Christian Movies Nominated for Oscars

This is a list of 27 films with strong religious themes that have been nominated for major Oscars. Those films that the Vatican chose for its list of the top 45 films are noted with V45. The American Bishops' website's rating is noted with All, Teen (teen & adult), and Adult.

Use the list to choose films from video stores and the library. Better still buy or suggest some of these movies to your public library. I find that librarians are happy to include Oscar nominated religious films if I buy them. I have written pages on suggesting Catholic movies and books to public libraries.

A more detailed explination of the list and my opinions on some of the films I have seen have been placed after the list.

  • "Angels with Dirty Faces" 1939 Nominated Best Actor | Teen
  • "Boys Town" 1939 Won Best Actor, Nominated Best Picture, and Director | All
  • "The Song of Bernadette" 1943 Nominated Best Actress | All
  • "Going My Way" 1944 Won Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Director | All
  • "The Keys of the Kingdom" Nominated Best Actor | All
  • "The Bells of Saint Mary" 1945 Nominated Best Picture, Actor, Actress, and Director | All
  • "It's a Wonderful Life" 1946 Nominated Best Picture, Actor, and Director | V45 | Teen
  • "Joan of Arc" 1947 Nominated Best Actress | All
  • "Quo Vidas" 1951 Nominated Best Picture | All
  • "The Robe" 1953 Nominated Best Picture, and Actor | All
  • "The Ten Commandments" 1956 Nominated Best Picture | All
  • "Ben Hur" 1959 Won Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Director | V45 | All
  • "The Nun's Story" 1959 Nominated Best Actress | Teen
  • "Elmer Gantry" 1960 Won Best Actor and nominated for Best Picture | Adult
  • "Inherit the Wind" 1960 Nominated Best Actor | Adult
  • "Lillies of the Field" 1963 Won Best Actor, Nominated Best Picture | All
  • "Becket" 1964 Nominated Best Picture, and Actor (Not reviewd by American Bishops' site.)

    The American Catholic Bishops' site provides a top ten list for all years from 1965 on. I note those films with B10.

  • "The Sound of Music" 1965 Won Best Picture, Nominated Best Actress and Supporting Actress | B10 | All
  • "A Man for All Seasons" 1966 Won Best Picture and Actor, Nominated Best Supporting Actor and Actress | V45 | B10 | All
  • "The Exorcist" 1973 Nominated Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress | Adult??? The only picture on the list to get a 4, adults only and with reservations. Condemed by the Legion of Decency
  • "Chariots of Fire" 1981 Won Best Picture and Nominated Best Supporting Actor | V45 | B10 | All
  • "Raiders of the Lost Ark" 1981 Nominated Best Picture | Adult
  • "Tender Mercies" 1983 Won Best Actor and nominated Best Picture | B10 | Teen
  • "The Mission" 1986 Nominated Best Picture | V45 | B10 | Adult
  • "Shadowlands" 1993 Nominated Best Actress | B10 | Teen
  • "Dead Man Walking" 1995 Nominated Best Actress | B10 | Adult
  • "The Apostle" 1997 Nominated Best Actor | B10 | Adult
    The above list includes movies from 1930 to the present that were nominated for Best Picture, Actor, or Actress. I have included all the movies that I know of that have major religious themes.

    Some of them may not be appropriate for you or your family, and you would not want to suggest them for the library. "Elmer Gantry", and "Inherit the Wind" might be considered anti-religious,"The Exorcist" is too horrible, and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" not serious enough. I have included them in the list because people might want to use the list for other reasons. Perhaps they are interested in how many movies with religious themes have been nominated and how that has changed over time. The 40's, 50's and early 60's were particularly good for religious films.

    The Bishops' rating system is as follows,

  • A-I -- general patronage;
  • A-II -- adults and adolescents;
  • A-III -- adults;
  • A-IV -- adults, with reservations (an A-IV classification designates problematic films that, while not morally offensive in themselves, require caution and some analysis and explanation as a safeguard against wrong interpretations and false conclusions);
  • O -- morally offensive.

    They have recently replace the A-IV rating with L for limited.

    For the above list I noted A-I as All, A-II as Teen, A-II as Adult, and A-IV as Adult???. There was only one Adult???, the Exorcist and no O. Note to Hollywood, really offensive religious movies are made, but they lose money and do not get Oscar nominations. If you want to make money and win awards, do not offend the people's faith.

    You can check the reviews on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops web site to see if they are appropriate for your family. Some are highly recommended for adults, but not recommended for children.

    The Vatican list of the top 45 films is another important resource. The list is split into three categories, one for films on religion, another for films with moral messages, and a final category for films which are particularly artistic. The religion category is particularly important. The values category also has some good prospects. The artistic category includes films that are more problematic. They maybe a fine artistic experience for mature Catholics, but they probably have little value as an evangelical tool in the library nor are they appropriate for families.

    Another resource for evaluating films is decentfilms.com a web site by Steven D. Greydanus who writes for the National Catholic Register, This Rock, and many other orthodox Catholic magazines.

    Still another way to evaluate films is to check Catholic publishers like Ignatius Press. The videos they sell are more likely to support the Catholic faith.

    The National Catholic Register conducted a poll to determine the Top 100 Most Pro-Catholic Movies. Check it out.

    If you have a subscription to Amazon Prime you can watch some of the religious films mentioned here and many others for free. I have a web page on a few of their religioius films. Check it out.

    I have seen many of these films, here are a few thoughts.

    "Angels with Dirty Faces" is about a good priest who helps delinquent boys. It ends with him encouraging an adult to do something positive but perhaps not altogether honest. There maybe a theme of manipulating kids into being good.

    I really liked "The Song of Bernadette", I think this is a particularly good evangelization movie.

    "Going My Way" and its sequel "The Bells of Saint Mary" are good. They are movies of their era and will be considered corny by some.

    I have not seen "It's a Wonderful Life" but my library already has several copies, maybe yours does too, in which case it is not relevant for evangelization.

    "The Nun's Story" is about a nun leaving religious life because she falls in love. The Catholic Bishops web site is kind to this movie, but I doubt it has evangelical value.

    "Elmer Gantry" is about fanatical and often dishonest and sinful Protestant Pentecostal leaders. It may have artistic value but not much evangelical value.

    "Inherit the Wind" is about the Scopes Monkey Trial. It changes the history in many ways that make the Christians look evil and stupid. It maybe art, but it is both dishonest and anti-Christian.

    "Lillies of the Field" I saw it, I liked it. I think it is pro-religion.

    I am not sure "Becket" is really favorable to religion and the Catholic Church. Perhaps I should see it again.

    "The Sound of Music" a greatly loved film with fun music, I am not sure it has much evangelical value.

    "A Man for All Seasons" should be one of our prime prospects. Probably one of the best movies for Catholic evanglization.

    I have not seen "The Exorcist" all the way through. The Bishops web site gives it an A-IV, not an O, but they think it is fairly marginal and only for adults. Some might think this is an antedote for "Harry Potter" movies. This is what happens to you if you dabble in the occult. One very famous Catholic exorcist, Cardinal O'Connor of New York, felt it gives a fairly accurate picture of exorcism.

    The local Protestants have already gotten several copies of "Chariots of Fire" into our library. You might want to leave movies like this to our separated brethern.

    "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is too light to be of much evangelical value, but it does remind us that George Lucas has made a huge amount of money on both the Star Wars movies and the Indiana Jones movies. All these films have religious themes which I believe are basically friendly to traditional religion. On the other hand Lucas is not taking sides, he is perhaps as pro-Buddhist as he is pro-Christian. I like to believe that his message is that spirituality is good, but he is not pretending to know much about it. I think this was a common Hollywood attitude that has unfortunately lost. Many other people in Hollywood do not know anything about religion, but they want to explain it to their spriritual superiors, the average man and woman.

    "Tender Mercies" is Protestant, but this is the one film Protestants do not buy for the library. Maybe we should suggest that they do.

    "The Mission" is perhaps critical of the Catholic Church, but the Catholic Church seems to love it. The Vatican has included this on it's list of best movies and the Bishops gave it a top ten for the year ranking.

    "Dead Man Walking" is rated R, be warned it is for adults. It did make the American bishop's top ten list.

    "The Apostle" is about a violent, and sinful Pentecostal preacher. This maybe a pro-religious movie, but it probably not at the top of our list of evangelical Catholic movies. On the other hand, the American Bishops did put it on their top ten list.

  • Page on evangelizing by giving Christian movies to the library
  • Page on evangelizing by suggesting Christian books to the library
  • Page on Christian children's videos available free on the Internet". Includes Miracle Maker, and a Veggie Tales movie.
  • A video game that is base on the same spiritual principal as the Rosary, even thought that may not have been the intention of the man who wrote the game, or perhaps it was, who knows.
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    Page last updated February 20, 2012