Never mind the fashion. A mystic cinema does exist.

by jgcorrea | created - 17 Jan 2015 | updated - 2 months ago | Public

A mystic is someone who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect. It doesn't matter what religion you are, so long as your conscience guides your words and actions. We are all reflections of God means we are all reflections of his image — which is LIGHT, or the cosmic heart of the universe. This concept is basically preached in all religions. Any person who does not use their conscience is very disconnected from God. Anyway, Christian or faith-based, agenda-pushing movies are typically awful: God's Not Dead (and its crappy sequel), War Room, the Encounter, Heaven is for Real, The Persecuted, and so on. They are awful movies. They have an after school special level of cheesiness, a ridiculous "villain," a community so far off from the real world in terms of passion about Christianity, an overzealous protagonist, and mostly recycled plots. In order to try to solve or overcome such a cultural problem, the present list emerges from a conviction quite well expressed by J.R.R. Tolkien: “Living by faith includes the call to something greater than cowardly self-preservation.” We often read in the media, for instance, that the relationship between Muslim terrorism and Islam is like, say, the Ku Klux Klan and Christianity. Such analogies are fake news. Christians who engage in violence are betraying the explicit teachings and examples of Christ, even though Muslims who annihilate their 'enemies' are allegedly acting on behalf of God, proud of following the commandments of Allah in the Qur'an, and of imitating their prophet Muhammad as a model. Having made these points, I suggest that there are strong messages in this list echoing the arguments in the Scriptures.

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1. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)

Not Rated | 85 min | Biography, Drama, History

A series of vignettes depicting the lives of the original Franciscan monks, including their leader and the bumbling Ginepro.

Director: Roberto Rossellini | Stars: Aldo Fabrizi, Gianfranco Bellini, Peparuolo, Severino Pisacane

Votes: 2,983

A relief from much of the pap that passes as religious film these days. The depiction of Francis and his followers makes the practice of Christianity seem almost zen-like. Spirituality consists in being totally involved in whatever one is doing, rather than talking, at the moment. Flowers of St. Francis presents an idealized version of a "pure" form of Christianity and promotes love, humility, and compassion for the poor. While the film is a welcome antidote to current cynicism and despair, it ultimately leaves us to decide whether or not excessive missionary zeal practiced by those who are convinced they alone have true faith has been a positive or negative force throughout history.

2. Augustine of Hippo (1972 TV Movie)

121 min | Biography, History

This biography tells the life story of Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, a North African region during the last years of the Roman Empire. The film details Augustine's struggle to maintain ... See full summary »

Director: Roberto Rossellini | Stars: Dary Berkani, Virgilio Gazzolo, Cesare Barbetti, Bruno Cattaneo

Votes: 147

The real Augustine was more medieval and modern than what's shown here. He's rather rounded as a teacher of deep principles and practical responses. He preaches grace and virtue, i.e. the Christian message which is the superstructure of meaning. Entwined with the Christian call, however, is the Socratic one for reason & beauty in moral truth.

3. Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

TV-G | 382 min | Biography, Drama, History

Beginning before the Nativity and extending through the Crucifixion and Resurrection, this mini-series brings to life all of the sweeping drama in the life of Jesus, as told by the Gospels.

Stars: Robert Powell, Olivia Hussey, Laurence Olivier, James Mason

Votes: 18,503

The film is compassionate towards the Jews, and thus helps to undo some of the ethnic hatred for which Christianity is by and large renowned. Certainly powerful and enlightening, commendable to anyone of any religion and faith, both as entertainment and inspiration. None of the other versions of Jesus' life story is comparable.

4. Shadowlands (1993)

PG | 131 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

C.S. Lewis, a world-renowned Christian theologian, writer and professor, leads a passionless life until he meets spirited poet Joy Gresham from the U.S.

Director: Richard Attenborough | Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger, Julian Fellowes, Roddy Maude-Roxby

Votes: 16,232 | Gross: $25.84M

C.S. Lewis was always one of the greatest and most well-known Christian apologists, theologians and fiction writers of all times. But this film is mainly a love story, the love he felt toward his American wife. It's a touching story, period, and if it doesn't get your eyes moistened at least once, check your pulse. Nice films like this are unusual and should be treasured, as Lewis and his works are by so many people, Christian or non-Christian.

5. Der Mörder Dimitri Karamasoff (1931)

93 min | Drama

Suspicion surrounds a lieutenant for killing his father.

Directors: Erich Engel, Fyodor Otsep | Stars: Fritz Kortner, Anna Sten, Fritz Rasp, Bernhard Minetti

Votes: 149

Full of atmosphere and a Slavonic, expressionistic fatalism, it is in many ways much more 'Russian' than German. Although there is a slight narrative overlap between Dostoyevsky's Karamazovs and Tolstoy's Resurrection, this does at least provide the ending of the film with a slight quantum of solace, or modicum of hope. Set within baroque interiors, the inner and outer worlds of human experience are constantly juxtaposed and shown to be in perpetual conflict. As befits Dostoyevsky, a wild anarchic spirit animates the characters as they act out their fatalistic drama, (l'amour fou, which director Fedor Otsep was later to explore in his version of Stefan Zweig's 'Amok'). All through, there is a fearful, pervading melancholy, a sense of impending doom. These are what we would today call dysfunctional characters, but they are imprisoned in the manners and mores of their time, trying to claw some small space in which they can be free, but in their innermost heart of hearts knowing that it is unlikely to be so.

6. The Informer (1935)

Approved | 91 min | Crime, Drama

In 1922, an Irish rebel informs on his friend, then feels doom closing in.

Director: John Ford | Stars: Victor McLaglen, Heather Angel, Preston Foster, Margot Grahame

Votes: 5,321

Liam O'Flaherty wrote a kinda literary masterpiece, a character study and an allegory of Judas Iscariotes' biblical role, and John Ford directed it masterfully. Victor McLaglen plays an IRA man down on his luck looking to find passage to a new life in the USA for himself and his girlfriend. The only way he can do this is to rat out his friend, an IRA man on the run. The reward money spirals his descend. Gypo Nolan is a brute of a man, more brawn than brains. Money does not sit well with him and ultimately causes his downfall. He is such a pathetic figure that you hardly feel any sympathy for him, especially as he betrays a good friend. It's a spirited tale and of course looks dated.

7. The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, History

A Roman soldier becomes torn between his love for a Christian woman and his loyalty to Emperor Nero.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, Elissa Landi, Charles Laughton

Votes: 1,859

The movie, based on a play by an English playwright, Wilson Barrett, is strikingly similar to another Roman epic, made almost 20 years later, Quo Vadis (1951). Both films present the 1st-century Rome, in particular, spreading Christianity in the cruel times of Nero; both show the conversion of a Roman soldier who loves a Christian girl; both remind us of the secret Christian meetings within catacombs; both focus on lustful Poppea demanding revenge on Christians because of jealousy. Both show Poppea's handsome leopards! DeMille, however, presented much more gore in 1932 than MGM in 1951. It is brutal to see lions eating people, elephants crushing them, alligators ripping them apart, gladiators being speared, stabbed, torn up. Surely there were outcries after this film was released. Eventually a Morals' Code (the Will Hays Code) was instituted a couple of years later.

8. Crime and Punishment (1935)

Not Rated | 88 min | Crime, Drama

Man is haunted by a murder he's committed.

Director: Josef von Sternberg | Stars: Edward Arnold, Peter Lorre, Marian Marsh, Tala Birell

Votes: 1,638

This 1935 von Sternberg version makes some wrenching changes to the original, not just in terms of plot details, but even to the thematic spirit of the original, but what does come through successfully is a kind of gestalt rumination on the original novel. If Dostoevsky's novel was an exquisitely perfect, ambitious symphony, this film was a jazz rhapsody on the very theme: it borrowed and rearranged motifs and created a new song, nothing like the original, but a worthwhile tune on its own merits.

9. Diary of a Country Priest (1951)

Not Rated | 95 min | Drama

A young priest taking over the parish at Ambricourt tries to fulfill his duties even as he fights a mysterious stomach ailment.

Director: Robert Bresson | Stars: Claude Laydu, Nicole Ladmiral, Jean Riveyre, Adrien Borel

Votes: 8,886

Robert Bresson's film ignored most of the already spare political context of the original story - "democratic priests," i.e. Jansenists, Gallicans, revolutionaries, leftists, the Church in distress, a moribund and apathetic Christianity - to focus on the spiritual battle of a pious, unremarkable priest, a man, a sinner, but a thoroughly Catholic priest, faithful to the essential magisterium, committed to his parishioners.

10. Under the Sun of Satan (1987)

TV-MA | 98 min | Drama, Fantasy

A priest stuck in a rural congregation and burdened with his overwrought spirituality, finds purpose in a troubled woman accused of murder.

Director: Maurice Pialat | Stars: Gérard Depardieu, Sandrine Bonnaire, Maurice Pialat, Alain Artur

Votes: 2,681

Upon the background of early 1900s rural France, the film revolves around the spiritual dilemma of a young priest: what is the real meaning of service? Under the guidance of a dean who soon starts to suspect his pupil might be sort of saint, a fool, or even both, director Pialat explores the thinly-lined gray area behind folly and sainthood. Dialogues are difficult, at times intricate; there are no conventional emotions, no plot spins. There are subplots, however, such as a young girl with many lovers, a dying child, and the peasants' devotion bordering superstition.

11. Les Misérables (2012)

PG-13 | 158 min | Drama, History, Musical

63 Metascore

In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after breaking parole, agrees to care for a factory worker's daughter. The decision changes their lives forever.

Director: Tom Hooper | Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried

Votes: 295,065 | Gross: $148.81M

This kinda popera is breathtaking in its dramatic presentation of a literary classic. Songs are rich and deep, the plot well-crafted, the characters fully engaged, and the costumes and scenery simply breathtaking. This is funny, sad, thrilling, and contemplative all in one. It is nice to see that Hollywood can deal with the theme of redemption from a perspective cherished by Christians.

12. Don Quichotte (I) (1933)

73 min | Adventure, Drama

The French version of G.W.Pabst's monumental three-language (English, French and German - separate versions each) filming of Cervantes' classic novel. The German version seems to be lost, ... See full summary »

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst | Stars: Feodor Chaliapin Sr., Dorville, René Donnio, Renée Valliers

Votes: 98

Even though the film is short and transforms, reduces and simplifies considerably the original novel, it still manages to be evocative of Cervantes' Spain, and to carry the themes and the feeling.

13. Measure for Measure (1979 TV Movie)

Not Rated | 145 min | Drama

When the Duke of Vienna takes a mysterious leave of absence and leaves the strict Angelo in charge, things couldn't be worse for Claudio, who is sentenced to death for premarital sex. His ... See full summary »

Director: Desmond Davis | Stars: Kenneth Colley, Kate Nelligan, Tim Pigott-Smith, Christopher Strauli

Votes: 179

It's a comedy. All the characters live and many of them marry at the end. Yet we, the audience, are not allowed to get comfortable at the twisty conclusion, a strangely prolonged dramatic resolution with a queasy aftertaste. But Shakespeare does give us an acid discussion of justice vs. mercy, religious faith and hypocrisy. Virginity, assaults thereon and reputations at stake are once again pivotal questions. The low comedy characters, often tedious irrelevancies in other plays, are here in the bordello trade, and for once their stories resonate with the main narrative.

14. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Not Rated | 130 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

89 Metascore

An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell

Votes: 376,240

Few, if any, directors have rivaled Capra when it comes to portraying the human heart. This masterpiece is unashamedly sentimental, but also rich with its faith in community spirit and its belief in the strong bond of family love. An ultimate feel-good movie flecked by sheer darkness and a disconcerting "life-is-tough" undertone. Most likely the dark side of the film made it a flop on its release. The film made a huge, though not gargantuan, loss. Annual repeats on tv have garnered it a cult following.

15. Blaise Pascal (1972 TV Movie)

135 min | Biography, History

Blaise Pascal struggles to understand the natural world around him, in addition to an inner quest for religious faith.

Director: Roberto Rossellini | Stars: Pierre Arditi, Rita Forzano, Giuseppe Addobbati, Christian De Sica

Votes: 467

In interviews, Rossellini used to cite "atheism" as a prejudice in itself. What he strove for was what he called "knowledge without dogma". "Blaise Pascal" is a cautionary tale about the death of enchantment, and the danger of cold, iron logic, which commits crimes in the guise of truth and denies a certain all-inclusiveness or subjectivity. Mirrored to this tale is Pascal's own existential crisis, and fear of what he calls "the void of infinity". To deal with this void "we need a multitude of methods", Pascal says, which echoes the sort of "atheistic spirituality" Ingmar Bergman was likewise dealing with at the time (1960s and 1970s). Reason without spirit is as icy and destructive as spirit without reason. The film ends with Pascal "embracing" God on his deathbed, his room darkening whilst a maid lights a feeble candle. Until then it revolved around a court of judges, one of whom was Pascal's father, who accused a servant of practicing witchcraft. Here we observe men of the state as they behave irrationally in the guise of utmost rationality.

16. Great Performances (1971– )
Episode: Monsignor Quixote (1987)


In this modern adaptation of the Don Quixote theme based on a novel by Graham Greene, Quixote is an old Spanish village priest who travels through Spain with his friend, Sancho, the ... See full summary »

Director: Rodney Bennett | Stars: Alec Guinness, Leo McKern, Ian Richardson, Graham Crowden

Votes: 186

Based on the novel by Graham Greene of the same title, the movie tells us about the adventures of a Roman Catholic priest (Father Quixote) just promoted to monsignor, and a communist mayor (Sancho) just defeated in a municipal election in the post-Franco years in Spain. Both men are great friends despite their opposite backgrounds, and while the movie progresses, we can see that their ideas are not as far apart as one would expect. The story is told in such a way that it resembles the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in modern times. It's rather a comedy-drama, proving Greene's profound knowledge of Spain, its traditions, and its politics. Among other things, it satirizes the Opus Dei and the Spanish Catholic Church involvement in politics. Dialogues contain many sharp and witty remarks.

17. The Mission (1986)

PG | 125 min | Adventure, Drama, History

55 Metascore

Eighteenth century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal.

Director: Roland Joffé | Stars: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally, Aidan Quinn

Votes: 53,105 | Gross: $17.22M

The story is a supposed true-life account what happened back in the 1700s when a few dedicated priests tried to bring Christianity to South American natives, showing what happened when a combination of the Catholic Church, Portuguese slave-traders and politicians attempted to put a halt to their mission. Though this isn't an "action film," it has extended violence, and a shocking finale.

18. The Carmelites (1960)

112 min | Drama, History

This is about the execution of 21 carmelite nuns in the latter stages of the terror during the French Revolution.

Directors: Philippe Agostini, Raymond Leopold Bruckberger | Stars: Jeanne Moreau, Alida Valli, Madeleine Renaud, Pascale Audret

Votes: 162

Cinema has not been insensitive to Georges Bernanos , who ranks alongside with other great Catholic 20th-century writers, most notably Graham Greene, André Gide and Paul Claudel. One of Robert Bresson's masterpieces, 'Mouchette,' was adapted from Bernanos. 'Sous le soleil de Satan' turned out to be another interesting adaptation . But his most famous play is this Dialogue, a period piece which is an eloquent libel against repression on any cult freedom, no matter what kind of creed. Though the picture cannot be compared to the magnificent opera that composer Francis Poulenc extracted from the same text, it does record, with sincerity, the tragic episode when nuns, during the Terror regime, in the French Revolution, willingly became martyrs in the name of Christian faith and freedom of belief. Maybe revolutions cannot help being gruesome, but must they suspend belief beyond the rescue of the soul(s)?

19. Padre Pio (2000 TV Movie)

202 min | Biography, Drama

The poor Italian peasant boy Francesco already has visions of Jesus and Mary as a child, but the Devil visits him too. He, Francesco, is quite certain that he will become a priest. After ... See full summary »

Director: Carlo Carlei | Stars: Sergio Castellitto, Jürgen Prochnow, Lorenza Indovina, Pierfrancesco Favino

Votes: 673

Director Carlo Carlei explores the life of Francesco Forgione, aka Saint Padre Pio, a Capuchin friar whose endless devotion would manifest itself in the appearance of stigmata wounds for more than 50 years. Padre Pio was responsible for a series of religious miracles that many sited as proof of God's existence in an era where spiritual skepticism was at an all time high. The movie captured his intense faith and devotion, his deep spiritual concern for others, and his demonstration of great compassion for the sick and suffering. It reveals the amazing details and events in his life as a boy and throughout his years as a friar, dramatizing the frequent attacks of the Devil on him, as well as the persecution he suffered at the hands of people, including those in the church.

20. The Green Mile (1999)

R | 189 min | Crime, Drama, Fantasy

61 Metascore

The lives of guards on Death Row are affected by one of their charges: a black man accused of child murder and rape, yet who has a mysterious gift.

Director: Frank Darabont | Stars: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt

Votes: 1,069,201 | Gross: $136.80M

The Green Mile is a remarkable allegorical picture. Where there's a Christ-like figure, you also have some devil spawn villains. And what happens to them is both poetic and diabolical in true Stephen King tradition.

21. Sunrise (1927)

Passed | 94 min | Drama, Romance

An allegorical tale about a man fighting the good and evil within him. Both sides are made flesh - one a sophisticated woman he is attracted to and the other his wife.

Director: F.W. Murnau | Stars: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing

Votes: 44,807 | Gross: $0.54M

"Sunrise" is diurnal. It begins with a meeting of the husband and his mistress at the break of dawn. It climaxes in the deep of the night, but its very last picture brings back sunrise, which epitomizes a new beginning, a new christening, a redemption. The man, crying and begging for pardon, might be director Murnau himself à clef, who thought very harshly of his own homosexuality as being immoral , if not criminal.

22. Of Gods and Men (2010)

PG-13 | 122 min | Drama, History

86 Metascore

Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay.

Director: Xavier Beauvois | Stars: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach

Votes: 14,266 | Gross: $3.95M

23. Dekalog (1989–1990)

TV-MA | 572 min | Drama

100 Metascore

Ten television drama films, each one based on one of the Ten Commandments.

Stars: Artur Barcis, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Aleksander Bardini, Olaf Lubaszenko

Votes: 19,756 | Gross: $0.10M

24. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Not Rated | 95 min | Drama

100 Metascore

The story of a mistreated donkey and the people around him. A study on saintliness and a sister piece to Bresson's Mouchette.

Director: Robert Bresson | Stars: Anne Wiazemsky, Walter Green, François Lafarge, Jean-Claude Guilbert

Votes: 16,138 | Gross: $0.04M

25. Ordet (1955)

Not Rated | 126 min | Drama, Fantasy

Follows the lives of the Borgen family, as they deal with inner conflict, as well as religious conflict with each other, and the rest of the town.

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer | Stars: Henrik Malberg, Emil Hass Christensen, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Hanne Aagesen

Votes: 12,895

26. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Not Rated | 114 min | Biography, Drama, History

In 1431, Jeanne d'Arc is placed on trial on charges of heresy. The ecclesiastical jurists attempt to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer | Stars: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley, Maurice Schutz

Votes: 43,107 | Gross: $0.02M

27. Silent Light (2007)

Not Rated | 136 min | Drama, Romance

79 Metascore

In a Mennonite community in Mexico, a father's faith is tested when he falls in love with a new woman.

Director: Carlos Reygadas | Stars: Cornelio Wall, Miriam Toews, Maria Pankratz, Peter Wall

Votes: 5,694 | Gross: $0.05M

28. The Song of Songs (1933)

Approved | 90 min | Drama, Romance

Lily falls in love with the sculptor who leaves her out of fear of commitment.

Director: Rouben Mamoulian | Stars: Marlene Dietrich, Brian Aherne, Lionel Atwill, Alison Skipworth

Votes: 582

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for your love is better than wine." Song of Songs 1:2 While in the times of laws and restrictions, Israel was granted Solomon and his poetical spirit of wisdom, in the early years of cinema, Hollywood was granted Rouben Mamoulian (1897-1987) who brought a soul to his motion pictures. The innovative director said: "...the arts are the true universal medium. The whole thing should serve to remind you that man still has a potential, that he's not just crawling on earth. He still has wings and he can fly. We need this reminder of faith, of optimism, to reestablish the dignity of a human being."

29. A Man for All Seasons (1966)

G | 120 min | Biography, Drama, History

72 Metascore

The story of Sir Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarry.

Director: Fred Zinnemann | Stars: Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Robert Shaw, Leo McKern

Votes: 29,268 | Gross: $28.35M

30. 7th Heaven (1927)

Not Rated | 110 min | Drama, Romance

A street cleaner saves a young woman's life, and the pair slowly fall in love until war intervenes.

Director: Frank Borzage | Stars: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Ben Bard, Albert Gran

Votes: 2,940 | Gross: $3.92M

31. Nazarin (1959)

Not Rated | 94 min | Drama

A priest in a poor community lives a charitable life in accordance with his religious principles, but many others do not return the favor.

Director: Luis Buñuel | Stars: Francisco Rabal, Marga López, Rita Macedo, Ignacio López Tarso

Votes: 4,807

32. Léon Morin, Priest (1961)

Not Rated | 117 min | Drama, Romance, War

Set during occupied France, a faithless woman finds herself falling in love with a young priest.

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville | Stars: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Emmanuelle Riva, Irène Tunc, Nicole Mirel

Votes: 3,505 | Gross: $0.04M

33. The Barchester Chronicles (1982)

385 min | Drama

When a crusade against the Church of England's practice of self-enrichment misfires, scandal taints the cozy community of Barchester when their local church becomes the object of a scathing, investigative report.

Stars: Donald Pleasence, Janet Maw, Nigel Hawthorne, Angela Pleasence

Votes: 977

Some interpretations of Christianity mean that a human being is really a spirit that has been imprisoned in a brutish body from which he must try to escape by renouncing all earthly pleasures. This is far from novelist Anthony Trollope's view. He believes firmly that life is a gift given by God and that we have a duty to cherish such gift. Nowhere does Trollope suggest any doubt about the divinity of Christ or the truth of Revelation. But he does hold that the words of Revelation cannot by themselves provide indisputable directions for what to do here and now. Any set of words has to be interpreted and reasonable people may disagree about what is the right interpretation. The Church is there to give its members an authoritative answer. But as there may be more than one interpretation, there may be more than one church.

34. Contact (1997)

PG | 150 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

62 Metascore

Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of extraterrestrial intelligence, sending plans for a mysterious machine.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Votes: 242,327 | Gross: $100.92M

35. Departures (2008)

PG-13 | 130 min | Drama, Music

68 Metascore

A newly unemployed cellist takes a job preparing the dead for funerals.

Director: Yôjirô Takita | Stars: Masahiro Motoki, Ryôko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki

Votes: 46,277 | Gross: $1.50M

Sickness and death are major evils for Christianity; they were not "supposed" to be a part of this world, and came about as a consequence of the sin of Adam. Christ, of course, conquered the tomb and brought the hope for eternal life. So, among Christian groups, Catholics do not try to sanitize death or avoid the topic. They don't speak in euphemisms about it. They don't take salvation for granted, except the salvation of the souls of baptized children who've died before the age of reason. They don't consider it a sin or, at the least, a faux-pas to mourn. While they don't exactly "sit shiva," they don't see jumping up and down and singing happy songs as natural reactions to having to miss someone until one's own death. In other words, it's OK to rend garments and weep; these things are not expressions of a "lack of faith," but are normal, natural reactions to the evil of death, and to missing someone and realizing that it will be some time before you see him again, Deo volente. As to Departures (Okuribito), it's a touching ode to those who have left us. Also a powerful tearjerker and a reminder that embracing death needs not to be something horrible. Despite the stereotypical negative connotations, the professional embalmer is a dignified person entrusted with the responsibility of helping the loved ones of the deceased cope with the passing on. Departures demystifies such profession. And like all things Japanese, the embalming process comes with an elaborate ritual of preparation, cleansing and presentation, all done with great precision, skillful grace and utmost respect for both the deceased, and family members.

36. Thérèse (1986)

94 min | Drama

The life of little St. Therese of Lisieux, depicted in minimalist vignettes. Therese and her sisters are all nuns in a Carmelite convent. Her devotion to Jesus and her concept of "the ... See full summary »

Director: Alain Cavalier | Stars: Catherine Mouchet, Hélène Alexandridis, Aurore Prieto, Clémence Massart-Weit

Votes: 769

37. On Trial (1954)

110 min | Crime, Drama

In this legal drama, told in flashbacks, the son of a judge, who had sentenced a man who may be innocent to 17 years in prison, tries to investigate the mysterious case.

Director: Julien Duvivier | Stars: Daniel Gélin, Madeleine Robinson, Eleonora Rossi Drago, Anton Walbrook

Votes: 180

The son of a lawyer struggles to free an innocent man from wrongful conviction. The Maurizius Case fills you with sadness and despair, not because there has been a miscarriage of justice, but because society itself is revealed as a vast web overall tied in impotence. All intelligent members of society know that legal and moral codes are imperfect. What they don't know, until a notorious trial comes to headlines, is that there's nothing to be done, they all have their hands tied . Only when flagrant injustice is perpetrated they realize the emptiness of the phrase 'social tissue,' which seems to be rotten.

38. The Metropolitan Opera HD Live (2006– )
Episode: Gounod: Faust (2011)


The oft-told tale of the scientist Faust, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for an extra 24 years to live, is updated, apparently happening entirely in the confines of Faust's lab, which makes the Act 2 carnival hard to fathom.

Director: Barbara Willis Sweete | Stars: Jonas Kaufmann, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Joyce DiDonato, René Pape

Votes: 22

39. The Miracle of Marcelino (1955)

G | 90 min | Comedy, Drama

Marcelino is an orphan who grows up in a monastery. One day when he eats his small meal in a room full of old things he gives a piece of his bread to an old wooden Jesus figure - and indeed... See full summary »

Director: Ladislao Vajda | Stars: Rafael Rivelles, Antonio Vico, Juan Calvo, José Marco Davó

Votes: 1,954

40. Places in the Heart (1984)

PG | 111 min | Drama

70 Metascore

In central Texas in the 1930s, a widow, with two small children, tries to run her small 40-acre farm with the help of two disparate people.

Director: Robert Benton | Stars: Sally Field, Lindsay Crouse, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan

Votes: 9,716 | Gross: $34.90M

Eight years after DeMille's definitive silent film about the life of Christ, The King of Kings, Julien Duvivier brought Jesus back to cinema screens. The difference between the two films, however, is far greater than mere language. The King of Kings typifies the stagey pseudo-piety that has typified most American cinematic Christs, whereas Golgotha is like Pasolini's well-known Vangelo Secondo Matteo , capturing something deeper, mysterious and more spiritual with its simpler feel. That is not to say that Golgotha was not granted a grand scale. The opening scenes of Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem are as vast as anything Hollywood has had to offer us. Duvivier teases the audience showing the hustle and bustle of the crowd, the Pharisees discussing what has been going on, the action at a distance, and even a shot of the crowd from Jesus's point of view as he passes through, but delaying showing us Christ himself. When Jesus (played by Robert Le Vigan) finally appears, over ten minutes into the film, it is at a distance, and shot from a low angle. He is almost obscured by his disciples, and there is a moment of confusion as to whether this is really He.

42. Family Life (1971)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama

A teenage girl suffers a nervous breakdown.

Director: Ken Loach | Stars: Sandy Ratcliff, Bill Dean, Grace Cave, Malcolm Tierney

Votes: 1,356

Some reviewers wrote then that Ken Loach had based his story on the Dr. R.D. Laing's "antipsychiatrics," a theory developed in the neighborhood of Sartre's existential psychoanalysis. I must fully disagree. When the leftist director hasn’t got politics on (the foreground of) his mind and makes kitchen-sink portraits of working-class urban Britons, he is quite a filmmaker, particularly as a director of actors. He gets a great central performance here from Sandy Ratcliff, whose Janice is a misfit. Her shrinks are not unlike the main characters from "La tête contre les murs" and ¨La piel que habito.¨ Like Franju and Almodovar, Loach tells a story, even though in a semi-documentary style. There are actually similar scenes in the three movies: inmates escape , take refuge in their girl/boyfriend's flat, then the police come, but Janice is already a zombie who can no longer react.

43. Alexander Nevsky (1938)

Not Rated | 112 min | Action, Biography, Drama

The story of how a great Russian prince led a ragtag army to battle an invading force of Teutonic Knights.

Directors: Sergei M. Eisenstein, Dmitriy Vasilev | Stars: Nikolay Cherkasov, Nikolai Okhlopkov, Andrei Abrikosov, Dmitriy Orlov

Votes: 9,957

Critics opine that, in 1939 Jean Renoir's ominous sensitivity intuited World War II via Rules of the Game. Well, perhaps a year before Eisenstein's sensitivity intuited the abominable Ribbentropp-Malenkov Pact - which actually allowed WWII! - via this 'biopic.' Nevsky's historical importance for Christianity was only a kinda counterpoint to the Teutonic Knights' aggression. In the final sequence, Russians do enter a church, but we never see religious symbols, yet Nevsky, stripped or not of any esoteric or religious aura, is a Russian saint. (The film was made during Stalinism, whose perspective was obviously unwilling to assimilate historical heroes or justify their demeanor)

44. The Prisoner (1955)

Not Rated | 91 min | Drama

A Cardinal is arrested for treason against the state. As a Prince of his church, and a popular hero of this people, for his resistance against the Nazis during the war, and afterward his ... See full summary »

Director: Peter Glenville | Stars: Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Wilfrid Lawson, Kenneth Griffith

Votes: 766

'The Prisoner' is a version of the play by the same title, widely based on the life of Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary. It addresses the topic of religious freedom and therefore authentic human rights. Alec Guinness in the role of a Catholic cardinal and Jack Hawkins as his interrogator who represents an atheist, totalitarian state (i.e. a state under communism) are brilliant. The rhythm is tense. The Leitmotiv is man's inhumanity towards man and the frailty of the human spirit when it is subjected to physical, emotional and mental torture. This is the story of one man's battle to preserve his interior freedom and every man's battle with himself, showing how courage and even frailty unwittingly change the very lives of jailers and inquisitors.

45. On the Waterfront (1954)

Not Rated | 108 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller