Gore Vidal, the gay author who wrote the screenplay, apparently included a gay text: around the time of Christ, the Roman Messala (Stephen Boyd) is made tribune of the province of Judea, and looks up his boyhood lover, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston, previously seen in Peer Gynt). But Ben-Hur refuses to rekindle the romance, and the enraged Messala tries to destroy him.
But Ben-Hur wants revenge, and he wants to find his mother and sister. So after a few years of domestic bliss with his older boyfriend, he heads back to Judea and challenges Messala to a chariot race. Messala dies, Ben-Hur is reconciled with his mother and sister.
Ben-Hur gets a girl along the way, but no fade-out kiss. The final scene shows Ben-Hur and his family witnessing the Crucifixion, where they learn to forgive the Romans.
"Admitted heterosexual" Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur) was no gay ally: "I find my blood pressure rising when [President Bill] Clinton's cultural shock troops participate in homosexual-rights fund-raisers..and claim it's time to place homosexual men in tents with Boy Scouts."
But Stephen Boyd (Messala) was gay. Here he buddy-bonds with David Wayne in another gay-subtext movie, The Big Gamble (1961).
See also: Ramon Novarro, who starred in the 1925 version of Ben-Hur.