Underrated movies: Jesus Christ Superstar


Credit: Universal Pictures

Technically this movie has had a huge following since the ‘70s, but my generation needs to know about it. I know every song by heart thanks to my crazy mother. When my dad would go out of town, my sister and I would dance around the kitchen to the soundtrack while my mom made pancakes. Hence, this movie is a huge part of my childhood.

It’s a film version of the original rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice taking place in the days leading up to Jesus’ (Ted Neeley) crucifixion as he copes with the sacrifice he has to make for God and his people. When his close confidante, Judas (Carl Anderson) betrays him we witness how quickly people that once adored this man turn against him to jeer as he is nailed to the cross.

You don’t have to be religious to love this movie. On the contrary, some subplots would be considered much too controversial by the church, such as Mary Magdalene (Yvonne Elliman) dealing with the romantic feelings she has for Jesus. My mom said when she went to see it in the theater, the devout Christians walked out in disappointment, finding it more blasphemous than faithful.

But don’t get the idea this is The Passion of the Christ. Far from it. It’s a singing, dancing extravaganza that captures the vivacious spirit of the ‘70s. It’s beautifully shot on location in Israel and completely deserves its Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Neeley and Anderson were nominated for Golden Globes for their performances.

Neeley (who my mom crushed on back in the day) is a rock star. He sings with such passion and anguish that you get a glimpse inside the mind of someone carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He plays Jesus with human vulnerability and looks good doing it. Anderson, however was my favorite singer out of the cast and has a presence that demands your attention. Even his villainy is fraught with guilt and inner conflict that makes his character is far from an archetype.

If you’re nostalgic for the free-spirit mentality of the ‘70s or are just a fan of Broadway musicals, I highly recommend this. Besides, the dance numbers look even cooler in the Israeli desert.

For the diehard fans, the musical will be playing at the Wembley Arena in London on October 17th, featuring Melanie C as Mary Magdalene. I can actually picture her singing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” with pizazz. So for those of you who are interested, here’s a link to the official website.

Attached is my favorite song, “Heaven on Their Minds” sung by Carl Anderson.

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