Top 100 Spiritually-Significant Films

by Arts & Faith

Part 2

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Top 100 Spiritually-Significant Films

(Part 2, ordered alphabetically by original title
with year of release and director)

26. The Elephant Man, 1980, David Lynch

Based closely on a true story, with strong Pygmalion themes: John Merrick (John Hurt), a severely deformed man with Proteous Syndrome, is rescued from life as a sideshow freak by Victorian Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) who comes to care for him. He becomes the toast of London society, only to wonder whether this attention is just another kind of freak show -- and what his place in this world is after all.

27. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004, Michel Gondry

Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) has broken up with his love, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), only to find that she has had all traces of him deleted from her memory. In an act of despair, Joel decides to undergo the same procedure through the inventor of the erasure process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). The viewer travels (in reverse) through his experience of meeting and passionately loving her, and the wonderful and painful memories that the romantic experience generated. Along the way, Joel comes to the realization that he doesn't really want to forget Clementine after all.

28. Fearless, 1993, Peter Weir

Adapted from the book of the same name, Fearless explores the impact of an airplane crash on the lives of the survivors, Max Klein (Jeff Bridges) and Carla Rodrigo (Rosie Perez) -- who is racked with grief and guilt since her baby died in the crash. They and their families must come to terms with their fear of death, their own humanity, and the nature of salvation.

29. Fight Club, 1999, David Fincher

When a nameless thirty-ish yuppie (Edward Norton) grows bored of his comfortable life, he becomes involved in an anarchic subculture called "Fight Club", led by charismatic Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who quickly becomes a cult hero of epic proportions - a new messiah for a dead generation. Fight Club is about what happens when people respond against a dehumanizing culture by reacting violently. Ultimately, they create their own dehumanizing aggressive culture, and anything meaningful they might be fighting for is only further trampled during the experience.

30. Le Fils ("The Son"), 2002, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

A richly-challenging film that closely follows a middle-aged carpenter named Olivier (Olivier Gourmet) working as an instructor with troubled teens at a vocational training and rehab center. He refuses to take a new, mysterious 16 year-old teen named Francis (Morgan Marinne) as his apprentice, but then begins to follow the boy through the hallways and streets to discover a shocking secret. A nearly religious parable of humanity, fallenness, and grace.

31. Fuori dal mondo ("Not of This World"), 1999, Giuseppe Piccioni

A comedy-drama about the stressed, anxiety-prone, self-absorbed owner (Silvio Orlando) of a Milan dry-cleaning firm who joins together with a pious nun, Sister Catarina (Margherita Buy), to care for an abandoned baby.

The Gospel According to Matthew, 1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini - see Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo  

32. Grand Canyon, 1991, Lawrence Kasdan

Kasdan's version of The Big Chill for the 90s, Grand Canyon revolves around six residents from different backgrounds whose lives intertwine in modern-day Los Angeles.

33. Groundhog Day, 1993, Harold Ramis

Phil Connors (Bill Murray), a selfish and cynical weatherman, gets doomed to repeat the same tedious day again and again until he learns to become a better person. He moves from initial disbelief to amusement, despair, and exploitation before accepting his predicament and realizing that if he only has one day to live, he needs to live it to its fullest.

34. Hell House, 2001, George Ratliff

Director George Ratliff takes us behind the scenes in the construction of a haunted house organized by the Trinity Church (Assemblies of God) and Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas. The elaborate exhibits are designed by well-intentioned young churchgoers who want to “encourage” kids to turn to Jesus by scaring them away from the evils of drugs, sex, alcohol and other temptations of the devil. It shows them melodramatic, bloody, nightmarish spectacles of sinful behaviors like suicide, abortion, domestic violence, and more.

35. Henry V, 1989, Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh's gritty, breakthrough adaptation of William Shakespeare's play about the English King's bloody conquest of France. Henry's small but embattled army meet the French forces on the field of Agincourt. This film presents Henry in all his complexity, taking time to explore the moral dimensions and serious aspects of his kingship.

36. Der Himmel über Berlin ("Wings of Desire"), 1987, Wim Wenders

Angels in the streets of post-war Berlin are questioners, guardians, messengers, soldiers. They are agents on important missions, invisible to people but busy working right there in the world. One angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal - a circus acrobat.

37. Ikiru ("To Live"), 1952, Akira Kurosawa

A rather dull, longtime bureaucrat Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) in a city office, upon learning of his imminent death of stomach cancer, begins a sad search for meaning in the few months remaining to him. He searches for his own pleasure by boozing, partying, ice-skating, not showing up for work and seeking the company of a younger woman. In doing so, he arrives at a decision allowing him to live more in the last few months of his life than he did in most of his previous years.

38. It's A Wonderful Life, 1946, Frank Capra

Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is the quintessential Christmas classic, often remembered as sentimental holiday-themed "Capra-corn" work, although the film has darker themes and a rigorous moral about self-sacrifice.

39. Jean de Florette, Manon des sources, 1986, (two films), Claude Berri

Jean de Florette was filmed back to back with its less downbeat sequel, Manon des sources (Manon of the Spring), a two-part screen adaptation of Marcel Pagnol’s 1963 novel. The first is a tale about greed, deception, murder, jealousy, and undeserved anguish - the sequel tells of the consequences that take place ten years later.


40. Jésus De Montréal ("Jesus of Montreal"), 1989, Denys Arcand

A group of actors put on an unorthodox and controversial but acclaimed Passion Play that incites the opposition of the Catholic Church while the actors' lives themselves, especially the character of Daniel (Lothaire Bluteau), begin to mirror the Passion itself.

41. Jesus Of Nazareth, 1977, Franco Zeffirelli

Franco Zeffirelli’s epic, ambitious made-for-television film, in some ways the standard by which other Jesus films are often judged, with a scripturally and historically literate script, a reverently non-revisionist distillation of key gospel stories, a distinguished and generally apt ensemble cast (Robert Powell as Jesus, Olivia Hussey as Mary, and Anne Bancroft as Mary Magdalene), and matter-of-fact realism in depicting the miraculous.

42. Le Journal D'un Curé De Campagne ("The Diary of a Country Priest"), 1951, Robert Bresson

A sensitive, frail, and sick young priest (Claude Laylu) arrives in a rural parish in the North of France that is in spiritual decline. Vulnerable in his inexperience, he meets with indifference, polite toleration, even open mockery. An older, experienced priest from a neighboring parish, a worldly but not unspiritual man, gives him advice that is striking both for its practicality and its cynicism: “Keep order all day long, knowing full well disorder will win out tomorrow.”

43. Ladri di biciclette ("Bicycle Thieves") (aka The Bicycle Thief), 1948, Vittorio De Sica

A poignant look at the desperation of life in a working-poor family in post-WW2 Italy. After a desperate search, a man gets a menial but satisfactory job that requires one thing: a bicycle. On the first day on the job, the bike is stolen and the man spends the rest of the film in pursuit of the bicycle thieves. Along the way he encounters injustice and apathy. From beginning to end, his small but fierce son is his companion, with whom he learns what real desperation can be.

44. The Last Days of Disco, 1998, Whit Stillman

A group of upper-middle class graduates and professionals working in advertising, publishing and the law, including two publishing house assistants: shy Alice (Chloe Sevigny) and overbearing, deceitful Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale). They examine their lives and relationships while spending time in an early 80's disco.

45. The Last Temptation Of Christ, 1988, Martin Scorsese

A provocative, controversial and brilliant film - an adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel about the eternal struggle between the spirit and the flesh. At his execution, Jesus (Willem Dafoe) is tempted by an alluring image of a peaceful, domestic and pleasant life with Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey), who tries to get him to refuse the sacrifice he must make.

46. Life of Brian, 1979, Terry Jones

Monty Python's pseudo-biblical satire, often considered blasphemous and sacrilegious, about Biblical epics and most of all, hypocritical faith and religious conformity. It tells the story of Brian (Graham Chapman), a Jerusalem nobody whose life uncannily parallels that of J.C.

47. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, 2001-2003, Peter Jackson

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, three films faithfully adapted from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien - the first great cinematic achievement of its kind — a genre that might be described as epic Western myth, but is often popularly called “fantasy” or “sword and sorcery.”

48. Ma nuit chez Maud ("My Night At Maud's"), 1969, Eric Rohmer

A fascinating, clever, and insightful film on principles, faith, and love, the third film (first full length feature) in Rohmer's remarkable examination of morality and sexual politics in contemporary society, Six Moral Tales. A devout, unmarried young Catholic engineer (Jean-Louis Trintignan) and his philosophy professor friend (Antoine Vitez) visit one of the latter's friends, Maud (Francoise Fabian), a cultivated, beautiful, sophisticated and playful divorcee. The engineer's world view (profoundly influenced by Pascal and mathematics) is shaken by Maud and he ends up falling for a young student (Marie-Christine Barrault) whom he keeps seeing in the church during Mass.

49. Magnolia, 1999, Paul Thomas Anderson

Magnolia tells the stories of many characters struggling to cope with their variously fractured families in San Fernando Valley. A TV producer (Jason Robards) lies dying of brain and lung cancer, attended by his trophy wife (Julianne Moore). His estranged son, a cable-tv celebrity (Tom Cruise) who gives seminars on seducing women, is challenged by an insightful television journalist, and grows restless.

A Man Escaped, 1956, Robert Bresson - see Le Vent souffle où il veut  

50. A Man For All Seasons, 1966, Fred Zinnemann

Fred Zinnemann's impeccable film of Robert Bolt's play about the life of Thomas More (Paul Scofield) explores what defines a man, or what is left to a man who has no defining center that cannot be bought or coerced. Successful, urbane, gregarious, ridiculously talented and accomplished, Thomas More was the toast of his times. Then, at the height of his career, this splendidly well-adjusted man abruptly withdrew from public life, gave up his household and living, and eventually submitted to arrest and imprisonment, and finally execution. All this, because he would not give approval under oath to King Henry VIII's (Shaw) claimed title "Supreme Head of the Church in England," nor accept Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn after divorcing Catherine.

The Man Without A Past, 2002, Aki Kaurismaki - see Mies vailla menneisyyttä
Top 100 List - Copyright 2004 © Arts & Faith. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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