Religion and Film

This webpage is dedicated to my course, Religion & Film.  It is designed to be a resource for my students; however, I welcome anyone who finds its information and links useful.  It contains links to online resources for each required film for the course, films used in past versions of the course, as well as other relevant films including: if available, links to online streaming versions of the film, the film’s IMDB page, and online scholarly articles about the film (typically found in the online Journal of Religion & Film, but other places as well: Kinema).  If you are a scholar who has written an article on one of these films, please message me with a link and I will add it after I read it.  If students give their permission, I will include their film projects or a link to them as well (students have to make their own film in this class).

Required Readings for Religion & Film:

Louis Gianetti, Understanding Movies 

Paul Flesher & Robert Torry, Religion and Film

Please note: This page is still under construction: I plan to add discussion / reading / viewing questions for each film and reading.

Preliminary & General Materials


Paul Flesher and Robert Torry, “Filming Jesus: Between Authority and Heresy,” Religion & Film 8:1 (February 2004): article 14.

What is “targum” or “targumic method”? How do Flesher and Torry apply this ancient method to modern filmmaking?  How does it work?  Why must a filmmaker use this method?  What are some of the drawbacks of the method?

Sword and Sandal: Biblical Films

Hebrew Bible / Old Testament

Samson and Delilah (1949; Dir. Demille)


Before viewing this film, read Judges 13-16 in the Bible.  When reading, consider how you would adapt this story into a film?  How would you portray the characters?  The setting?  What are the most important scenes?  What would you add?  What would you leave out?  Then watch the film: how did Cecille DeMille do it?

See Anton Kozlovic, “Subtle Varieties of Love within Cecil B. Demille’s Samson and Delilah (1949),” Kinema 2008 (Fall).





Jesus Films

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973; Dir. Jewison)

Reading by Mark Goodacre, “Do You Think You’re What They Say You Are? Reflections on Jesus Christ Superstar,” Religion & Film 3.2 (October 1999) Article 2.

Last Temptation of Christ (1988; Dir. Scorsese)


Passion of the Christ (2004; Dir. Gibson)

The-Passion-Of-The-ChristConsidering the heightened violence in this film, it is worth reading more generally about the apologetic uses of violence or editing of violence in biblical films by Hector Avalos, “Film and the Apologetics of Biblical Violence,” Religion & Film 13.1 (2009) Article 2.


For these and more “Jesus” films and “Christ” films, please see my Jesus at the Movies page.

Religion & Genre Films


The Exorcist (1973; Dir. Friedkin)



Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977; Dir. Spielberg)


Compare E.T.: The ExtraTerrestrial (1982; Dir. Spielberg)

ET Moon shot

The Matrix (1999; Dir. Wachowski Siblings)


The bibliography on this film is enormous in the study of religion and philosophy.  Here are a handful of articles.

James L. Ford, “Buddhism, Christianity, and The Matrix: The Dialectic of Myth-Making in Contemporary Cinema,” Religion & Film 4.2 (2000) Article 1.

Frances Flannery-Dailey and Rachel L. Wagner, “Wake up! Gnosticism and Buddhism in The Matrix,” Religion & Film 5.2 (October 2001) Article 4.

Mark D. Stucky, “He is the One: The Matrix Trilogy’s Postmodern Movie Messiah,” Religion & Film 9.2 (October 2005) Article 7.

James F. McGrath, “The Desert of the Real: Christianity, Buddhism & Baudrillard in the Matrix Films and Popular Culture,” in Visions of the Human in Science Fiction and Cyberpunk, ed. Marcu sLeaning & Brigit Pretzsch (Oxford: Inter-Discipliary Press, 2010) 161-172.

Jeffery Wittung and Daniel Bramer, “From Superman to Brahman: The Religious Shift of The Matrix Mythology,” Religion & Film 10.2 (October 2006) Article 3.

Adam L. Porter, “Satanic but not Satan: Signs of the Devilish in Contemporary Cinema,” Religion & Film 17.1 (April 2013) Article 37

This article focuses on Terminator 2, the Matrix Trilogy, Superman Returns, and the Dark Knight, the final film having the least developed Christ typology.

Other: Religion & Sports

Field of Dreams (1989; Dir. Robinson)

Religions & Film


The Chosen (1981; Dir. Kagan)


Dogma (1999; Dir. Kevin Smith)


See my notes on Bethany as a Christ-figure here.

For other female Christ-figures, see David Fillingim, “When Jesus was a Girl: Polymythic Female Christ Figures in Whale Rider and Steel Magnolias,” Religion & Film 14:1 (April 2010), Article 8.

The Apostle (1997; Dir. Duvall)


My Son the Fanatic (1997; Dir. Prasad)


Gran Torino (2008; Dir. Eastwood)

Gran Torino (Beer)

How is this a Christ film?  Just ask:

Diane Corkery, “Walt Kowalski a Christ-Figure? Christic Resonances in Gran Torino,” Religion & Film 15.2 (2012) Article 5.


Resources for Assignments

How to write a film analysis paper?


General Film Bibliography

General Religion & Film Bibliography

Bible & Film Bibliography

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