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List: 50 Spiritually Significant Films10 min read

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Joe over at Patheos has a nice list of 100 Spiritually Significant Films, which has given me a few more titles for my online queue.  I thought to make my own list.  My faves have a *.
  1. All Quiet on the Western Front – facing the horrors of war
  2. * American History X – racism and redemption for a racist
  3. Angels in America – heartbreaking and creative look at the struggles and tragedies of gay life, including losing a loved-one to AIDS, and suppressing your sexuality for religious reasons.  Even though this is in some ways a “gay apologetic,” it is much more.
  4. Big Fish – a son comes to terms with his salesman father’s absences during his childhood, and the stories his father spun to make his life seem exciting to himself and his son
  5. Bonhoeffer – a true Christian hero and martyr of the Nazi era
  6. * Braveheart – a classic about fighting for your freedom – if you fail to fight, but would rather be enslaved, is it worth it?
  7. * Chocolat – Nice morality play about the stigma of being a single woman in a town run by a religious legalist, and his fall from legalism to being human – same theme as Babett’s Feast, but more entertaining
  8. * The Color Purple – a powerful movie about incest, abusive marriage, love, forgiveness, and returning to God
  9. * Dead Poet’s Society – seeing your life in light of your death – are you giving it all you’ve got, or wasting it doing other people’s bidding?
  10. * Demolition Man – a fun, funny sci-fi tale whose premise is a good one – when man tries to create the “perfect society” by outlawing all that is bad for you, it creates a subclass of people who can’t submit to the new world order.  Can there be a utopia without God?
  11. Devil’s Advocate – Pacino plays the Devil amazingly, and this film really begs the question – what would you trade for success?  Your family?  Your soul?  Lots of insight into how the need for success can gradually overtake you.  And the creepy smiles will creep you out for a long time.
  12. Doc Hollywood – Michael J. Fox plays a young surgeon who must decide – relationships and family or high-powered lifestyle?   Romantic comedy done well.
  13. Existenz – a somewhat gross, low-budget movie that asks the question, what happens when you can’t tell the real world from the game world?  Should we be concerned?  Very nicely done.
  14. Falling Down – shows how an ordinary man can be so broken down by his failures and the frustrations of everyday living that he just snaps.
  15. * Gattacca – where the combination of eugenics, Social Darwinism, and genetic engineering could take us – a future where those who are naturally born are discriminated against (since they are moving the gene pool backwards)
  16. Gandhi – this man’s life is a great example of passive resistance.  Too bad I haven’t seen any great movies about Martin Luther King Jr.  Are there any?
  17. Glory – true courage in the face of death and racial discrimination.  How would you feel if you knew that you would die the next day in battle?  Amazing acting by Denzel Washington.
  18. * Groundhog Day – a classic comic tale of how your attitude towards life and people shapes you
  19. Hotel Rwanda – how a simple man can be a hero in the face of awful tragedy.  Even more heart-rending because it’s based on a true story.
  20. It’s A Wonderful Life – I’m not a huge fan of this schmaltzy stuff, but it makes a classic point – you may think that your life has little affect on others, but you may be very wrong.
  21. * Jesus of Nazareth – still one of the best treatments of the life of Jesus, all done with the Gospel of Matthew for a script.  Nice to hear and see the teachings of Jesus.
  22. Killing Fields – man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds.  We should remember and analyze such terrible things to avoid doing them ourselves.
  23. King of the Jews – I haven’t seen this yet, but I include it because the reviews looked great, and I needed just one more to make 50!
  24. * Leap of Faith – Steve Martin plays a fake healing evangelist who suddenly has a problem when a young man actually gets healed because of his faith at one of the fake healing crusades.   Moving, funny, pokes fun at charismania, sometimes inaccurately, but still, well worth watching.  The gospel music in this movie is fantastic.
  25. * Life is Beautiful – a very different treatment of the holocaust, and how one man uses lies and jokes to keep his son from being afraid.  Very moving.
  26. Life of Brian – definitely irreverent to the point of being offensive to Christians, but if you can handle it, you should – shows, with exaggeration and humor, how fanaticism looks to outsiders.
  27. * Lion King – one of the best parables I know of about fulfilling your destiny – you are made for a purpose, and even if it involves responsibility, you should do it to be fulfilled, rather than running.
  28. Magnolia – a strange and interesting film that asks “who deserves judgment and punishment, and who deserves forgiveness?”
  29. * Matrix – a modern day parable about fulfilling your potential and destiny, with a messianic theme to boot
  30. * The Meaning of Life (Monty Python) – touches on very many spiritual and moral subjects with great humor, including the inequities of childbirth between the west and poor countries, the Catholic prohibition on birth control, and how most people don’t take death seriously.
  31. Michael – although this is a light movie, Travolta gives a great performance, and the spiritual themes of becoming free from being jaded by life, and learning to appreciate those around you.  Nice.
  32. The Mission – a great example of the question – is pacifism the best christian way to confront aggressors, or do we take up arms?  Amazing cinematography, and great acting from Jeremy Irons and Deniro.
  33. Monsoon Wedding – wonderful Indian film about arranged marriage, falling in love, sexual molestation, and what’s really important.
  34. Mr. Destiny – Jim Belushi and Michael Cain star in this whimsical story, showing how the life you have, and the “failures that got you there” might be a lot better than the alternative life you always wished for.
  35. Muppet Christmas Carol – one of the most entertaining versions of the Classic Dickens’ tale you will ever see.  Stars Michael Cain as Scrooge.
  36. Murder in the First – asks the question, are some people made into criminals by the prison system, rather than being justly punished and reformed?
  37. * My Life – My favorite movie of all time.  Michael Keaton plays a man who is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and doesn’t know if he’ll see his first child born.  In the process of trying to beat his cancer, he has to face his drive for success, his bitterness towards his parents, and his emotional isolation from his wife.  Amazing.
  38. The Nativity Story – This 2006 retelling of the birth of Jesus has good dialog, acting, and filming. We try to watch this every Christmas.
  39. No Man’s Land (full movie) – A tragic comedy about the stupidity of war.  This foreign film, entirely in Bosnian, Serbian, and French, is set in the Bosnian/Serb conflict.  Highly recommended.
  40. Noah – Though director Aranofsky takes liberties with the original story, this movie is entertaining and thought-provoking (see my review in 27 Critical musings on the film Noah)
  41. Office Space – Some may not think this cult comedy spiritual, but its success is in large part due to the serious, underlying theme of “why are you wasting your life in a cube?”
  42. One True Thing – Michael Hurt, Meryl Streep, and Renee Zelwegger star in this moving film about a young woman who must halt her career to come home and take care of her mother who is dying of cancer – and her father, whose wife can no longer keep his normal life going.  Touches on career, family, and the nature of an imperfect marriage and a child’s realization that her parent’s aren’t perfect.
  43. Passion of the Christ – kerPOW!  Nice job Mel.
  44. * Phenomenon – a really great film about human potential, the herd mentality and fear of allowing people to change, and one of the most beautiful romantic endings on film
  45. Privileged Planet – this is significant because it is proposing something controversial – that our planet’s ability to sustain life is unique, and not by accident
  46. Rocky I – how pride comes before a fall – a classic modern day David and Goliath story
  47. * Rocky III – how you sometimes have to get your fight back to start living again
  48. Roots – how slavery affected blacks in early America – classic.
  49. Schindler’s List – best treatment of the holocaust on film, and true
  50. Sergeant York – how a pacifist is forced to fight in WWII and decide if it is moral to save the world from Nazism by killing.  Very relevant, even today.
  51. Star Wars – the generic spiritual “force” did more for American Buddhism, and I think touched a spiritual hunger in the U.S.  And a great movie too.
  52. Ten Commandments – Moses was the man.  So was DeMille.
  53. What Dreams May Come – a wonderful treatment of heaven and hell (especially hell).  Not biblical in its soteriology or theology, but worth seeing.
  54. What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? – though this is not a great movie, it does show you how some of the best minds in quantum physics try to link their univeralistic ideas to spirituality – it’s a jumbled mess!  Shows you how poor a world view this probably is, and will give most Christians confidence in the Xian world view.  I came away thinking, “Is that the best you’ve got?  My my.”