From the beginning, stories about good versus evil, right versus wrong, and profit versus more profit have made up the basic foundation of Hollywood. Here, in several clips, are some of the best (and one not-so-best) moments in film history having to do with religion…

Bing Crosby, charming horse-racer and child-beater that he was, won a Best Actor Academy Award for his role as a singing priest in Going My Way. The “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral” scene is actually really lovely,

Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life combined creation accounts with questions about nature, grace, and humanity. Unfortunately, I saw it in the evening (a time when most Americans, I’m told, tend to go to films) and hadn’t consumed enough caffeine to stay awake through most of it. On the plus side, this eight year-long musical version of Genesis should aid any insomniac.

This scene, from 1981’s Best Picture winner Chariots of Fire, has been hailed by many (including the folks behind The Daniel Plan, a group from Saddleback Church encouraging a diet like that of the Bible’s Daniel) as the most inspirational of all time. “I’ve got a lot of running to do [before I go back to China],” says Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner. “I believe that God made me for a purpose…and when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

The excellent Sir Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi in the next year’s Best Picture was a force to be reckoned with. Gandhi’s commitment to nonviolence, rooted deeply in his Hindu upbringing and also in Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism, influenced him as, in perfectly-accented British English (acquired from studying law in London), Gandhi calmly requested that the occupying British forces leave India: “All nations contain religious minorities. Like other countries, ours will have its problems. But they will be ours, not yours.”

The Pianist was nominated in 2001, and brought a little-known Adrien Brody to the Oscar stage for a famous lip lock with Halle Berry. Brody accepted the Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of Wladyslaw Szpilman, the Polish-Jewish pianist who spent World War II in the Warsaw Ghetto and then in hiding. Brody accepted the award just months after 9/11, in March 2002, and ended his acceptance speech to great applause:

“Whomever you believe in, if it’s God or Allah, may He watch over you, and let’s pray for a peaceful and swift resolution.”

Honorable Mentions: The Mission, The Silence of the Lambs, American BeautyBrokeback Mountain (I will still never forgive the Academy for selecting Crash that year), The Grapes of Wrath, No Country for Old Men.

Movie I really tried hard to fit because I love it so much but it just didn’t work: Tootsie



  1. Which scene would you have selected from Silence of the Lambs?

    Have you seen Magnolia? That is probably my favorite movie involving faith and film. I remember it was overshadowed by American Beauty (which I also like) the year it came out.

  2. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Two other excellent award-winning movies–almost forgotten today– where religion is featured is “The Song of Bernadette” (about Lourdes and St. Bernadette) and “A Man For All Seasons (about St. Thomas More). There was also a great movie about St. Thomas Becket that starred Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole–but I can’t remember if it won any awards. Two of these movies about events 5 and 10 centuries ago are very relevant to today’s cultural scene as our government tries to coerce religious people like royal governments of the past tried to intimidate and coerce Becket and More.
    More recently there is the movie” For Greater Glory” starring Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole and Eva Longoria. It is about a time and event right on our border that most Americans have never heard of–the persecution and killing of thousands of Catholics in Mexico by a radical leftist government.
    Another very interesting religious movie is “The Island.” It is about a Russian monastery in the far North. It won a long list of awards and selections. The movie asks the favorite Russian question: Who Is Guilty? And to that, it adds another: How can we be redeemed????

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