DRAMATIC PRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST TO ATHEISTS AND FREETHINKERS
compiled by Milt Timmons
- FEATURE FILMS
- SIXTEEN MILLIMETER FILMS AND TV PROGRAMS
- FEATURE FILMS IN WHICH CRITICISM OF RELIGION IS A SECONDARY THEME
Agnes of God - Psychopathology in a convent.
Angel Baby - Lust, jealousy, hypocrisy and fakery among tent-show revivalists in the 1950s. Starring Salome Jens, Henry Jones, and very young George Hamilton and Burt Reynolds. Similar to Elmer Gantry but not as trenchant.
Apostle, The - Study of the Pentecostal sub-culture. Robert Duvall stars in this character study of a semi-literate, quasi-psychotic preacher in the Deep South. Unfortunately, the character is too shallow to be very interesting. Long on preaching, short on plot. The premise seems to be that even though a religion may verge on insanity, it nevertheless does some good.
At Play in the Fields of the Lord - Greed, parading as self-righteousness, leads to destruction of South American Indians, just as it did to those in North America. Tom Berenger, Daryl Hannah, John Lithgow. Good anthropological study.
Bedazzled - Satire about Satan, starring Dudley Moore and Peter Cook.
Bible Salesman - Documentary by Fredrick Wiseman.
Black Robe - A Jesuit missionary tries to convert the Indians in 17th century North America. The resulting culture clash suggests that Christian mythology is just as primitive as that of the natives.
Blinded by the Light - One of three films about cults, with almost identical plots. A young man is captured by a cult, brainwashed, and then deprogrammed.
Candide - By Voltaire. Play about the foolishness of "faith" - made into a musical.
Cool Hand Luke - A man in the Bible Belt is arrested for being an unbeliever.
Crimes and Misdemeanors - A morality play by Woody Allen about the nature of good and evil, which examines and rejects the claims of theism.
Crucible, The - By Arthur Miller. Ostensibly about witches of Salem, but used as a metaphor for McCarthyism.
Dark Habits (or Dark Hideout) - By Pedro Almodovar. Spanish, with English subtitles. Wicked satire about a woman on the lam, who hides out in a convent full of wacko nuns.
Deconstructing Harry - Woody Allen, playing the role of a neurotic author, has personality clashes with everybody - particularly with his Jewish family, since he identifies himself as an atheist.
Defending Your Life - Starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep. Writer-Director Brooks carries the concepts of purgatory and reincarnation through to their hilarious consequences.
Devils, The - By Ken Russell, based on a book by Aldous Huxley. More psychopathology in a nunnery, but this one during the Inquisition.
Devil's Advocate, The - Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves star in updated version of a medieval morality play. Basically, this is a sequel to Paradise Lost - and second cousin to Damn Yankees, Devil and Daniel Webster, etc. In this incarnation, Satan assumes the form of a New York lawyer.
Disappearance of Sister Aimee, The - About the founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church.
Dragnet - With Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks. Parody of the old TV series. Head of a thinly disguised Moral Majority is actually in collusion with a thinly disguised Hugh Heffner. They need each other as scapegoats to promote themselves.
El - By Louis Bunuel.
Elmer Gantry - Starring Burt Lancaster. This Academy Award winner is the story of a tent-show revivalist during the 1920s.
Fall from Grace - NBC Movie of the Week about Jim and Tammy Bakker. Surprisingly honest for a network production.
Fanny and Alexander - By Ingmar Bergman. Two children try to survive a clerical stepfather.
Flatliners - An atheist doctor is portrayed as the most sympathetic character, but the plot tends to promote a mystical interpretation of near-death experiences.
Galileo - About his heresy trial and conviction.
Glory, Glory! - Starring Richard Thomas, James Whitmore, and Ellen Green. A two-part Movie of the Week, produced by HBO. Probably the most trenchant satire of the Electronic Church that has been released. Hilarious.
Godless Girl, The - A 1928 silent film by C.B. DeMille, based on an event in the life of atheist leader Queen Silver. But mostly a potboiler about how the atheist girl falls in love with a theistic man as they try to escape from prison. Of course, in the end she finds God. A hoot!
Gospel According to Vic, The - A comedy about how the tabloids try to elevate an atheist teacher to the status of miracle worker.
Greaser's Palace - Surrealistic comedy of the Christ myth, set in the Old West.
Green Pastures - One of the earliest talkies. Black fundamentalist concept of heaven.
Hail Mary! - By Jean-Luc Godard. Mary and Joseph as modern adolescents. Boring, but it infuriated the Catholics.
Handmaid's Tale, The - Starring Robert Duvall, Natasha Richardson, Victoria Tennant, Elizabeth McGovern. Futuristic story of what would happen if Christian fundamentalists gained control of the government.
Hanna And Her Sisters - By Woody Allen, who plays a sympathetic atheist in a world of zany theists.
Heaven Help Us - Adolescent escapades in a Catholic school.
How Do I Love Thee - Starring Jackie Gleason, who also plays a sympathetic atheist married to crazy theist.
Idiot, The - Based on the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. About a man who tries to be a saint, and wrecks everybody's life in the process.
In God We Trust - Satire about a TV evangelist.
Inherit the Wind - Starring Spencer Tracy as Clarence Darrow, in the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Jesus Christ, Superstar - Musical of the Christ myth, by Norman Jewison.
Jesus of Montreal - A starving young actor agrees to play the part of Jesus in a Passion Play. His off-stage life then begins to parallel the events of the play, giving a modern, humanistic interpretation to the myth. Also an interesting sub-plot about the hypocrisy of today's churches. In French, with English subtitles.
Judgment - HBO Made-for-TV movie about the molestation of children by priests, and how the Catholic Church covers up for them. Hard hitting.
Last Temptation of Christ, The - Naturalistic interpretation of the Jesus story, except for some unexplained miracles. Interesting conversation with St. Paul about how the facts, whatever they might have been, were inflated into the present mythology.
Leap of Faith - Steve Martin stars in a brilliant satire about tent-show
evangelists using hi-tech gadgetry.
Life of Brian, The - Satire of the Christ myth, by the Monty Python company.
Logan's Run - Futuristic allegory about how the state makes its citizens submit to manipulation, and even death, by promising resurrection.
Lord of the Flies - Allegory about the psychological origins of religion.
Loved One, The - Satire about the funeral racket, starring Jonathan Winters as a preacher.
Magician, The - By Ingmar Bergman. Religious hucksters in the Middle Ages.
Mahabharata, The - Dramatization of the origins of mankind according to the Hindu religion. It is like trying to put all the Old Testament into a single three hour movie, so it is necessarily fragmented and hard to follow, but it gives the flavor and basic outlines of a religion professed by about one quarter of the world population. Beautifully produced by Peter Brook, in English.
Major Barbara - Satire about the Salvation Army, based on the play by G.B. Shaw.
Man Facing Southwest - A man shows up at a mental hospital, claiming to be from another planet, and saying that he has been sent to Earth in order to save it. He is a Christlike moral philosopher with extraordinary powers, but when he is cured of his delusion, he dies. Intriguing. In Spanish, with English subtitles.
Man Friday - Starring Peter O'Toole. Satire about Robinson Crusoe trying to bring "Christian Civilization" to the more sensible natives.
Marjoe - Award winning documentary about evangelistic tricks, by Marjoe Gortner.
Mark of the Devil, Part 2 - Low budget production, emphasizing sensationalism.
Martin Luther - Feature length biography of the founder of Protestantism.
Meaning of Life, The - The Monty Python group have several sequences attacking religion.
Milky Way, The - A surrealistic satire about heresy and orthodoxy. This film by Luis Bunuel would be excellent, except that it is in French and the subtitles are frequently unreadable.
Missionary, The - Michael Palin and Maggie Smith star in decorous comedy about Anglican priest who is assigned the task of running a home for wayward girls. Droll but toothless.
Miss Sadie Thompson - Story of a preacher and a prostitute, by Somerset Maugham.
Monsignor - Starring Christopher Reeves.
Mosquito Coast - Harrison Ford plays an eccentric inventor who takes his family to the jungle in South America to escape the collapse of modern civilization. His hatred of religion goes too far, however, when he burns down a church.
Mystic Circle Murders - 1932 melodrama about phony mediums, with an appearance by Mrs.Harry Houdini.
Name of the Rose - Starring Sean Connery. A 14th century version of Sherlock Holmes facing the Inquisition.
Nasty Girl (The) by Michael Verhoeven, 1989. In German with English subtitles. A contemporary German girl researching the history of her hometown encounters more and more hostility as she uncovers evidence of collaboration with the Nazis and direct complicity by the Catholic Church.
Nasty Habits - Starring Glenda Jackson, Geraldine Page and Sandy Dennis. Satire about sex, politics, bugging and blackmail in a convent. Amusing at first, but pulls its punches and runs out of steam.
Nazarin, The - By Luis Bunuel.
Nuns on the Run - British comedy about two gangsters who hide out in a nunnery by pretending to be members. Mostly slapstick, but it gets in a few zingers about the absurdity of Christian doctrines and the churches as confidence schemes that promise "afterlife insurance."
Night of the Hunter - Starring Robert Mitchum as a psychotic preacher.
Nightfall - Based on an Isaac Asimov story. Science vs. Religion in a galaxy far, far away.
Oh, God! - Starring George Burns. Clever comedy which takes the deistic point of view, using the fantasy figure of "God" to attack the stupidity of religion.
Oh, God; You Devil! - Starring George Burns. A sequel which makes the subliminal point that if there were a god then he would also be responsible for all evil.
Pass the Ammo - A TV evangelist is held hostage by bungling burglars. Very funny.
Passion of Joan of Ark, The - Silent film.
Passover Plot, The - Starring Zahlman King. Jewish version of the
crucifixion. This one caused as much fuss as "The Last Temptation."
Pilgrim, The - Silent film, starring Charlie Chaplin.
Pope Must Die, The - Big budget British satire about Catholic corruption, inspired by the Vatican bank scandals. A nebbish priest, accidentally elevated to papacy through a clerical error, finds himself as pawn for a crime syndicate. In the end he quits the church to marry his childhood sweetheart. Very entertaining.
Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man - Autobiography of James Joyce, and his struggles with a religious background.
Pray-TV - Comedy about religious TV, starring Ned Beatty.
Priest - Two priests in Liverpool vacillate over whether to stay in the church or leave it. One is agnostic, the other is gay. Very well made. The Catholic hierarchy created an uproar about it.
Procesi K. Penence (Pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary) - Czechoslovakia, 1960.
Rain - Walter Huston and Joan Crawford (1932). A preacher converts a prostitute then gives in to his own lust for her. Later re-made by Rita Hayworth as "Miss Sadie Thompson."
Rapture, The - A thorough exploration of both the psychological and
philosophical lunacies of the Christian religion. Hard hitting.
Rising Storm - Low budget satire about a group of adventurers who start a rebellion against a fundamentalist dictatorship in 2099.
Salvation - TV evangelist is blackmailed into accepting a co-host, who then makes the show a hit by adopting MTV glitz.
Seventh Seal, The - By Ingmar Bergman. Masochistic cults during the black death.
Seventh Sign, The - Biblical eschatology as melodramatic horror. Demi Moore confronts the angel of death, who has returned to fulfill apocalyptic prophesy. Gets in a few sly digs, but mostly rather hokey.
Simon of the Desert - By Luis Bunuel. Satire about early Christian ascetics.
Sorceress - Dabbling in pharmacology leads to a charge of heresy during the Inquisition. In French, with English subtitles.
Split Image - Second of three cult films with identical plots.
Star Trek V - Enterprise crew meets a Jehovah-type entity. The point is made that the Old Testament god is neither omniscient, omnipotent, nor nice.
Stranger, The - Starring Marcello Mastroianni. An innocent man is executed by a prejudiced court because he is an atheist.
Tabu - Early talkie by Friedrich Murnau.
Ticket to Heaven - Third of the three cult films with identical plots.
Truman Show, The - Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a man who was selected at birth to be the star of a voyeuristic TV program. Inside the world's largest soundstage a town has been constructed on an island, where Truman has spent his entire life without realizing that everyone in town is an actor, and that his every movement is being recorded by hidden cameras and microphones. The film opens when he is 30 and begins to suspect some vast conspiracy. When he discovers the truth, he leaves the comforts of illusion and faces the real world. The religious metaphor is obvious to atheists.
Varidiana - Satire about sainthood, by Luis Bunuel.
Wholly Moses! - Starring Dudley Moore. Satire aboup>Witchcraft Through the Ages
Witches of Salem, The
Zardoz - Starring Sean Connery. About the absurdity of wanting to be immortal.
SIXTEEN MILLIMETER FILMS AND TV PROGRAMS
A Second Look at Religion - 16mm film distributed by FFRF.
Bible, The - Excellent series about origins of the Bible by an Australian archeologist.
Book, The - TV mini-series based on novel by Irving Wallace. Fictional story about biblical archeology - which parallels the true story of how content of Dead Sea Scrolls has been suppressed to protect the Christ myth.
Brave New World - TV movie, based on the book by Aldous Huxley. About the techniques of mind control.
Brides of Christ - TV mini-series. Rather acerbic exploration of life in an Australian nunnery, circa 1962.
Centennial - TV mini-series based on book by James Michener. Includes a hard look at missionary activity on the Western frontier.
Clarence Darrow for the Defense - TV program, starring Henry Fonda.
Conversations With Joseph Campbell - PBS series about mythology.
Cosmos - PBS series with Carl Sagan.
Diaries of Adam and Eve, The - By Mark Twain. David and Meredith Baxter Birney in a live performance for American Playhouse. Droll but gentle satire of the Genesis story.
Glory and the Power, The - PBS documentary of Christian fundamentalism in the U.S.
Heaven - Documentary by Diane Keaton. Interviews with people who explain with great assurance all about heaven and hell. Intercut with Hollywood imagery. Very funny.
I, Claudius - PBS mini-series about Christians in ancient Rome.
Long Search, The - PBS series on comparative religion.
Major Religions of the World - 16mm film by Encyclopedia Britannica.
Mark Twain Tonight - TV program starring Hal Holbrook.
Meeting of Minds, A (certain episodes) - TV series by Steve Allen.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit - Girl evangelist grows up to realize that she is a lesbian. Poignantly satirical BBC study of British fundamentalism (3 hrs.)
Roots of Disbelief, The - 16mm film by McGraw/Hill.
Search For the Nile - (Certain episodes) - PBS series.
Six Wives of Henry VIII, The - TV mini-series. Origins of the Anglican Church.
Steambath - PBS Hollywood Playhouse. God as a Puerto Rican steambath attendant.
Stop the Church - Documentary about the protest of gay activists against Cardinal O'Connor in NY city. Cardinal Mahoney called for a Catholic boycott against KCET for showing it. A discussion follows.
Thomas Paine: The Most Valuable Englishman Ever - BBC documentary.
TNT: The Naked Truth - Documentary about the Egyptian origins of Christian mythology and symbolism.
Trial of Socrates, The - PBS teleplay, starring Peter Ustinov.
FEATURE FILMS IN WHICH CRITICISM OF RELIGION IS A SECONDARY THEME
Americord - By Federico Fellini. About Italy under fascism.
Balcony, The - Based on play by Jean Genet.
Boccacio 70 - One episode directed by Fellini.
Clash of Titans - Greek mythology.
Crooks in Cloisters
Fahrenheit 451 - Based on Ray Bradbury's book about censorship.
First Legion, The
Freud - Directed by John Huston, starring Montgomery Clift.
Garden of Allah, The
Garden of the Finzi Continis - About persecution of the Jews in Italy.
Gospel According to St. Matthew, The - Naturalistic treatment of the Bible story, directed by an Italian Communist.
Hallelujah Trail, The - Comedy about frontier evangelists.
Hawaii - Based on the book by James Michener. Missionary treatment of the natives.
History of the World, Part I - Comedy by Mel Brooks.
I Killed Rasputin - England, 1968
Ivan the Terrible - By Serge Eisenstein.
Life of Emile Zola, The - Biography
Magic Christian, The - Comedy
Mohammed - The "official" version, produced by one of the Islamic governments.
Mondo Cane, and Mondo Cane II - Documentaries which include some weird religious practices.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Satire about King Arthur.
Night of the Iguana - Based on a play by Tennessee Williams.
Nights of Rasputin - Italy, 1960.
1984 (Either of two versions) - Techniques of mind control.
Oh, Lucky Man - Starring Malcolm McDowell. Modern version of Candide.
Rasputin - Germany, 1930.
Rasputin - France, 1938.
Rasputin and the Empress - U.S., 1932.
Rasputin, the Mad Monk - U.K., 1966.
Roma - By Federico Fellini. The ecclesiastical fashion show is one of the funniest scenes ever filmed.
Scarlet Letter, The - Treatment of adultery in puritanical New England.
Siddhartha - About the Buddhist search for enlightenment.
Sodom and Gomorrah - Triple-X version. Funny, as well as sexy.
Soylent Green - When we reach population saturation, we may have to turn to cannibalism for protein.
Splendor in the Grass - By Elia Kazan. About the Christian sexual tragedy.
St. Joan - Based on the play by G.B. Shaw.
Trial of Joan of Ark, The - By Andre Bresson, France, 1962.
True Confessions - Starring Robert DeNiro and Robert Duval. About the Catholic Church as Big Business.
Winds of Change, The - More Greek mythology.
Butterfingers Angel, Mary and Joseph, Herod the Nut, and the Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols in a Pear Tree, The - By William Gibson. Slapstick parody of the Christmas myth.
Carnage: Final Assembly - Surrealist satire about TV preachers and other crazies.
Citizen Tom Paine - Full length biographic play.
Enemy of the People - By Henrik Ibsen. About the public's refusal to face the truth.
Elmer Gantry - The musical.
Fact Wino Meets The Moral Majority - Full length musical.
Marriage of Bette and Boo - Hilarious satire about how Catholicism creates neuroses.
Sister Mary Explains It All For You - One-act comedy.
Additional Contributions by Lynne Schultz
Commandments: A devout Christian who loses his job on the same day that a tornado strikes his house, and only his house, killing his pregnant wife gets angry at God and starts breaking the Ten Commandments one at a time. (http://www.sffa.com/fotl/fotl_archives/loop019.html)
Chocolat: a single mother who is also an atheist moves into a small French town and opens a chocolate store during lent. http://www.missliberty.com/Filmchoc.html