Christmastime is here again, marking the day when our Lord (or not — it’s a free country) was almost certainly not born. But we celebrate His birth anyway, because it gets dark before dinner this time of year, and we could all use a pick-me-up. So here it is: America’s two favorite obsessions — Christianity and ranking things — combined into one epic babyfight.
There is only rule here: Two Gods enter. One man leaves. Then the other God-who-is-also-a-man comes back three days later. It’s complicated. Anyway, here’s our countdown of the most badass babies in Bethlehem, ordered by who we think would prevail in an epic, festive Battle Royale.
21) ‘Jesus: The Nativity’ (????)
This mysterious cartoon came out of nowhere — and is going nowhere. A sure loser due to jerky animation and delayed reaction time, good only for stuffing the win record of His mightier counterparts.
20) ‘The Nativity Story’ (2006)
Inert Baby Jesus with excellent costumes and staging, but basically useless in battle. He’s mostly a prop for the Magi to weep in awe. Sucker bet.
19) ‘The Life of Jesus Christ’ (2011)
Another Baby Jesus who’s a bit player in His own birth. Everybody in this Latter Day Saints-produced video series has a Transatlantic accent, and while Snooty Jesus would be fun to see on camera receiving gold presents before He can walk, such tales always end with the promising young protagonist receiving his comeuppance.
18) ‘The Birth of Jesus’ (1998)
While difficult to find and observe online, this stars Kirk Cameron as “Uncle Kirk,” so you know there’s no way this kid is going to learn the fine art of the hullabaloo. But spot it a couple points for enlisting an infant actress to play Baby Jesus, because females are strong as Hell — er, I mean, Heaven.
17) ‘Christus’ (1916)
Although this Italian production is vastly successful in Europe, the storytelling is all over the map, and it’s going to come in behind fellow silent film From the Manger to the Cross, like it has its entire life. Nice try, Italy, but you’ve crumpled in every conflict since 1914, and you’re crumpling here.
16) ‘Jesus: He Lived Among Us’ (2011)
As a cartoon, He’s naturally resistant to harm, but this animation looks more like 1991 than 2011, so He will likely get swept away by hungrier competitors after easily dispatching Jesus: The Nativity.
15) ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ (1977)
A British/Italian collaboration for TV, this comprehensive miniseries takes big liberties — like inventing a villain named Zerah who manipulates dumb ol’ Judas, or perpetuating the myth of Blue-Eyed Jesus Who Gazes Mournfully at You From Your Great-Aunt’s Living Room Wall — but is well regarded as a standard. And standard is what will cost Jesus of Nazareth the victory: Despite His ability to bring the pain in childbirth, this Baby Jesus has no outlying traits that will give Him a competitive edge. Snore.
14) ‘From the Manger to the Cross’ (1912)
This early movie was the first motion picture about Jesus, and was shot on location in Egypt and Palestine. Not gonna lie: Baby Jesus is pretty much a lump here. But the silent types are usually strong and you don’t want to provoke them, so treat Him as a serious contender.
13) ‘The Star’ (2017)
A star-splattered cast and excellent animation can’t bulwark the odds of a CGI Baby Jesus who gets upstaged as the star by the ass He rode in on. His best hope is for cast member Oprah to transform this loser into a winner, like she did for Doctors Phil and Oz.
12) ‘Man of Steel’ (2013)
Superman is traditionally more Moses than Jesus, but nobody told Zack Snyder that, in this film that repeatedly posits Henry Cavill as a Christ-type alien (who is also a sullen dick). Though Jesus-by-another-name’s power set is very high up there compared to his competition, expect an early exit from this guy because he takes way too long to resurrect compared to his foes (a year and a half!). That said, he does publicly execute the first person to cross Him, thanks to some very bad parenting by both Jor-El and Pa Kent, so don’t write off SuperJesus completely.
11) ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ (1945)
Does this even count? Rebellious Jimmy wanders out of his creche when some scamps put together a Nativity play. The other Babies Jesus on this list may say he doesn’t belong in their league, but that just gives him more to prove. If Rocky II taught us anything, it’s that a scrappy underdog can often beat his superior — even if he’s a toddler fighting God. Jimmy’s unpredictability and fast footwork show a maverick streak that just could take this mortal all the way.
10) ‘The Young Messiah’ (2016)
Basically the Gotham of Jesus films, this stars 7-year-old Jesus on the run from Herod and becoming aware of His powers and destiny. But like Bruce Wayne to Batman, he needs His humanity to stay grounded. The Young Messiah is based on the work of Anne Rice, who tackles monsters and residents of Heaven alike with the same humanizing touch, like when she has Him bring back a dead bird to life. And while you might say a 7-year-old isn’t a baby, we would argue that you should shut up.
9) ‘Jesus’ (1999)
He also brings a dead bird to life, but in this case, it’s not as impressive as its source material — the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, where He turns clay into flesh. That’s still obviously a really good miracle for a baby, but it’s also a sign that you shouldn’t expect Him to pull out any surprise moves.
8) ‘Jesus’ (1973)
Did you know some people theorize Jesus traveled to India and used Buddhism and Hinduism as foundation for His teachings? As such, let us look at the shoestring-budget Jesus, made for $16,000 in India before grossing an 11-fold return of $180,000 (perhaps due to gobs of sexy belly dancing in Herod’s court?) Though it didn’t even portray the best Jesus of 1973 — an honor bestowed upon Jesus Christ Superstar — at least it’s free of any sandal-wearing hippies preaching about peace. And this dark horse has already clearly demonstrated heavy returns for the bold gambler. (That’s how Jesus would qualify a person’s worth, right? By how much money they make?)
7) ‘Marie de Nazareth’ (1995)
This tiny Jesus is plainly wearing a modern-day onesie, implying some sort of time-travel abilities that make Him truly dangerous.
6) ‘The Nativity Factor’ (2011–2015)
The many Jesuses of The Nativity Factor were recontextualized tellings of Jesus’ birth (in a cab, in a zoo) as an annual contest to keep the Christ in Christmas. His numerous forms indicate that this is a Jesus who has spent the most time developing his power to change His appearance, as demonstrated after the Resurrection. The sheer number of iterations makes Him a difficult target to hit, let alone defeat.
5) ‘Mary of Nazareth’ (2012)
We’re not going to blaspheme by saying Jesus would ever succumb to temptation with Mary Magdalene. But for proof He wouldn’t, see here, where Mary Mags is played by Paz Vega. That takes a strength only found in your best Messiahs (and probably explains why Jesus has such great abs). So place your bet on the bambino who grows up to be this testament to divine fortitude.
4) ‘Talladega Nights’ (2006)
Though Baby Jesus is but an unrevealed figure, yea, his might is endless, for unto Ricky Bobby He delivers the passion and conviction of the righteous man. Little Tiny Baby Jesus, in His golden fleece diapers, doesn’t need to intimidate the competition. He’s 8 pounds and 6 ounces of healing, and He keeps his fat, balled-up fists clean while his goon Ricky strikes in his name. And does Ricky ever lose? No, because he knows it’s not about winning, it’s about love: Just like Jesus taught.
3) ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus’ (1999)
You may dismiss Jesus as a coddled momma’s boy here, but that’s your fatal error. This incarnation of Jesus grows up to be Christian Bale, and at that point, there’s no analysis needed, because Batman (not to mention Patrick Bateman) has a plan to win in any circumstance. Even killing Him only serves His purpose of saving all mankind.
2) ‘Un Bambino di Nome Gesú’ (1987)
About the bird thing: In this anecdote from the Gospel of Thomas, Gesú makes Himself some clay birds, then brings them to life. This story was never approved for the Bible by the Council of Carthage, which makes Apocryphal Kid Jesus a rebel who doesn’t play by any rules. Plus, at 1 year old, the Thomasian Jesus had already murdered another child, demonstrating a remarkable killer instinct.
1) ‘Life of Brian’ (1979)
Now this is some primo Jesus. Where most films play the Nativity with so much breathlessness the audience asphyxiates, this controversial satire exhales from the bottom of its lungs to portray God’s glory — if only to show how disappointing it would be to find Brian and his inhospitable mom instead. When Jesus does show up later in the film, He’s the only nice person in a nasty world, the kind of magnificent Savior you can bet on, no matter how dire things get (or the competition).