Top 5… Religious movies

It’s Easter so I thought this was a good excuse to do a top 5 list of religious movies. This doesn’t mean cheesy Christian films but any film where religion or faith is an important plot piece. Important exclusions  are films where there is religious metaphor. This will prevent The Matrix from making it into two Top 5 lists in a row!

5. Bruce Almighty & Evan Almighty

I love both of these comedies. In the first film, Jim Carrey is granted the powers of God to see if he can really do a better job himself. This results in a number of hilarious sequences like parting a bowl of soup like Moses did the Red Sea and forcing his co-worker (Steve Carell) to speak in tongues live on air.

In the critically bashed sequel, Steve Carell’s Evan is given the task of building an ark before the floods come, much to the bemusement of his family, neighbours and even himself. In some ways I think I prefer the sequel to the first one but this might be due to my love of Steve Carell.

4. Signs

Mel Gibson plays a widowed former priest who has lost his faith and lives on a farm with his two children and brother (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Crop circles start appearing in his fields and at first local kids are blamed but as the movie progresses it turns out that there could be more to these signs.

This movie is all about faith and God turning all bad things to good in the end. There are naysayers about some plot points but the atmosphere and acting make this another fantastic Shyamalan film.

3. The Mission

Robert De Niro plays a former violent conquistador who finds God and helps Jeremy Irons set up a mission with a South American Indian tribe. As the film progresses the mission comes under threat from pro-slavery Portugal which forces the choice of how to defend them; by violence or peace?

This is a beautifully shot film with a gorgeous soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and deserves to reside on anyone’s DVD shelf.

2. Malcolm X

At nearly 4 hours this is a truly epic film but worth every minute of it. Denzel Washington gives the performance of his career (and that is saying something) as the infamous Black Nationalist leader in a race-hate fuelled America.

Some time in jail in his early 20s would change the course of this life as he is converts to Islam and rises up to be one of the leaders of a group called Nation of Islam. Disillusionment with how the group was run though led him to leave and go on a pilgrimage which changed his life for a second time and he came back looking for peace amongst the races.

This is a phenomenal film with a towering central performance that makes the running time inconsequential. That Al Pacino won the best actor Oscar for Scent of a Woman instead of Denzel is on of the biggest mistakes in Oscar history!

1. Monty Python double – Life of Brian & Holy Grail

It seems ironic though that the top spot in my list should go to two comedies. Monty Python hit the ball out of the park twice with their two takes on religion. The first (Holy Grail) follows a group of knights as they search England for the mythical cup of Christ. This is played out through numerous iconic sketches that are endlessly quotable. One of the best comedies ever made!

They then followed this up with a more direct commentary on religion and what it can do to impressionable people. While running away from the Romans, Brian is mistaken for the messiah and as his followers grow and grow, nothing he says will convince them otherwise. Hilarious and insightful.

I believe that those people who were offended by this totally missed the point and the truths it was telling clearly cut too close to the bone!

Honourable Mentions

  • The Passion of the Christ – Just missed the list. Harrowing and violent but very well done.
  • Ben-Hur – Jesus is a parallel story in this masterpiece rather than central to it so it couldn’t get into my top 5.
  • Munich – The seemingly endless conflict between Palestine and Israel is played out in the film about the aftermath of the Munich Massacre
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  1. I must admit I’ve only seen the Almighty films, Signs and the Python ones, but great list.
    Really wanna see The Mission and Munich, and perhaps one day ill be able to bring myself to watch The Passion.

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