One Night with the King

One Night with the KingMichael O. Sajbel, dir. One Night with the King. 20th Century Fox, 2006. 124 min. PG

[rate 1.5]

Shanna and I watched One Night with the King last night and were incredibly (!) disappointed. We had just finished reading Esther in our Bible reading, so the story was fresh on our minds. We were expecting the movie to tell faithfully the story of Esther. Not so. Probably only 25% of the movie corresponds to the biblical account. I’m not talking about just filling in the details. I’m talking about totally scrapping the biblical story, picking up a handful of those scraps, and then putting them back together in such a way that they are virtually unrecognizable. Well, maybe that’s a little overstatement, but you get my point. Over and over throughout the movie, we’d stop and say, “What?! That’s not how that happened! Why did they change that?” Not quite The Gospel of John! (More like The Ten Commandments.) It wasn’t until the end that we learned that the movie wasn’t supposed to be retelling the biblical story of Esther but the fictional story of the novel Hadassah: One Night with the King. (I vaguely remember reading that, but had forgotten.) Knowing that up front would probably have helped significantly.

Apart from our disappointment with the storyline, the quality of the movie left much to be desired. I’m not sure whether cheesy or goofy is the better descriptor. Esther acted like a silly, giggly little girl. We erupted with laughter on numerous occasions throughout, and I’m fairly certain that, for most of them, the humor we saw wasn’t intended.

For all of the not-so-positive things I’ve said, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you not watch it. Even in spite of our disappointments, it was mildly enjoyable and helped to bring the Bible to life (at least the portions of the film that followed the biblical story). As long as your expectations for faithfulness to the biblical account are low and you’re ready to laugh a bit at some goofiness, you should be able to watch it with some enjoyment and profit. But you may want to wait until you can get it from your local library.

See also these reviews:

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9 Responses to One Night with the King

  1. Sam February 5, 2007 at 5:00 pm #

    I was going to watch that movie, but I watched Casino Royale instead—and I’m not sorry. :-)

  2. ctythinks August 6, 2007 at 11:45 pm #

    C’mon, it’s not THAT bad. Yes, there were some distinctly goofy moments and the main actress has an awkward delivery to be sure; ok and Haman’s age and gravelly voice and stoic intensity are at times comical; and Hadassah’s childhood friend morphed into Hathach is a wincing stretch; and everyone knows there were TWO banquets not one and the war with Greece is a historical but not biblical element; oh yea and the glowing stars bit, and – my greatest complaint – she fainted instead of touching the tip of his scepter like the Biblical Esther CLEARLY did . . . and yes inconsistencies galore – – BUT, between this review and those linked to it I have to take issue with a few points:

    First, about the inconsistencies: it is difficult for those of us who believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God to see ANY detail altered in any way but I must say, altering a narrative like Esther for the screen is not the same as putting words in the mouth of Jesus that he did not say (or crafting relationships that he did not have, etc.) The biblical story of Esther does leave gaps that beg to be filled in on the screen and there are facts that even respected historians cannot determine one way or the other (case in point: the historical assignment of the ACTUAL king described in Esther – Xerxes? Artaxerxes I or II?, especially that none of the candidates list Esther as Queen or list offspring from that union; Vashti is not found either even when other queens and their offspring are listed).

    Second – the disdain shown towards the portrayal of Esther as a silly teenager. Isn’t it obvious? They were trying to show that she WAS a girl who had to become Queen. This was to show the distinct transformation that she underwent in such a short but significant time – it wasn’t superbly acted but we believed she was young and immature, even goofy like some teens are, right?

    Thirdly, and related – – A site connecting here indicated that it was inaccurate to portray Esther and the King as a love story, that this was a forced arranged marriage. But nothing in the text says that it COULD NOT have happened that way – there DOES seem to be some indication that Esther may have embraced her fate – she had a year to go from commoner to her night with the king, she had no mother or father to long for – – why couldn’t there have been a bond of love between them?

    The text indicates that at least HE was smitten, she won his favor and approval (“beguiled” him) and that she did submit to the eunuch’s recommendations – why would she do that except to please the king? She found favor in the eyes of all who saw her (2:15). One has to wonder if we as followers of Christ are simply unable to embrace the possibility of passion and joy in the midst of what we assume was a rigidly painful thing for Esther. Could there not have been the elements of humanity then as there are today? Joy and pain, courage and fear, dreams of a life vs. the reality of what is – it is clear that the king RESPECTED her (he tipped his scepter when she broke protocol), her beauty could not have been the only source of that respect – how do we know they DIDN’T fall in love?

    Far from perfect, not a masterpiece or a legalistic recreation of the biblical text but a love story, an adventure, a family movie and a detailed recreation of a time and culture that DOES bring old testament elements of the Bible to life. Of course, if you watch it looking for a perfect scholarly retelling you WILL come out giving it an “F” – but it has redeeming qualities! There were some beautifully crafted moments that point to the prophetic picture of the biblical Esther and our Lord and Savior as the king – the King who holds his scepter out when what we deserve is death. There is great biblical accuracy in how much Hegai seemed to care for Esther, him showing favoritism to her and helping her to win the throne (why not the Kings heart?). Esther was a brave and godly woman, a woman of prayer, honor, and submission – even a weak portrayal of her significant role as an “Intercessor” for the Jews (another allegorical picture!) is worth watching, not from just a scholarly and cerebral place, but from the places of the heart and soul that God also wants to touch.

    Do our Bible teachers take it so seriously that they can’t enjoy the story? Were the inaccuracies heretical and so polluting to the entire film? LIGHTEN UP! Enjoy the film – laugh at it when it’s corny, let your preteen children watch it and then, if you must and for the sake of biblical accuracy, discuss the accurate story of Esther with them. But don’t discount that there were points of excellence in storytelling, casting (not so much with the main characters I’ll give you that), cinematography and just all around decent filmmaking.

  3. Phil Gons August 7, 2007 at 9:22 pm #


    Thanks for your two cents. If you reread my concluding paragraph, you’ll see that I had some positive things to say. If you reread the first portion of my post, you see that I had fewer critiques than you did! We’re probably not too far off in our evaluations.

  4. Mary March 30, 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    I think you are being too tough. I liked it mostly because had it not beed for watching the movie I probably would have never read the book of Esther (I haven’t been a Christian long). I personally think that what they did was emphasize her courage rather than her faith to make the movie appealing to secular viewers as well. We also have to remember that it was a low budget movie, as far as production, I think they did a great job with such a low budget. Keep in mind also, that this was the actress’ first movie.

  5. Belinda Brady August 13, 2008 at 8:44 pm #

    My Bible Study group and I saw the movie after we studied it. And it was absolutely wonderful movie. I have watched it many times. If you’re a true Bible student of the Bible you will understand and appreciate the movie. Of course the movie script is not word for of the Bible but the story definitely is accurate. It’s a great movie and I give it 2 thumbs up and 5 stars. The key point of the movie is WHAT A MIGHTY AND AWESOME GOD WE SERVE.

  6. Phil Gons August 13, 2008 at 8:55 pm #


    Did your group study the book that the movie was based on or the biblical account? As I pointed out in my post, the movie doesn’t even claim to be an accurate recounting of the biblical story but of the novel Hadassah.

    The story is full of inaccuracies and additions when compared to the biblical account. You’re certainly welcome to your opinion, but must admit that I was left with very different opinions about the movie’s faithfulness to the biblical account than you apparently were.

  7. Cheyenne October 6, 2008 at 9:48 pm #

    Obviously no one knows this but Esther did in fact first faint when she went into the King’s presence. See Josephus, Jewish Antiquities. It actually makes sense as he said he would give her anything she wanted. He saw her extremely scared. And I do think that they must have been in love, since it seemed that she could not see him execept in his throne room. They must have had a fight or something.
    And as an FIY, “One Night with the King” was not based on the novel hadassah. It actually follows almost identically the novel “Esther” by Nathaniel Weinreb in plot, including direct quotes and events in the novel.
    If anyone wants to talk further on this subject– Please, email! [email protected]

  8. Victoria January 5, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    I have truly enjoyed reading all of the responses. I normally don’t read these. I was watching the movie, bcz I’m in the mood for a love story, but biblical. So I choose this movie. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and have the right to voice it. Me personally, I have to go with all the positive response. This movie is awesome. I read the bible for myself and really enjoy movies. When there’s a movie that is biblical, I only look for what I have read in them and see how the writer’s imagination saw the stories themselves. I have a big imagination as well, so I like to see how others think too. I agree with Belinda Brady and give this movie 2 thumbs up and 5 stars. The Actress is very beautiful, which from the story of Ester in the bible, I can see her as a beautiful youthful woman. The King had a bit to much makeup on for me, but very gorious; spirit and all. ctythinks, I really enjoyed your response as well. May God continue to bless us all with love, understanding, and wisdom.


  1. - August 4, 2007

    […] Phil Gons’s review is the most helpful I’ve seen. I significantly disagree with much of the positive tenor in the […]