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Published On: Tue, Feb 25th, 2014

This Day in History: ‘Passion of the Christ’ opens in the US, still controversial ten years later

One of the most divisive films in movie history is Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which opened in theaters ten years ago today.

Passion of the ChristLargely based on the 18th-century diaries of Saint Anne Catherine Emmerich, the film was a true labor of love for Gibson, who later told Time magazine that he had “a deep need to tell this story…The Gospels tell you what basically happened; I want to know what really went down.”

Gibson personally scouted locations and intended on the film showing without subtitles to “transcend the language barriers with visual storytelling,” as he later explained.

With dialogue entirely in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic, the film was eventually released with subtitles.

From the opening, Passion was the epicenter of controversy, accused of being anti-Semitic and then, after screenings, criticized for being too violent and short on story.

Passion of the Christ opened big, earning over $83 the first weekend and continued to earn over $370 million in the US and nearly $612 million worldwide.

Famous film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 4 stars out of 4 noting it is “the most violent film I have ever seen” and reflected on how much the film touched him. Many reviewers called it a snuff film (Slate, Crazed Fanboy) and some echoed the accusations of anti-Semitism.

The June 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly named The Passion of the Christ the most controversial film of all time.

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