30 Films About Faith You May Not Know

Deal W. Hudson
June 17, 2016

I’m hoping that you, the reader, will discover on this list some films that will bring you enjoyment and, perhaps, insight and renewed aspiration toward the source of all beauty.

It’s regrettable that educators have yet to regard cinema as an important artistic tradition, one that should be studied along with literature, painting, theater, and music. Films, as far as I can tell, are shown to pass the time when teachers are tired or have something else to do, but not to treat as a form of art.

The advantage of studying film is its relative youth, having been born only a little over a century ago. The other, more obvious, an advantage is that students will have spent literally hundreds of hours watching films of various kinds, as opposed to their time spent with books, or much less in a museum with the masterworks of painting and sculpture.

My choices are made looking at the film qua film, not by any reference to the faith of the producer, director, or writer. Given that any object of art should be enjoyed and understood in itself, apart from its creator. We should not be surprised that non-believers and skeptics have made some of the most probing films about faith.

Thus, I ask the reader not to ignore whether the director of a particular film is notorious in some way. It’s not relevant, and, after all, how do we know under what inspiration, or whose inspiration, an “unbelieving” director brought a film into being. No better example is Luis Buñuel who has two movies on my list. In addition to Buñuel, there are three other masters of films about faith, Krzysztof KieslowskiCarl Theodore von Dreyer, and Robert Bresson. To this group, I would add Ingmar Bergman, but he is too well known to be included here.

Perhaps the biggest surprises below will be “Wide Awake,” the 1997 film by M. Knight Shyamalan, before he became famous for “The Sixth Sense” (1999): an angel appears to a teenage boy at a Catholic school. (Here’s my review after its release.) Mark Pellington’s “Henry Poole Is Here” (2008) is about a Marian miracle, and neither the director or the actors — Luke Wilson, George Lopez, and Radha Mitchell — got the acclaim they deserved. “The Third Miracle” (1999) directed by the famed Agnieszka Holland is a sort of miracle in itself, a tempted priest (Ed Harris) struggles but doesn’t fall, but he really, really struggles.

On this list, I have included links for purchase on Amazon. The reader may prefer Barnes & Noble or any of the many film vendors on the Internet. I’ve also provided information on whether a recommended film can be seen on a streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, MUBI, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, VUDU, YouTube, and Fandor. Basic information on any of the films by making use of the International Movie Database at http://www.imdb.com.

1. Frank Borzage, Strange Cargo, 1940. (Amazon)

2.Leo McCarey, Make Way for Tomorrow, 1947. (Hulu)

3. Michael Powell, Black Narcissus, 1947. (Amazon and iTunes)

4. Gordon Douglas, Come Fill the Cup, 1951. (No DVD or streaming available)

5. Akira Kurosawa, Ikiru, 1952. (Hulu, Amazon, VUDU, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube)

6. Vittorio De Sica, Umberto D, 1952. (Hulu, Amazon, iTunes)

7. Carl Theodore von Dreyer, Ordet, 1955. (Hulu)

8. Raffaello Matarazzo, The White Angel, 1955. (Hulu)

9. Luis Bunuel, Nazarin, 1959. (Watch for free here).

10. Robert Bresson, Pickpocket, 1959. (Hulu, Amazon, iTunes)

11. Mervyn LeRoy, The Devil of 4 O’Clock, 1961. (Netflix)

12. Luis Bunuel, Simon of the Desert, 1965. (Hulu)

13. Robert Bresson, Au Hasard Balthasar, 1966. (Hulu)

14. Robert Bresson, Mouchette, 1967. (Hulu)

15 .Anthony Harvey, The Abdication, 1974. (YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)

16. Francesco Rosi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, 1979.

17. Ulu Grosbard, True Confessions, 1981. (iTunes, Amazon)

18. Maurice Pialat, Under the Star of Satan, 1987.

19. Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Decalogue, 1988. (Can be watched here)

20. Lee David Slotoff, Spitfire Grill, 1996.(YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play)

21. M. Knight Shyamalan, Wide Awake, 1997. (HBO Go, YouTube, Amazon, VUDU).

22. David Lynch, The Straight Story, 1999. (YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon).

23. Agnieszka Holland, The Third Miracle, 1999. (DIRECTTV)

24. Alexander Payne, About Schmidt, 2002. (YouTube, iTunes, VUDU, Google Play, Amazon).

25. Bruce Beresford, Evelyn, 2002. (iTunes, Amazon, VUDU).

26. Christian Carion, Joyeux Noel, 2005. (YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon).

27. Pavel Lungin, The Island, 2006 (Watch for free here)

28. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, L’enfant, 2006. (YouTube, VUDU, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes).

29. Mark Pellington, Henry Poole is Here, 2008. (YouTube, VUDU, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes).

30. Xavier Beauvois, Of Gods and Men, 2010. (YouTube, VUDU, Amazon, Google Play).

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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