Religion and faith on the big screen

Sep 13, 2012

You probably watch it every Easter but which religious themed movie is the most popular?

With the release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, audiences will see the fictionalized story of a cult and its origins.

The movie was inspired in part by Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. While Scientology is often the butt of jokes and draws scorn from those on the outside looking in, it is technically a religion, and quite a well organized one at that. We often think of movies as mindless portrayals of sex and violence, but religion is actually very well represented on the big screen. (Besides, one needs only to flip through the Bible to see at least one religion’s affinity for sex and violence.)

Many classic movies have religious themes or stories: Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, and The Last Temptation of Christ, just to name a few. Some are set out to be direct accounts of religious stories, like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and religion even gets the comic treatment with Dogma, Bruce Almighty, Oh, God! and others.

What’s your favorite religious movie? And what about films that go beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition? Does religion serve a film best in the forefront, or as a background to another story? Has a movie ever changed your particular stance on faith or led you to adopt a new viewpoint?


Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Box Office Magazine

Henry Sheehan, film critic for KPCC and

Charles Solomon, animation critic for KPCC and author for

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