Everett Collection

In scenes from Jesus Christ, Superstar, a white-robed Ted Neely plays Jesus confronted by people who demand healing (top left), arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (middle right), carrying the cross while crowned with thorns (bottom) and suffering a cinematic crucifixion (center). A popular subject of film since its beginnings at the turn of the century, Jesus has been depicted in myriad ways—perhaps most imaginatively in the 1970s, when Jesus Christ, Superstar came out. The film was one of many made possible by the rating system adopted by the Modern Picture Association in 1968. Still in use today, this rating system granted filmmakers the kind of creative freedom they had not enjoyed since the era of silent films. Almost immediately after it went into effect, filmmakers started to portray Jesus in dream sequences, flashbacks, satires, pornographic scenes—and as a rock ’n’ roll star.