Religion (mainly Judeo-Christian religion, Hollywood has not evolved that much) is trending this year. Three major Bible-themed motion pictures come out in 2014. Son of God with a pretty Jesus (Diogo Morgado), takes his turn getting nailed to the cross. Noah (Russell Crowe) will definitely need an umbrella soon. And Exodus stars Christian Bale as Moses, who goes from conning Bradley Cooper with Edith’s help, to conning Pharaoh with God’s.
Along with the trending, comes the controversy. Religion is a volatile subject and anything that strays from what the faithful believe seems blasphemous. What we all (secular and sacred alike) can agree on is that religious movies can be highly enjoyable, the exceptions being The Passion of the Christ, which Is like torture porn starring Jesus. Son of God has also not been favorably received. This big screen version of a segment of The Bible from the History Channel was a little hard (dull) to watch.
Note: 1. Do NOT read the list below if you are serious about your faith. Some movies on this list will probably offend you.
2. Spoilers Contained.
20. Two of a Kind (1983)
Religion: Generic Christianity
Two of a Kind reunites John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as two people thrown together as a bet between some angels and God. God was angry at the world, at how horrible humanity had become, and wanted to wipe the slate clean again. They choose Zack and Debbie, thieves that seem to be what God thinks all humans are like. If they could show selflessness, mankind will be saved. You guys know the ending without even seeing the movie.
19. Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Religion: Generic Christianity
Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) is a quarterback who gets into an accident with his bike. He ends up in heaven because of an incompetent angel so King and Mr. Jordan pulls him out of the horrible accident before the moment of death. The body is cremated so the soul of Pendleton is placed in a considerably wealthy yet very different type of person. Pendleton still gets the girl and thwarts the original murderers. Finally, a more suitable body is found and he’s on his way to get the girl AGAIN! This movies is a lighthearted fare, just a little romantic comedy parts of which takes place in heaven.
18. Little Buddha (1993)
Hey… it’s a religious movie NOT based on Judeo-Christian theology! Monks are searching for the reincarnation of one of their Buddhist teachers. They find three children who seem likely candidates. Throughout the movie, the story of Siddhartha (Keanu Reeves) is told to the children, in movie inside a movie fashion.
Siddhartha went on a spiritual journey to understand the true meaning of life and to understand suffering. He turned his back on material possessions. Siddhartha eventually becomes Buddha and births Buddhism. All the kids win the reincarnation contest being three different aspects of the teacher.
17. Stigmata (1999)
Atheist Frankie (Patricia Arquette) gets a rosary as a gift from her mom. The rosary is apparently cursed (as these things usually are). Cursed as in spontaneous bleeding from the wrists, a bleeding head, wounded feet, whipped by an invisible force, levitating, crying blood tears, and speaking Aramaic in a male voice. Father Andrew (Gabriel Byrne) tries to help her, to save her from possession.
She is possessed by the spirit of a former priest who was killed because he wanted to continue to translate a lost Gospel of Jesus. This lost writing would be the downfall of the Catholic Church. Father Andrew helps both Frankie and the ghost priest, by getting that formerly missing piece of Christ’s word out there. Although many critics did not like Stigmata, Christianity + possession + bloody parts make entertainment.
16. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Religion(s): Orthodox Jews & Orthodox Christian
Tevye (Chaim Topol) is a poor Jewish family man with five daughters of marriageable age in a small town in Russia during the early 20th Century. Orthodox Jews and Orthodox Christians are segregated with Jews being the minority. Fiddler on the Roof is a metaphor for Jewish life in that town, playing on the edge while trying to eke out a decent living. Tevye must deal with all his daughters plus the realities of being Jewish (never an easy thing in world history) in a dangerous environment. But no matter what religion you are, by the time it’s over you’ll be singing L’Chaim to life!
15. The Prophecy (1995)
“Little Tommy Daggett” was trained to be a priest before a crisis of faith caused him to leave the church and join the police force. While investigating a homicide, he accidentally stumbles into a battle between two different factions of angels. The angels are fighting for the soul of a recently deceased colonel who happened to have been the sickest and most depraved human being alive; so evil that his soul could give the renegade angels the ammunition they need to take back Heaven.
The leader of the renegade angels is Gabriel played Christopher Walken. He spends the film chewing the scenery with horrific and hilarious dialogue; like when touting the virtues of Heaven, he tells Thomas, “You’ll love it, no one tells when to go to bed, you can eat all the ice cream you want, and you can kill all day…like an angel!” Imagine that line read in classic Walken-ese and it’s great.
Not to mention there’s one of the greatest movie versions of Satan, played gleefully by a pre-LOTR Viggo Mortensen. The film’s central story revolves around Thomas who must restore his own faith in the face of Gabriel and Satan in order to save humanity and a little girl’s life.