Synopsis: Judah Ben-Hur lives as a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. Together with the new governor his old friend Messala arrives as commanding officer of the Roman legions. At first they are happy to meet after a long time but their different politic views separate them. During the welcome parade a roof tile falls down from Judah's house and injures the governor. Although Messala knows they are not guilty, he sends Judah to the galleys and throws his mother and sister into prison. But Judah swears to come back and take revenge.
Director(s): William Wyler
Production: MGM
  Won 11 Oscars. Another 17 wins & 13 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
212 min

In the year of our Lord...

...Judea, for nearly a century,

had lain under the mastery of Rome.

In the seventh year of the reign

ofAugustus Caesar... imperial decree

ordered every Judean...

...each to return

to his place of birth...

... to be counted and taxed.

Converging ways of many of them led

to their capital city, Jerusalem...

... the troubled heart of their land.

The old city was dominated

by the fortress ofAntonia...

... the seat of Roman power...

...and by the great golden temple...

... the outward sign of

an inward and imperishable faith.

Even while they obeyed

the will of Caesar...

... the people clung proudly

to their ancient heritage...

...always remembering

the promise of their prophets...

... that one day there would be

born among them a redeemer...

... to bring them salvation

and perfect freedom.

You'll be counted at Hebron.



-What city?


-What family?


-Move on. Move on.




-What city?


-What family?

-David of Bethlehem.

And the woman?

My wife.

Move on.

You'll be counted at Bethlehem.

Come on, come on.

What village is this?


We should arrive in Jerusalem

tomorrow night.

You're not watching

the soldiers, Joseph?

We've seen Romans before.

Yes. . .

. . .and we will see them again.

My table is not finished.

Where is your son?

He's walking in the hills.

He neglects his work, Joseph.


Once, I reproached him with

forgetting his work. He said to me:

"I must be about my father's business. "

Then why isn't he here, working?

He's working.

Trumpeters of the legion!

Welcome, Messala.

The command is yours.

Thank you.

Thank you for relieving me.

Drusus. . .

. . .when I was a boy, I dreamed

of commanding this garrison.

Now the wheel has turned.

I am in command.


Aisle one, face right!


I'd forgotten the heat.

If it were only the heat.

I lived here until I was 1 4.

Jerusalem was my home.

-My father was head of--

-Yes, I know.

Your father is well-remembered.

Fine governor.

If there can be such a thing

in this forsaken land.

If you want to rise, Sextus,

do the difficult.

I asked to be sent here.

You'll find the people changed

since you were a boy.

In what way?

Oh, won't pay their taxes,

an irrational resentment of Rome. . . .

There's nothing new in all that.

And then there's religion. I tell

you, they're drunk with religion.

They smash the statues of our gods,

even those of the emperor.

Punish them.

We do.

When we can find them.

Find the leaders.

You don't know. There's nothing

you can put your finger on.

There are strange forces

at work here.

This "messiah" business--

I know. There was one

predicted when I was a boy.

A king of the Jews, who will lead them

into some sort of anti-Roman paradise.

Makes your head spin.

There's a wild man

in the desert named John. . .

. . .who drowns people in water.

And a carpenter's son who does magic

tricks. "Miracles" they call them.

There's always a rabble-rouser

stirring up trouble.

No, no, no. This man is different.

He teaches that God is near,

in every man.

It's actually quite profound,

some of it.

You've been too long away from Rome.

Go back, Sextus.

Go to Capri.

Bathe, rest, lie by the sea. . .

. . .and forget that

God is in every man.

-There is divinity in only one man.

-Yes, I know.

The emperor is displeased.

He wishes Judea made into a more

obedient and disciplined province.

He's ordered me to restore order.

I shall carry out his wishes.

How? You can break a man's skull,

arrest him, throw him into a dungeon.

But how do you control this?

How do you fight an idea?

Especially a new idea.

There's a Jew outside.

He wants to see the tribune Messala.

I assume he has a name.

-He says he's a prince, Judah Ben-Hur.

-Then treat him like one!

Tell him I will join him.

Yes, tribune.


This was his country

before it was ours.

Don't forget that.

Yes, tribune.

Very wise. This Ben-Hur is

the richest man in Jerusalem.

And the head of one

of the greatest families in Judea.

We were friends as boys.

We were like brothers.

Sextus. . .

. . .you ask how to fight an idea.

Well, I'll tell you how.

With another idea.

I said I'd come back.

I never thought you would.

I'm so glad.

-Look at you.

-Look at you!

You've come back a tribune.

When I heard that news,

I drank a toast to you.

We'll drink another now.

-Your sister and mother?

-They're fine.

They've talked of you

ever since we knew you were coming.

-Is Tirzah married?


Suitors come and go, but she dreams.

She's been in love with you

since she was 5.

I can't wait to see them.

Do you still hunt jackals and lions?

Or have you become too dignified?

-Down Eros, up Mars!

-Down Eros, up Mars!

Where the beams cross?


After all these years!

Still close.

In every way.

I hope so.

I know.

You're a Roman, and I'm a Jew. . .

. . .whose life you once saved.

The best thing I ever did.

Judah. . .

. . .it will be very difficult

to govern here.

I'm going to need help.

Your help. Your advice.

-You want my advice?

-Yes, I do.

Withdraw your legions.

Give us our freedom.

Unfortunately, the emperor

is devoted to his empire.

He's particularly fond of Judea.

And Judea's not fond of the emperor.

Is there anything so sad

as unrequited love?

Rate this script:4.5 / 4 votes

Karl Tunberg

Karl Tunberg (March 11, 1907 − April 3, 1992) was an American screenwriter and occasional film producer. His screenplays for Tall, Dark and Handsome (1941) and Ben-Hur (1959) were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay, respectively. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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