[Note: This post originally appeared on the blog in 2009.]

I’m a sucker for movies, lists, and religious discussions. So when Arts & Faith started compiling lists of Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films in 2004, my interest was naturally piqued. (They’ve put the list out a few other times but this seems to be the best version.)

After seeing the list, though, I was left with a vague sense of disappointment. While there are many worthy inclusions, overall the list feels rather sparse and banal. Maybe that is an inevitable result of the list being compiled by popular vote. Or perhaps its due to the short time film has been an art form as compared to other mediums, such as literature. Then again it could be that I haven’t viewed enough of the films listed (I’ve only seen 48 of the 100). Whatever its shortcomings, the compilation does serve the primary purpose of such listmaking: to offer an abundance of material for debate. In that regard, the effort is a complete success.

Included amidst such spiritual gems as The Apostle and Ponette are ho-hum entries like Fearless and Secrets and Lies. As soon as you begin to wonder what the voters could have been thinking, you find they’ve snuck in a few minor masterpieces ( Groundhog Day , Unforgiven ) that might have otherwise been overlooked. But just as soon as they regain my confidence I have to question how they could include Lars von Trier’s Dogville but not his hauntingly beautiful Dancer in the Dark. And what about . . . well, you get the idea.

Listed below are the hundred titles that were included (the ones I’ve seen are highlighted in bold). Beside the entries I’ve added a rating of one to four asterisks. The scale is not a measure of the movies overall quality but on what I would deem its “spiritual significance.”

13 Conversations About One Thing, 2001, Jill Sprecher

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968, Stanley Kubrick (*)

The Addiction, 1995, Abel Ferrara (*)

Amadeus, 1984, Milos Forman (**)

American Beauty, 1999, Sam Mendes (0 stars)

Andrei Rublev, 1969, Andrei Tarkovsky

The Apostle, 1997, Robert Duvall (****)

Au Hasard Balthazar, 1966, Robert Bresson

Babettes Gestebud (“Babette’s Feast”), 1987, Gabriel Axel

Bad Lieutenant, 1987, Abel Ferrara (*)

Bad ma ra khahad bord (“The Wind Will Carry Us”), 1999, Abbas Kiarostami

The Big Kahuna, 1999, John Swanbeck

Blade Runner, 1982, Ridley Scott (***)

Breaking The Waves, 1996, Lars von Trier (***)

Changing Lanes, 2002, Roger Michell (**)

Chariots of Fire, 1981, Hugh Hudson (***)

Code inconnu (“Code Unknown”), 2000, Michael Haneke

Crimes And Misdemeanors, 1989, Woody Allen

Days of Heaven, 1978, Terrence Malick

Dead Man Walking, 1995, Tim Robbins (**)

Dekalog (“The Decalogue”), 1987, Krzysztof Kieslowski (****)

Dersu Uzala, 1975, Akira Kurosawa

Dogma, 1999, Kevin Smith (**)

Dogville, 2003, Lars von Trier (*)

La Dolce vita, 1960, Federico Fellini (*)

The Elephant Man, 1980, David Lynch

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004, Michel Gondry (**)

Fearless, 1993, Peter Weir (*)

Fight Club, 1999, David Fincher (***)

Le Fils (“The Son”), 2002, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Fuori dal mondo (“Not of This World”), 1999, Giuseppe Piccioni

Grand Canyon, 1991, Lawrence Kasdan (*)

Groundhog Day, 1993, Harold Ramis (***)

Hell House, 2001, George Ratliff

Henry V, 1989, Kenneth Branagh (***)

Der Himmel ¸ber Berlin (“Wings of Desire”), 1987, Wim Wenders

Ikiru (“To Live”), 1952, Akira Kurosawa

It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946, Frank Capra (****)

Jean de Florette, Manon des sources, 1986, Claude Berri (**)

Jesus De Montreal (“Jesus of Montreal”), 1989, Denys Arcand

Jesus Of Nazareth, 1977, Franco Zeffirelli

Le Journal D’un CurÈ De Campagne (“The Diary of a Country Priest”), 1951, Robert Bresson

Ladri di biciclette (“The Bicycle Thief”), 1948, Vittorio De Sica

The Last Days of Disco, 1998, Whit Stillman (**)

The Last Temptation Of Christ, 1988, Martin Scorsese

Life of Brian, 1979, Terry Jones (**)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, 2001-2003, Peter Jackson (***)

Ma nuit chez Maud (“My Night At Maud’s”), 1969, Eric Rohmer

Magnolia, 1999, Paul Thomas Anderson (***)

A Man For All Seasons, 1966, Fred Zinnemann (***)

The Matrix, 1999, Andy & Larry Wachowski (***)

Mies vailla menneisyytt‰ (“The Man Without A Past”), 2002, Aki Kaurismaki

The Miracle Maker, 2000, Derek W. Hayes & Stanislav Sokolov

The Mission, 1986, Roland Joffe (***)

Nema-ye Nazdik (“Close-Up”), 1990, Abbas Kiarostami

The Night Of The Hunter, 1955, Charles Laughton

Offretó Sacrificatio (“The Sacrifice”), 1986, Andrei Tarkovsky

On The Waterfront, 1954, Elia Kazan (*)

Ordet (“The Word”), 1955, Carl Theodor Dreyer

La Passion De Jeanne D’arc (“The Passion of Joan of Arc”), 1928, C. Dreyer

The Passion Of The Christ, 2004, Mel Gibson (**)

Peter and Paul, 1981, Robert Day

Ponette, 1996, Jacques Doillon (****)

The Prince Of Egypt, 1998, Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells (*)

La Promesse, 1996, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Punch-Drunk Love, 2002, P.T. Anderson (*)

Roma, citti aperta (“Open City”), 1945, Roberto Rossellini

Sansho Dayu (“Sansho the Bailiff”), 1954, Kenji Mizoguchi

Schindler’s List, 1993, Steven Spielberg (***)

Secrets & Lies, 1996, Mike Leigh (*)

Shadowlands, 1993, Richard Attenborough

The Shawshank Redemption, 1994, Frank Darabont (***)

Signs, 2002, M. Night Shyamalan (**)

The Sixth Sense, 1999, M. Night Shyamalan (**)

Det Sjunde Inseglet (“The Seventh Seal”), 1957, Ingmar Bergman (***)

Smultronst llet (“Wild Strawberries”), 1957, Ingmar Bergman

Solyaris (“Solaris”), 1972, Andrei Tarkovsky

Stalker, 1979, Andrei Tarkovsky

Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, 1977, 1980, 1983, George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand (*)

Stevie, 2002, Steve James (**)

The Straight Story, 1999, David Lynch (*)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, 1927, F.W. Murnau

Sanger fran andra vaningen (“Songs From the Second Floor”), 2000, Roy Andersson

The Sweet Hereafter, 1997, Atom Egoyan (***)

Tender Mercies, 1983, Bruce Beresford (***)

Trois coulers: Bleu, Trzy kolory: Bialy, Trois coulers: Rouge (“Three Colors: Blue, White, Red”), 1993, 1994, 1994, Krzysztof Kieslowski (***)

Tokyo Monogatari (“Tokyo Story”), 1953, Yasujiro Ozu

The Truman Show, 1998, Peter Weir (***)

Unforgiven, 1992, Clint Eastwood (****)

Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo (“The Gospel According to Matthew”), 1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini

Vanya on 42nd Street, 1994, Louis Malle (*)

Le Vent souffle o? il veut (“A Man Escaped”), 1956, Robert Bresson

La Vita Ë bella (“Life is Beautiful”), 1997, Roberto Benigni (**)

Vredens dag (“Day of Wrath”), 1943, Carl Theodor Dreyer

Waking Life, 2001, Richard Linklater

Werckmeister Harmonies, 2000, Bela Tarr

Witness, 1985, Peter Weir (*)

The Year Of Living Dangerously, 1982, Peter Weir

Yi yi (“Yi Yi: A One and a Two”), 2000, Edward Yang

Zerkalo (“The Mirror”), 1975, Andrei Tarkovsky

Agree with my choices and ratings? Which films would you include? And which films on the list should I watch?

Articles by Joe Carter

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