Some fast facts: Deadpool came close to unseating it, but after fifteen years, the all-time highest-grossing R-rated movie in the U.S. is still a subtitled film about the last hours of Jesus Christ’s life. Another comic book movie, Black Panther, has since surpassed it as #1, but for over a decade, The Passion of the Christ was also the highest-grossing February movie in the U.S.

The month of February used to be more of a dumping ground for low-profile movie releases, so when The Passion of the Christ hit theaters on February 25, 2004, it didn’t look poised to become a certified blockbuster. For Christians, it was a holy day—Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. For everyone else, it was just hump day, a random Wednesday when they might happen to see Xtians walking around with ash crosses on their foreheads.

To say that The Passion of the Christ was and is a contentious film would be an understatement. Entertainment Weekly once ranked it as the most controversial movie of all time, just ahead of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, a film that helped bring the word “ultra-violence” into the cinematic lexicon with its depiction of a disturbing home invasion set to the tune of “Singin’ in the Rain.” In a way, that juxtaposition is fitting, because while Jim Caviezel receives top billing as Jesus, ultra-violence is the real star of The Passion of the Christ. The film’s divisiveness goes beyond its horror-movie shock tactics, however, to what EW called “a culture-war firestorm unrivaled in Hollywood history.”

It’s the film that opened up the floodgates on the niche market of faith-based movies. The question is: outside the usual echo chambers, below all the noise, how does The Passion of the Christ hold up fifteen years later?

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The passion of the christ sequel

You can’t keep that Jesus guy down. Mel Gibson has been planning a sequel to his controversial biblical epic The Passion of the Christ for a while now, and star Jim Caviezel has finally confirmed he’ll be growing out his beard to reprise his role as the Son of God.

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passion of the christ sequel

In 2004, Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of the Christ defied all odds and became the third highest grossing film of its year, edged out only by the likes of Shrek and Spider-Man. An independently produced, ultra-violent, R-rated depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus filmed using dead languages and subtitles had managed to tap into an evangelical audience that often found itself neglected at the local multiplex. It remains one of the strangest and most telling moments in recent movie history.

A lot has changed in the past twelve years. Faith-based movies have emerged as a new genre. Mel Gibson went from being one of the world’s most beloved movie stars and an Oscar-winning director to a seemingly racist crackpot more than willing to fight Sylvester Stallone in an Expendables sequel. The Passion of the Christ might feels like it was made a lifetime ago. And maybe that’s why Gibson is now working on a sequel.

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