Guide to Religious Movies
Spiritual Movies | Spiritual Cinema
About the Individual Films about Specific Religious Groups list on this page:
Religious movies? Many people of faith feel that feature films (and popular media in general) mishandle religion and spirituality. At best, most feature films simply ignore this aspect of people's lives. At worst, themes in feature films can be the very antithesis of spiritual values.
For a variety of reasons, organized religion is unrealistically absent from feature films in general. But some films actually do portray people of faith in realistic, three-dimensional ways. Many films also explore philosophical and theological topics, although this is often through allegorical, fantastic imagery rather than overt presentation.
On this page we will present some films that the Adherents.com audience might enjoy -- films that adherents and representatives of various specific religious groups have recommended as being possibly instructive about or representative of their specific faith. We have also included films that deal with comparative religion and general religious themes (without being overly offensive to a specific religious or ethnic group).
Religious groups are mentioned by a movie title only if the movie is informative about that group and the film's portrayal is widely appreciated and recommended by adherents of that group. "The 13th Warrior," for example, was not a major commercial or critical success, but Muslims liked its portrayal of a Muslim character (played by Antonio Banderas). Another movie which features Islam prominently, "The Siege" with Denzel Washington, is not listed here, because Muslims did not like how their faith was portrayed in that film. (The only exception to this is "Witness," which features a warm, generally very positive portrayal of the Amish, but which does not have the support of its subject group, who object to any portrayal of their society in film.)
Please note that not all films listed here are intended for all audiences. The positive portrayal of Wiccans in "Practical Magic" caused many Evangelical leaders to proscribe that film.
We have collected numerous suggestions from representatives of some faith groups, and these are presented on separate pages.
This list focuses on widely-released feature films. Adherents.com does not suggest that people watch Hollywood films rather than attend religious services, but if you're already planning to rent a video this weekend, and you'd like something interesting and thought-provoking, these are some suggestions.
Obviously, if someone seriously wants to learn about a religion the best way is to read the literature written by adherents of that religion, attend services and classes sponsored by them, talk to adherents of the group, etc. To actually learn about a faith group through film it may be better to watch ethnographic/anthropology/documentary films or films produced for a clearly religious purpose supplied by the religious group itself. A PBS documentary about Navajo Indians, for example, is recommended over a John Wayne film. Typically, feature films are actually illuminating only if they were written and directed by active adherents of the faith being portrayed. "Smoke Signals", for example, was about contemporary Native Americans and made by Native Americans, and offers a genuine glimpse into their world.
More Information About Some Excellent Films about Islam
Thanks to Kamran Ansari for suggesting The Message; The Lion of the Desert and The Ten Commandments, and writing:
1. The Message - (Starring Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas), directed by Moustapha Akkad
[Story of Islam, even though there is much left to be desired, in that it does not cover many important events in the Islamic history. But it's understandable that a movie lasting 3 hours can hardly cover events that spanned 23 years through the lifetime of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).]
2. The Lion of the Desert (Omar Mukhtar) - (Starring Anthony Quinn), directed by Moustapha Akkad
[Based on history. This is a story of the struggle of Libyan Muslims against the forces of Mussolini under the leadership of a 70 year old commander, Omar Mukhtar, who is also a very observant Muslim.]
Guide to Religious Movies / Spiritual Movies webpage created circa April 1999. Page last modified 18 November 2005.