The film primarily covers the final twelve hours of Jesus' life, beginning with the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the insomniaand grievance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the brutal scourge and crucifixion, ending with a brief depiction of his resurrection. It was shot in Italy, and the dialogue is entirely in reconstructed Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin.
The film has been controversial and received largely polarised reviews, with some critics calling the film a religious classic while others found the extreme violence distracting and excessive, and claimed that the film subliminally promoted antisemitism.The film grossed $612 million worldwide and was the 9th highest grossing film domestically at the end of its theatrical run. It received three Academy Award nominations in 2005. As of 2018, it is the highest grossing R-rated film in the United States.
The film opens in Gethsemane as Jesus prays and is tempted by Satan, while his apostles, Peter, James and John sleep. After receiving thirty pieces of silver, one of Jesus' other apostles, Judas, approaches with the temple guards and betrays Jesus with a kiss on the cheek. As the guards move in to arrest Jesus, Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus, but Jesus heals the ear. As the apostles flee, the temple guards arrest Jesus and beat him during the journey to the Sanhedrin. John tells Mary and Mary Magdalene of the arrest while Peter follows Jesus at a distance. Caiaphas holds trial over the objection of some of the other priests, who are expelled from the court. When questioned by Caiaphas whether he is the son of God, Jesus replies "I am." Caiaphas is horrified and tears his robes and Jesus is condemned to death for blasphemy. Peter, who is secretly watching, is confronted and three times denies knowing Jesus, but then runs away sobbing after remembering that Jesus had foretold that. Meanwhile, the remorseful Judas attempts to return the money to have Jesus freed but is refused by the priests. Tormented by demons, he flees the city and hangs himself with a rope he finds on a dead donkey.
Caiaphas brings Jesus before Pontius Pilate to be condemned to death, but after questioning Jesus and finding no fault in him, Pilate sends him instead to the court of Herod, as Jesus is from Herod's ruling town of Nazareth. After Jesus is again found not guilty and returned, Pilate offers the crowd that he will chastise Jesus and then will set him free. He then attempts to have Jesus freed by giving the people an option of freeing Jesus or the violent criminal Barabbas. To his dismay, the crowd demands to have Barabbas freed and Jesus killed. In an attempt to appease the crowd, Pilate has Jesus brutally scourged and mocked with a crown of thorns. However, the crowd continues to demand that Jesus be crucified, and Barabbas released. Pilate washes his hands and reluctantly orders Jesus' crucifixion.
As Jesus carries the cross along the Via Dolorosa to Calvary, Veronica wipes Jesus' face with her veil. Simon of Cyrene is unwillingly pressed into carrying the cross with Jesus. Jesus is then crucified. As he hangs from the cross, Jesus prays forgiveness for those who did this to him and redeems a criminal crucified next to him. After Jesus gives up his spirit and dies, a single drop of rain falls from the sky, triggering an earthquake which destroys the Temple and rips the cloth covering the Holy of Holies in two, to the horror of Caiaphas and the other priests. Satan is then shown screaming in defeat. Jesus is taken down from the cross. In the end, Jesus rises from the dead and exits the tomb.
The film was a major commercial hit, budgeted at only $30M and grossing in excess of $600 million during its theatrical release, becoming the highest grossing non-English language film of all time and the most successful biblical related film since Ben-Hur (1959). The movie grossed US$611,899,420 worldwide and $370,782,930 in the US alone, surpassing any motion picture starring Gibson.In US box offices, it became the eighth (at the time) highest-grossing film in history and the highest-grossing rated R film of all time. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards and won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture.The film has also been highly controversial and received mixed reviews, with some critics claiming that the extreme violence in the movie "obscures its message."
Although Gibson wanted to call his film The Passion, on October 16, 2003 his spokesman announced that the title used in the United States would be The Passion of Christ because Miramax had already registered the title The Passion with the MPAA for the 1987 novel by Jeanette Winterson. Later, the title was changed again to The Passion of the Christ for all markets.