Judah Ben-Hur lives as a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. Together with the new governor his old friend Messala arrives as commanding officer of the Roman legions. When Prince Judah Ben-Hur hears that his childhood friend Messala has been named to command the Roman garrison of Jerusalem, he is thrilled. He soon finds however that his friend has changed and has become an arrogant conqueror, full of the grandeur of Rome.At first they are happy to meet after a long time but their different politic views separate them.
During the welcome parade a brick falls down from Judah’s house and barely misses the governor. Although Messala knows that they are not guilty he sends Judah to the galleys and throws his mother and sister into prison. When Judah refuses to divulge the names of Jews who oppose Roman rule, Messala decides to make an example of him and sends him off as a galley slave. But Judah swears to come back and take revenge. Through fate and good fortune, Judah survives the galleys and manages to return to Jerusalem in the hopes of finding his mother and sister, who were also imprisoned, and to seek revenge against his one-time friend.
The chariot race sequence in the Circus Maximus (an amazing replica of the one in Rome) is one of the most thrilling and famous in film history. The site of the race, the Circus Maximus in Jerusalem (Judea), was constructed on over 18 acres of backlot space at Cinecitta Studios outside Rome, and the filming of the sequence took about five weeks. Except for two of the most spectacular stunts, both Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd did all their own chariot driving in the carefully-choreographed sequence.