Some people go to church. Some do not. But everyone watches movies. And when it comes to film, religion isn't nearly the either/or choice we find in real life. As the following films - along with Darren Aronosfky's upcoming Noah - prove, religion can be a great plot motivator and an awesome excuse for big demonic showdowns and acts of heroism.
Say what you will about Kevin Smith, but he really went for something unique with 1999's Dogma. The story of the last scion (that's Jesus' last living relative) versus a couple of rogue angels bent on delivering the apocalypse has a lot of big ideas about theology and isn't afraid to spew them out among foul-mouthed monologues and rampant acts of deviant behavior.
End of Days
Many overlook this late Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, but it's actually quite good. While the idea of a depressed, suicidal Arnold fighting Satan probably seems about as realistic as Arnold getting pregnant or teaching kindergarten, the end result has a lot going for it and remains a pleasantly odd entry among the actor's other big action movies.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones hardly seems like the church-going type. Still, his opening adventure leans heavily on religious iconography to get its thrills across. And if there's any doubt that God can deliver a rousing action finale, just look at what happens to Nazis hubristic enough to open his ark. Unless you want your face melted off, this is one God you don't want to mess with.
John Constantine deals with all kinds of hellish beasts, conniving angels and even Satan himself. His world is defined by Catholic doctrine, but like a sleazy defense attorney, he knows how to manipulate it to reflect his needs. Or he tries, anyway. Actually, it's a pretty rocky road for him, but that's half the fun.
This Is the End
This Is the End rivals and maybe even surpasses Dogma's level of profanity in a totally religious film. This one trades a poo-monster for a kaiju-sized demon with a massive, free-swinging dong. And instead of Alanis Morissette as God, this film features the Backstreet Boys reunited as celestial crooners. It's awesome.
The Last Temptation of Christ
Martin Scorsese's 1988 masterpiece takes the religious pageantry out of Christ's story and instead tells a moving drama about a man who must do something both extraordinary and extremely difficult, which imbues the religious tale at its core with more power and pathos than ever before.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Never forget that King Arthur and his noble knights quested for the Holy Grail at God's personal request. So even when confronting vicious flying rabbits, three-headed knights, and the entire London police squad, this silly adventure remains a thoroughly religious pursuit. One that ends in failure.
Religion aids many horror films, not just because demons are cool (though that certainly helps) but because the battle of good versus evil always seems just a little bit cooler when we're talking God versus the Devil. The Exorcist offers a clear-cut case where something as simple as faith stands as the only weapon able to expel a demon from an innocent girl's body, turning religion into a kind of superpower.
God doesn't really have much place in the world of Rosemary's Baby, but you sure wish he or at least one of his angels would show up and give poor Rosemary a helping hand as everyone else around her ends up involved in a nefarious plot to impregnate her with Satan's child so she can give birth to the Antichrist. Never has the idea of church seemed like a safer haven. Unless they're involved too!
Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight
Only a rapidly depleting supply of Christ's blood can save the world from total demonic domination. That strange conceit - along with William Sadler and Billy Zane's incredibly fun performances as the harried savior and would-be destroyer of the human race - give this film a huge shot of entertainment it wouldn't have otherwise. This is one where God's team seriously lives life on the losing side.
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