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Best Modern Religious Themed Movies According to Rotten Tomatoes

Image: Best Modern Religious Themed Movies According to Rotten Tomatoes
Noah, 2014. (imdb.com)

By    |   Friday, 01 May 2015 09:36 AM

So low do religious-themed movies score with critics that, as of April 2015, the movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even have a Top 100, or even a Top 10, list for such movies. But The Guardian newspaper noted that might have changed in 2014, when enough high-grossing faith-oriented flicks came out the British paper called it “The Year of The Bible Movie.”

What’s clear from the reviews displayed on Rotten Tomatoes is that reviewers want a movie that moves them, but the latest faith flicks seldom deliver – and they’ll take their inspiration where they can find it:

1. "Noah" (2014)

The latest retelling of the shipbuilder’s story drew harsh words from the faithful for its emphasis on spectacle over faith, but managed to pull in $359 million in the first six months of its release, the Guardian said.

“It’s certainly not the sometimes-whimsical Bible story that’s told to so many children,” wrote Linda Cook in the Quad City Times, calling the movie “a drama about a tormented man determined to do God’s bidding and about people who are ravaging the earth … as well as each other.”

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2. "Exodus: Gods and Kings" (2014)

Moses leading his people out of Egypt gets the modern blockbuster treatment. Most critics found it shallower than the Red Sea was while it was parted. “There’s no arguing the immensity of it or the beauty of its visual images,” Stephen Rebello wrote for Playboy. “But what’s around the many show-stopping moments is too generic to send us out of the theater properly awestruck, reverent and wowed.”

3. "Heaven is for Real" (2014)

A mother and father come to grips with their young son’s story of visiting heaven while recovering from surgery. The movie is based on the real-life father’s book. For most reviewers, the movie suffered from the same shallowness that defeated the year’s other Bible movies. “Christians may shout hallelujah that faith-based films are arriving in theaters,” Bruce Bennett wrote for Mad About Movies. “But with ‘Heaven Is for Real’ in particular, believers should pray for something better.”

4. "Son of God" (2014)

Reviewer-blogger Peter Chattaway notes the story of Jesus is a big-screen repackaging of a History Channel series. “At times, the script ... displays a welcome sensitivity to the issues at play,” he wrote. “But at other times, it misreads them so badly it gets downright goofy.”

5. "God’s Not Dead" (2014)

A devout college freshman must prove God exists or flunk his philosophy course. Common Sense Media, a site generally friendly to family-friendly, faith-based movies, calls it “an earnest, heavy-handed, faith-based movie that responds to doubts that atheists have about God.”

6. "The Book of Life" (2014)

The Spanish-American Day of the Dead tradition gets a whimsical but textured animated treatment with "The Book of Life." Linda Cook of the Quad City Times, always looking for a quality movie with a spiritual message, was enthusiastic in her praise: “To say that the movie is brilliant both in tone and appearance is to belittle it,” she wrote.

7. "The Da Vinci Code" (2006)

Ancient conspiracies with a religious flavor are the backdrop to this adaptation of a Dan Brown thriller. Mike Smith on CrazedFanboy.com gives “extra credit to (director Ron) Howard for not turning the film into a ‘message’ picture, allowing the audience to make their own decisions as to the facts presented.”

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8. "The Passion of the Christ" (2004)

Mel Gibson’s version of Jesus’ journey to the Crucifixion is remembered more for the gore than the glory – and yet, some critics found merit in that. Forrest Hartman of the Reno (Nevada) Gazette Journal found it “as horrifying as it is beautiful, as disturbing as it is gratifying, and as powerful as it is controversial.”

9. "Bruce Almighty" (2003)

Absolute power corrupts hilariously in this Jim Carrey vehicle, until God, who looks like Morgan Freeman, drops to say there are better things do to with the gift – or else. “You can’t think too hard about the movie on an intellectual level.” Kevin Carr writes on the 7(M)Pictures site. “This ... can be a bit of a challenge, considering this movie does open some doors of thought about God and religion.”

10. "Fantasia 2000" (1999)

It was a sequel of sorts to Disney’s 1940 animation experiment (which featured a raucous “Night on Bald Mountain” segueing into an ethereal “Ave Maria”). This one includes Donald and Daisy Duck (as crew, not passengers) on Noah’s Ark with Edward Elgar’s graduation anthem providing the music. Critics praised the animation, but called the movie mechanical in comparison to its predecessor.

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So low do religious-themed movies score with critics that, as of April 2015, the movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes doesn't even have a Top 100, or even a Top 10, list for such movies. But The Guardian newspaper noted that might have changed in 2014.
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