The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
This rendition of Matthew’s Gospel is the earliest film we’ll be talking about, and arguably the best. Indeed, this Italian film is considered a bit of a masterpiece, holding a 94% “freshness” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and lauded by secular and Christian critics alike. The L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, once wrote that it was the best film based on Jesus ever made.
There’s a certain irony in that, given that The Gospel According to St. Matthew was directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, a Marxist atheist. The movie’s success, both aesthetically and theologically, is proof that you don’t need to be Christian to make a beautiful Christian movie. You can watch it the whole film (with English subtitles) right here, courtesy YouTube.