The winner of 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, Ben-Hur stands as one of the greatest Hollywood epics ever filmed. Told on a sweeping canvas encompassing the Roman Empire at the time of Christ, this story of the life of a Jewish man who is unjustly enslaved yet who rises to greatness in Rome climaxes with a chariot race that is one of the most famous of all movie scenes.
A member of the Jewish nobility living in Jerusalem, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) lives a religious life and peacefully opposes the tyrannical occupation of Judea by Rome. When a boyhood friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd), returns to the region as a Roman official, he and Judah become estranged due to Messala’s fanatical loyalty to Rome and ruthless indifference to the fate of Judea. Casting friendship aside, Messala fabricates a charge of treason against Ben-Hur, his sister and mother, all of whom are arrested by Roman soldiers.
While the fate of his family remains unknown to him, Judah is condemned to spend the rest of his life enslaved on a Roman warship. However, his fate takes a fortuitous turn when he saves the life of the fleet commander, Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins). Freed from slavery, Judah becomes Arrius’ adopted son and a horse trainer. Rather than forgetting his past to become the heir of the Roman aristocrat, Judah sets his sights on finding his family and exacting his revenge on the treacherous Messala, which Judah eventually does in the famous chariot race.