Entertainment / History & Culture / Home & Family

Jesus and His Disciples Come to Life in The Chosen

AMAC Exclusive – By Eleanor Vaughn 

The Chosen

Here’s the pitch: a biblically-accurate, binge-worthy, seven-season series telling the story of the Gospels entirely funded by donations from the public.  It may sound like a lot, but that’s an exact description of The Chosenthe latest film adaptation of the life of Jesus.  Two seasons, each consisting of eight one-hour-long episodes, have so far been produced, with the other five still planned for production. 

The show takes a new approach to biblical storytelling, encouraging viewers to “binge Jesus” the same way they would watch the latest HBO or Netflix show.  It’s unquestionably a modern production, with atmospheric lighting and other high-end production values, multiple character-driven storylines, and a dramatic over-arching plot slowly tying everything together over the course of a season. 

The Chosen is more than just family-friendly, it’s also free.  Both seasons are available online, no subscription or account needed, through The Chosen app (on iPhone or Google Play).  It’s all part of making the show accessible—to families with children, to those who don’t want or can’t pay for a streaming service, to anyone who is curious.  The creators want to reach a billion people, so the fewer barriers to entry, the better.   

Keeping the show free and independent isn’t just a way to reach more people. Arguably, a Netflix deal could expose a lot more people to the show.  However, The Chosen is built on being free creatively as well as financially.  Each season is paid for in advance by crowdfunding, and there is absolutely no Hollywood or streaming service involvement with its creation.  As a result, the creators can tell the story of the Gospels authentically.  There are creative liberties, and the disclaimer at the beginning of the first episode says the show isn’t a replacement for the Gospels.  Crucially, however, there are no liberties taken with deepest truth of the Gospel – from the first episode, Jesus is clearly the Son of God, sent to save humanity from sin. 

The first episode primarily follows Mary Magdalene, who is calling herself Lilith, living in squalor, and possessed by demons that not even Nicodemus, a great rabbi from Jerusalem, can exorcise.  Then, Jesus calls her by her real name.  He heals and comforts her, saving someone beyond human reach with a simple prayer.  

Though Jesus appears rarely in the first two episodes, flitting in and out of the stories of the other characters, the third episode shows us the other side of Jesus: His humanity.  This task may be even harder than showing His divinity, but The Chosen insists that Jesus is both God and man.  We see Him eat, work, sleep, stretch, bleed, and even laugh.  The Chosen shows a playful, joking Jesus, grounded in reality yet still a mystery. 

It’s a difficult effect to achieve.  Depicting Jesus in film requires not just showing Him, but having an actor embody Him.  It’s much easier to make Jesus a briefly-seen figure, as in Ben-Hur, or an allegorical character, as in The Chronicles of Narnia, than to show Him as a full-fledged character.  Actor Jonathan Roumie acknowledges the weight and challenge of portraying Jesus, saying, “It’s so important for me to get this right.”   

The Chosen undoubtedly works hard to get it right.  The show’s consultants include a Catholic priest, an Evangelical scholar, and a Jewish rabbi to ensure that it will be biblically and historically accurate.  The cast and crew approach the project with an attitude director Dallas Jenkins describes as “bringing the loaves and fishes.”  In the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples did what they could, and Jesus did the rest.  In The Chosen, the creators bring their talents and professionalism, and leave the rest to God. 

Despite its current success, the story of The Chosen began with a box-office flop.  Jenkins had just made The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, a 2017 film which looked like another promising entry by a young director, but proved to be “one of the biggest professional disappointments” of his life, with box office numbers that were much lower than expected.  Discouraged by this failure but buoyed by prayer, Jenkins’ next project was much smaller in scope: a Christmas film for the Harvest Bible Chapel.  He had made films there before, and planned to tell the Christmas story from the perspective of the shepherds.  Pleased with his work, he sent it along to a friend, who passed it along to two of his friends who were starting a service called VidAngel, now rebranded as Angel Studios. 

From there, it exploded. 

The first season made history as the largest media crowdfunding project ever, with 75,346 donors raising $10 million by November 2019.  The second season, released this past Easter, reached the same goal with 125,346 donors in November 2020.  As of October 2021, season three is 70% funded, and still open for donations.  Since its release, the show has been viewed over 160 million times.  On YouTube, its season two trailer has over 3 million views, and its Facebook page has over 2 million followers.  Season one and two have scores of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.  This experiment in Christian media seems to be paying off. 

Yet The Chosen is relatively unknown, at least in terms of mainstream coverage.  Its 100% on Rotten Tomatoes comes from 4,689 viewers but only 8 critics, and none from any major publications.  For comparison, season one for Bridgerton, recently listed #1 on Netflix’s top TV shows list with 82 million views in the first month, has reviews from 96 critics and 1,584 viewers.  We’ve had years of weekly updates on hot new streaming shows.  Why not The Chosen

Part of the problem is probably that major media reviewers haven’t heard of it.  The independence of The Chosen, which gives it such creative and financial freedom, isolates it from major markets like Netflix and HBO Max.  The average consumer can’t find it by flipping through their streaming services, so it has to spread by word of mouth, mostly through Christian circles.  It’s also possible that mainstream publications see reviewing Christian media as a risk.  Despite major successes like The Passion of Christ, Christian works remain niche media that might be harder to discuss with a broad audience.  Still, with something this successful, the lack of mainstream coverage is disappointing, since there’s clearly a market for this kind of show. 

However, as The Chosen reminds us, the Gospels weren’t exactly critically acclaimed either.  And even without mainstream recognition, The Chosen is a big-time success.  It’s a great production, period.  So, if you’re in the mood for a character-driven drama about the greatest story ever told, consider giving it a try.   

Eleanor Vaughn is a writer living in Virginia. 

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Sebastian Samuel
1 month ago

God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were divided into twelve tribes.But it was only as Jesus neared the end of His earthly life. An invitation to live a life together with Christ, serving God and experiencing the fulfillment that brings tolife

Karen
1 month ago

It’s time for ALL people to watch this story. It is the Greatest Story Ever Told” and maybe if you all talk to Jesus, you may find all the answers. Also, I’m sure he will answer if you seriously speak to him.

Mario Capparuccini
1 month ago

It is an outstanding production. It portrays Jesus honestly as fully God and man. My faith has been strengthened by watching. It is not a replacement for diligent study of the Scriptures but it is an excellent program.

Patty L
1 month ago

Just download The Chosen app in the App Store for free and watch it as many times as you want. It’s excellent!!! Try it, you’ll love it!!
I’m looking forward to Season Three!!!

Sharon Ormsby
1 month ago

All episodes are free on BYU TV. You can also see them on the BYUTV app. They are using the sets for Jerusalem scenes and many other sets for filming in Goshen, Utah. If you live in Utah, they can always use extras if you are interested in being a part of the cast of The Chosen.

Phyl
1 month ago

Thank you for linking the APP. I can’t afford to buy it and this will satisfy my curiosity.

Lynda Buchholz
1 month ago

Can this be watched on a laptop?

Ann Bashara
1 month ago
Reply to  Lynda Buchholz

Yes, on TheChosen.tv but if you get The Chosen App on your phone it will show you how you can perhaps send it to your TV from the App or watch it on your phone. It is wonderful!

Lisa McClelland
1 month ago

We are watching this series as part of a Bible study. It’s really great!

Jeanne
1 month ago

God bless you AMAC and Eleanor Vaughn

Sharon
1 month ago

I have watched, bought, and spread the word about The Chosen. I am so glad to see this magazine report on the most beautifully portrayed movie of our Lord. Thank you Eleanor Vaughn and God bless you. Get the app!!!

Ron
1 month ago

A family favorite in our home. So thankful that this is on

ReneeM.
1 month ago

Found it on Tubi, a free app with free content to watch on FireTV. Only Season 1 for now.Another app also offers but charges a $2.99 fee. Not sure if that’s per episode or for season 1.

AuntieNay
1 month ago

I just checked and found it on Tubi for free. Tubi is a free app on the FireTV if you have that and all their content I’ve seen is free to watch. There is also another app offering it but there is a $2.99 charge for that one.

William
1 month ago

What a delight it is to see and hear God’s greatest gift, Jesus Christ through modern technology. Thanks to our Heavenly Father. Dallas Jenkins is a gifted person and my appreciation also goes to him for his diligence and hard work. We’ll done!

David Jordan
1 month ago

Thank you for covering this amazing series! We are enthusiastic fans of The Chosen, have watched both seasons a few times now and own both seasons on blue ray. Good to see it covered here on AMAC. An idea: Maybe a screenshot from the actual series would be great as the article header image, if you’re trying to glean interest? Nothing says old and boring than heavenly sun rays shooting from an open Bible.. haha. We enjoyed reading this great review on The Chosen! Thank you again!

Kathy
1 month ago

I love The Chosen. I have purchased season 1

Chavah L
1 month ago

As a former viewers of The Chosen, I must politely and respectfully disagree on your review on this production.I watched 2 seasons of The Chosen, and admittedly I was being reeled in with its drama but there are many MANY flaws with the production. I am a Natsarim believer in Yahusha HaMashiach, meaning, I believe the Messiah came to save man, lived among us, was crucified and resurrected to conquer death, but, He also came to teach us how to obey the Father the way the Father needs to be obeyed. The Chosen adds things in their productions that the Renewed (New) Testament doesn’t say happened and that’s a big problem. We are not to add or take away from the book. Is it entertaining? Yes. Should you take these productions with a grain of salt? DEFINITELY.

Eduardo F Bracamonte
1 month ago

BIG AWESOMENESS…..MANY THANKS AND BLESSINGS!

Paul Mathews
1 month ago

Amen and Amen! I’m so happy that there are efforts out there to tell the most important story that everyone should ever know and care about. May God continue to work through these wonderful people and companies.

MaBell
1 month ago

I loved every episode. It’s mesmerizing and captures your soul so that you are captivated with each character. My prayer is that GOD would give His success to The Chosen so that it may reach the world with the gospel of Christ.

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