The Nativity Story

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The Nativity Story
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCatherine Hardwicke
Written byMike Rich
Produced by
CinematographyElliot Davis
Edited by
  • Robert K. Lambert
  • Stuart Levy
Music byMychael Danna
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release dates
  • November 26, 2006 (2006-11-26) (Vatican City)
  • December 1, 2006 (2006-12-01) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$35 million[1]
Box office$46.4 million[1]

The Nativity Story is a 2006 American biblical drama film based on the nativity of Jesus and directed by Catherine Hardwicke. The film stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Hiam Abbass, Shaun Toub, Alexander Siddig, Ciarán Hinds, and Shohreh Aghdashloo.

The Nativity Story premiered in Vatican City on November 26, 2006, making it the first film to hold a world premiere in the city,[2] and was released in the United States on December 1, 2006, by New Line Cinema. The film received mixed reviews from critics and grossed over $46 million worldwide.[3]


In the Roman province of Judea, the Massacre of the Innocents is ordered. Via flashback, the Annunciation and birth of Jesus Christ are shown to explain why King Herod the Great (Ciarán Hinds) ordered the act.

One year before the massacre, Zechariah (Stanley Townsend), a rabbi in Jerusalem, is making an offering, when he is told in a vision by the Archangel Gabriel (Alexander Siddig) that his wife, Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo), will bear a son. Zechariah does not believe him, stating that he is too old, and Gabriel tells him that he will be unable to speak until the boy is born. In Nazareth, 14-year-old Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) lives a peaceful life with her family, only for that to be ruined as soldiers constantly come to collect taxes; one man, unable to pay, has a third of his land seized and his daughter pressed into debt slavery. Mary, betrothed to 32-year-old Joseph of Judaea (Oscar Isaac), is soon visited by Archangel Gabriel and told that she will become pregnant with God's son, whom she will name "Jesus". He tells her that God has blessed her cousin Elizabeth with a child despite her old age. Mary visits her before the harvest, where she witnesses the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth and Zechariah, who regains his speech. Mary returns from the visit pregnant, to the shock of Joseph and her parents, who fear that Joseph will accuse her of adultery, a sin punishable by death through stoning according to the Torah. Joseph does not believe Mary's religious explanation but decides not to accuse her. Still shocked and angry, he is later visited in a dream by the Archangel Gabriel, who tells him of God's plan for Mary's son and to take Mary as his wife.

Meanwhile, Emperor Augustus has demanded that every man across the Empire return with his family to his place of birth for the census. As a direct descendant of King David, Joseph is forced to travel 110 kilometers (68 mi) across Judea's rocky terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem, his native homeland. With Mary on a donkey laden with supplies, it takes the couple nearly four weeks to reach Bethlehem. Upon arriving in town, Mary goes into labor, and Joseph frantically seeks a place for her to deliver. There is, however, no room in any inn or home because of the people arriving for the census, but at the last minute, an innkeeper offers his stable for shelter.

Meanwhile, three Magi—Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar (Stefan Kalipha, Nadim Sawalha and Eriq Ebouaney) —travel towards Judaea after having previously discovered that three planets will align to form a great star. This Star of Bethlehem appears before the Magi, after a visit by the Archangel Gabriel. The Magi visit Herod and reveal to him that the Messiah is still a child and he will be a Messiah "for the lowest of men to the highest of kings." Shocked by this, Herod asks that they visit the newborn Messiah and report the child's location back to him, under the pretense that he, too, would like to worship him, while in fact, he plans to kill the baby for fear of a new king usurping him. The Magi arrive at the stable where Mary has given birth to Jesus, and they present the infant with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Suspicious of his intentions, the Magi avoid Herod, returning home via a different route. Herod realizes that the Magi have tricked him and orders the death of every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two. In the present, Joseph is warned in a dream of the danger and flees to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, Mary knowing her son will be bring hope to mankind.



The film was shot in Matera and Craco, Italy, and Ouarzazate, Morocco.[4][5]


Box office[edit]

The Nativity Story opened to a modest first weekend at the domestic box office by grossing $7.8 million,[6] with a 39% increase over the extended Christmas weekend.[7] After its initial run, the film closed out with about $37.6 million in domestic gross and $8.8 million in foreign gross, resulting in a worldwide total of almost $46.4 million on a reported $35 million budget.[1]

Critical response[edit]

The Nativity Story received mixed reviews. As of June 2020, the film holds a 37% approval rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 131 reviews with an average rating of 5.29/10. The site's consensus says, "The Nativity Story is a dull retelling of a well-worn tale with the look and feel of a high-school production."[8] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 52 based on 28 reviews.[9]

A. O. Scott of The New York Times gave the film a positive review saying, "At its best, The Nativity Story shares with Hail Mary an interest in finding a kernel of realism in the old story of a pregnant teenager in hard times. Buried in the pageantry, in other words, is an interesting movie."[10] Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post concluded a positive review of the film stating, "The most intriguing thing about The Nativity Story transpires during the couple's extraordinary personal journey, advancing a radical idea in an otherwise long slog of a cinematic Sunday school lesson: that Jesus became Who He was not only because He was the Son of God, but because He was the son of a good man."[11]

Conversely, many critics felt that the film did not take the story to new cinematic heights. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly noted, "The Nativity Story is a film of tame picture-book sincerity, but that's not the same thing as devotion. The movie is too tepid to feel, or see, the light."[12] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, "This is not a chance to 'experience the most timeless of stories as you've never seen it before' but just the opposite: an opportunity, for those who want it, to encounter this story exactly the way it's almost always been told."[13]


Keisha Castle-Hughes became pregnant during filming, at the age of 16, and received a lot of media attention.[14]


Mychael Danna's score of the film was released as an album on December 5, 2006. The album was nominated for a Dove Award for Instrumental Album of the Year at the 39th GMA Dove Awards.[15]

An album of songs inspired by the film was also released under the title The Nativity Story: Sacred Songs. It featured music by artists like Point of Grace, Amy Grant, Jaci Velasquez, and others.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Nativity Story (2006)". IMDb. Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  2. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (November 25, 2016). "Martin Scorsese's Silence to premiere at the Vatican". The Guardian. Archived from the original on December 3, 2021. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  3. ^ Kiefer, Peter (November 27, 2006). "Vatican Plays Host for 'Nativity Story' Premiere". The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on June 22, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  4. ^ Strain, Arthur (December 6, 2006). "Star shines in Herod nativity role". BBC news. Archived from the original on January 14, 2020. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  5. ^ Bensalhia, John (June 28, 2016). "Basilicata Blockbusters: What To Watch Before Visiting". Italy Magazine. Archived from the original on August 22, 2019. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  6. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 1-3, 2006". IMDb. Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on September 18, 2019. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  7. ^ "The Nativity Story (2006) – Weekend Box Office Results". IMDb. Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on April 26, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  8. ^ "The Nativity Story – Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster. Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  9. ^ "The Nativity Story". CBS Interactive. Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 10, 2013. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  10. ^ Scott, A. O. (December 1, 2006). "The Virgin Mary as a Teenager With Worries". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 3, 2023. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  11. ^ Hornaday, Ann (December 1, 2006). "Chapter and Verse". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 23, 2016. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  12. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (November 29, 2006). "The Nativity Story (2006)". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  13. ^ Turan, Kenneth (December 1, 2012). "'The Nativity Story': A "Story" told with too much naiveté". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 8, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  14. ^ "Introducing Felicity-Amore Hull — Keisha speaks about her labor, delivery, and new little girl". People. June 8, 2007. Archived from the original on March 25, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  15. ^ Nominations Announced for 39th GMA Dove Awards Archived October 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine on (February 14, 2008)
  16. ^ "Soundtrack - The Nativity Story: Sacred Songs - Music". Amazon. Archived from the original on August 3, 2023. Retrieved September 16, 2017.

External links[edit]