30 Best Religious Movies

Religious cinema was born with the launch of the cinematograph. Indeed, already Louis Lumiere in 1897 filmed La Passion (The Life and Passion of Christ). The genre gained its great master in the silent era of film, who was Cecil B. DeMille. After the war, the filmmaker was joined by other directors, such as Franco Zefirelli and Roger Young.

Religious movies are pictures that are based on Christian messages and values in the European cultural circle. Within the cinema of this trend, several varieties can be distinguished. The first of these is the biblical film, that is, which tells stories from the Bible – the Old and New Testaments. Here we are dealing with a kind of screen adaptation of ancient texts, without special formal treatments. Religious films of this kind were made, for example, by DeMille, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Martin Scorsese.

The second variety of religious cinema are works focused on theological and philosophical issues. This can include some films by Luis Bunuel or Ingmar Bergman. These are works that consider the mystery of human existence in a metaphysical context. Others, on the other hand, are “moralizing” films, focusing on the ethical side of religion and the implementation of its principles in everyday life. Such features can be found in the cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski or Robert Bresson.

Religious films of another variety are hagiographic cinema, telling the lives of saints. Particularly popular in this regard is the figure of St. Francis, but often also figures are presented that are not necessarily canonized, but in some way important to Christians. Connected to this type of works are works that tell the stories of popular places of worship, such as Fatima or Lourdes. Religious cinema can also include films depicting the presence of a vivid metaphysical experience in human existence, such as G. Axel’s “Babette’s Feast” (1987).

Best religious films

1. ”The Ten Commandments”, 1923

Best religious movies - The Ten Commandments

“The Ten Commandments” from 1923 is the first spectacular religious movie. Its director was Cecil B. DeMille, who became a true specialist in biblical cinema. The film is the first link of a larger series. The plot proceeds on two tracks: in the time of Moses and in the modern era. The Ten Commandments shows the Egyptian captivity of the people of Israel, the escape of the Jews through the Red Sea and the wandering through the desert in search of the Promised Land. The character of Moses was played by Theodore Roberts. DeMille also produced a remake of his film in 1956.

2. “The King of Kings”, 1927

Best religious films - The King of Kings

“The King of Kings” is the second part of DeMille’s series of silent religious movies. The film depicts the last stage of Jesus’ public activity, passion and resurrection. The role of Christ was played by H. B. Warner. “The King of Kings” became famous as the first film in which the face of the Messiah was shown on the screen in close-ups. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was played by Dorothy Cumming.

3. “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (“La passion de Jeanne d’Arc”), 1928

The 30 best religious movies - the Passion of Joan of Arc

“The Passion of Joan of Arc” is a silent masterpiece by Carl Theodor Dreyer. The movie shows the death of the famous Frenchwoman, who was tried by the Church and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. The leading role was played by Renee Falconetti. The work was conceived along the lines of a Greek tragedy, as we have a unity of place, time and action, as well as a tragic choice between faith and the desire to save life. The film is a universal statement, Dreyer took care to erase the color of the era. As a result, the work is a timely story about the triumph of freedom and dignity, which have a higher price than temporal life.

4. ”Golgotha”, 1935

The 30 religious films - Golgotha

“Golgotha” is a French outstanding religious film, which was made before World War II. Julien Duvivier presented here the story of Christ’s passion. The role of Jesus was played by Robert Le Vigan, while Pilate was played by Jean Gabin himself, one of the finest French actors. This was the first sound film to depict the character of Christ. He is shown mainly from a distance, but direct shots and close-ups also appear. The music for the film was composed by Jacques Ibert.

5. “The Song of Bernadette”, 1943

the best religious movies of all time - The Song of Bernadette

“The Song of Bernadette” is Henry King’s famous movie depicting the life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous. At the age of fourteen, the girl experienced apparitions of Our Lady, and at the site of the visions – in Lourdes – a spring with miraculous healing properties was dug up. The film won a Golden Globe and four Oscars, and one of the Academy Award statuettes was presented to the lead actress, Jennifer Jones. The role of Mary was played by Linda Darnell.

6. “Monsieur Vincent” (1947)

The best religious films of all time - Monsieour Vincent

“Monsieur Vincent” is a French religious film featuring the biography of Saint Vincent à Paulo, protector of the poor and founder of several religious congregations. St. Vincent à Paulo fights for the recognition of the dignity of every human being at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries in a Europe gripped by a plague epidemic. The main character is played by Pierre Fresnay, awarded the Volpi Cup at the Venice IFF. The picture won an honorary Oscar.

7. “Samson and Delilah”, 1949

best christian movies - Samson and Delilah

“Samson and Dalilah” is another biblical movie by Cecil B. DeMille. Awarded two Oscars, the work tells the story of a great Israelite strongman who is lost in love with a beautiful Philistine woman. The cunning woman wants to know the source of her husband’s power at all costs. She decides to use the unusual discovery for her own purposes. Samson is played by Victor Mature, while Dalila is played by Hedy Lamarr.

8. “The Flowers of St. Francis” (“Francesco, giullare di Deo”), 1950

List of the christians films - The flowers of st francis

“Francesco, giullare di Deo” is a religious movie by Roberto Rossellini based on the medieval short story collection The Flowers of Saint Francis. Giovanni Bernardone, a monk living in the 13th century, begins to fight for the moral and religious renewal of his time. The leading roles were played by members of the Franciscan order. The film was co-written by Federico Fellini.

9. ”Ben-Hur” (1959)

biblical movies - Ben Hur

“Ben-Hur” is an American superproduction that won as many as eleven Academy Awards. William Wyler’s movie tells the story of an Israeli prince, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), who is falsely accused of an attempt on the life of a Roman governor and punished with exile from Judea. In the desert, the man meets Jesus and, influenced by his teachings, completely changes his life. The hero’s Roman friend and then enemy, Messala, was played by Stephen Boyd, while Ben-Hur’s beautiful sister, Esther, was played by Haya Harareet.

10. ”The Robe”, 1953

the best biblical films - The Robe

“The Robe” is based on the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas. The film tells the story of a Roman tribune, Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton), who exercises authority over the soldiers who carry out the crucifixion of Jesus. After these events, the robe of Christ, over which the soldiers play dice, becomes the property of Marcellus. At first, the man does not attach importance to his ornament, but over time he begins to take more and more interest in its power, as well as in the man to whom it belonged. The film was awarded two Oscars and a Golden Globe.

11. ”Barabbas”, 1962

movies about god - Barabbas

“Barabbas” is an Italian-American superproduction telling the story of a Jewish villain who was freed by Pilate instead of Jesus. In the villain’s subsequent life, the enigma of the mysterious Jesus of Nazareth, undeservedly crucified during the Passover feast, constantly recurs. Playing the title role was Anthony Quinn. The film also starred Italian star Silvana Mangano.

12. ”The Gratest Story Ever Told”, 1965

spiritual movies - The greatest story ever told

“The Gratest Story Ever Told” is the tale of the life of Jesus Christ completely different in form from the big super productions. This is because the director focused on fidelity to the Gospel message and artistic means of expression. An outstanding creation of Christ was created in the film by Max von Sydow. The role of John the Baptist was played by Charlton Heston, Peter by Gary Raymond, while Mary was played by Janet Margolin. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in five categories.

13. „The Gospel According to St. Matthew” („Il vangelo secondo Matteo”), 1964

movies about religion - the gospel acording to st matthew

“The Gospel According to St. Matthew” is Pasolini’s artistic masterpiece, featuring numerous references to European painting and classical music motifs. The Italian director portrays the life of Jesus from his birth to his passion and resurrection. Significant in the film, however, is the shift in focus from the religious meaning of the film to its socio-ideological aspect. For Pasolini’s Christ is the first revolutionary in history to give his life for an oppressed people. The leading role was played by a Spaniard – Enrique Irazoqui.

14. “Andrei Rublev”(„Andrey Rublyov”), 1966

films about religion - Andrei Rublev

“Andrei Rublev” is a famous movie by Andrei Tarkovsky. The picture depicts the story of an Orthodox saint living in medieval times. Rublev was a monk and writer of icons, living in the territory of Rus. Although he experienced wars and saw human cruelty, he did not lose his faith, but strengthened it in his neighbors. The character of Rublev was played by Anatoli Solonitsyn. The film long had problems with Soviet censorship, and its final version was heavily modified.

The greatest religious films

15. ”Jesus of Nazareth”, 1977

30 greatest religious movies - Jesus of Nazareth

Franco Zefirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” is one of the most perfect portrayals of Christ in the history of film. The four-episode miniseries faithfully shows the Gospel story of the Messiah from his birth to his resurrection. The character of Jesus was extremely evocative played by Robert Powell. Excellent performances were also created by Olivia Hussey as Mary, Anne Brancroft as Mary Magdalene, Christopher Plummer as Herod and James Mason as Joseph of Arimathea.

16. ”Jesus Christ Superstar”, (1973)

the gretest religious films - Jesus Christ Superstar

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is a screen adaptation of the famous rock-opera. The musical uses the theme of theater in film: here is a group of young actors going to the desert to prepare a staging of a play about the life of Christ. Each of the characters played must face his own moral dilemmas: Judas with his belief in Jesus’ divinity, Mary Magdalene with her love for him, and Christ himself with his fear of death. The role of Jesus was played by Ted Neeley, Judas by Carl Anderson, and Mary Magdalene by Yvonne Elliman. The film won six Golden Globes nominations and an Academy Award. The characters in the story were styled as the hippie generation.

17. ”Brother Sun, Sister Moon” (”Fratello sole, sorella luna”), 1972

Spiritual movies - Brother Sun, Sister Moon

“Brother Sun, Sister Moon” is Zefirelli’s movie about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francesco Bernardone, a young man from a good and wealthy home, begins to search for the meaning of existence. He comes to the conclusion that he must abandon the superfluities of this world and build a new life on poverty and maximum union with nature. Graham Faulkner starred as Saint Francis. The film was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA award. It also won a Donatello statuette.

18. ”From a Far Country”, 1981

inspiring christian movies - From a Far Country

“From a Far Country” is Krzysztof Zanussi’s award-winning film at the Venice IFF about the life of Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II. The picture is also a panorama of the socio-political changes in Poland after World War II. Karol Wojtyla was played by Cezary Morawski. The film’s cinematography was done by Slawomir Idziak, and the music was composed by Wojciech Kilar.

19. ”The Mission”, 1986

the 30 best biblical movies - The Mission

“The Mission” is a famous Roland Joffe film with beautiful music by Ennio Morricone. The film is set in the 18th century in the jungles of South America, on the territory of a Spanish colony, where a Jesuit (Jeremy Irons) and a converted slave trader (Robert De Niro) build a mission for the Guarani Indians. When the Portuguese take over the colony, the mission is to be dismantled. Unexpectedly, the Jesuits, along with the local population, decide to fight to save the mission. The film was showered with prestigious awards such as the Palme d’Or at Cannes, an Oscar, two Golden Globes and several BAFTA awards.

20. „Thérèse” (1986)

list of christian films - Therese

“Thérèse”, directed by Cavelier, is a French religious film depicting the biography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a doctor of the Catholic Church. A girl at the age of fifteen makes a pilgrimage to Rome, where she asks the Holy Father for the opportunity to enter a Carmelite convent. Two of her older sisters are already in the order. Thérèse obtains permission to begin her novitiate. The film was awarded six Cesars.

21. ”To Kill a Priest”, 1988

faith-based films - To Kill a priest

“To Kill a Priest” is Agnieszka Holland’s movie about the patriotic activities of Father Jerzy Popieluszko and the bestial murder carried out on him. Stefan (Ed Harris) is an SB investigator who tracks down a clergyman who is dangerous from the point of view of the authorities. Over time, the official assignment turns into a personal obsession for the officer, who begins to feel a genuine hatred for the priest and will not hesitate to do anything to achieve his goal. The role of Popieluszko was played by Christopher Lambert.

22. ”Life for Life: Maximilian Kolbe” (1991)

faith based movies - Life for Life

“Life for Life” is a film by Krzysztof Zanussi about the activities and martyrdom of Father Maximilian Kolbe, who died in the German death camp at Auschwitz in 1941. We learn about the saint’s story through the lens of the fate of another character, Jan Tytz, a prisoner whose escape brought terrible punishment on his other comrades: 10 men were sentenced to death by starvation. Father Kolbe voluntarily replaced one of the men designated by the Germans and gave his life for him. The role of the saint was played by Edward Żentara.

23. „Faustina” (1994)

movies about christianity - Faustina

“Faustina” is a movie depicting the life of the famous Krakow saint, a mystic who experienced revelations of Jesus Christ in the 1930s. Based on the visions of Faustina Kowalska, a painting with the caption “Jesus, I trust in you” was created, and the Divine Mercy Sanctuary was built at the site of the miraculous events, in Krakow’s Lagiewniki. An excellent creation of the Polish mystic was created by Dorota Segda in Lukaszewicz’s film. In turn, the author of the beautiful music for the film was Wojciech Kilar.

24. „Joseph”, 1995

the greatest biblical films - Joseph

“Joseph” is a biblical movie directed by Roger Young, a well-known author of religious cinema. The picture tells the story of Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob (martin Landau), sold in the slave market by his own brothers. The Jewish young man ends up in the house of Potiphar (Ben Kingsley). The role of Joseph was played by Paul Mercurio, while the Pharaoh’s wife was played by Monica Bellucci.

25. ”Jesus” (1999)

films about christianity - Jesus

“Jesus” is another religious film by Roger Young. It presents the story of the life and death of Jesus Christ. The figure of the Messiah was portrayed in an extremely human way, although not always completely faithful to the Gospel. The role of Jesus was played by Jeremy Sisto, in addition, the film featured Jacqueline Bisset, Debra Messing, David O’Hara and Gary Oldman. Young’s miniseries was nominated for an Emmy Award.

26. ”The Primate” (“Prymas, trzy lata z Tysiąclecia”), 2000

religious movies - the primate

”The Primate” depicts the fate of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Primate of Poland, who was imprisoned by communist authorities from 1953 to 1956 due to the clergyman’s official condemnation of the actions of the socialist government. Despite strenuous attempts to break the primate’s stance, he resisted provocations. The role of Wyszynski was played by Andrzej Seweryn. In addition, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Jerzy Trela and Maja Ostaszewska took part in the film.

27. ”The Gift of Divine Mercy” (”Dar Bożego Miłosierdzia”), 2003

“The Gift of Divine Mercy” is a documentary movie about Sister Faustina Kowalska, a saint of the Catholic Church. Dorota Segda and Artur Dziurman played the role of narrators. The life of the saint was shown against the background of the general problems of faith facing the modern Catholic.

28. “The Passion of the Christ”, 2004

Christian movies about God - The Passion of the Christ

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Chriest” is one of the most famous religious films in the history of cinema. The extremely evocative vision of the last hours of Jesus’ life and his passion was based on the visions of Blessed Anna Catherine Emmerich. The role of Christ was played by Jim Caviezel. Mary was played by Maia Morgenstern, Mary Magdalene by Monica Belucci, Judas by Luca Lionello, and Peter the Apostle by Francesco De Vto. The film operates with realistic means of expression and has a strong impact on the viewer’s sensibility. The Passion earned three Academy Award nominations.

29. „Lourdes” (2009)

list of religious films - Lourdes

Jessica Hausner’s “Lourdes” is a high-profile film presented at the Venice International Film Festival. The drama depicts the healing of a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis. Christine, although a non-believer, takes part in a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Unexpectedly, at the place where St. Bernadette experienced apparitions, the heroine regains the power in her legs. However, it is not clear whether a miracle is occurring or whether it is only a temporary improvement in health.

30. ”Noah”, 2014

Film based on Bible - Noah

Darren Aronofksky’s “Noah” is, like all of the director’s films, a great spectacle. The biblical story of the man who is the only one of mankind to be chosen by God to save himself from the great flood and give birth to new life on earth is presented in a fresh and fascinating way. The portrait of Noah, played by Russel Crowe, is complex and non-obvious. And the choices he faces make him a tragic hero.