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Top 100 Films

Seeing David Gibson's piece on Top 10 Rules of Writing made me realize that you-all might be interested in the just-released "Arts & Faith Top 100 Films" list.And yes, it's been released in the week leading up to the Oscars for that very reason....The list grows out of an online community,, which the journal I edit, IMAGE, recently adopted.The posts on the site are wide-ranging in terms of art forms and interests but it's become a haven for a lot of cinephiles and they've been producing Top 100 Films lists now for a number of years.This year's list is pretty amazing. While the list is specifically intended to highlight films that have some sort of engagement with spiritual or religious matters, you're not going to find The Ten Commandments or The Passion of the Christ here.It may skew a bit toward the more challenging end of the cinematic realm, but it's a thoroughly global list and there are very few duds on it. IMHO.Check it out here.I'd be curious to know what people think of the list. Like/dislike? Which of your favorites got left out?



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At the risk of being labelled pedestrian for my tastes, off the top of my head I would add:The MatrixLord of the RingsAvatarDoubtJoy Luck ClubHouse of Sand and FogThe Kite Runner

If I had to cite on glaring omission though, I would have to cite The entire Matrix trilogy for sure which had clear spiritual themes rooted in Christianity albeit with a slight Gnostic twist.

Where is Robert Duval's "The Apostle"?

Number 33, Joe. It's too bad this list wasn't compiled after Lourdes made it to the Left Coast (or at least DVD). The film closed last night in New York. Here's hoping it finds wider distribution soon. Superb.

"The Apostle" is on there, #32. One of my favorites. Ditto "Black Narcissus."Glaring omission is Roberto Benigni's "Life is Beautiful" and his somewhat less harrowing "The Tiger in Snow" (with soundtrack offerings by the beautiful and talented Tom Waits).Given the way the list-makers seem to be defining "faith and spirituality," I'm not sure why "On the Waterfront" didn't make it. Or "Night of the Hunter."I'll go pedestrian with George D and admit that I found "Into Great Silence" utterly unwatchable. Which I'm sure says lots more about me than the film, but, given that it's Lent, my friends here will doubtless forbear.

Love Babette's Feast! Hate Black Narcissus.I love The Bishop's Wife. The great Gladys Cooper. A lovely boys choir. And Cary Grant as an angel, performing miracles with tinsel, brandy, the coin, the chair, etc.

I'm glad Jesus of Montreal is there, though barely. The Apostle is superb. George D, my apologies, but "The Matrix" trilogy I found as incomprehensible as most Gnostic writings. Greg, thanks for posting this...I just finished editing a "Faith & Film" edition at ReligionLink: included "Image," but I'll put in the Top 100 list link too.) As I set about writing on this topic for PoliticsDaily, I am interested in the question of what makes a spiritual and/or religious film? Many selections are about overtly religious topics (even without "Passion of the Christ" in there), yet many are not. They have spiritual "themes" and "motifs"...But are such things really spiritual or are they just the stuff of drama? Suffering, redemption, character development...Again, what makes a film religious or spiritual? Is preaching by indirection more "artistic" than a blatantly "religious" film like "The Song of Bernadette"? Thanks for indulging me. While I love the spirituality of films, and think the best ones have such themes, I also wonder at times if we aren't stretching the category too much. Rowan Williams thinks -- along with many, including me --that "Babette's Feast" is a great religious film. But it could also be read as much else.

"But are such things really spiritual or are they just the stuff of drama? Suffering, redemption, character development."Yes, great question. I've seen maybe a third of those on the list, and I'd say that those without religiously overt themes consciously use religious imagery or referenceto make meaning. I don't like "Babette" much, but I could appreciate how "communion" plays out in the food throughout the film (not to mention the contrast between the "Protestant" and "Catholic" food).Hope you will post your PolitcsDaily so we can get more food for thought.

I don't recognize many of the films on the list, but I was glad to see The Apostle, Diary of a Country Priest, Chariots of Fire, and Into Great Silence. I think The Mission should have been on the list. Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons were excellent, as was the screenplay by Robert Bolt of A Man for All Seasons fame.

Oops, my mistake.

I agree with William Collier that The Mission should clearly have been on the list. I also find Romero to be a powerful movie. I also consider Entertaining Angels, a movie about Dorothy Day, to very well done, and better than some of the movies on this list.

No 'On the Warerfront'? fogettaboutit list

Two by Tati, but no Chaplin? At the very least, Bedazzled with Cook and Moore should be on any list of films on faith that includes comedy.I suppose now I will have to make time to see Andrei Rublev and The Decalogue, which have been waiting for me to set aside sufficient blocks of time. At least then I will have seen half of the top ten, better than just 3.I am also surprised that a group that put Ordet at the top of its list did not include another Danish film, Adam's Apples

I'll put in another plug for "Tree of the Wooden Clogs," a great Italian film about life in a rural community around the turn of the 20th century.I don't quite see why "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" is on the list, but it's forty years since I watched it...

Interesting list! I was glad to see three classics I've seen quite recently and been haunted by: "The Passion of Joan of Arc", "Wild Strawberries", and "Diary of a Country Priest". Having just read the wonderful Wolf Hall, I'm afraid I'll never be able to enjoy "A Man for all Seasons" again (the book plays the movie More's sanctity as sanctimoniousness). And how many best of lists have "Punch Drunk Love" 10 spots behind "Rashomon"?

Gee. I was disappointed to find that "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" didn't make the cut although "The Seventh Seal", on which it was based, did (of course).Station!

I guess all omissions are "glaring," right?I particularly missed "The Lives of Others."David: I don't think "preaching by indirection" should somehow be elevated to a principle on its own, but I do think that "human drama" when enacted at the highest level is inherently religious. Mark: sorry to disagree with you about "Wolf Hall," which I thought was so appallingly biased as to be nearly unreadable. According to Mantel, More is a monster and Cromwell a hero. Not even Robert Bolt made things that lopsided, since he at least demonstrates respect for Cromwell's brilliance as a Machiavellian politician.

Antonio! Excellent!

Iagree with Bill Collier!Looking down, i couldn't help thinking of the deeply powerful Rod Steiger in the Pawnbroker.Footnote" I loved Tati but don't think he fits here.

Also, where is "Wise Blood"?Also happened to see John Frankenheimer's "Seconds" a few days ago. As a cult film, I'm not sure it belongs on the top 100 but its surreal evocation of death in life and its casting against type, with Rock Hudson as a doomed soul and Will Geer as an unctuous satanic figure, was truly scary.As added bonus was the casting of Keigh Dheigh, of "Manchurian Candidate" fame. as the aptly named Davalo.

David Gibson --You ask, "Again, what makes a film religious or spiritual?" ". ISTM that "spiritual"in its narrow sense means "real but not material". A movie about godless hero who dies out of his pure love for his countrymen could be spiritual in that sense. "Spiritual" in a deeper sense refers to "that which is transcendent', the ultimate, the fullness of actuality, i.e., God, even if not named."Religious" is a specifican of spiritual" in either sense as well as specific beliefs and practices having to do with God.The movie about the monks and silence is spiritual in both senses and religious as well, "The Song of Bernadette" also fits all three descriptions. (Are there any anti-religion movies?)At the other end of that spectrum, there is that perfect "little" Japanese movie "Shall We Dance?" It's spiritual in the fullest sense, but not at all religious. I think deserves to be on the list, but it isn't. It's about a company man who longs for transcendent beauty, as does his wife who appears only for a minute at the very end. It also includes the glorious character of Mr. Aioki. (I don't know how the theologians would classifies him, though surely God loves him in a very special way.)

Well, at least no one mentioned "The Sound of Music" or "The Passion of the Christ" so I suppose there's something to be thankful for.

I didn't like The Sound of Music, except for one thing: the abbess's beautiful chirothec.Agree about the Cook/Moore Bedazzled and The Tree of Wooden Clogs.

I, too, wish that "Wise Blood" made the cut.Keep in mind that these films were chosen through the votes of 44 people -- there was no point in the process where we could step back and say "No Chaplin?!" and then put one Chaplin in and take one Tati out.That's what you get with the anonymous vote method....

Lists like this are fun. Glad to see It's a Wonderful Life on there (but should be higher than #45) and Magnolia (not too many familiar with this excellent film. But "The Shawshank Redemption" should be on there (did I miss it?). Andy tells the warden, "Salvation lies within..."

(Sorry, hit submit too quickly). The escape from the prison, the ability to maintain hope and dreams in that hellhole of a situation... Shawshank is a great parable of redemption and Justice (1st last and last first...). And would have loved to see The Mission on the list [ even if I'm pushing my own community :) ]

How many of these movies are about self-sacrifice plus love of God?

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