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1959, dir. William Wyler. So what if the movie ends with Ben-Hur meeting Christ and embracing his message? The real subject of the movie is Jewish infighting, and the themes of assimilation, persecution, peoplehood, and pride are as relevant today as they were back when spats were settled with violent horse races. Haya Harareet, a young Israeli actress who plays Ben-Hur’s love interest, Esther, is charmingly innocent in her sole major Hollywood role.