33 Films That Take Faith Seriously

Christian moviegoers sometimes lament the dearth of good, positive, realistic portrayals of faith in film. If Christians are portrayed in film, it’s usually as right-wing zealots (Citizen Ruth), scary pentecostals (Jesus Camp), or psychotic killers (Night of the Hunter). Or faith is reduced to schmaltzy simplicity, as in most “Christian films” (Facing the Giants, The Grace Card). But many films throughout cinema history have actually provided rich, artful portraits of faith. The following is a list of 33 films that take faith seriously; films I believe every Christian should make a point to see.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1928)
Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson, 1951)
Ordet (Carl Dreyer, 1955)
Becket (Peter Glenville, 1964)
The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965)
A Man For All Seasons (Fred Zinnemann, 1966)
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Franco Zeffirelli, 1972)
Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1973)
Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, 1981)
Tender Mercies (Bruce Beresford, 1983)
Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984)
The Mission (Roland Joffé, 1986)
Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987)
Jesus of Montreal (Denys Arcand, 1989)
The Decalogue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1989)
Shadowlands (Richard Attenborough, 1993)
Dead Man Walking (Tim Robbins, 1995)
The Apostle (Robert Duvall, 1997)
Central Station (Walter Salles, 1998)
Signs (M. Night Shyamalan, 2002)
Luther (Eric Till, 2003)
Land of Plenty (Wim Wenders, 2004)
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (Marc Rothemund, 2005)
Into Great Silence (Philip Gröning, 2006)
Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-dong, 2007)
Amazing Grace (Michael Apted, 2007)
A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009)
Get Low (Aaron Schneider, 2009)
Letters to Father Jacob (Klaus Härö, 2010)
Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois, 2011)
The Way (Emilio Estevez, 2011)
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
Higher Ground (Vera Farmiga, 2011)

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42 responses to “33 Films That Take Faith Seriously

  1. Great list Brett, Couple of movies I haven’t seen, I need to check out The Way and Higher Ground. You could also include Bressons version of Joan of Arc, Tarkovskys Stalker and Nostalgia.

  2. I would also add Dogville (Lars von Trier 2003).

  3. I would add The Rite (Mikael Håfström 2011)

    • I was thinking so, too. I was almost in tears at the end. None of my atheist friends understood, and were rather disappointed with the movie. But I wasn’t. [By the way, the book is good, too. :) ]

  4. On Stalker, I talked to a Russian Orthodox priest who told me this movie led to his conversion.

    A lighter note: I loved how the pastor was portrayed in the comedy Italian for Beginners.

  5. Add “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

  6. “Wings of Desire”? Great list.

  7. Great list, thanks! Many of these are new to me. I would add Les Misérables (Bille August, 1998), and Levity (Ed Solomon, 2003)

  8. Good to see Andrei Rublev get some love! Stellar list of films

  9. Good list, though I will say that the grandma in Night of the Hunter was also very devout to faith, so I wouldn’t say the movie is totally bashing religious people.

  10. Thanks for the suggestions. I’d add Fiddler on the Roof to the list.

  11. What about ‘Doubt’?

    • Doubt was on my initial list as I was brainstorming. It got bumped off, though. I’d have it #34 or #35 if the list were longer.

  12. I would add the recent “Blue Like Jazz” to the list.

  13. Wait… What? No Courageous or Fireproof??? And I *know* you forgetting Left Behind was just a simple mistake.

  14. How about Tender Mercies?? 1983, with Robert Duvall, etc.

  15. Might be stretching it…Crazy Heart (2009, with Jeff Bridges)…??? It has a salvation/changed life slant, but not necessarily upfront.

  16. I would add Beresford’s Black Robe — violent, but with a core question of faith, “do you love me?” Fascinating mission movie.

    Also Eastwood’s Gran Turino — all about blood, guilt and forgiveness.

  17. The Robe? Ben Hur?

  18. Sophie Scholl was fantastic!

  19. Go ahead and add “The Black Robe” (1992, Bruce Beresford) and Les Miserables.

  20. Absolutely love this list and the conviction behind making it. While there certainly are others that I would also recommend, this one’s excellent. I’ve made a few watchlists on my IMDb account and made one for this so I can watch the ones I haven’t seen yet. Thanks!

  21. No Passion of the Christ? That movie is all about Jesus!

  22. Molokai – about a priest ministering to lepers.
    Devil – a horror, but the themes are great, and it definitely takes the faith seriously. Similar themes to Signs, actually.

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  25. I think Passion of the Christ, Fireproof, and Courageous all take faith seriously. They just aren’t intellectual enough for the list.

  26. You forgot to include “Groundhog Day”!!

  27. Only one Malick film!? What about the Thin Red Line?

  28. What abt. Lady Jane?

  29. I was thinking Simon Birch!

  30. Very nice list! Many of these films overlap with my ‘films of faith’ list. But as a Malick fan, I can’t believe you don’t have Days of Heaven on here! Also surprise by the absense of Bergman. I’d also like to recommend Black Robe, The Tree of Wooden Clogs, and a very under-the-radar flick, The Priest and the Girl.

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  32. I loved Higher Ground… Real sincere and powerful.

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