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Celebrating Easter in Film & TV

Happy Easter! Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, Alannah has provided a list of great film recommendations to watch this long weekend.

By Alannah Mylechreest, First Year, English and German

Easter is upon us once more, and whilst the stress of completing coursework and impending exams is on everyone’s minds, there is always time to relax with a bit of film and TV. The Christian holiday celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead but is also associated, of course, with an abundance of chocolate, rabbits, chicks, and many other symbols of spring and new life.

Read on for some film and TV recommendations that represent the many different aspects of this celebration.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

The film adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar is almost essential viewing around Easter time. Charting the events of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to the Crucifixion, the musical combines high emotions with a catchy soundtrack rooted firmly in 70s rock influences.

It continues to be controversial for its sympathetic portrayal of Judas (Carl Anderson), who features in some of the best numbers in the film, like the gospel-inspired title track and the opening ‘Heaven on Their Minds’, which starts with a tense yet groovy guitar riff.

Courtesy of IMDB

Whether or not you are of the Christian faith, this film will likely keep you captivated for its entire run, adapting a story familiar to many and offering plenty of room for contemplation.

If anything, I’d recommend this film for the Gethsemane scene, which includes an impressive vocal performance from Ted Neeley, playing Jesus, as well as a jarring sequence that shows depictions of Christ being crucified in the artwork.

Jesus Christ Superstar asks its audience to see its characters as humans rather than the mythologised figures as depicted in these portrayals of the past.

Courtesy of IMDB
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)

Aside from the Biblical story, one of the most significant symbols of Easter is, of course, chocolate. And what better way to celebrate than with one of the most famous stories about chocolate?

The second adaptation on this list, this time from Roal Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the film follows Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) as he wins tickets for a tour of Willy Wonka’s (Gene Wilder) chocolate factory, eventually being granted inheritance of the factory after the other children in the group are eliminated one by one due to their various character flaws.

The film is a visual delight brimming with colour and will leave you wishing that you could try a Wonka bar or swim in the chocolate river. It’s the perfect watch with the family for a relaxing afternoon or with your flatmates if you all fancy some childhood nostalgia. And feel free to skip the terrifying tunnel scene - I certainly won’t judge.

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) // Courtesy of IMDB
Chocolat (2000)

Sticking with the theme of chocolate, Chocolat will inevitably have you craving a sweet treat. The film follows Vianne (Juliette Binouche), who arrives in a small French village at the beginning of Lent and opens up a chocolate shop.

However, the Lenten tradition of abstinence undertaken by the townspeople poses a threat to Vianne’s chocolaterie, but she nevertheless slowly but surely starts to win their trust and friendship.

This charming film is full of heart as Vianne assists her fellow villagers, for instance, by encouraging Josephine (Lena Ollin) to leave her abusive husband or helping her elderly landlady to spend more time with her grandson.

The sequence on Easter Sunday that takes place in the town square has a beautiful pastel colour pallet that is perfect for spring and is just one example of the heartwarming moments in this film.

Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche in Chocolat (2000) // Courtesy of Miramax on IMDB
Superstore (2015-2021) – 'Easter' ep.

Whilst Christmas and Halloween specials are a common trope in television, Easter-themed episodes are harder to come by. However, this season 4 episode of workplace comedy Superstore (2015-2021) is a rare example of the celebration being incorporated into the plot, and it is a fun watch.

The episode follows three different characters who are part of a fantastic ensemble cast: mild-mannered Glenn (Mark McKinney), who is struggling with the prospect of playing Judas in his church’s passion play; the ever-hilarious security guard; and my personal favourite character, Dina (Lauren Ash) who is on the lookout for someone in an Easter bunny costume roaming the store; and the recently promoted Amy (America Ferrera) who worries about being judged by her employees.

The fantastic jokes and entertaining visual gags in this episode are typical of this binge-worthy sitcom, and I’d highly recommend you check out the rest of the show after watching this episode, as it mixes great comedy with important commentary about an often overlooked workforce.

Courtesy of IMDB
Doctor Who (1963-) – ‘Planet of the Dead’ ep.

Another television special that aired at Easter time, although I’ll admit the link to Easter itself in this particular episode is somewhat tenuous, with there being only a couple of mentions of the celebration, including the Doctor (David Tennant) promising to reveal what really happened on Easter Sunday, before being interrupted by the opening credits.

Nevertheless, the legendary science fiction programme is worth a watch at any point of the year, and the setting of the desert planet of San Helios may offer a sunny alternative to the unpredictable weather of April in Britain.

Whilst Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) is not up there with my favourite companions, geeky scientist Malcolm Taylor (Lee Evans), who names a unit of measurement after himself, is, in my opinion, one of the funniest one-off characters. With the recent news about Tennant returning to his role of the Doctor once more, what better time than now to rewatch some of his last episodes as the Tenth Doctor?

Michelle Ryan and David Tennant in Doctor Who (2005) // Courtesy of BBC/Adrian Rogers

From childhood favourites to more recent examples in television, there’s plenty out there to watch over the Easter period. They all pair nicely with a hot cross bun or a bit of chocolate!

Featured Image: Friends (1994-2004) // Courtesy of IMDB

What film do you like to watch during the Easter break?