7. Doubt (2008)
The title says it all. Sister James (Amy Adams) and Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) think something inappropriate is happening between Father Flynn and the only black student, altar boy Donald Miller. The smell of alcohol, the emotional behavior of Donald, private meetings, and a shirt in a locker, cast suspicions on Father Flynn, who easily explains it away. Sister Aloysius manipulates the truth in order to get Flynn to resign (which he does), snagging a better job in the process.
The movie starts with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character’s sermon on doubt which starts the Sisters’ cycle of doubt. The film ends with Sister Aloysius doubting herself. The movie garnered five Oscar nominations and confronted the very real beliefs and doubts about priests and pedophilia.
6. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her unknown actor husband Guy are befriended by a weird couple when they move into a new building. Guy suddenly starts getting the parts he wants and wants to have a baby. Rosemary does not remember the night of conception, just that she woke up with strange marks on her body. Her pregnancy is fraught with sickness and pain. Her friend tries to help her but he ends up dead.
As many women were at the time, Rosemary was put under during labor and woke up to be told the baby didn’t make it. But the baby did make it. He was fathered by Satan. Rosemary figured, “If you can’t beat em, join em.” This was part one of what horror geeks call the “Unholy Trinity” during the late 60s and late 70s.
5. Omen (1976)
The moral of the movie is…….do not accept gifts of newborn boys from strangers to replace the child you have just lost. ESPECIALLY don’t accept newborn babies as gifts and keep it from your wife. Nine times out of ten, that child will be the Antichrist.
Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is a US ambassador who begins getting unwanted visits from an old priest claiming to have knowledge of the truth about the Thorn’s adopted son, Damien. Photographer Jennings begins taking random paparazzi style photos of the Thorns only for his photos to have an abnormal defect. His photos of the priest show a strange blurred line making contact with his body. Strange that is until he is impaled by a lightning rod.
At Damien’s birthday party, the Nanny hangs herself is gruesome fashion. The photos depict another blurred line looping around her neck. Soon Jennings and Thorn are racing around Italy trying to find the truth about the birth of Damien, his real parents and why everyone around Damien is dying horrible deaths.
Scored by Harry Manfredini, The Omen won an Oscar for its horrifying Satanic music. The Omen is the darker side of religiously themed movies, which is always frighteningly exciting.
4. The Wicker Man (1973)
Religion(s): Paganism, Christianity
Sergeant Howie visits the mysterious island of Summerisle investigating the disappearance of little girl, Rowan Morrison. Howie is a devout Christian, and Summerisle is, well not. In fact, the island is entirely pagan, with strange rituals involving dressing up in bizarre costumes, and wild dancing and pounding on hotel room walls.
Howie is steadfastly responsible and sworn to uphold his duty but the more time spent on the island and its weird inhabitants (particularly its leader played by Christopher Lee) the more he feels compelled to save not just Rowan, but the entire populace from what he alone views as a sure “fire” eternity in damnation.
As it becomes clearer that Rowan might have been sacrificed to appease their gods, Howie enters into one final game of cat and mouse in an effort to find the girl. However, he ends up facing the true zealotry of Summerisle’s pagan tribe as they lock him inside the titled edifice and sacrifice him for a better harvest. His march towards the Wicker Man, and subsequent sacrifice are some of the scariest scenes in movie history, relying more on the camerawork and performances of the actors than any special effect or make-up.
3. Monty Python Life of Brian (1979)
Brian was born in the manger next door in A.D. 1 (general consensus of birth of Jesus), which totally confused the wise men. He really hates the Romans and really loves Judith, a girl he picked up at the Sermon on the Mount. He gets in big trouble with Pontius Pilate and accidentally starts his own religious movement.
No matter how hard he tries to shake his followers, they chant every word out of his mouth and try to make him heal them. He ends up on the crucifixion schedule and although Pilate recants and tries to free Brian, everybody claims to be Brian in a Spartacus-y way.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
One of the first horror movies ever to be nominated for Best Picture, The Exorcist finds a young Regan (Linda Blair) acting a bit peculiar. Peculiar like speaking in voices, spinning her head like the world’s most horrific top, cursing a lot, exhibiting freakish strength, and spewing green vomit. Atheist mom Chris (Ellen Burstyn) tries the medical route, but has to concede that she needs a higher power. Catholic Church to the rescue! Two priests attempt to exorcise the demon Pazuzu from Regan.
The film asks the viewers who may be skeptical of faith to accept that sometimes it’s the only answer. Blair’s performance, for a child was unreal, and the strain on the viewer is worse. People passed out, vomited, and ran out screaming.
1. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Willem Dafoe is Jesus in this Scorsese film about Christ’s life during adulthood. The movie is not a faithful New Testament adaptation as it shows Jesus being saved from the cross by an angel, go on to live a full life, marry Mary Magdalene, have some kids, and get real old.
Once old, he realizes that the angel was really Satan, and begs God’s forgiveness. Just like that he’s back on the cross. Willem Dafoe slow drags himself across some dirt and rocks to then dies smiling and young again on the cross. His face is perpetually creepy so any movie containing his mug, religious or not, is mesmerizing.
Author Bio: Athena Costanza Torkel is a mom of three and a high school assistant principal from Brooklyn, NY. When not working, she spends her days lazing on the couch watching TV and movies, while her long-suffering and much younger husband cooks, cleans, takes care of the kids, and oh…works a full time job.