Agnes of God (1985) – Psychopathology in a convent, starring Meg Tilly, with Anne Bancroft and Jane
Amen (2002) – The true story of how the German chemist who developed Zyklon B as an agent for water
purification is forced, instead, to oversee its distribution to gas chambers. He notified the Vatican about
what was happening in Germany, but Pope Pius XII ignored him. Directed by Costa-Gavras, based on a
play called “The Deputy.”
Angel Baby (1961) - 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 (1997) - Study of the Pentecostal sub-culture. Robert Duvall wrote, directed and 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.
Assault on Waco (2006) - TV documentary about David Koresh and the spectacular end of his Branch
Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, at the hands of federal agents. This version, produced by Tom
Tanner and Julian Ware, sounds like it is anti-ATF. An earlier docudrama of this event was very pro-ATF.
At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991) - Greed, parading as self-righteousness, leads to destruction of
South American Indians, just as it did to those in North America. Tom Berrenger, Daryl Hanna, John
Lithgow. Good anthropological study.
Bedazzled (1968) – Satire about Satan, starring Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. A re-make in 2000 stars
Brendan Frazier and Elizabeth Hurley. Both versions are based on the traditional tale of witchcraft:
Someone sells his soul to the devil in exchange for magical powers, then the plot revolves around the two
parties trying to outwit each other. Both versions are pretty funny.
Black Robe (1991) – 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 (1980) – TV Movie of the Week. One of three films about cults, with almost identical
plots. A young man is captured by a cult, brainwashed, and then deprogrammed.
Breaking the Waves (1996) – Directed by Lars von Trier, starring Emily Watson.
A simple minded girl living in a highly repressive Irish-Catholic village not only thinks she talks to God but
that God answers her prayers. When her newly-wed husband has to leave her for several months to work
on an off-shore oil rig, she prays that she could keep him at home. Shortly thereafter he is severely injured
in an accident, making her wish come true, but not the way she wanted. Now she thinks his paralysis is her
fault. Together they form a neurotic co-dependency - which leads to tragic consequences.
Winner of several international awards and an Oscar nomination for Emily Watson.
Bruce Almighty (2003) – Comedy about a man who complains that the world is totally screwed up is given
the chance by Yahweh to see if he can do a better job. Stars Jim Carry as Bruce and Morgan Freeman as
Yahweh. Inspired by an 1898 story by H.G. Wells, called the Man Who Could Work Miracles, it
demonstrates the absurdity of “miracles.”
Candide - By Voltaire. Play about the foolishness of “faith” - made into a musical which was produced
several times as television specials.
Cardinal, The (1963) – Historical drama about conflicts within the Catholic Church during the early part of
the 20th century. Said to have been based on the life of Cardinal Spellman. Directed by Otto Preminger.
Winner of Best Picture Golden Globe for 1964. Nominated for six Academy Awards.
Chocolat (2000) – An unwed mother opens a candy store in a French village during the mid-20th century.
Since she is an atheist, the pious mayor resolves to drive her out of business. Hilarious.
In English and French.
Chronicles of Narnia, The: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) – Big budget children’s movie
based on a book by C.S. Lewis. Lewis was a British folklorist who converted to Catholicism and turned
his literary skills toward Christian propaganda. This film about a group of British children who find
themselves in a fantasy world is an allegory of the Christian myth, but it is not heavy handed. Only those
who are already familiar with the Bible will catch the many allusions. A good way for atheist parents to
show their children how Christian mythology compares with other classical myths.
Contender, The (2000) – When a woman is nominated Vice President as a result of the previous president’
s death, her nomination is opposed by a Republican leader because she is an atheist.. He tries to destroy
her reputation by circulating rumors of her participation in a orgy when she was a college student. Stars
Cool Hand Luke (1967) – A prisoner in a Southern chain-gang is singled out for persecution because he is
Creation – The True Story of Charles Darwin. (2010) - This was a British production, financed in part by
the BBC, directed by Jon Amiel and starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. The film is based on the
biography “Annie’s Box,” by Randal Keynes, the great, great grandson of Charles Darwin - who had
access to all the family archives and private letters between Charles and his wife Emma.
The movie focuses on the period when Charles was putting the final touches on “Origin of Species.” His
friends were urging him to stop procrastinating and publish the book, but he was torn by the conflict that it
would generate between him and his Christian family. His wife was such a devout Christian that she wanted
him to burn the infernal thing. Meanwhile, his favorite daughter Annie fell ill and eventually died – which sent
Darwin into a nervous breakdown.
The movie ends when Darwin finally delivers the manuscript to the publisher. The rest, as they say, is
Crime of Father Amoro, The (aka El Crimen del Padre Amoro) (2002) – Crime and corruption in the
Catholic Church of Mexico. A bishop gets money for his hospital from a drug kingpin and a young priest
impregnates one of his parishioners. In Spanish.
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) – 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. (1996) – Ostensibly about witches of Salem, but used as a metaphor for
McCarthyism. Winner of numerous awards.
Dark Habits (or Dark Hideout) (1983) - By Pedro Almodovar. Wicked satire about a woman on the lam,
who hides out in a convent full of wacko nuns. In Spanish.
Deconstructing Harry (1997) - 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 (1991) - Starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep. Writer-Director Brooks carries
the concepts of purgatory and reincarnation through to their hilarious consequences.
Deliver Us From Evil (2006) - Documentary about how father Oliver O'Grady systematically moved from
one diocese to another, molesting children. The Church knew about it, but covered it up. Features
interviews with him, and with his victims. Hard hitting.
Devils, The (1971) - 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 (1997) - Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves star in updated version of a medieval
morality play. Basically, this is a sequel to Dr. Foustus - 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 Aimee, The (1976) – TV movie about the founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church. In
1926 the famous evangelist disappeared for six weeks and later claimed she was kidnapped and held in
Mexico. Others claimed she had an adulterous fling. This film is based on the court trial. Stars Faye
Dunaway as Aimee and Bette Davis as her mother.
Dogma (1999) – Action/adventure farce about two homicidal angels who have been kicked out of heaven,
but who are determined to find a loophole in canon law - even if it means destroying the entire universe in
the process. Very funny. Although writer/director Kevin Smith claimed to be a practicing Catholic, the
Church was outraged.
Doubt (2008) -- Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on his Pulitzer Prize winning play.
Stars Phillip Seymore Hoffman as a priest suspected of molesting a boy in his church. Meryl Streep, head
nun in the church school, is convinced of his guilt and determines to force his resignation. The interesting
point of the film is that it has become conventional wisdom that all priests are probably pedophiles. Did he
actually do anything to the boy? The audience is left to speculate.
Dragnet (1987) – With Dan Akroid 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 (1953) – By Louis Bunuel. A study in paranoid jealousy, set against the background of Mexican
Catholicism. In Spanish, with subtitles.
Elmer Gantry (1960) - Starring Burt Lancaster. This Academy Award winner is the story of a tent-show
revivalist during the 1920s.
Fall from Grace (1990) - NBC Movie of the Week about Jim and Tammy Bakker. Surprisingly honest for
a network production.
Fanny and Alexander (1983) - By Ingmar Bergman. Two children try to survive a clerical stepfather.
Flatliners (1990) – An atheist doctor, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is portrayed as the most sympathetic
character, but the plot tends to promote a mystical interpretation of near-death experiences.
Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Inteligent Design Circus (2006) - Comic documentary by Dr. Randy
Olson. The doctor visits the town of Dover, Pennsylvania, which attempted to introduce the concept of
"Intelligent Design" into science classes. Eventually the courts struck down the proposed law as just another
attempt to sneak religious doctrines into the public schools. But Olson interviewed various members of the
school board who were involved in the case, as well as all the primary leaders of the I.D. movement. They
are allowed to fully explain their concepts, as are those biologists who opposed them. All this is leavened
by droll narration, comic inserts and animated dodo birds.
Galileo - About his heresy trial and conviction. Produced many times over the years.
Glory, Glory! (1989) - 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
God Who Wasn’t There, The (2005) – Documentary by Brain Flemming. Did Jesus really exist?
Godless Girl, The (1928) - A 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 (aka Heavenly Pursuits) (1985) - A comedy about how the tabloids try to
elevate an atheist teacher to the status of miracle worker. Stars Tom Conti and Helen Mirren.
Greaser’s Palace (1972) – Surrealistic comedy of the Christ myth, set in the Old West. Written and
directed by Robert Downey Sr.
Green Pastures, The (1936) - One of the earliest talkies. Black fundamentalist concept of heaven.
Hail Mary! (1985) - By Jean-Luc Godard. Mary and Joseph as modern adolescents. Boring, but it
infuriated the Catholics. In French.
Handmaid’s Tale, The (1990) - Starring Robert Duvall, Natasha Richardson, Victoria Tennant, Elizabeth
McGovern. Futuristic story of what would happen if Christian fundamentalists gained control of the U.S.
Hanna And Her Sisters (1986) - By Woody Allen, who plays a sympathetic atheist in a world of zany
Heart of the Beholder (2007) - Religious conservatives in a small town try to force a video store out of
business because they won't remove certain titles from their stock to which the zealots object. Based on a
Heaven (1987) - Documentary by Diane Keaton. Interviews with people who explain with great assurance
all about heaven and hell. Intercut with Hollywood imagery. Very funny.
Heaven Help Us (1985) - Adolescent escapades in a Catholic school.
Household Saints (1993) - Tracey Ullman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lili Taylor. In an Italian section of
Brooklyn in 1949, a butcher wins a wife through a pinochle game. The ensuing marriage then yields a
daughter, which the parents dutifully send to Catholic school; but to their dismay, the daughter takes
Catholicism all too seriously, deciding she wants to be a saint. She gradually becomes more and more
delusional until she mysteriously dies. In the superstitious neighborhood the legend begins to spread that
she really was a saint. An affectionate look back at life in the old neighborhood.
How Do I Love Thee (1970) - Starring Jackie Gleason, who also plays a sympathetic atheist married to
Idiot, The (1960) - 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 Russian, made in the USSR.
I’m Going Home (2001) - An old actor realizes that his time is running out. But he faces death with dignity.
With Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich. In French and English.
In God We Trust (1996) - Satire about a TV evangelist, starring Marty Feldman.
Inherit the Wind (1960) - Starring Spencer Tracy as Clarence Darrow, in the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial.
In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco (1993) - This TV docudrama about David Koresh and the fiery end
of his Branch Davidian cult was very pro-ATF. It was produced by Dick Lowry and Kenneth Kaufman.
Invention of Lying, The (2009) - Written, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais. This is a fable about
human gullibility. It is essential that we believe most of what most people tell us most of the time; otherwise
civilization could not exist. So when someone tells a lie, we are likely to believe them. Gervais establishes a
world identical to our own, except that everyone tells the honest, brutal truth at all times – which leads to
some very funny scenes. But when Gervais’ mother is dying, he hits upon the idea of alleviating her fear by
telling the first lie. He says she won’t simply cease to exist; instead she is going to a better place – where
she can be with all her favorite friends and relatives again. Some doctors and nurses overhear this
conversation and begin following Gervais around, begging him to tell them more about this heavenly
paradise. He makes up an elaborate theology, and eventually becomes revered as a prophet. When he
finally admits that it was all a lie, nobody believes him. Highly recommended.
Jesus Camp (2006) – Frightening documentary about a summer camp for fundamentalist children. The aim
is to turn them into “soldiers for Christ.” A study in brainwashing.
Jesus Christ, Superstar (1973) - Musical of the Christ myth. Music by Tim Rice, written and directed by
Norman Jewison. Nominated for many awards.
Jesus of Montreal (1990) - 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.
Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple (2006) - A documentary about how the Reverend
Jim Jones established a commune in Guyana, then convinced 900 members to commit mass murder/suicide
by drinking poison Kool-Aid
Judgment (1990) - 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 (1988) - 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. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Caused a furor among
Leap of Faith (1992) - Steve Martin stars in a brilliant satire about tent-show evangelists using hi-tech
Liam (2000) - Caustic examination of Catholic doctrines and the horrors of parochial school. Set in
Liverpool during the 1930s and played against a backdrop of conflicts between Fascists, Communists,
Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, the story is told from the perspective of seven year old Liam, whose
father has suddenly lost his job. Directed by Stephen Frears.
Life of Brian (1979) - Satire of the Christ myth, by the Monty Python company.
Logan’s Run (1976) - Futuristic allegory about how the state makes its citizens submit to manipulation, and
even death, by promising resurrection. Stars Michael York.
Lord of the Flies (1963) - Allegory about the psychological origins of religion. Schoolboys survive a plane
crash on a desert island and revert to savagery. A remake in 1990 downplays the religious allegory and
turns it into a mundane thriller.
Loved One, The (1965) - Satire about the funeral racket, starring Jonathan Winters as a preacher. Also
featuring Milton Berle and Liberace.
Magician, The (1958) - By Ingmar Bergman. Religious hucksters in the Middle Ages. In Swedish.
Mahabharata, The (1989) (TV Mini-Series) - 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. The full mini-series was six hours long. Beautifully produced by Peter
Brook, in English.
Major Barbara (1941) - Satire about the Salvation Army, based on the play by G.B. Shaw. Stars Rex
Harrison, Wendy Hiller and Robert Morley.
Man Facing Southeast (1986) - 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 Christ-like moral philosopher with
extraordinary powers, but when he is cured of his delusion, he dies. Intriguing. In Spanish.
Man Friday (1975) - Starring Peter O’Toole. Satire about Robinson Crusoe trying to bring “Christian
Civilization” to the more sensible natives.
Marjoe (1972) – Academy Award winning documentary about evangelistic tricks, by Marjoe Gortner.
Mark of the Devil (1970) – Horror film about witch hunting and torture during the Inquisition. Well made,
but not for the squeamish. In German.
Martin Luther - Biography of the founder of Protestantism. There have been numerous films about him over
the years – all with the same title.
Meaning of Life, The (1983) - The Monty Python group have several sequences attacking religion.
Milky Way, The (1969) - A surrealistic satire about heresy and orthodoxy. This film by Luis Buñuel would
be excellent, except that it is in French and the subtitles are frequently unreadable.
Missionary, The (1982) - 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 (1953) - Story of a preacher and a prostitute, by Somerset Maugham. Starring Rita
Hayworth as Sadie and Jose Ferrer as the preacher. A 1932 version, called “Rain,” starred Joan Crawford
and Walter Huston.
Monsignor (1982) - Starring Christopher Reeve. Ambitious priest seduces a nun and leads the Vatican into
shady business during and after WWII.
Mosquito Coast (1986) - 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. Directed by Peter Weir.
Mystic Circle Murders (1932) – Melodrama about phony mediums, with an appearance by Madam Harry
Name of the Rose (1986) - Starring Sean Connery, based on a novel by Umberto Eco. A 14th century
version of Sherlock Holmes facing the Inquisition.
Nasty Girl, The (1989) - by Michael Verhoeven. 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. In German.
Nasty Habits (1977) - 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 1959) - By Luis Buñuel. A priest named Nazarin tries to live according to Christian principles and
only antagonizes everyone. Buñuel is perhaps the only director to have a PhD in philosophy and to be
openly anti-religious. Shot in Spanish during his exile to Mexico.
Nuns on the Run (1990) - 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 (1955) - Starring Robert Mitchum as a psychotic preacher who threatens to kill Shelly
Winters and her two children.
Ninth Gate, The (1999) - Suspenseful detective story by Roman Polansky. A rare book dealer, played by
Johnny Depp, is hired by a wealthy book collector to authenticate a particular volume which the collector
thinks had been penned by Lucifer himself. Polansky leaves the ending open to interpretation: Did anything
supernatural occur, or did the book dealer become delusional?
O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) - Hilarious satire about life along the redneck Riviera during the 1930s.
Three convicts escape from a chain gang, with George Clooney playing an agnostic disbarred lawyer
surrounded by wacko Bible thumpers.
Oh, God! (1977) - 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! (1984) - 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 (1988) – The Cohen brothers wrote and produced this story of a TV evangelist held
hostage by bungling burglars. Very funny.
Passion of Joan of Ark, The (1928) – Produced in Denmark by Carl Dreyer. A classic of silent films.
Passion of the Christ, The (2004) - Mel Gibson’s megabuck exercise in sado-masochism, which aroused
universal ire among critics, and did boffo box-office among Christians. In Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin.
Passover Plot, The (1976) - Starring Zahlman King. Jewish version of the crucifixion. This one caused as
much fuss as “The Last Temptation.”
Paul (2011) - A spoof of sci-fi films about a Little Gray Man from Area 51who had been held in captivity
after the Roswell Incident, and is now being pursued by mysterious Men in Black, etc. A couple of British
nerds who have come all the way to America to attend Comic-Con in San Diego then rent an RV to see
the country and visit the famous Area 51. They witness a car crash, and when they stop to help, they find
an actual alien who was trying to escape from people who were determined to remove his brain for study.
He is a CGI character, voiced by Seth Rogan, who calls himself Paul. They agree to help him escape,
which leads to a comic car chase. Along the way they encounter a troglodyte Creationist and his daughter.
After Paul heals the daughter of a serious eye problem, she joins the three in the RV. But her father thinks
she has been kidnapped by a demon, and hilarity ensues. Lots of cinematic inside jokes for sci-fi fans
Pilgrim, The (1923) - Silent film, starring Charlie Chaplin. Charlie drops the Little Tramp character and
plays an escaped convict who hides out as a small town pastor in the Old West.
Pope Must Die, The (1991) - Big budget British satire about Catholic corruption, inspired by the Vatican
bank scandals. A nebbish priest, played by Robbie Coltrane, 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 (1977) - Autobiography of James Joyce, and his struggles with a
Pray-TV (1982) – Movie of the Week comedy about religious TV, starring Ned Beatty.
Priest (1995) - 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) (1960) – Documentary shot in Czechoslovakia.
Queen Margot (1994) - In French with English subtitles. This production starring Isabelle Adjani is about
the political marriage between Huguenot leader Henry of Navarre and the sister of Catholic King Charles
IX. The purpose of the marriage was supposed to reconcile the warring religious factions, but only
succeeded in leading to the St. Barthelomew’s Day massacre of 2,000 Protestants. Unfortunately, the
production is of the shaky camera, sound and fury school of directing, which mostly leaves the audience
confused and annoyed.
Quills - (2000) Geoffrey Rush plays the Marquis de Sade in this well made allegory about the power of the
pen. Although Sade was no literary genius, and unquestionably neurotic, he has gone down in history as
one of the first to decry the hypocrisy of Christian morality. And in spite of the fact that the film bears scant
resemblance to historical fact, it nevertheless succeeds very well in posing the perennial question of whether
society ever has a right to prevent the dissemination of unpopular ideas. Intertwined with this premise is the
implication that the religious doctrines on which the Marquis pours his invective are far more sadistically
insane that he is.
Rain (1932) - Walter Huston and Joan Crawford. 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 (1991) - A thorough exploration of both the psychological and philosophical lunacies of the
Christian religion. Stars Mimi Rogers as a former swinger, turned Born Again fundamentalist. Hard hitting.
Rebel Storm (aka Rising Storm) (1990) - Low budget satire about a group of adventurers who start a
rebellion against a fundamentalist dictatorship in 2099.
Religulous (2008) – Documentary starring comedian Bill Maher, directed by Larry Charles (the director of
Borat), and shot under the working title of “A Spiritual Journey.”
The producers sought out a wide variety of spokespeople for all the major religions of the world, but didn’t
tell them that Bill Maher would be the person interviewing them. Even when Maher showed up, most of the
interviewees didn’t know who he was, or that he was an outspoken skeptic, so they blithely proceeded to
make themselves look just as ridiculous as the title implies.
The structure of the film is similar to Plato’s “Apologia,” in which someone asks the Oracle of Delphi who
is the wisest person in the world, to which the Oracle responds: Socrates of Athens. When Socrates hears
about the Oracle, he finds it hard to believe, since there are many people claiming that title, while he knows
nothing at all. Socrates spends the rest of his life questioning these people, only to find that none of them
know what they are talking about. At the end of his life, Socrates concludes that he must indeed be the
wisest person in the world, since he is the only one who understands that nothing can be known for certain.
But Maher is a comedian rather than a philosopher and his primary intent was to make a comedy. So
we see only see those people who pompously claim to know all about God’s Will -- but of course they all
disagree on what “God’s Will” happens to be. And when Maher asks follow-up questions in the Socratic
manner, the results are hilarious.
All varieties of supernatural absurdity are skewered by Maher’s rapier wit. This is probably the first all-out
assault on organized religion ever released in American theaters. If this doesn’t qualify as “blasphemy” then
nothing does. There are reports of it being banned in Islamic countries, but so far not in the West.
The only caveat might be that Maher calls himself a skeptic rather an atheist because he has the mistaken
idea that an atheist must be as dogmatic and closed minded as a theist.
Root of All Evil, The (2006) – BBC documentary by Richard Dawkins about the harmful effects of religion.
Ruling Class, The (1976) - British comedy starring Peter O'Toole. A member of the House of Lords dies
and leaves his estate to his son, who thinks he is Jesus Christ. Other members of the family plot to take the
estate away from him. Murder and mayhem follow.
Salesman (1969) - Documentary by Albert and David Maysles. The film crew follows a group of salesmen
who try to sell expensive Bibles to poor Catholic families. Described as Death of a Salesman meets
Glenngarry Glen Ross. Working class Catholics lead lives of quiet desperation.
Salvation (1987) - TV evangelist is blackmailed into accepting a co-host, who then makes the show a hit
by adopting MTV glitz.
Saved (2004) – Hilarious comedy about students at an evangelical high school. A girl tries to save her
boyfriend from the sin of homosexuality by offering him her virginity – only to find herself pregnant. When
she insists on graduating with her class, that’s when she finds out that her only friends are the school’s
outcasts: a Jewish girl and a crippled, agnostic boy.
Second Coming, The (2003) – A BBC production that was rebroadcast on BBC America. What would a
person have to do to convince atheists that he was really Jesus Christ? An ingenious story that uses the
convention of supernaturalism in order to satirize it – as in “Oh God!” Written and produced by the
(presumably) gay man who produced the BBC series “Queer as Folk” that was also adapted in the U.S. as
a series on Showtime.
September Dawn (2007) - Independently produced docudrama by Chris Cain about the 1857 Mountain
Meadows Massacre, in which a militia of Mormons slaughtered 120 members of a wagon train on the way
to California. The Mormon Church still denies any responsibility, in spite of evidence that the attack was
directly ordered by Brigham Young.
Seventh Seal, The (1957) - By Ingmar Bergman. Surrealistic allegory about masochistic cults during the
Black Death. A knight home from the Crusades must play a game of chess with the Grim Reaper to save
Seventh Sign, The (1988) - 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 (1965) - By Luis Buñuel. Surrealistic satire about early Christian ascetics. In Spanish.
Made during Buñuel’s Mexican exile. Very entertaining.
Sorceress (1987) - Dabbling in pharmacology leads to a charge of heresy during the Inquisition. In French.
Split Image (1982) - Second of three cult films with identical plots. A man is seduced into joining a cult,
where he undergoes brainwashing. Then his family kidnaps him and has him deprogrammed. Karen Allen,
Peter Fonda, James Woods.
Star Trek V- The Final Frontier (1989) - Enterprise crew meets a Jehovah-type entity. The point is made
that the Old Testament god is neither omniscient, omnipotent, nor nice.
Stranger, The (1967) - Starring Marcello Mastroianni, and directed by Luchino Visconti, based on a novel
by Albert Camus. An innocent man is executed by a prejudiced court because he is an atheist.
Tabu – A Story of the South Seas (1931) - Early talkie by Friedrich Murnau. Native boy and girl fall in
love, but she is selected to be a Holy Virgin by the priesthood and remain untouchable. They run away to
the white man’s world, but fare no better.
Ticket to Heaven (1981) - Third of the three cult films with identical plots. Young man is sucked into a cult,
brainwashed, rescued, and deprogrammed.
Tommy (1975) - A rock opera composed by Pete Townsend and The Who, with screenplay by
Townsend and Ken Russell. Russell directed it in a very imaginative way, with spectacular sets and
cinematography. A little boy witnesses the murder of his father by his mother’s boyfriend. He is told that he
didn't see or hear anything, and he must never speak of this incident. Tommy is so traumatized that he
becomes a deaf and blind mute. When he enters adolescence he is played and sung by Roger Daltrey. Ann-
Margaret sings the part of his sexy mother, with Oliver Reed as his new stepfather. In seeking a cure, his
parents first take Tommy to a miracle healing service at a modern mega-church, which are all nothing more
than raucous rock concerts anyway and this production number satirizes them. In this case, their object of
veneration is a plaster statue of Marilyn Monroe. But kissing the feet of St. Marilyn does not produce a
cure for Tommy. The next attempted cure is LSD. He goes on an incredible trip, but that does not cure him
either. They leave him in the care of a cousin, thinking maybe having someone his own age to play with
would help. It doesn’t; the cousin turns out to be a sadistic psycho who delights in tormenting the helpless
Tommy. Then they leave him with an uncle; who only rapes him. While his parents are thinking about what
to try next, Tommy wanders out of the house and ends up in a junkyard, where he stumbles across an old
pinball machine. When the police find him, he has become very attached to it. Soon his parents discover
that he has a talent for playing pinball. He is entered in a contest and comes out as the pinball world
champion. He becomes a media star and makes his parents rich. But his mother is still unhappy because her
son remains severely handicapped. They take him to a psychiatrist who gives him extensive tests and
announces that his disabilities are psychosomatic; only another psychological trauma would cure him. In a
violent episode with his mother, she accidentally pushes him through a mirror. That provides the shock he
needs. He remembers the scene of the murder and suddenly he is cured! But once he has regained his
senses, he decides that he is the returned messiah. He becomes a world famous evangelist with groupies
and platoons of paparazzi. He builds a mega-church and the obligatory TV network. His name and image
become a commercial brand, marketing all manner of merchandise. He and his parents become obscenely
rich. But eventually, his fans revolt against the commercialism and attack Tommy. His parents are killed and
his church destroyed. Presumably Tommy has an epiphany in which he sheds his illusions and climbs a
mountain. The film ends with Tommy facing into the rising sun, perhaps symbolizing the overwhelming
power of reality.
Truman Show, The (1998) - 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. A true classic.
Varidiana (1961) - Satire about sainthood, by Luis Buñuel. An aspiring nun decides to feed and house the
homeless, only to be raped and robbed by them. In Spanish.
V for Vendetta (2005) – Sci-Fi thriller about a Christian dictatorship and a freedom fighter who wears a
Guy Fawkes mask. Zorro meets George Orwell’s Big Brother.
Whatever Works (2009) - Comedy by Woody Allen. For fans of Woody Allen’s sophisticated humor, this
is probably his funniest film in many years. A theoretical physicist who was once nominated for a Nobel
Prize becomes disillusioned with life and drops out of the rat-race to live a bohemian existence in
Greenwich Village. Unfortunately, he is so impressed with his own I.Q. that he alienates everybody he
meets. Into his life stumbles an incredibly naive young girl named Melody who has run away from her
repressive family in Mississippi. At first the professor wants nothing more than to get rid of her, but Like
Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, he gradually becomes “Accustomed to her Face.” The plot thickens when
her Bible-thumping mother shows up and encounters the culture shock of life in the big city. Then
complications ensue when her right-wing father shows up, looking for both Melody and his missing wife. All
religions get equally skewered, but the angst of intellectuals over the lack of meaning in the universe is not
spared Allen’s scathing satire.
Wholly Moses! (1980) - Starring Dudley Moore. Satire about Moses.
Wicker Man, The (1973) - Conflict between Christians and pagans in modern Britain. It was remade in
2006 in an American setting, starring Nicholas Cage – a less successful production.
Winter Light (1962) - By Ingmar Bergman. A preacher struggles to retain his faith in God. In Swedish.
Wise Blood (1979) – Satire by John Huston, based on a novel by Flannery O’Connor. Psychopathology
of believers. If you’re poor and uneducated, but ambitious, what better way to get rich than to start your
Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) Silent documentary from Sweden.
Witches of Salem, The (1957) Screenplay by Jean Paul Sartre, based on the play by Arthur Miller.
Starring Simone Signoret. In French.
Zardoz (1974) - Starring Sean Connery. Written and directed by John Boorman. About the absurdity of
wanting to be immortal.
Feature Films of Interest to Atheists and Freethinkers
Compiled by Milt Timmons