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. 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. But Judah swears to come back and take revenge.