Top Ten Theological Films

Jason Micheli —  January 16, 2014 — 6 Comments

exotica-movie-poster-1994-1020210069In case you were trapped under something heavy today, the Oscar Nominations were announced this morning.

In the expected Oscar fashion, most of the nominations were expected along with the expected shocking snubs.

I expect that, as is usually the case, the passage of time will show that the actual ‘Best Picture’ of 2013 will be something other than the film that gets the statuette

(Forrest Gump > Pulp Fiction? Really?)

Nevertheless, I decided to mark the occasion of the Oscar Nominations by nominating my own Top Ten Theological Movies, spanning decades and genres.

Let me know if you think there’s something I missed and why it’s worthy.

Babette’s Feast 

A Danish movie about how a French, Catholic refugee upsets a strict Calvinist village. It’s a great look at incarnation, sacramentality and the eschatological Kingdom.

Crimes and Misdemeanors

My favorite of Woody Allen’s serious films. ‘Does God see?’ asks an eye doctor conspiring to kill his mistress. ‘Yes’ replies the doctor’s rabbi who ironically is going blind.

Groundhog Day

What do you do when you’re trapped in the same day, day after day? Try to improve yourself! This Bill Murray movie, seen by everyone I’m sure, hides an orthodox message of justification by grace alone behind its laughs.


About the grief and loss that often hides behind our obsession. Writer/Director Atom Egoyan’s plots make Quentin Tarantino’s look like paint-by-numbers. I first saw this in a film class in college and it blew me away.

Paris, Texas

I attended a lecture by Roger Ebert where he broke this movie, written by Sam Shepherd, down to its parts. Like Exotica, it’s about grief and loss but also mercy and redemption.

Days of Heaven

People who expected the Passion on this list should Days of Heaven instead. A retelling of the Abram and Sarai story on the turn of the century prairie.

To the Wonder tumblr_inline_mk6g389FTI1qz4rgp

Terrence Malick, a PhD in Philosophy, released this movie in 2013 to scathing reviews. I think it’s a brilliant meditation on what the ancient tradition meant by the word ‘God.’


You Can Count On Me

Laura Linney’s slept with a married man. Confesses to a priest. She wants, she says, condemnation and punishment. He offers only grace. Great little moment.


How do you turn a strange story like the Orchid Thief into a comprehensible, interesting movie? That’s every preacher’s challenge…

Another Year

A small little English film about an ordinary, middle-class, humdrum but beautiful marriage.

As It Is in Heaven

A Swedish film about a gifted orchestral conductor is a great little parable about the power of resurrection.

Battlestar Galactica (Pilot Miniseries) tricia-helfer-cylon-bsg

It’s Exodus in space with Christian Metaphysics thrown in and, uh, her >>>

Jason Micheli


6 responses to Top Ten Theological Films

  1. My list would include Gran Torino. Great story of Redemption and Reconciliation.

    • Yes, that’s a great movie. I was surprised Unforgiven didn’t make my cut: ‘we’ve all got it coming, kid.’ Paul would be a fan.

  2. I would add Tender Mercies, the Apostle, and the Liam Neeson version of Les Miserables. I once taught Bible in a Christian high school, and used portions of Les Miserables to start a discussion of exactly what grace means.

  3. I know you can’t have too many Malick movies in this list, but I’d add the Tree of Life as well. I was just telling my wife last night how much I appreciate that Battlestar Galactica gives a complex look at each of its characters (very biblical). There are very few that are portrayed as entirely evil, and no character ends up looking entirely good.

    • Yeah, I was trying to give ‘To the Wonder’ some love where most hate it. Tree of Life is like Aquinas on film.

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