Host your own Purim film festival with these 5 films
PurimHoliday entertainment

Host your own Purim film festival with these 5 films

Adaptations of the Book of Esther

"Purim" by Arthur Szyk (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
"Purim" by Arthur Szyk (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

For over two decades, the film “Elf” has warmed the hearts of countless viewers, becoming a cherished Christmas tradition. Yet, on the Jewish calendar, while Passover boasts cinematic gems like “The Ten Commandments” and “The Prince of Egypt,” poor Purim remains without a standout movie adaptation.

Purim, a significant Jewish holiday, deserves its own cinematic masterpiece to be celebrated annually.

In the quest for suitable Purim viewing options, I embarked on a mission to explore every available adaptation of the Book of Esther. While some titles were excluded due to unavailability, this list.

5. “Esther and the King” (1960)

Starring Joan Collins as Esther, this film reimagines the original story, placing a heavier emphasis on war and Persian politics.

Despite being filmed in the grand scope of CinemaScope, available streaming versions reduce the visuals to a cramped, television-friendly format. Consequently, the film’s grandeur is compromised, with its costumes and set designs appearing lackluster.

But Collins’ performance as a forceful, passionate Esther stands out.

See “Esther and the King” here.

4. “Purim: The Lot” (2014)

If you want an adaptation that offers a wholly Jewish retelling of the story of Esther complete with rabbinic and Midrashic sources, “Purim: The Lot” might be just what you’re looking for. If you want an adaptation that’s emotionally compelling or with acting that sounds like it’s performed by humans, it certainly is not.

Less a piece of entertainment and more an educational film, “Purim: The Lot” plays most like a movie you’d watch at school on a TV on wheels. It’s better than being bored in class, but you still know you’re in a classroom.

Sometimes vocal performances sound like text-to-speech programs, devoid of emotion or character. While the movie is textually accurate for the most part, it still embellishes and reorders the story in some ways.

As movies go, “Purim: The Lot” is far from great, but, of all the Esther films on this list, it’s the proudest to be Jewish. If textual accuracy is the most important thing to you, “Purim: The Lot” is the Esther story for you.

See “Purim: The Lot” here.

3. “The Bible Collection: Esther” (1999)

“The Bible Collection: Esther” sets the standard for biblical films, showcasing strong research, stellar performances, and high production values.
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Louise Lombard is captivating as Esther, exuding charisma and commanding the screen. F. Murray Abraham’s performance as Mordecai is equally impressive, capturing attention with his presence.

This adaptation of “Esther” is a solid TV movie that brings the world of the Megillah to life.

In a daring departure from convention, the film doesn’t conclude with Esther’s victory over Haman, as many other adaptations do. Instead, it delves into the three final chapters of the Book of Esther, where the Jewish people must continue to defend themselves against an impending decree.

See “The Bible Collection: Esther” here.

2. “One Night with the King” (2006)

While not an excellent film, “One Night with the King” is about the closest any Megillah adaptation has gotten to something great.

Anchored by a minor cameo by Peter O’Toole as the prophet Samuel (a character not directly related to the Purim story but often connected to it by scholars), the film unfolds a narrative where Mordechai and Haman represent the clash between forces of good and evil.

While Tiffany Dupont and Luke Goss deliver performances that may falter at times, the storytelling remains compelling and provides a delicate balance between horror and hope, romantic love, and cunning intentions.

See “One Night with the King” here.

1. “For Your Consideration”

I truly believe that if you have seen this movie or give it a viewing, you’ll agree that “For Your Consideration” should be in consideration for the official “Purim cinematic masterpiece” to be celebrated annually.

The 2006 satirical comedy is from iconic filmmaker Christopher Guest. In this film, Guest invites us into the world of Hollywood actors and filmmakers, offering the perfect Purim film for your viewing pleasure. Co-written by Guest and Eugene Levy, the movie features a cast of Guest regulars including Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard and Michael McKean, along with cameos from Richard Kind, Simon Helberg, Ricky Gervais, Jane Lynch and more.

The film’s satire is cutting, and it delivers those on-screen moments that are so intense they can be almost painful to watch, but in a good way. But that is what Guest is known for.

And at just 1:26 minutes in length, you’ll still have plenty of time to whip up a batch of Hamantaschen for your after-viewing party.

To watch “For Your Consideration” you’ll need to pay a rental fee, or purchase and keep it. PJC

This story was first published by the St. Louis Jewish Light.

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