Make no mistake — Ben-Hur is not great art. But it is great fun. Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), a contemporary of Jesus, is a Jewish prince in Roman-ruled Judea newly reunited with his boyhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd). Messala, a Roman, has just returned from the empire’s capital to reign as tribune, a sort of lieutenant governor, of Judea. These old pals now find themselves separated by politics — one is the ruler, the other the ruled.
Instantly one of my favorite films, The Bridge on the River Kwai is a tense, terrifying, absolutely riveting film about the ironies of war and the deadly psychological games enemy soldiers play with each other.