150. Ben-Hur (B+)
Surely one of the biggest films ever made, for sheer spectacle. The chariot-racing scene remains an amazing piece of work even a half-century later, and it possesses an intensity that modern films creating a similar scene might lack because of increased reliance on computer visual effects (I had the same thought when watching Spartacus
). It's a triumph of production design, and deserved every one of those technical Oscars.
It's weaknesses relate to the human element and the plot, which is the case with a lot of epics. There are some very powerful scenes, such as Judah's reunion with his leprous mother and sister. However, the attempt to integrate Judah's life with the story of the New Testament is only occasionally successful; often it brings the proceedings to a crawl, particularly since Wyler's staging of these scenes is more tableau than cinema. We're deliberately kept at a distance from Christ, which isn't necessarily a bad approach in and of itself, but there's little emotional investment in the scenes set around him then. There are some very well-handled moments, though.