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Top Ten Religious Films

Written by on April 2, 2010 

This week I found myself unsure of what theme to take on for my Top Ten list.  I was struggling to find 10 movies that would match a theme for Clash of the Titans due to my cinematic blind spots and I started to brainstorm ideas that would match this weekend.  I actually even considered making a Top Ten April Fools Pranks (either in film or online across the blogosphere that happened yesterday).  Then this morning I was reminded that it’s Good Friday.

I’ve never been very religious and I can tell you a couple movies that are not on this list are more for my cinematic failings rather than me trying to put my foot down against the world.  With the Easter Weekend I’ve decided to take a time out to mention my Top Ten Religious Films.  I will warn readers now though, even though I did consider the serious films, I did have some fun with this topic.

Here are my favorites, comment with yours below!

10. History of the World: Part One (1981) (dir. Mel Brooks)

I know that this movie isn’t all about religion; but how can I let an opportunity to highlight a Mel Brooks movie?  I love it from top to bottom and anyone who thought that Brooks’ couldn’t make a musical awesome, then here’s what you get.  So many quotable lines and laugh out loud moments to make this movie an instant classic.  Just to keep it relevant: “The Lord, the Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen… [drops a tablet] … Oy! Ten! Ten Commandments”

9. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (dir. Steven Spielberg)

It’s Indy! I know, I know.  I know that I’m cheating so much right now.  Yes, it is Christianity, and it’s about Indy trying to find the greatest find in Christian history, the Ark of the Covenant.  I know that the reason we love this movie isn’t when Indy tries to give us a mini history lesson but rather when he’s running for his life.  “Didn’t you guys ever go to Sunday School?”

8. Saved! (2004) (dir. Brian Dannelly)

This movie earns its spot for one reason and one reason only.  It knows how to make a complete mockery of the modern overly religion Christians who try to make a big deal out of everything.  I know it’s your belief, but at the same time that doesn’t mean that it’s mine and that doesn’t mean that I need to be saved.  I love it and it’s a film that if you’ve ever been woken up early one Saturday morning by your doorbell to be met by those Mormons trying to ask if you’ve found Jesus then this is a movie for you. “I know what you’re looking at, Mary. And Jesus does too.”

7. Life of Brian (1979) (dir. Terry Jones)

Being my least favorite of the Monty Python films it doesn’t stop it from being one of the most relevant of the movies.  What would you expect that happens if there was a guy, Brian, who was born the same time as Jesus.  It’s a hysterical watch and you have to love spotting John Cleese all over the place. “I’m not a roman mum, I’m a kike, a yid, a heebie, a hook-nose, I’m kosher mum, I’m a Red Sea pedestrian, and proud of it!”

6. Bruce Almighty (2003) (dir. Tom Shadyac)

This is one of my guilty pleasures.  I grew up watching Jim Carrey as the slapstick funny man and this was one of his movies that gave me that character all over again. Watching him use his powers and figure them all out is just a blast and if you don’t like it, then you might just be struck down sometime soon. “God doesn’t take vacations. Does he?… Do… ye?”

5. The Passion of the Christ (2004) (dir. Mel Gibson)

I’m guess it’s time to get all serious with the topic.  If you happen to have ever gone to Sunday School you had to have heard the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Here is the first and only movie I’ve seen that treated this story with such gruesome realism to make sure that you want to cry and remember what Easter really is about. It definitely isn’t a favorite movie of mine that I like to watch more than the once, but it definitely needs to be mentioned in this list. “Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.”

4. Dogma (1999) (dir. Kevin Smith)

Have I ever told you how much I love Kevin Smith movies?  Well Dogma has a special place in my heart.  It gave me the “Buddy Jesus” and Matt Damon as Loki trying to get back into heaven because he hates Wisconsin.  I love even more going back in time and reading all the controversy that it caused because the conservatives can’t take a joke. “Ladies and gentlemen, you have been judged guilty of sinning against our almighty God, and I promise you, you shall pay for your trespasses, in blood!”

3. Doubt (2008) (dir. John Patrick Shanley)

In recent years the Catholic church has been associated with child molestation.  Here we get a story about a suspected pedophile in the church.  I’m a huge fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman and with supporting cast like Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Viola Davis makes a perfect drama that will keep everyone talking.  What I love most about this movie, is that even though you can come to your own conclusion as to whether he is guilty or innocent the filmmaker never confirms it, therefore making the title so good. “You have no right to act on your own! You have taken vows, obedience being one! You answer to us! You have no right to step outside the church!”

2. The Matrix (1999) (dir. Andy & Lana Wachowski)

When I started this list I decided that I would try to avoid movies that try to take the religious story and mask it in a completely other world.  However, no matter how much I fought with myself I felt that I have to mention this one.  This story is the story of the messiah who dies for our sins.  Yes, in this version he does come back as more or less God and kicks ass but it’s so philosophically open and there are so many religious undertones that it can’t be forgotten when in a modern discussion on religion in film.  “Your next life, maybe. Who knows? That’s the way these things go.”

1. There Will Be Blood (2008) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Paul Thomas Anderson, one of my favorite directors, takes his camera to the world of the beginning of the Oil Industry with Daniel Plainview.  I know that most people will say that the movie is pushed into the limelight because of the dark performance by Daniel Day Lewis. At the same time you have to recognize the wonderful story of the Sunday family who’re trying to keep their grip on the power on the land with religion.  Paul Dano is overshadowed but I feel I need to remind people that he’s there and is so amazing in the movie as Eli & Paul Sunday. “I am a false prophet! God is a superstition! I am a false prophet! God is a superstition! I am a false prophet! God is a superstition!”

What are you favorite movies the deal with religion?

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