fact that he's sacrificing the bread for them. This parallels the death and pain Jesus suffers during the rest of the movie depicts for the sake of all men.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The caning, scourging, public humiliation, and then crucifixion of Christ is depicted for over an hour with bruises, bones, open flesh, and blood in plain view of the camera. Gibson himself said that the REAL Passion was EVEN WORSE.
  • Composite Character: The film equates Mary Magdalene with the unnamed adulterous woman who Jesus saves from stoning in the Gospel of John. This is in keeping with medieval Western Christian tradition which made Mary a loose woman or even a prostitute before becoming a follower of Jesus. Since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the Catholic Church has officially discouraged this identification. But Gibson's brand of Catholicism is a particularly Traditionalist one. (This tradition is also reflected in The Last Temptation of Christ.)
  • Creator Cameo: Gibson plays Jesus during the flashback with Mary Magdalene, hence why he's only seen from the back in that scene. It's also his hands nailing Jesus to the cross.
  • Creepy Child: We have Satan's demonic baby, and we have the horribly wrinkled demonic children that drive Judas over the edge. Take your pick.
  • Crucial Cross: Despite the hideous violence surrounding it, the cross is still treated as something something sacred and beautiful for its role in undermining Satan and all the forces of evil. In fact, the first thing Jesus does upon receiving his cross is kiss it out of reverence.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to a normal passion play, which started out as traveling French medieval theater.
  • Depraved Homosexual: King Herod, who is portrayed as a giggling, mincing, gay-ish libertine in a wig (similar to Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Jesus Christ Superstar"). While various people throughout history have accused the Herod of all kinds of depravity, this particular ruler had more of a reputation with his detractors as a notorious womanizer; make of that what you will. The original reason for Herod being portrayed as a libertine is because the Jews didn't like their Hellenized royalty, who were seen as sell-outs who'd abandoned their Jewishness in favor of decadent Greek high culture.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The Pharisees and all of their supporters go through all the trouble in torturing and killing Jesus. What they don’t realize is that this was an ultimate plan conspired by Jesus and God all along in saving humanity from sin.
  • Dramatic Irony: The procession through the streets towards the place of crucifixion is contrasted with brief flashbacks of Jesus's entry into Jerusalem a few days before where he was welcomed by crowds waving palm branches (known as Palm Sunday to Christians).
  • Driven to Suicide: In an account borrowed from The Four Gospels, Judas's guilt over his betrayal of Christ leads him to throw away his money and hang himself. In order to make it clear that this isn't a redemptive moment for Judas, several scenes are added between his disposal of the money and his suicide where demonic children chase him while reminding him that he is cursed and condemned, culminating in Judas staring at a rotten donkey corpse with it's rein still attached to the neck. Unable to handle his own sufferings at the hands of the demons, Judas hangs himself, as the camera focuses on the corpse of the rotten donkey, which now appears to be smiling.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Satan's corrupted influence on humanity leads them to brutally torture Jesus to death on unprecedented levels that the most doubtful of Jesus's character might think the latter has enough and destroys humanity, fulfilling Satan's ultimate plan in taking them with him. Instead, Jesus remains unconditionally loving to his persecutors even to his death, proving Satan wrong as he screams in defeat.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Satan is portrayed as an androgynous figure who wears a hooded robe and frequently carries an eerily adult-looking baby—sickly parodying the classic image of the Virgin Mary cradling an infant Jesus. The parallel between the two figures is made clear as Jesus first begins to carry his cross, because the camera cuts between Mary and Satan staring at each other from opposite sides of the crowds in opposition, making Mary the only character besides Christ himself to face the Devil.
    • Caiaphas can also be considered as this to Jesus, as both are Jewish figures who are influential teachers of God's word to the public. Unlike Jesus, who came down to Earth as the son of God and lived a humble life, both on the outside and inside, Caiaphas was a mere human being with an insane amount of wealth and status. Unfortunately, Caiaphas is also prideful and arrogant.
    • Judas Iscariot is also this to Simon Peter, being two of the most well-known disciples of Jesus who end up betraying him during the latter's persecution. But while Peter was loyal to Jesus and betrayed him out of fear (he remained loyal even after Jesus dies and is resurrected), Judas cared more about money and betrayed Jesus out of greed. It really speaks volumes when Peter doesn't succumb to Satan's temptation and remains alive on Earth, whereas Judas does and hangs himself.
  • Eyeball-Plucking Birds: One of the thieves crucified with Jesus gets his eye pecked out by a raven.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: When the two boys check to see what’s wrong with Judas, he says to them "Leave me alone... you little satans!" And it turns out the boys are demons in the forms of human children.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Don't tell anyone! Jesus dies. And is then resurrected.
  • From Bad to Worse: Although the whole plot is a Foregone Conclusion for the viewer, the characters in universe (except Christ, of course) don't know how far it will go or what will happen next. Mary in particular wonders aloud in one scene how much Jesus will endure.
  • Genre Throwback: In addition being an adaptation of the Gospels, the film also serves as a tribute to big budgeted Hollywood Biblical epics such as Ben-Hur (1959) and The Ten Commandments (1956).
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Subverted. Jesus has yellow eyes like a few desert-dwelling people do (mutations due to the hot climate), while Satan's eyes are pale and almost colorless.
  • Gorn: Real crucifixions and scourgings were very messy.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Satan is an active threat in this film, and considering his role in the Bible, this trope fits him all too well. Yes, Caiaphas is the one who leads the charge in wanting Jesus executed, yet here's merely a pawn for the devil who is pulling all the strings in putting forth his grand plan in corrupting Jesus to lose his faith in humanity. Unfortunately (for him), Jesus dies saving every soul on Earth, making the devil's plan All for Nothing.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Enforced. When an experienced Roman soldier (who's doubtless seen a few deaths in his time) assures his boss that Jesus is gone, his boss tosses him a spear and tells him to make sure of it. A quick lancing confirms his analysis.
  • Heaven Above: When the Passion ends with Christ's death, the camera angles above the crucifixion scene to show a lone tear drop falling down towards Jesus's corpse. The effect is similar to a Single Tear, as if the Father in Heaven is crying for His Son.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Pontius Pilate is portrayed as a (relatively) Reasonable Authority Figure who feels he has no choice but to execute Jesus to stop a rebellion. The real Pontius Pilate is almost universally described as a cruel and unjust ruler who would execute people at the drop of hat, meaning if he really did crucify Jesus, he probably wasn't too broken up about it.
  • Humans Are Flawed: No matter how pure Jesus Christ is, there are people that want him dead. Even Satan believes there is no hope for them. Which is why Jesus goes through his crucifixion so that he can save even the most corrupt human beings.
  • Hypocrite: For men who study the Old Testament 24/7, the pharisees should know very well that two of the 10 Commandments inscribed in Moses's tablet are "Thou Shall Not Murder" and "Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness." They not only accuse Jesus for heresy, but they advocate for his crucifixion.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Jesus, of course. It's really telling when he's completely unfazed when Satan regards humanity (including the ones that persecute him) as hopeless to save, yet Jesus goes along with his execution. When Jesus is dying, he only sees humanity with sorrow not hate.
  • Insert Cameo: Gibson's hands are the ones nailing Christ to the cross.
  • It Will Never Catch On: A humorous flashback has Jesus build a modern, long-legged table, only for his mother to mock the idea and wonder how in the world someone is supposed to eat dinner on such a device. No, it's not Monty Python.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Judas gets tormented by children who mock him for his appearance, and then begin saying he's cursed. Veers right into Nightmare Fuel territory after that, when despite Judas running from them, they still follow him to throw more insults and rocks. It's also implied the children killed Judas's mule. Oh! And those kids may or may not be demons.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Judas kills himself in shame and is doomed for eternal condemnation after betraying Christ to the pharisees. To add insult to the injury, even the pharisees don't want his money as he gives back to them.
    • The thief who calls Jesus a fool for not saving himself earns an Eye Scream a little later.
    • Just about anyone and everyone who contributed to Jesus's suffering freaks out when the thunder and earthquakes start.
    • And finally, Satan can do nothing but scream when his plan to keep humanity corrupt ultimately fails.
  • Meaningful Name: The Apostle John is played by Hristo Zhivkov and Pontius Pilate is played by Hristo Shopov. Their first names are the Bulgarian translation of "Christ". Jim Caviezel, meanwhile, observed that it's an interesting coincidence he has the initials "J.C."
  • Mood Whiplash: While Jesus is carrying his cross, there is a touching scene where Veronica wipes his face, only to be jerked away by a Roman soldier who angrily demands who the hell she thinks she is ("the hell" is more or less implied).
    • On a less serious note, Jesus, shortly after his capture, observes a carpenter. Cue flashback when Jesus invents the modern dinner table.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Judas is so shaken, horrified and guilt-ridden over his betrayal of Jesus that he kills himself.
    • Peter has his right after he realizes he's denied Jesus three times; he flees, right into John, Mary, and Mary Magdalene. When they ask what happened, he can only confess what he did through sobs and recoils when Mary tries to comfort him, saying he's unworthy.
    • When Jesus dies, the veil of the temple is torn while the Pharisees are in it. Their reaction makes it pretty clear they just realized who they had tortured and killed.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus defies Satan and steps on a snake. This is a reference to Genesis 3:15, long interpreted by Christians as a prophecy about Jesus:
    And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
    • Jesus quotes Revelation 21:5 to his mother Mary:
    Behold, [mother,] I make all things new.
  • Naked on Revival: The first sign of Jesus's Resurrection is his empty burial shroud, which lies right next to the healed and very much alive Christ in his tomb.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The film gives names to people left nameless in the Bible.
    • The centurion at the Crucifixion is named "Abenader". This comes from the writings of Anne Catherine Emmerich. (It's also historically unattested.)
    • The soldier who stabs Jesus with a spear to make sure he's dead is named Cassius. He is better known in Christian tradition as Longinus (thus the spear is The Lance of Longinus); it's not exactly impossible for his name to have been Cassius Longinus, like Brutus's BFF.
    • The two thieves are called Dismas and Gesmas. "Dismas" is attested in ancient Christian writings while "Gesmas" comes from the medieval Golden Legend (though it is a variant of the ancient "Gestas") and is the form used by Anne Catherine Emmerich.
  • No Name Given: A woman wipes Jesus's face with a cloth on the way to his crucifixion. She's not named in dialogue but is readily identifiable as the "Veronica" of Christian tradition.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The beatdowns of Jesus last for more than half the movie, and at times are unbearable to watch.
  • One-Woman Wail: They almost had Lisa Gerrard scoring the film.
  • Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous: Satan is portrayed by a woman with a shaved head and a voice altered to sound more masculine in post-production.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Mary watches as her son is brutally executed for a crime he didn't commit. The movie emphasizes her maternal suffering by intercutting her scene watching Jesus fall with the cross with a Flashback of the child Jesus tripping and getting picked up by his concerned mother.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Jesus bleeds up more than the entire adult blood supply when he's flogged, then bleeds out three or four people's worth of blood when he's crucified.
  • Passion Play: The Passion of the Christ separates itself from most tellings of the Passion by the sheer brutality of its visuals and the emphasis on the excruciating pain the Christ went through leading up to his execution.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Naturally. When Jesus is removed from the Cross, he is lowered into Mary's arms for the iconic shot.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Roman commander overseeing the crucifixion. He is obviously disgusted by the gruesome state of Jesus and the behavior of his cruel soldiers, but does his job anyway.
  • Queer People Are Funny: Apparently, judging from the way King Herod and his consorts are portrayed.
  • The Queen's Latin: Semi-Averted. Every character speaks Aramaic or Latin, but there is a lot of guesswork involved with reconstructing the Aramaic dialect of Jesus' time, and the Latin used in the film is Ecclesiastical Latin, which has a different pronunciation from the Classical Latin that the Romans would have spoken at the time.
  • Race Lift:
    • While we can't know what Jesus looked like, he was a Middle Eastern Jew. However, James Caviezel's father is of Slovak (maternal) and Swiss (paternal) descent, while his mother's ancestry is Irish, and it is beyond unlikely that Jesus was at all Slovak / Swiss / Irish. Hence, the makeup crew did what they could to make Caviezel look more Middle-Eastern, such as giving him contacts and dying his hair darker. Something of an inversion given the classic (inaccurate) depiction of Jesus as extremely pale.
    • Many of the Jews in the film are played by Italian actors, although this actually a subversion. In Petronius' The Satyricon, which was written around the time this film is set, the Roman author states that Jews and Romans/Italics have the same skin color, to the point that, according to him, to pass for a Jew all a Roman needs is circumcision and ears piercing (which he contrasts to the case of the Gauls, which were much paler than Italics, and the Ethiopians, who were black).
  • Rasputinian Death: Jesus is whipped, first with canes then with flagellum (whips that have sharp objects on the end), at one point having skin visibly ripped from his side. Then he is given a crown of thorns and a cross to carry, and heaves it up through the streets while being whipped, kicked, beaten, and hit by thrown objects. At one point, he falls and is beaten to the point where he can barely move, and another man is forced to carry the cross for him. Then he finally gets to the top of the mountain where he has nails driven into his hands and feet, and still manages to survive for several hours on the cross.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Pontius Pilate, who orders the execution of a man he has no reason to believe is anything other than an instigator of dissent with delusions of grandeur.
    • Even King Herod, as depraved as he is, finds Jesus to be completely innocent of heresy and sends him back to Pilate.
    • Jewish Elders Nicodemus and Joseph protest how Jesus's trial is becoming a Kangaroo Court and unsuccessfully attempt to shame the others present. Nicodemus protests that the "witnesses" statements are full of contradiction and that he has not heard anything to make him condemn Jesus. Joseph calls the trial a travesty, while shouting at Ciaphas that many other elders (implicitly other less reactionary ones) haven’t even been woken up to attend the meeting (which may count as an Author's Saving Throw given the largely unsympathetic portrayal of the Jewish community).
  • Re-Cut: A version literally called "The Passion Recut" released a year later trims down the violence and gore by five to six minutes.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Jesus's ordeal is intercut with a few flashbacks to the Last Supper where he gives his Apostles bread and wine and speaks of his body and blood being offered up. (Pertinently, some denominations of Christians including Catholics take "this is my body" and "this is my blood" literally.)
  • Satan: The Devil appears in the form of a creepy androgynous woman with a harsh male voice, an uncanny parody of humanity that shows the fiend's penchant for corruption. He spends the movie slithering through the crowds persecuting and torturing Christ unnoticed by anyone but Jesus and his mother, the two people who are most responsible for the Passion that ultimately undoes the corruption brought on by the Devil. By the very end, he is too powerless to do anything but scream at the heavens.
  • Shown Their Work: Crucifixion was so agonizing and brutal that the word "excruciating" was coined to describe the kind of pain it caused. There is nothing pretty about Roman execution methods, then or now, and you get to see it.
  • Single Tear: After Jesus dies on the cross, a single drop of rain falls from the sky.
  • Surreal Horror: Take a gorn movie with a fairly straightforward tone, then throw into the mix an androgynous pale being carrying around a terrifying, leering man-baby.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Boy howdy! Jesus gets this in spades.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After scene after scene of Jesus having every single action cause more pain for him, he's being crucified and a guard recommends flipping the cross over so they can bend the nails' points so they don't slip out. The cross is flipped and Jesus about to be crushed underneath it... but suddenly it stops a foot from the ground. Nobody seems to notice aside from Mary Magdalene and Jesus, so it's not clear if the cross was stopped physically or if God intervened to give His Son a little mercy.
  • Token Good Teammate: Of the Roman soldiers, Abenader and Cassius. The former stops his men from needlessly tormenting Jesus, and the latter openly shows sympathy for Mary. Fittingly, they're both implied to realize Jesus was the Messiah after His death (in the Bible, the centurion openly says "this was the son of God").
  • Torture Porn: Much time is spent on showing the copious amounts of graphic violence against Jesus in excruciating detail, so that the audience can fully know what it was like when Christ was crucified on his, how you say, crux.
  • Translation Convention: Pretty much averted. The movie's dialogue is entirely Aramic and Latin with subtitles only added for the viewers to understand what the characters are saying to each other.
  • True Companions: Averted with Jesus's Twelve Apostles who betray, desert or deny knowing him — except for John, who is identified as the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John (following Christian tradition). John alone among the Apostles, together with Jesus's mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, watches Jesus's ordeal including the crucifixion.
  • Truth in Television: While this particular case and film is not without its issues, crucifixion was a common punishment in Ancient Rome. If any of them were less cruel it's still within shades of black.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After Jesus endures his ordeal and dies on the cross, there's a brief shot of Satan shrieking in Hell, as it realises it's lost its grip on humanity.
  • You Bastard!: The Virgin Mary's unblinking stare (also a Heroic BSoD) directly into the camera over her son's corpse smacks of this trope. After all, Jesus died for our sins. Minor details such as the fact that Mel's hands are the ones nailing Jesus to the cross are there to add symbolism for this point.