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Staff picks favorite movies with a religious theme

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During this time when everyone is home and may need something uplifting, spiritual or funny to keep their minds off the coronavirus pandemic, the staff of the Catholic Herald offers you our top 10 favorite movies with a touch of religion or a message of faith.

Movie synopses provided by IMDb.com.

1) “The Sound of Music”

Several staff members sung the praises of this 1965 film, including Staff Writer Zoey Maraist.

“In this time of uncertainty, many songs, books and movies take on new relevance,” she said. The familiar, sing-along-friendly classic is a surefire way to brighten spirits. But more than a mood-booster, Julie Andrew’s Maria is a wonderful example of how to make the best of unexpected situations. Call it the from-curtains-to-play-clothes attitude.

Even before the Von Trapps’ lives were upended by the arrival of the Nazis in Austria, Maria had to change her expectations of what her life was going to be. As she leaves the convent to become a governess to seven children, she greets her new challenge with the song, “I Have Confidence.” 

As we all adjust in big ways and small to the new reality wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, take a tip from Maria and keep hope in the forefront of your thoughts. “I have confidence that spring will come again/ Besides which you see I have confidence in me/ Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers/ When you wake up — wake up!”

2) “Les Misérables”

Another favorite is the 2012 film based off Victor Hugo’s classic book and the Broadway musical. The film is set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and tells the story of Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman) who, after breaking parole, is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (played by Russell Crowe). Valjean agrees to care for a factory worker's daughter.

Acting Editor Ann M. Augherton said, “Les Mis, oh where do I start, it’s my all-time favorite play, musical, movie, the songs, the story … sigh. After seeing it countless times, it still gives me goosebumps.” And Editorial Assistant Meghan Bartlett echoed those sentiments, “Les Mis is my favorite musical … top movie, too. Bishop is maybe my favorite character.”

3) “It’s a Wonderful Life”

The 1946 film starring Jimmy Stewart might not immediately come to mind as a religious movie, but Social Media Coordinator Mary Stachyra Lopez said, “It is my all-time favorite movie, and it’s not just a Christmas movie. It is a powerful story of the value of self-sacrifice and denial, hope, resilience and a community coming together in difficult circumstances.”

4) “The Bells of St. Mary’s”

The 1945 film features Bing Crosby as the happy go-lucky priest Father O'Malley, who is sent to help out financially strapped St. Mary's Academy, a parochial school presided over by the lovely nun, Sister Benedict (played by Ingrid Bergman). This was a favorite of several staffers.

5) “The Ten Commandments”

Moses (played by Charlton Heston) discovers his Hebrew heritage and, later, God's expectations of him in the 1956 classic. He dedicates himself to liberating his people from captivity and — with the aid of plagues and divine intervention — manages to lead them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.

6) “The Passion of the Christ”

The graphic, yet poignant 2004 film directed by Mel Gibson depicts the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth (played by Jim Caviezel) on the day of his crucifixion in Jerusalem. Graphic Artist David Garcia said, “That movie ROCKS.”

7) “Sister Act”

The 1992 comedy is a favorite of several staffers. Lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier (played by Whoopi Goldberg) is placed in protective custody in a convent as Sister Mary Clarence after witnessing a murder. She butts heads with the Mother Superior (played by Maggie Smith) but ultimately uses her talents as a singer to liven up the sisters’ choir, even drawing the attention of the pope. Though the premise is predictable, the music is fun and a scene depicting the pope clapping along to the choir singing “I Will Follow Him” is memorable.

8) “Ben-Hur”

The 1959 Best Picture Oscar winner depicts the story of a Jewish prince, Judah Ben-Hur (played by Charlton Heston), who is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend. After he regains his freedom he comes back for revenge.

9) “Godspell”

The 1973 musical set in New York is a modern-day song-and-dance recreation of the Gospel of St. Matthew.

10) “Bruce Almighty”

Jim Carrey stars as Bruce Nolan, a guy who complains about God (played by Morgan Freeman) one too many times and is given almighty powers to teach him how difficult it is to run the world in this 2003 comedy.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020