Faith On Screen: 5 Religious Movies
Religion is a pretty polarizing business that can divide believers from non-believers. But a good movie can bridge that gap, serving as warm and inspirational entertainment even if the closest you come to prayer is shouting "God damn it" when you stub your toe. Here are five of those religious movies, for the Church Lady who lives inside you.
The long running time of "Ben-Hur" might make it easy to forget about the religion of the story. But consider the subtitle: "A Tale of the Christ." And even though you never see Jesus' face in the movie, he casts a very long shadow on the plot, and the scenes of his healing the sick and his crucifixion are some of the most powerful in the movie. And even if you're not religious, you can appreciate the work in the famous chariot race sequence, an action scene that still holds up more than 50 years after it was made.
"The Gospel According to St. Matthew"
The best Jesus movie ever made by a gay atheist communist, "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" is a neo-realistic look at Christ. Just imagine what it would look like if a documentary crew could have followed Jesus and the disciples around, and you have a decent approximation of the visual style in the movie. It's also a respectful portrait of the subject, following the text much more closely than other movies from more religious filmmakers.
"The Wrong Man"
Alfred Hitchcock wasn't known for portraying religion in his movies, but the Big Guy plays quite a big role in this ripped-from-the-headlines thriller. Henry Fonda plays a working-class musician who gets wrongfully convicted of a robbery. While serving his jail time, he takes solace in a portrait of Jesus, making this one of the most subtle and earnest portraits of religious faith in Hollywood movies.
"A Serious Man"
Deep examinations of Judaism aren't as common as their Christian counterparts, but leave it to the Coen brothers to corner the market on them right out of the gate. In what's basically a modern retelling of the Book of Job, college professor Larry experiences a variety of crises both spiritual and interpersonal. Unlike The Bible, "A Serious Man" ends on an ambiguous note.
"Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives"
The belief in reincarnation, which exists in many religions, is explored here. This is probably the only "religious movie" in which a woman has a sexual encounter with a fish, but there it is. There's an element of magic in all religion, and that element is given full force here. You might not learn anything concrete about religion, but the feeling of wonder and magic is pretty great anyway.