RELIGION IN FILM – A LIST OF FILMS

http://theotherjournal.com/filmwell/2010/02/17/religion-in-film-a-list-of-films-for-the-religious-studies-classroom/
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1.
Andrei Rublev (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The life, times and afflictions of the fifteenth-century Russian iconographer. (205 mins.)
“ This challenging film tracks a Russian Orthodox iconographer through the turbulent history of Russia, suggesting some complicated things about religion and history along the way. It is a virtual treasury of thoughts on iconography, politics, and religion. ” - BabyJoe666
 
2.
The Apostle (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
After his happy life spins out of control, a preacher from Texas changes his name, goes to Louisiana and starts preaching on the radio. (134 mins.)
Director: Robert Duvall
“ A frighteningly realistic portrayal of Pentecostal preaching and fellowship that embraces its ambiguous Southern Gothic take on fundamentalist Christianity. ” - BabyJoe666
 
3.
Babette's Feast (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In a remote 19th-century Danish village, two sisters lead a rigid life centered around their father... (102 mins.)
Director: Gabriel Axel
“ This acclaimed meditation on grace is an entrancing look at Lutheran piety, grace, and the sacrament of generosity. ” - BabyJoe666
 
4.
Black Narcissus (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension - both with the natives and also within their own group - as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings. (100 mins.)
“ This film was way ahead of its time. Its psychological probing of a missional convent of Anglican nuns in the Himalayas captures in one technicolor stretch a shelf full of books on colonialism and religion. ” - BabyJoe666
 
5.
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
This is a dramatization of events in the life of St. Francis of Assisi from before his conversion experience through his audience with the pope... (122 mins.)
“ This tricky biography of St. Francis of Assisi makes reference to American countercultural movements in the 1960s. The ideas it composes about how religion and social movements interact make for compelling conversation. ” - BabyJoe666
 
6.
The Burmese Harp (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
In the War's closing days, when a conscience-driven Japanese soldier fails to get his countrymen to surrender to overwhelming force, he adopts the lifestyle of a Buddhist monk. (116 mins.)
Director: Kon Ichikawa
“ This story about the unexpected conversion of a Japanese soldier at the end of WW II to monastic Buddhism is as wonderfully composed as it is enlightening. It is a fine film about trauma, death, and the way religion offers ritual structures for hope and healing. ” - BabyJoe666
 
7.
The Chosen (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
In 1944, in Brooklyn, two Jewish kids become friends. One is from a very conservative family, and the other is more liberal. The issues of importance of tradition, parental expectations and the formation of Israel cause constant friction. (108 mins.)
“ This is one of the finest depictions of the nuances of Conservative and Orthodox Judaism during a time when Zionism threatened to redefine both. Its gentle evocation of Hasidism and Talmudic thinking in mid-century Brooklyn is timeless. ” - BabyJoe666
 
8.
Close-Up (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Pretending to be Mohsen Makhmalbaf making his next movie, Hossain Sabzian enters the home of a well-to-do family in Tehran... (98 mins.)
“ This memorable glimpse of Islamic judicial practice in Iran is one of the great ethnographic documents produced by the Iranian New Wave. Its reflections on mercy and justice as navigated by this Iranian court of law provide an uncommon glimpse into the rationale of certain Muslim social polities. ” - BabyJoe666
 
9.
The Cup (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
While the soccer World Cup is being played in France, two young Tibetan refugees arrive at a monastery/boarding school in exile in India... (93 mins.)
Director: Khyentse Norbu
“ A charming look at Tibetan Buddhism and globalism that refers in detail to the particulars of Buddhist monasticism and their relevance to a media saturated world. ” - BabyJoe666
 
10.
The Goddess (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A young woman is deemed a goddess when her father-in-law, a rich feudal land-lord, has a dream envisioning her as an avatar of Kali. (93 mins.)
Director: Satyajit Ray
“ Ray’s acrobatic riff on Kali mythology and worship in Hinduism caused a bit of a stir, but to this day remains a classic study of the way we appropriate mythical narratives. ” - BabyJoe666
 
11.
Diary of a Country Priest (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A young priest taking over the parish at Ambricourt tries to fulfill his duties even as he fights a mysterious stomach ailment. (115 mins.)
Director: Robert Bresson
“ It is hard to pick just one Bresson film for such a list, but this look at asceticism, Catholic doctrine, and liturgy is an essential document of Christian piety. ” - BabyJoe666
 
12.
Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (1985 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A documentary film about Haitian vodou. (52 mins.)
“ So, here is the one quasi-documentary exception to the list. But the contribution of Maya Deren to ethnographic cinema on religion can’t be overlooked. This is also a seminal look at religious ritual in Haiti. ” - BabyJoe666
 
13.
Exiles (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Two French lovers, Zano and Naima, decided to travel to the land of their parents: Algeria. Their road trip gradually becomes a spiritual quest. (104 mins.)
Director: Tony Gatlif
“ This film tracks the cultural and spiritual journey of two second generation French immigrants to Algeria. It ends with an explosion of Algerian Muslim ritual and custom that causes us to think about the role of religion in the increasingly diverse EU. ” - BabyJoe666
 
14.
The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
The film dramatizes about a dozen vignettes from the life of St. Francis and his early followers - starting... (85 mins.)
“ There are a few films like the grand documentary Into Great Silence that manage to translate the simplicity of Catholic monastic piety to the screen. This episodic masterpiece fits the bill. ” - BabyJoe666
 
15.
Four Days in July (1984 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A Catholic and a Protestant couple in Northern Ireland have amazing parallels in their lives, despite being either side of the divide. (96 mins.)
Director: Mike Leigh
“ One of the great theological legacies of the Troubles in cinema is the conversation Bobby Sands has with his Priest in Hunger. But Leigh’s film tracks the differences between Protestant and Catholic life in Northern Ireland with his characteristic offhand precision. ” - BabyJoe666
 
16.
Gandhi (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Gandhi's character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is able to drive the British out of the subcontinent. And the stubborn nature of Jinnah and his commitment towards Pakistan is portrayed. (191 mins.)
“ There aren’t many bearable biopics of religious figures out there, but scattered about this compelling look at Gandhi’s life are rabbit trails on religion and state issues, Hindu/Islam relations, and the way religion and class co-exist. ” - BabyJoe666
 
17.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The life of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew. Pasolini shows Christ as a marxist avant-la-lettre and therefore uses half of the text of Matthew. (137 mins.)
“ It would be easy to pack this list with Jesus films, but this is among the most engaging interpretations of Jesus’ life and ministry. ” - BabyJoe666
 
18.
Himalaya (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
An aging chief's last stand, lessons for the new, and the education of a young chief-to-be played against harsh Nature in Nepal's Dolpo... (108 mins.)
“ Tibetan Lamaism. Sky burial rites. This nicely composed film shot with non-professional Tibetans works well as a glimpse of traditional Tibetan religious practice. ” - BabyJoe666
 
19.
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
The life histories of four Asian women and their daughters reflect and guide each other. (139 mins.)
Director: Wayne Wang
“ This film ranges widely across immigrant narratives, forgotten rituals, and engaging historical vignettes. It is an effective meditation on the way religious identities are diffused across generations. ” - BabyJoe666
 
20.
Kadosh (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Two sisters become victims of the patriarchal, ultra-orthodox society. (110 mins.)
Director: Amos Gitai
“ This film offers a challenging glimpse into the structure of ultra-orthodox Jewish culture. Its commentary on gender, sectarianism, and what some refer to as Haredic Judaism makes The Chosen look sanguine. ” - BabyJoe666
 
21.
Kundun (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
From childhood to adulthood, Tibet's fourteenth Dalai Lama deals with Chinese oppression and other problems. (134 mins.)
Director: Martin Scorsese
“ This film may be bit affected by what Donald Richie came to call “orientalism,” but it is the most even handed and eloquent of the Dalai Lama biopics regardless. ” - BabyJoe666
 
22.
Lilies of the Field (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A traveling handyman becomes the answer to the prayers of nuns who wish to build a chapel in the desert. (94 mins.)
Director: Ralph Nelson
“ This unexpectedly nuanced interplay between boot-strapping Baptist Protestantism and German nun Catholicism is a vivid document of religion, race, and society in America. ” - BabyJoe666
 
23.
The Mahabharata (1989 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Jealousy and hatred is what separates the Pandava and Kaurava. The Kaurava fear the Pandava are after the throne of their father. Yudhishthira of the Pandava gets told by the deity Krishna that he will become king. A war is inevitable. (318 mins.)
“ This lengthy presentation of a central sacred texts digs deep into the mythology and cosmology of Hinduism. ” - BabyJoe666
 
24.
Malcolm X (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam. (202 mins.)
Director: Spike Lee
“ A controversial film, to be sure, but it is also a good introduction to the Nation of Islam and its relationship to Islam in general. ” - BabyJoe666
 
25.
Mary (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
The Virgin Mary delivers a message to an 11-year-old girl. (83 mins.)
Director: Abel Ferrara
“ This film is a great introduction to non-canonical Christian gospel texts, and the increasing influence early Gnostic thought has had on Western spirituality. Its meditation on the lingering impact of the Historical Jesus is unparalleled in world cinema. ” - BabyJoe666
 
26.
Monsieur Ibrahim (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
In Paris, a Turkish shop owner befriends a Jewish boy in his mid-teens. (96 mins.)
“ An aging Muslim Turk takes an abandoned Jewish boy under his wing in an immigrant-class Paris arrondissement. Their compelling journey across the EU is peppered with little comparative religious nuggets. ” - BabyJoe666
 
27.
Moolaadé (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
When a woman shelters a group of girls from suffering female genital mutilation, she starts a conflict that tears her village apart. (124 mins.)
Director: Ousmane Sembene
“ This acclaimed look at the rite of female circumcision in Burkina Faso as a purity ritual is both timely and articulate. ” - BabyJoe666
 
28.
Nazarin (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A priest in a poor community lives a charitable life in accordance with his religious principles, but many others do not return the favor. (94 mins.)
Director: Luis Buñuel
“ Is charity a legitimate spiritual discipline? Nazarin is one of several films in which we find Bunuel interrogating some of the fundamentals of Catholic piety. It is an excellent introduction to theological analyses of institutional Christianity that even just now have become part of academic discourse. ” - BabyJoe666
 
29.
Osama (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
The Taliban are ruling Afghanistan, they being a repressive regime especially for women, who, among other things... (83 mins.)
Director: Siddiq Barmak
“ Rifling through issues related to gender and religion and just war theory, Osama is one of few films that have been able to film Taliban-era Afghanistan on location. Its casual references to many local rituals and rites of passage compliment the film’s sympathetic appeal to realism. ” - BabyJoe666
 
30.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Depicts the final twelve hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, on the day of his crucifixion in Jerusalem. (127 mins.)
Director: Mel Gibson
“ This controversial film is in its very essence a religious document. It is hard to find a better contemporary access point to discussions about the sacramental nature of Catholic art and piety. ” - BabyJoe666
 
31.
Peter and Paul (1981 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Peter and Paul assume leadership of the Church as they struggle against violent opposition to the teachings of Christ and their own personal conflicts. (198 mins.)
Director: Robert Day
“ This account of the apostles Peter and Paul in the wake of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension is a largely accurate depiction of key moments in early Christianity. ” - BabyJoe666
 
32.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime. (134 mins.)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
“ Spirited Away would work just as well here as a moving depiction of Kami and the Shinto worldview. There are few films that celebrate and respond to nature with the vividness of Shinto dualist reasoning as those of Miyazaki. ” - BabyJoe666
 
33.
A Serious Man (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern physics teacher, watches his life unravel over multiple sudden incidents. Though seeking meaning and answers amidst his turmoils, he seems to keep sinking. (106 mins.)
“ This period film about mid-western, mid-century Judaism deftly navigates Jewish language, literature, and myth. It is further confounded by the mysterium tremendum of hierophany. ” - BabyJoe666
 
34.
The Seventh Seal (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague. (96 mins.)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
“ Though this film tends toward that class of films that aren’t quite as helpful in the religious studies classroom because they are a bit too general, it is representative of Bergman’s post-Lutheran take on theodicy, hierophany, and the boundaries of Christian art and language. ” - BabyJoe666
 
35.
Silent Light (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
In a Mennonite community in Mexico, a father's faith is tested when he falls in love with a new woman. (145 mins.)
Director: Carlos Reygadas
“ This film tracks a crisis of faith in an obscure Russian Mennonite community in Mexico. While a seamlessly biblical meditation on sin, desire, and tragedy, it is filled with the ritual details of this sect’s daily routine. ” - BabyJoe666
 
36.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A young and truth seeking boy travels to an isolated lake, where an old Buddhist master lives on a small floating temple. (103 mins.)
Director: Ki-duk Kim
“ This South Korean film about a Buddhist monk and his protégé cycles provocatively through life, sacred space, and the essence of Zen Buddhist thought. ” - BabyJoe666
 
37.
The Sun (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Third part in Aleksandr Sokurov's quadrilogy of Power, following Moloch and Taurus, focuses on Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Japan's defeat in World War II when he is finally confronted by General Douglas MacArthur who offers him to accept a diplomatic defeat for survival. (110 mins.)
“ This biopic of Hirohito before the surrender of Japan to American forces in WW II is rife with rare glimpses into Shinto naturalism and the waning logic of emperor worship. ” - BabyJoe666
 
38.
Taste of Cherry (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An Iranian man drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide. (95 mins.)
“ A man driving a taxi through Tehran argues with Kurdish, Afghani, and Persian passengers about whether he should commit suicide or not. In the meantime, we become privy to the nuances of modern Islamic thinking about life and death. ” - BabyJoe666
 
39.
Walkabout (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Two young siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback and are forced to cope on their own. They meet an Australian boy on "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe. (100 mins.)
Director: Nicolas Roeg
“ At first glimpse, this is not necessarily a film about religion. But it is actually intensely and academically religious in the way it juxtaposes various rites of Western and Aboriginal passage. ” - BabyJoe666
 
40.
Where is the Friend's Home? (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
An 8 year old boy must return his friend's notebook he took by mistake, lest his friend be punished by expulsion from school. (83 mins.)
“ This is one in a series of several Kiarostami films that show us some of the basic religious beliefs of rural Iran in guileless vignettes of duty and kindness. ” - BabyJoe666
 
41.
Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Three people live in a remote Buddhist monastery near Mount Chonan: Hyegok, the old master; Yong Nan... (137 mins.)
Director: Yong-Kyun Bae
“ This Korean Buddhist film follows the lives of three Buddhist monks at different stages of their life. After passing through points of Seon Buddhist theology and ritual, it closes with a package of visual koans. ” - BabyJoe666
 
42.
Brightness (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A young man with magical powers journeys to his uncle to request help in fighting his sorcerer father. (105 mins.)
“ This classic look at native Malian myth and legend is challenging and obscure, but is a wonderful exercise in the true rigors of myth. ” - BabyJoe666
 
43.
Yellow Earth (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
'Yellow Earth' focuses on the story of a communist soldier who is sent to the countryside to collect folk songs for the Communist Revolution... (91 mins.)
Director: Kaige Chen
“ It is hard to track down Chinese cinema that deals specifically with religion and ritual, but this story about a communist soldier scouring rural China for morale boosting folk songs turns towards nature and the sacred. ” - BabyJoe666