The Nativity Story

The Nativity Story
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Produced by Wyck Godfrey
Marty Bowen
Written by Mike Rich
Starring Keisha Castle-Hughes
Oscar Isaac
Hiam Abbass
Shaun Toub
Alexander Siddig
Ciarán Hinds
Shohreh Aghdashloo
Stanley Townsend
Music by Mychael Danna
Cinematography Elliot Davis
Edited by Robert K. Lambert
Stuart Levy
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
  • November 26, 2006 (2006-11-26) (Vatican City, premiere)
  • December 1, 2006 (2006-12-01) (North America)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million
Box office $46.4 million

The Nativity Story is a 2006 biblical drama film based on the nativity of Jesus, directed by Catherine Hardwicke and starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Isaac. The film was released on December 1, 2006 after it premiered in Vatican City November 27, 2006.[1] The Nativity Story was the first film to hold its world premiere in Vatican City.[2]


Set in the year 5 BC in the region of Judea during the The Empire of the Romans by the kingdom of Herod

The story begins with the portrayal of the Massacre of the Innocents in the Nativity. The remainder of the film portrays the annunciation (conception) and birth of Jesus Christ to explain why King Herod the Great (Ciarán Hinds) ordered the murder.

One year before the massacre, Zachariah (Stanley Townsend), a rabbi in Jerusalem, is making an offering, when he is told in a vision by the Archangel Gabriel that his wife, Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo), will bear a son. Zachariah 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, 12 year old Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is farming when soldiers 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 marry Joseph of Judaea (Oscar Isaac), is visited by Archangel Gabriel and told that she will become pregnant with God's son, whom she is to 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 fornication, a sin punishable with death by stoning according to the Torah. At first Joseph does not believe Mary's religious explanation, but decides not to accuse her. Still shocked and angry, Joseph is later visited in a dream by the Archangel Gabriel, who tells him of God's plan for Mary's son. Finally believing, he is ashamed of his earlier doubts.

Meanwhile, Roman emperor Caesar Augustus has demanded that every man and his family across the Roman Empire return to his place of birth for the census. A direct descendant of King David, Joseph is forced to travel 110 kilometers (68 mi) across Palestine's rocky terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the place of his birth. 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 labour, and Joseph frantically seeks a place for her to deliver. There is, however, no room in any inn or home because of the crowds arriving for the census, but at the last minute an innkeeper offers his stable for shelter.

Meanwhile, three MagiGaspar, Melchior and Balthasar—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 pretence that he, too, would like to worship him, while in fact he plans to kill the baby for fear of a new king taking his throne. The Magi arrive at the stable where Mary is giving 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 realises that the Magi have tricked him and orders the death of every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two. Joseph is warned in a dream of the danger and flees to Egypt with Mary and Jesus as the film ends.



Filming began on May 1, 2006, in Matera, Italy, and Ouarzazate, Morocco. Other scenes were shot in Craco, a ghost town in the Italian region of Basilicata, and Cinecittà, Rome.


Box office

The Nativity Story opened to a modest first weekend at the domestic box office by grossing $7.8 million,[3] with a 39% increase over the extended Christmas weekend.[4] 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.[5]

Critical response

The movie received mixed reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 38% of 130 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.3/10. 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."[6] 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.[7]

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."[8] 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."[9]

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."[10] 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."[11]


Keisha Castle-Hughes became pregnant during filming and received a lot of media attention.[12]


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.[13]

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.[14]


  1. 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.
  2. Sherwood, Harriet (25 November 2016). "Martin Scorsese's Silence to premiere at the Vatican". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  3. "Weekend Box Office Results for December 1-3, 2006". IMDB. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  4. "The Nativity Story (2006) – Weekend Box Office Results". IMDB. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  5. "The Nativity Story (2006)". IMDB. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  6. "The Nativity Story – Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  7. "The Nativity Story". CBS Interactive. Metacritic. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  8. Scott, A. O. (1 December 2006). "The Virgin Mary as a Teenager With Worries". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  9. Hornaday, Ann (1 December 2006). "Chapter and Verse". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  10. Gleiberman, Owen (29 November 2006). "The Nativity Story (2006)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  11. Turan, Kenneth (1 December 2012). "'The Nativity Story': A "Story" told with too much naiveté". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  12. "Introducing Felicity-Amore Hull — Keisha speaks about her labor, delivery, and new little girl". People. 8 June 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  13. Nominations Announced for 39th GMA Dove Awards on (February 14, 2008)
  14. "Soundtrack - The Nativity Story: Sacred Songs - Music".
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