Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films

The movies on this list are an assortment of classic and contemporary, foreign and domestic, films with varying thematic references. The Arts & Faith website originally developed this list in 2004 and it is updated annually.  Titles were selected with a combination of anonymous voting, open debate, and expert jury selection. The list is copyright Arts & Faith, all rights reserved, used by permission.


Le Fils
Oliver is working as a carpentry instructor in a French suburb. He develops an obsession with a new student and offers him friendship and advice with a frightening lack of affection. Oliver's connection to the boy is slowly and painfully revealed. Directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne. Starring Olivier Gourmet & Morgan Marinne. NR
The Miracle Maker
A family is seeking help for their sickly but cheerful daughter, Tamar, when they cross paths with an extrodinary carpenter named Jesus. Directed by Derek W. Hayes & Stanislav Sokolov. Produced by the BBC. NR
The Gospel According to St. Matthew

The Diary of a Country Priest

The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Decalogue
Ten films that each feature one of the Ten Commandments as a thematic construct. Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. NR
Babette's Feast (Babettes gæstebud)
With the mysterious arrival of Babette, a refugee from France's civil war, life for two pious sisters and their tiny hamlet begins to change. Before long, Babette has convinced them to try something other than boiled codfish and ale bread--a gourmet French meal! Her feast scandalizes the elders, except for the visiting General. Just who is this strangely talented Babette, who has terrified this pious town with the prospect of losing their souls for enjoying too much earthly pleasure? Includes original theatrical trailer. Directed by Gabriel Axel. Starring Stéphane Audran. Based on the book Babettes gæstebud by Karen Blixen. (Denmark) G
9.   A Man Escaped
Andrei Rublev
Story of the famed 15th century icon painter who survives the cruelties of medieval Russia and creates works of art. Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Starring Anatoli Solonitsyn. NR
Au Hasard Balthazar

The Seventh Seal
In medieval Sweden a knight returns from war only to find a ravaged homeland. He meets up with a group of travelling players and eventually confronts the embodiment of death with whom he engages in a game of chess for his life. The knight and Death play as the cultural turmoil envelopes the people around them as they try, in different ways, to deal with the upheaval the plague has caused. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Starring Gunnar Björnstrand & Bengt Ekerot. NR
Discovering that he is in the terminal stages of cancer, a clerk spends his last months in search of the meaning to life. After his pursuit of pleasure has failed, he finds self-realization in bringing about the building of a children's playground in the slums and dies quiety fulfilled. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. NR
Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna)
A widowed pastor struggles with lack of faith. A school teacher offers her love, but he is unable to love her back. He struggles to find his faith again by discussing his predicament with those around him. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Starring Max von Sydow & Tomas Ericsson. NR
The Mission

Eulis 'Sonny' Dewey is a preacher from Texas living a happy life with his beautiful wife Jessie when suddenly his stable world crumbles. Directed by Robert Duvall. Starring Robert Duvall & Farrah Fawcett. PG-13
Three ColorsTrilogy
A series of three films: Blue, White, & Red that explore contemporary French society. Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. R
Jesus of Nazareth
Beginning before the Nativity and extending through the Crucifixion and Resurrection, this film brings to life all the majesty and sweeping drama of the life of Jesus as told in the Gospels. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Starring Robert Powell. NR
Jésus of Montréal
A Montreal shrine seeks to inspire its congregants by modernizing its staging of the Passion play. A promising cast of vibrant young actors are signed on - one fresh from perfume commercials, another from the pornographic film industry, and another who had an affair with the basilica's priest - quickly drive the production on to become a smash hit. But as the play enjoys the success, the actors become more and more challenged to seperate their real lives from their lives onstage. Directed by Denys Arcand. Starring Lothaire Bluteau, Catherine Wilkening, & Johanne-Marie Tremblay. R
The Flowers of St. Francis
In a series of simple and joyous vignettes, director Roberto Rossellini and co-writer Federico Fellini lovingly convey the universal teachings of the People's Saint: humility, faith, and sacrifice. Directed by Roberto Rossellini.  NR
Dead Man Walking
Tells the story of convicted killer Matthew Poncelet and Sister Helen Prejean, his spiritual advisor. The journey they undertake in search of the truth is powerful and profound. Directed by Tim Robbins. Starring Susan Sarandon & Sean Penn. Based on the book Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean. R

A mosaic of American life woven through a series of comic and poignant vignettes. Nine people will weave and warp through each other's lives. Some will mend frayed bonds, others will be exposed. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Tom Cruise. R
La Promesse

A villager in love with a city woman tries to kill his wife; later he repents and spends a happy day with her. Directed by F.W. Murnau. Starring George O'Brien & Janet Gaynor. Based on the book Die Reise nach Tilsit  by Hermann Sudermann. NR
Tender Mercies
Mac Sledge, an alcoholic drifter, comes into the life of a lonely widow and her young son in the barren flatlands of Texas. But when Mac is revealed to be a once-famous country singer, he must confront a painful past that includes his bitter superstar ex-wife and troubled daughter while facing an uncertain future that may only be redeemed by the simple power of love. Directed by Bruce Bereford. Starring Robert Duvall & Tess Harper. PG
A Man for All Seasons
About the oppostition of Sir Thomas More to the divorce of King Henry VIII and the events which led to More's execution. Directed by Fred Zinnemann. Starring Paul Scofield. Based on The Life of More by William Roper & the play A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt. G
Wings Of Desire(Der Himmel über Berlin)
A romantic fantasy about an angel who wishes he were mortal and is willing to fall from the sky if it means a chance to fall in love. Set in modern day Berlin, the film follows angel Damiel's path from heavenly flight to earthly delight in a manner that's comical, touching and entertaining. Directed by Wim Wenders. Starring Bruno Ganz & Solveig Dommartin. Remade as City of Angels. PG-13
Day of Wrath

Yi Yi
This story follows the individual lives of the Jian family. Due to many circumstances, the entire family will have to re-evaluate who they are and what their lives have become. Directed by Edward Yang. Starring Nien-Jen Wu & Elaine Jin. NR
The Hiding Place
Traces the life of Corrie Ten Boom, from the quiet years before World War II, to her work with the "underground" in helping to save the lives of countless Jewish families and her eventual arrest and imprisonment in one of Nazi Germany's most dreaded concentration camps. Directed by James F. Collier. Starring Julie Harris & Jeannette Clift. Based on the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. PG
Wild Strawberries(Smultronstället)
A distinguished professor emeritus who lives alone with his housekeeper can only come to terms with his egocentricity by traveling back in time to his earliest youth, finding there the seeds of his failure as husband, lover, father. This film deals with the phenomena of old age wherein childhood memories return with ever-increasing clarity while great stretches of the prime of life vanish into obscurity. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Starring Victor Sjöström & Bibi Andersson. NR
33.   Rosetta
34.   After Life (Wandafuru raifu)
The Sacrifice (Offret - Sacrificatio)
A dark and complex drama about redemption and the nuclear holocaust. When a middle aged intellectual in retirement on an island in the Baltic Seas witnesses signs of what he believes to be a nuclear holocaust, he offers to make the ultimate sacrifice in return for the salvation of mankind. Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Starring Erland Josephson. PG
To End All Wars
Based on actual events that happened during World War II when 61,000 Allied POWs were forced by the Japanese to build the Thailand-Burma Railway - better known to the soldiers as the "Railway of Death". This is the story of a Scottish regiment forced to help construct the infamous railway and how they had to fight to survive and ultimately forgive their brutal captors. Directed by David L. Cunningham. Starring Ciarán McMenamin. Based on the book by Ernest Gordon. R
Chariots of Fire
The true story of Harold Abrahams, Eric Liddell, and the team of athletic competitors who brought victory to Britain in the 1924 Olympics. Directed by Hugh Hudon. Starring Ben Cross & Ian Charleson. PG
Based on the true story of C.S. Lewis, a world-renowned writer and professor who remains untouched by any great passion until he meets and falls in love with Joy Gresham, a feisty, abrasive New York divorcée. Directed by Richard Attenborough. Starring Anthony Hopkins & Debra Winger. PG
The Big Kahuna
The careers of three industrial lubricant salesmen at a convention lie with a novice sales rep as they pursue the ultimate sale. Directed by John Swanbeck. Starring Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, & Peter Facinelli. R
Not of This World  (Fuori dal Mondo)
Caterina, a beautiful young nun, is about to take her final vows. But her life changes when she takes in an abandoned baby. As she seeks the baby's family, she meets Ernesto. Together, they seek the truth about the baby, and re-evaluate their own lives. Directed by Giuseppe Piccioni. Starring Margherita Buy. NR
Schindler's List
Oskar Schindler uses Jews to start a factory in Poland during the war. He witnesses the horrors endured by the Jews, and starts to save them. Directed by Stephen Spielberg. Starring Liam Neeson & Ben Kingsley. Based on the book Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally. R
It's holiday season and seven-year-old Damian believes he's received a divine gift from above when a suitcase filled with cash literally falls out of the sky. Damian is anxious to share the wealth with those less fortunate while his fun-loving brother Anthony would rather spend it like there's no tomorrow. But when the loot turns out to be stolen, both boys' plans are put to the test - with heartwarming and hilarous results. Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Alex Etel & Lewis McGibbon. PG
The Straight Story
Based on a true story about 73-year-old Alvin Straight who embarks on a dangerous and emotional journey to make amends with his 75-year-old brother Lyle before his brother dies. Alvin can no longer drive a car because of his eyesight and has to walk with two canes, but he climbs aboard his 1966 John Deere lawnmower and drives the 260-mile course from Laurens, Iowa to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin. Directed by David Lynch. Starring Richard Farnsworth, Harry Dean Stanton, & Sissy Spacek. G
A Taste of Cherry (Ta'm e guilass)
Mr. Badii, ceaselessly driving through the red-brown hills around Tehran in search of assistance in his suicide, receives a different viewpoint on life from each of the men he asks to help him. Following the film is an interview with Abbas Kiarostami, in which he discusses issues of censorship in Iran and his views on filmmaking in general. Directed by Abbas Kiarostami. Starring Homayoun Ershadi. PG
The Passion of The Christ
Concerns the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In the Garden of Gethsemane near the Mount of Olives, Jesus is betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Jesus is condemned to death for blasphemy and brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, for sentencing. The roaring crowd demands his death, so Pilate orders his crucifixion. Jesus is severely beaten and made to carry his cross up to Golgotha, the hill outside Jerusalem, where he is nailed to the cross. With his mother looking on, he dies. Directed by Mel Gibson. Starring James Caviezel. R
Henry II surprises England by naming his fellow rogue and trusted confidant Thomas Becket as Chancellor. But when Henry next appoints him Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket shocks the world by openly defying the King with his newfound faith and compassion. Will a desperate ruler now destroy a beloved friend to save his splintering kingdom? Directed by Peter Glenville. Starring Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton, & John Gielgud. Based on the play Becket by Jean Anouilh. PG-13
An English professor, who alienates her students, has always had control over her life. That is until she is diagnosed with a devasting illness. She agrees to undergo a series of procedures that are brutal, extensive and experimental. She finds that the fine line between life and death can only be walked with wit. Directed by Mike Nichols. Starring Emma Thompson. Based on the play Wit by Margaret Edson. PG-13
Open City

49.   Nazarin
Secrets & Lies
After her adoptive parents die, a young black woman seeks out her natural birth mother only to discover her mother is white. Equally shocked to learn her daughter she gave up for adoption is black, Cynthia insists it's a mistake. But she soon realizes it's true and when she springs her newfound daughter on the rest of the family, the resulting chaos leads to a series of secrets and lies being revealed at last. Directed by Mike Leigh. Starring Brenda Blethyn & Marianne Jean-Baptiste. R
Romero is a compelling and deeply moving look at the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who made the ultimate sacrifice in a passionate stand against social injustice and the oppression in his country. This film chronicles the transformation of Romero from an apolitical, complacent priest to a comitted leader of the Salvadoran people. Directed by John Duigan. Starring Raul Julia & Richard Jordan. PG-13
Places in the Heart
It's the 1930's in Waxahachie, Texas. Against this Depression-torn background unforgettable characters meet and collide. Its emotionally gripping story centers around Edna Spalding (Sally Fields) and her unending struggle against extraordinary hardships. Directed by Robert Benton. Starring Sally Field, Danny Glover, & Ed Harris. PG
It's a Wonderful Life
A man is prevented from committing suicide by an elderly angel who takes him back through his life to see what good he has done and how the world would be if he had not been born. Directed by Frank Capra. Starring James Stewart & Donna Reed. NR
Sent to live with her relatives, Ponette experiences the hopes, dreams and fears of a child following the loss of a parent. Ultimately, it is her faith, love and strength of character that enables Ponette to triumphantly overcome her tragedy. Directed by Jacques Doillon. Starring Victoire Thivisol. NR
Les Miserables
Jean Valjean is a heartless convict who is transformed by a single act of mercy. Fantine, a vulnerable prostitute, begs Valjean to raise her only child, Cosette. But as Valjean cares for Cosette, he is threatened by an ambitious policeman determined to return Valjean to prison. Directed by Billie August. Starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, & Claire Danes. Based on the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. PG-13
Regional princes and the powerful Catholic Church wield a fast, firm and merciless grip over 16th-century Germany. But when Martin Luther issues a shocking challenge to their authority, the people declare him their new leader - and hero. Even when threatened with violent death, Luther refused to back down, sparking a bloody religious revolution that shakes the entire continent to its core. Directed by Eric Tilln. Starring Joseph Fiennes & Alfred Molina. PG-13
Tokyo Story

Hell House

Breaking The Waves
Bess, a pious, young Scottish woman, prays to God to send her husband, Jan, home from his job on an offshore oil rig. When an accident sends him home paralyzed, she's filled with guilt and submits to his wish that she take on other lovers, convinced that this will aid in his recovery. Directed by Lars Van Trier. Starring Emily Watson & Stellan Skarsgård. R
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Weaving together several different stories about people's lives, loves, perceptions, and ideals, this film examines some of the toughest questions surrounding human nature. Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Marin Landau, Angelic Huston, & Woody Allen. PG-13
To Kill a Mockingbird
The setting is a dusty Southern town during the Depression. A white woman accuses a black man of rape. Though he is obviously innocent, the outcome of his trial is such a foregone conclusion that no lawyer will step forward to defend him--except the town's most distinguished citizen. His compassionate defense costs him many friendships but earns him the respect and admiration of his two motherless children. Directed by Robert Mulligan. Starring Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Brock Peters & Robert Duvall. Based on the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. NR

The Last Temptation Of Christ

The Gospel of John
The Gospel of John, the best-loved of the four Gospels, vividly comes to life in a faithful and powerful dramatization of the biblical text. The Gospel of John meticulously re-creates the era of Jesus during a tumultuous period that changed the course of history. Directed by Phillip Saville. Narrated by Christpher Plummer.. PG
Hotel Rwanda
Based on the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a five-star-hotel manager who uses his wits and persuasion in striving to save more than 1,200 Tutsis and Hutus from being massacred by the Interahamwe militia during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. Directed by Terry George.  PG-13
A young man who survived a plane crash becomes more wildly alive and takes more risks when he discovers that the crash transformed him into a man without fear of death. Meanwhile, his wife struggles to find within him the man she married, and another survivor of the crash believes nothing and no one can heal her pain. Directed by Peter Weir. Starring Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, & Rosie Perez. Based on the book by Rafael Yglesias. R
On a space station orbiting the mysterious planet Solaris , terrified crew members are experiencing a host of strange phenomena, including eerie visitors who seem all too human. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring George Clooney. PG-13
The Night of the Hunter
A psychotic self-styled preacher marries and murders a young widow for her money. He then pursues her children to get his hands on the money, only to meet his match in the form of a saintly farm woman. Directed by Charles Laughton. Starring Robert Mitchum & Shelley Winters. Based on the book by Davis Grubb. NR
Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och rop)
A story of four women's search for spiritual peace. Agnes, a spinster who lives with her housekeeper, is dying of cancer, and is visited one last time by her two sisters, Karin and Maria. These two become entangled in feelings of jealousy, manipulation and selfishness. Yet Agnes, tortured by cancer, is able to transcend her sisters' pettiness to remember moments of staggering beauty as well as horror. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Starring Liv Ullmann, Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, & Kari Sylwan. R
70.   Stromboli


My Night At Maud's

Black Robe
In the 17th century, Father Laforgue, a young Jesuit priest, is assigned to go up river into the Canadian wilderness to convert the Huron Indians. His young aide and translator, Daniel, falls in love with Annuka, the daughter of the Algonquin chief. Torn between his own desires and ideals of the priesthood, Laforgue's faith is tested, and his life and the outcome of the mission imperiled, as the expedition faces the elements and hostile Indians. Directed by Bruce Beresford. Starring Lothaire Bluteau. Based on the book Black Robe by Brian Moore. R

The Apu Trilogy
Presents the moving saga of Apu and his family in India. Directed by Satyajit Ray.  NR
Werckmeister Harmonies

Waking Life
Join Wiley Wiggins as he searches for answers to the question of whether we are sleepwalking through our waking state or wake-walking through our dreams. Directed by Richard Linklater. Produced by Twentieth Century Fox. R
Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian word meaning variously: crazy life, life in turmoil, life disintegrating, life out of balance (the subtitle for this film), and a state of life that calls for another way of life. This film presents a concert of visual images set to the music of Philip Glass that progesses from purely natural environments to nature as affected by man, and finally to man's own manmade environment that is devoid of nature. Directed by Godfrey Reggio. NR
Peter and Paul

13 Conversations About One Thing
In five distinct New York tales, the lives of seemingly disparate characters are interwoven to create a touching tapestry that warms the heart. Directed by Jill Sprecher. Starring Matthew McConaughey. R
The Sweet Hereafter
Documents the effects of a tragic bus accident on the population of a small town. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Starring Ian Holm & Caerthan Banks. Based on the book The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks. R
Dersu Uzala

84.   Trial of Joan of Arc
85.   Summer/The Green Ray
Fiddler on the Roof
Tevye is a poor Jewish milkman with five unmarried daughters to support in a village in Czarist Russia. With a sharp tongued wife at home and growing anti-Semitism in the village, Tevye talks to God about his troubles. His people's traditions keep him strong when his existence is as precariously balanced as a fiddler on the roof. Directed by Norman Jewison. Starring Topol & Norma Crane. Based on the play Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein. PG
Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette)
Story of an unemployed man and his son in war devastated Rome. The father finds a job pasting up posters, work requiring a bicycle to get around. The bicycle is stolen; panic stricken at being unable to recover his bicycle and at the prospect of losing his job, the father is compelled to steal a bicycle , only to be caught and humiliated in front of his son. Directed by Vittorio De Sica. (Italy) NR
The Year of Living Dangerously
Guy Hamilton is an ambitious Australian reporter on his first overseas assignment and is befriended by a short Eurasian cameraman with connections in high places. Hamilton soon gains an entree to the rebel leaders, as well as insight into Jakarta's grim realities. Directed by Peter Weir. Starring Mel Gibson. Based on the book by C.J. Koch. PG
89.   L'Argent
The Elephant Man
Based on a true story, the film examines the complex emotional experiences faced by John Merrick, the " Elephant Man " when he is discovered by a dedicated surgeon. Rescued from his degrading life as a circus freak, Merrick is given a chance to live his last years with comfort, respect, and dignity. Directed by David Lynch. Starring Anthony Hopkins & John Hurt. Based on the books The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Sir Frederick Treves and in part on The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu. PG
Faust: Eine Deutsche Volkssage
Classic tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil, based on Goethe's Faust and folk sagas. Directed by F.W. Murnau. Starring Gosta Ekman & Emil Jannings. Based on the book Faust by Johann Goethe. NR
92.   Molokai: The Story of Father Damien
93.   A Moment of Innocence
Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources
The story of Jean Cadoret, a hunchback who inherits a farm from his mother and foolishly hopes to become a gentleman farmer. But even before he arrives, his powerful neighbor is plotting to steal his land. The ending is heartbreak and tragedy for Jean who is no match for his wily neighbor. Directed by Claude Berri. Starring Yves Montand & Gérard Depardieu. Based on the book Jean de Florette by Marcel Pagnol. PG
Sansho Dayu

Lilies of the Field
A free-spirited ex G.I. (Poitier) stumbles upon five refugee nuns in Arizona and helps them build a chapel. Directed by Ralph Nelson. Starring Sidney Poitier & Lilia Skala. Based on the book Lilies of the Field by William Barrett. NR
The Wind Will Carry Us

The Addiction

The Song of Bernadette
Until a miracle changes their minds, church and state officials persecute a simple, ingenuous peasant girl who claims to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary. Directed by Henry King. Starring Jennifer Jones. Based on the book The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel. NR
Tales of Ugetsu