When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.
Quintus Arrius: Your eyes are full of hate, forty-one. That's good. Hate keeps a man alive. It gives him strength.
Sextus: You can break a man's skull, you can arrest him, you can throw him into a dungeon. But how do you control what's up here? [taps his head] Sextus: How do you fight an idea?
[Quintas Arrius wakes up, chained, on ship debris; the chain is held by Judah] Quintus Arrius: Why did you save me? Judah Ben-Hur: Why did you have me unchained? [they struggle briefly, Arrius is overpowered; he looks at the shackle on Judah's ankle] Quintus Arrius: What is your name, Forty-One? Judah Ben-Hur: Judah Ben-Hur. Quintus Arrius: Judah Ben-Hur. Let me die. Judah Ben-Hur: [ironically] We keep you alive to serve this ship. Row well, and live.
Quintus Arrius: In his eagerness to save you, your God has also saved the Roman fleet.
Esther: It was Judah Ben-Hur I loved. What has become of him? You seem to be now the very thing you set out to destroy. Giving evil for evil. Hatred is turning you to stone. It's as though you had become Messala.
Messala: By what magic do you bear the name of a Consul of Rome? Judah Ben-Hur: You were the magician, Messala. When my ship was sunk, I saved the Consul's life.
[Messala is mortally injured after being trampled in the chariot race] Surgeon: We cannot wait, Tribune. Messala: [softly] He will come. [he convulses with pain; they hold him down] Surgeon: We cannot wait any longer, Tribune! Messala: [shouts] He will come! He will come. I have sent for him, and he will come! Surgeon: If you wish us to keep you alive, we have to go to work *now*, Tribune. Do you understand? Messala: Cut the legs off me... Not yet. Not till I've seen him. I can't receive him with half a body! [Drusus and the surgeon share a look; they begin binding Messala in preparation for amputation] Messala: [struggling] NO! [Judah appears in the doorway] Messala: I told you, Drusus; I told you! There he is. [Judah approaches and stands over Messala] Messala: Triumph c... triumph complete, Judah. The race won, the enemy destroyed? Judah Ben-Hur: I see no enemy. Messala: What do you think you see? The smashed body of a wretched animal? There's enough of a man still left here for you to hate. Let me help you. [he convulses with pain] Messala: You think they're dead, your mother and sister? Dead, and the race over? It isn't over, Judah. They're not dead. Judah Ben-Hur: [leaning closer] Where are they? [pause] Judah Ben-Hur: Where are they? WHERE ARE THEY? Messala: [with grim satisfaction] Look... look for them... in the Valley... of the Lepers! If you can recognize them! [Judah doubles over with grief] Messala: It goes on. It goes on, Judah. The race... the race... is not... over! [he dies]
[on Arrius' orders, Judah is left unlocked for the upcoming battle; Judah touches his unchained ankle, bewildered] Rower No. 42: Forty-one, why did he do that? Judah Ben-Hur: I don't know. [remembering Nazareth] Judah Ben-Hur: Once before, a man helped me. I didn't know why then.
Quintus Arrius: Now listen to me, all of you. You are all condemned men. We keep you alive to serve this ship. So row well, and live.
Miriam: [speaking of Christ] As though he were carrying that cross the pain of the world. [she whispers] Miriam: So fearful. Tirzah: And yet why is it... I'm not afraid anymore? [thunder rumbles] Esther: The shadow of a storm. [they go inside a nearby cave; the sky goes dark outside] Esther: A strange darkness, but still day. [a violent storm begins] Miriam: His life is over. [lightning cracks] Tirzah: He's here. It's tearing... I feel the pain! Miriam: I feel it too. [They seem to faint] Esther: [concerned] Miriam? [Miriam presses Esther's hand] Esther: I thought that... Miriam! Do you see your hand? [They look; Tirzah sits up, healed] Esther: Tirzah! Miriam! [They touch each other's faces, feel their hands, embrace as they realize they've been healed]
Sheik Ilderim: One God, that I can understand; but one wife? That is not civilized. [nudges Judah] Sheik Ilderim: It is not generous!
Sheik Ilderim: Bonehead! Give me those reins! You think you can treat my horses like animals? To drive cows and goats is all you're fit for! Get off, idiot! [he kicks the driver off the chariot]
Judah Ben-Hur: He gave me water, and the heart to live. What has he done to merit this? Balthasar: He has taken the world of our sins onto Himself. To this end He said He was born, in that stable, where I first saw Him. For this cause, He came into the world. Judah Ben-Hur: For this death? Balthasar: For this beginning.
Judah Ben-Hur: [after he is sentenced to the galleys] May God grant me vengeance! I will pray that you live until I return! Messala: [ironically] Return?
Messala: By condemning without hesitation an old friend, I shall be feared.
Judah Ben-Hur: I must deal with Messala in my own way. Balthasar: And your way is to kill him. [Judah's look confirms this] Balthasar: I see this terrible thing in your eyes, Judah Ben-Hur, but no matter what this man has done to you, you have no right to take his life. He will be punished inevitably. Judah Ben-Hur: I don't believe in miracles. Balthasar: Your life is a miracle! Why will you not accept God's judgement?
Judah Ben-Hur: If you were not a bride, I would kiss you goodbye. Esther: If I were not a bride, there would be no goodbyes to be said.
Balthasar: Pardon me - you are a stranger here. Would you be from Nazareth? Judah Ben-Hur: Why do you ask? Balthasar: I thought... you might be the one... the one I have come back from my country to find. He would be about your age. Judah Ben-Hur: Who? Balthasar: When I find him, I shall know him.
[last lines] Judah Ben-Hur: Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Esther: Even then. Judah Ben-Hur: Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand. [Miriam and Tirzah appear at the top of the stairs; Judah goes up to them, sees that they have been miraculously healed; they embrace each other]
Sextus: There's this wild man in the desert named John who drowns people in water.
[Christ passes, bearing the cross] Esther: How can this be? Judah Ben-Hur: [shocked] I *know* this man! [Jesus stumbles and is whipped by the centurions] Miriam: [pleading] Won't someone help him? [Jesus is whipped again] Tirzah: Pity on him! Miriam: [wonderingly] In his pain... there's a look of peace. Judah Ben-Hur: Watch over them, Esther. [he goes after Jesus] Miriam: We must go back. Esther: [sadly] I brought you here to this... when I hoped... Miriam: [looking after Christ] You haven't failed, Esther.
Sheik Ilderim: Balthasar is a good man. But until all men are like him, we must keep our swords bright! Judah Ben-Hur: And our intentions true! So I must leave you. Sheik Ilderim: One last thought: There is no law in the arena; many are killed... I hope to see you again, Judah Ben-Hur.
Sheik Ilderim: Was the food not to your liking? Judah Ben-Hur: Oh, indeed! [Balthasar gestures for Judah to burp in gratitude, and Judah burps]
Judah Ben-Hur: [dipping a hand in a stream] When the Romans were marching me to the galleys, thirst had almost killed me. A man gave me water to drink, and I went on living. I should have done better if I'd poured it into the sand! Balthasar: No. Judah Ben-Hur: I'm thirsty still.
Esther: Oh, Judah, rest. Sleep. For a few hours of the night, let your mind be at peace. Judah Ben-Hur: [bitterly] Peace! Love and peace. Do you think I don't long for them as you do? Where do you see them? Esther: If you had heard this man from Nazareth... Judah Ben-Hur: Balthasar's word. Esther: He is more than Balthasar's word. His voice traveled with such a still purpose... It was more than a voice... a man more than a man! He said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Judah Ben-Hur: Children of God? In that dead valley where we left them? I tell you every man in Judea is unclean, and will *stay* unclean, until we've scoured off our bodies the crust and filth of being at the mercy of tyranny. No other life is possible except to wash this land clean! Esther: In blood? Judah Ben-Hur: Yes, in blood! Esther: I know there is a law in life, that blood gets more blood as dog begets dog. Death generates death, as the vulture breeds the vulture! But the voice I heard today on the hill said, "Love your enemy. Do good to those who despitefully use you." Judah Ben-Hur: So all who are born in this land hereafter can suffer as we have done! Esther: As you make us do now! Are we to bear nothing together? Even love? Judah Ben-Hur: I can hardly draw breath without feeling you in my heart. Yet I know that everything I do from this moment will be as great a pain to you as you have ever suffered. It is better not to love me! Esther: It was Judah Ben-Hur I loved. What has become of him? You seem to be now the very thing you set out to destroy, giving evil for evil! Hatred is turning you to stone. It is as though you had become Messala! [Judah looks at Esther, shocked] Esther: [sadly] I've lost you, Judah.
[Judah confronts Esther and Malluch in the Valley of the Lepers] Judah Ben-Hur: [angrily, to Esther] Why did you tell me they were dead? Esther: It was what they wanted. Judah, I must not betray this faith. Will you do this for them? Judah Ben-Hur: Not to see them? Esther: [seeing Miriam and Tirzah approach] They are coming... Judah! Judah, love them in the way they most need to be loved: not to look at them! Judah, let it be as though you had never come here. Please, Judah! [Judah hides behind a boulder as Esther goes to meet Miriam] Miriam: Is Judah well? Is he happy? [Judah's face twists in anguish] Esther: Yes. He is well. Your mind can be at rest for him. He is well, Miriam. Miriam: [taking the basket of food] God be with you. [Miriam and Tirzah go back into their cave] Esther: [going back to Judah] They are gone. We can go back. Judah Ben-Hur: [bitterly] Go back... to what? Esther: Judah, they have one blessing left: to think you remember them as they were. Live your own life. Forget what is here. Judah Ben-Hur: Forget? It's as if they were alive in a grave! Esther: But what can you do? Judah Ben-Hur: Undo what you've done! How could you have suffered them to come here? I must see them! Esther: No Judah, please! Judah! [Judah starts toward the cave but is stopped by Malluch] Esther: Oh, think, Judah, *think*! It will tear them apart if they see you!
Balthasar: [during the crucifixion] I have lived too long.
Tiberius Caesar: [Tiberius Caesar sees Judah Ben-Hur, in Arrius' chariot] This man riding beside you, who is he? Quintus Arrius: The man who saved me, divine Emperor, to return and serve you. Tiberius Caesar: Is that all you know of him? Quintus Arrius: No. He was accused of an attack on the governor of Judea. But he was innocent. Tiberius Caesar: If not, there is a strange inconsistency in this man, who tries to kill my governor, yet saves the life of my Consul. Come tomorrow, and we will talk of him.
Servant: [Presenting a gift] For the Tribune. With the compliments of Quintus Arrius. He awaits your pleasure. Messala: The consul here? Servant: It is Quintus Arrius the Younger, tribune. Messala: Thank him. Bring him to me. Drusus: I didn't know the consul had a son. Messala: I've heard of the young Arrius. He's a champion of the great circus. Why is he here presenting me with gifts? Drusus: Perhaps he will race against you in the games. Messala: [opens the box and takes out a dagger] Look. Drusus: It's magnificent. Messala: And from a man I've never met! Judah Ben-Hur: [enters] You're wrong, Messala.
Sheik Ilderim: [about his wives] I've got six... no, seven. Balthasar: I have counted eight, and that is because he is traveling. At home, he has more.
Judah Ben-Hur: Where are my mother and sister? Where are they? Messala: Here, within these walls. The governor is recovering. They won't die. Of course, they will be sentenced. Judah Ben-Hur: Is it possible- Messala, is it possible you could do this to us? To people you've known? A family you've loved? You'll let them go. You must! You will gladly let them go! MESSALA! [pause] Judah Ben-Hur: I didn't try to kill the governor! You know that! I'm not mad! I'm not a murderer! Messala: I know you're not. Judah Ben-Hur: You know? [pause] Judah Ben-Hur: You are evil. Messala: No, Judah, I am not evil! I wanted your help, now you've given it to me. By making this example of you, I discourage treason. By condemning, without hesitation, an old friend, I shall be feared. Judah Ben-Hur: But not my family. Let them go. Please. Messala, I beg you. Messala: BEG? Didn't I beg you? [pause] Messala: You chose this for yourself. There's nothing more to be said. Judah Ben-Hur: You! [raises his spear to stab Messala in the chest] Messala: Kill me and your mother and sister will die today! Nailed to crosses in front of you! [Judah hesitates] Messala: Go on, Judah! Kill me!
Quintus Arrius: [startled from sleep by Judah's arrival] Why are you here? Judah Ben-Hur: I was ordered to report to you during my relief. Quintus Arrius: Oh yes, I had forgotten. [he rises] Quintus Arrius: You could have killed me as I lay there! You're a condemned man, why didn't you? Judah Ben-Hur: I'm not ready to die. Quintus Arrius: What do you think will save you? Judah Ben-Hur: The God of my fathers. Quintus Arrius: Your God has forsaken you. He has no more power than the images I pray to. My gods do not help me. Your God will not help you. I might. Does that interest you, Forty-One? [pause] Quintus Arrius: I can see that it does. I'm a fighting man by profession, and in my leisure moments, it amuses me to train fighting men. I own some of the best gladiators and charioteers in Rome. Would you like to become one of them? Judah Ben-Hur: To die as your slave? Quintus Arrius: Better than to live in chains below these decks. Judah Ben-Hur: I will not be here forever. Quintus Arrius: No? What would you do, if you escaped? Judah Ben-Hur: Two people were condemned with me, my mother and sister, even though they were innocent. I will not rest... Quintus Arrius: [interrupting] You do not say that you were innocent. Judah Ben-Hur: Would it do any good to say it again? Quintus Arrius: No. Now consider my offer carefully. You will never escape while we are victorious. If we are not, you will sink with this ship, chained to your oar. Judah Ben-Hur: I can't believe that God has let me live these three years, to die chained to an oar. Quintus Arrius: It's a strange, stubborn faith you keep. To believe that existence has a purpose! A sane man would have learned to lose it long before this. Judah Ben-Hur: As you have. What drove it out of you? Quintus Arrius: Go back to your oar, Forty-One.
Judah Ben-Hur: If I cannot persuade them, that does not mean I will help you... *murder* them. Besides, you must understand this, Messala. I believe in the past of my people, *and* in their future. Messala: Future? You are a conquered people! Judah Ben-Hur: You may conquer the land; you may slaughter the people. But that is not the end. We will rise again.
Messala: Sextus, you ask how to fight an idea. Well I'll tell you how... with another idea!
Quintus Arrius: [a galley's 200 rowers are gradually told to increase their pace] Battle speed!... Attack speed!... Ramming speed!
1st Jailer: [looking in records] Miriam, wife... Tirzah, daughter. Drusus: Yes, they're the ones. Are they alive? 1st Jailer: [examining the records, he is pessimistic] East section... lower level. Cell two. The jailer in that wing will know. [Drusus is led down various passages into the lower dungeons] Drusus: How long since you've seen them? 2nd Jailer: Never - and I've been here three years. But they're alive, all right. 2nd Jailer: [after demonstrating a slot in the bottom of the cell door] The food disappears.
Judah Ben-Hur: You sent for me? Pontius Pilate: I hope I bring you a good conclusion to your victory. I have a message for you from the consul, your father. Judah Ben-Hur: I honor him. Pontius Pilate: As you may honor yourself. You have been made a citizen of Rome. [pause] Pontius Pilate: Do you say nothing to this? Judah Ben-Hur: I have just come from the Valley of Stone where my mother and my sister live what's left of their lives. By Rome's will, lepers; outcasts without hope! Pontius Pilate: I have heard this. There was great blame there, very deeply regretted. Judah Ben-Hur: Their flesh is mine, m'lord Pilate. It already carries Rome's mark. Pontius Pilate: Messala is dead. What he did has had its way with him. Judah Ben-Hur: The deed was not Messala's. I knew him, well, before the cruelty of Rome spread in his blood. Rome destroyed Messala as surely as Rome has destroyed my family. Pontius Pilate: Where there is greatness, great government or power, even great feeling or compassion, error also is great. We progress and mature by fault. But Rome has said she is ready to join your life to hers in a great future. Judah Ben-Hur: There are other voices. Pontius Pilate: The voice for instance of Arrius, waiting for you in Rome. He would tell you, if I may speak in his place, not to crucify yourself on a shadow such as old resentment or impossible loyalties. Perfect freedom has no existence. A grown man knows the world he lives in, and for the present, the world is Rome. Young Arrius, I am sure, will choose it. Judah Ben-Hur: I am Judah Ben-Hur. [long pause; Pilate turns and walks away a few steps, then gestures] Pontius Pilate: I crossed this floor in spoken friendship, as I would speak to Arrius. But when I go up those stairs I become the hand of Caesar, ready to crush all those who challenge his authority. There are too many small men of envy and ambition who try to disrupt the government of Rome. You have become the victor and hero to these people. They look to you, their one true god as I called you. If you stay here, you will find yourself part of this tragedy. Judah Ben-Hur: I am already part of this tragedy. [Judah Ben-Hur takes off Arrius' ring] Judah Ben-Hur: Return this to Arrius. I honor him too well to wear it any longer. Pontius Pilate: [taking the ring] Even for the sake of Arrius, I cannot protect you from personal disaster if you stay here. You are too great a danger. [he turns away and walks up the stairs to the governor's throne] Pontius Pilate: Leave Judea. You have my warning. [Judah Ben-Hur then exits Pilate's palace]
Neighbor: You're not watching the soldiers, Joseph? Joseph: We've seen Romans before. Neighbor: Yes. And we will see them again. [the neighbor examines some boards which have not been assembled] Neighbor: My table is not finished. Where is your son? Joseph: He's walking in the hills. Neighbor: [disapproving] Mm-hm. He neglects his work, Joseph. Joseph: No. Once I reproached him with forgetting his work. He said to me, "I must be about my Father's business." Neighbor: Then why isn't he here, working? Joseph: [smiling] He's working.
Miriam: [hesitating as they leave the Valley of the Lepers] I'm afraid. Esther: [embracing her] No cause. The world is more than we know.
Messala: Look to the West, Judah! Don't be a fool, look to Rome! Judah Ben-Hur: I would rather be a fool than a traitor... or a killer! Messala: I am a soldier! Judah Ben-Hur: Yes! Who kills! For Rome! Rome is evil! Messala: I warn you... Judah Ben-Hur: No! I warn you! Rome is an affront to God! Rome is strangling my people and my country, the whole Earth! But not forever. I tell you the day Rome falls there will be a shout of freedom such as the world has never heard before!
[Judah, Esther, Miriam and Tirzah enter the city to find it deserted except for a blind beggar] Judah Ben-Hur: [to Blind Man] Why are the streets deserted? Blind Man: They have gone to the trial. Alms for the blind? Judah Ben-Hur: Trial? Whose trial? Blind Man: The young rabbi from Nazareth. They are wanting his death. Esther: It cannot be true! Blind Man: [holding out his cup] Alms? Judah Ben-Hur: What has he done? Blind Man: Nothing I know of. For the blind? For the blind? Help for the blind? [Judah drops a coin in his cup]
[first lines and off-screen] Balthasar: [narrating, off screen] 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 of Augustus Caesar, an imperial decree ordered every Judean each to return to his place of birth to be counted and taxed. The converging ways of many of them led to the gates of their capital city, Jerusalem, the troubled heart of their land. The old city was dominated by the fortress of Antonia, 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.
Centurion: There's a Jew outside. He wants to see the Tribune Messala. Messala: I assume he has a name. Centurion: [sneeringly] He says he's a prince, Prince Judah Ben-Hur. Messala: [loud and quickly] Then treat him like one! [quietly] Messala: Tell him I'll join him. [the centurion starts to leave, and Messala shouts again] Messala: CENTURION! [Again quietly] Messala: This was his country before it was ours. Don't forget that. Centurion: Yes, Tribune. [the centurion then goes out] Sextus: That was very wise. This Judah Ben-Hur is the son of one of the wealthiest families in Judea.
Messala: Judah, tell me, did you-did you think about what I said yesterday? Judah Ben-Hur: Yes. I talked to a number of people already. Spoken against violence, against incidents. Most of the men I talked to agree with me. Messala: Most? Not all? Judah Ben-Hur: No, not all. Messala: Who does not agree? Judah Ben-Hur: Well, the resentful, the impatient. Messala: Who are they? [pause] Messala: Yes Judah. Who are they? Judah Ben-Hur: [pause] Would I retain your friendship if I became an informer? Messala: To tell me the names of criminals is hardly informing. Judah Ben-Hur: They're not criminals, Messala! They're patriots! Messala: Patriots. PATRIOTS! [pause] Messala: Judah. Judah, let me explain something to you. Something you may not know. The emperor is watching us. At this moment, he watches the east. This is my great opportunity, Judah, and yours too. If I can bring order into Judea, I can have any post I want. And you'll rise with me, I promise. And do you know where it can end? Rome! Yes, perhaps at the side of Caesar himself! I mean it, I mean it! It can happen and this is the moment, Judah! I swear this is the time! The emperor is watching us, judging us! All I need do is serve him. And all you need do is help me serve him. Judah Ben-Hur: You speak as if he were God. Messala: He is God! The only god! He has power, real power on Earth! Not- [gestures to the sky] Messala: Not that. Help me, Judah. Judah Ben-Hur: I would do anything for you, Messala, except betray my own people. Messala: In the name of all the gods, Judah, what do the lives of a few Jews mean to you? Judah Ben-Hur: If I cannot persuade them, that does not mean I would help you murder them! Besides, you must understand this, Messala. I believe in the past of my people and in their future. Messala: Future? You are a conquered people. Judah Ben-Hur: You may conquer the land. You may slaughter the people. But that is not the end. We will rise again. Messala: You live on dead dreams. You live on the myths of the past. The glory of Solomon is gone! Do you think it will return? Joshua will not rise again to save you nor David! There is only one reality in the world today! Look to the west, Judah! Don't be a fool, look to Rome! Judah Ben-Hur: I would rather be a fool than a traitor or a killer! Judah Ben-Hur: I am a soldier! Judah Ben-Hur: Yes! Who kills for Rome and Rome is evil! Messala: I warn you!... Judah Ben-Hur: NO! I warn YOU! Rome is an affront to God! Rome is strangling my people and my country, the whole Earth! But not forever. And I tell you, the day Rome falls, there will be a shout of freedom such as the world has never heard before!
Messala: Judah, either you help me or you oppose me, you have no other choice. You're either for me or against me! Judah Ben-Hur: If that is the choice, then I am against you.
[immediately after Miriam and Tirzah were healed of their long time of having leprosy, they walk out of the cave, they were in, into the rain, that was occurring] Tirzah: Thank You. [numerously and silently] Tirzah: You can read her lips.
Judah Ben-Hur: What has become of my mother and my sister? Messala: It is not my duty to keep track of prisoners. Judah Ben-Hur: Find them, Messala. Restore them to me and I will forget what I vowed with every stroke of that oar you chained me to. Messala: I am not the governor of Judea. I can do nothing without Gratus' approval. Judah Ben-Hur: Then get it! I will come back tomorrow. Don't disappoint me, Messala. [he leaves] Messala: What became of them? Drusus: It's been almost five years. Do you suppose they're still alive? Messala: Go to the citadel, Drusus. Find out. Drusus: And if they're dead? Messala: They're dead!
Pontius Pilate: A grown man knows the world he lives in. For the moment, that world is Rome.
Messala: [greedily] Drusus, as a boy I dreamed of commanding this garrison. And now the wheel has turned. Now, I am in command.
Messala: Just as I remember it. The courtyard where we used to play at changing the guard; the roof where we used to throw pebbles at the people in the street and then hide! [to Miriam] Messala: Ah, we were rascals, weren't we? Miriam: No, you were good boys! I would have that time again.
Simonides: Judah-Ben Hur! You've come back to us like a returning faith! Oh Judah, I should like to laugh again. Let us laugh! Judah Ben-Hur: We will laugh. Simonides: There will be joy again in this house! We will celebrate! Among the dust and cobwebs... [Simonides sobs]
Judah Ben-Hur: [as Judah Ben-Hur hugs Simonides, in friendship] Simonides.