Movies + TV

Seeing Is Believing

Movies and TV shows about keeping and losing faith.

Black Narcissus (1947)
This is a chilling film (a chilm, if you will) (you probably won’t, because chilm sounds disgusting) about a bunch of nuns who lose it while on a mission at the Palace of Mopu near Darjeeling, right at the edge of a cliff. The women battle with their loyalty to their faith, and shit gets catty when some of them start to have the hots for a British guy who’s always wearing this stupid burlap hat. The whole movie builds slowly and carefully as you too become consumed by the atmosphere of this mysterious place—the colors of the skies, the smells, the plant life, the drum that consistently beats as long as the sage at the top of a mountain is alive. After a little over an hour of hauntingly beautiful scenery and nuns going about their business (and, unfortunately, some casual 1940s racism), everything just spirals quickly out of control in a way I was completely unprepared for and which may give me nightmares tonight. My favorite part was, after the super-serious, crazy climax (which I won’t give away), there’s an intense conversation about it between two of the characters, but this horse in the lower corner of the screen totally ruins it by making these ridiculous horse faces. Ha ha, horses. Nuns. Chilms. We learned a lot today. —Tavi

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
This is my favorite movie of all time, a Christmas-y love story between two coworkers (Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan) who unwittingly fall in love while exchanging anonymous letters. If the plot sounds familiar, it’s likely because Nora Ephron updated it in 1998 for You’ve Got Mail, and though I know a lot of people love that movie, the original has a dreamy quality that the remake never quite achieves (though we’d all love to own Meg Ryan’s bookstore, right?). Jimmy Stewart is a total dreamboat, romantic and slightly tortured (the best kind of Jimmy Stewart) and Margaret Sullavan is heartbreaking and hilarious. It’s a movie that makes you feel warm and happy and aware of the possibility that love shows up in the most unexpected places. —Pixie

Run Lola Run (1998)
This movie will blow your mind, f’realsies. It is a movie about love, about the things we do for love, about the faith we have in love and in the ones we love. It’s also about the choices we make and the way everything is connected, but mostly it is just the GREATEST movie. Franka Potente (best name ever or BEST NAME EVER?) stars as Lola–who has fiery red hair that for the past 14 years has been making me want to reach for the Manic Panic and just GO FOR IT. She has 20 minutes to find 100,000 German marks that her boyfriend has lost. The money does not belong to him, but to a criminal kingpin, so if he doesn’t come up with it, he is, you know, dead. So Lola runs—she runs to think and she runs to save her boyfriend. When I watched it, I knew nothing of the plot, and the movie blew my MIND. I want your minds to be blown too, so I won’t say much more, and don’t check Wikipedia either. The first time I saw it ended up being the first three times, because I kept rewinding it so I could go back and make sure I caught all the details, and also because I didn’t want to leave the world it created. The movie also has a killer soundtrack that will make you want to run, or at least dance, your worries away. —Laia

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
Life of Brian is a parody of big-budget Bible epics from the ’50s and ’60s like The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told. It also serves up a very loony but sly critique of blind faith. Graham Chapman plays Brian Cohen, a young man who was born on the same day as Christ. He’s living in Judea during the Roman occupation, and throughout the movie his life continually intersects at pivotal moments with Jesus’s (e.g., Brian and his mother attend the Sermon on the Mount). But Brian isn’t a Jesus figure, he’s simply an unassuming guy who just happens to be Jesus-adjacent. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is probably the more famous of this influential British comedy troupe’s films, but Life of Brian is my favorite. It’s just so absurd and hysterical. The Pythons (Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones) are geniuses. Plus, the movie features the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” probably the best thing to listen to when you’re feeling lousy. —Amber

Keeping the Faith (2000)
This is one of my FAVORITE romantic comedies. It stars Edward Norton as a Catholic priest, Ben Stiller as a rabbi, and Jenna Elfman as the lady that both dudes fall for. But wait! Edward Norton is a PRIEST! He can’t commit to that! And Ben Stiller technically can, but his friend likes this girl too, so what is he supposed to DO? I don’t remember, frankly, but that’s not really the point in a romantic comedy, because you know everything will be OK. It has everything else a rom-com should have—bromance, a rendition of “Jessie’s Girl” during karaoke, religious old people, a bar mitzvah, the works. —Tavi

Scrooged (1998)
In this modern reimagining of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, an unfeeling TV network executive who’s visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. So…Bill Murray is my favorite. Maybe he’s your favorite, too. If you’re still on the fence about him and have maybe been wondering what’s so great about the guy (is this even possible?), then you have to watch Scrooged—it’s Murray at his charmingly smug best and has the added bonus of being a pretty fantastic Christmas tale that’s both extremely funny and life-affirming. As they say in the movie, “yule love it.” —Amber

Long Island Medium
2012-present, TLC

So listen: I don’t want to get into a debate over Theresa Caputo’s purported ability to talk to the dead. (Yes, I am aware of cold-reading techniques and how they’ve been used for decades to scam people.) The reason I love Long Island Medium is Theresa herself, and how she interacts with her family. Her hair! Her NAILS! Her outfits!!! She embraces who she is, and for that, she is my favorite forever. And the embarrassment of her family, even while they agree to participate in rituals like saging the house, is the best. Her daughter, Victoria, could not be more mortified when her mother bum-rushes someone in the grocery store to ask about a great-grandpa who has passed away, and it’s just always fun to watch, mostly because it’s how anyone would react if their mother did ANYTHING embarrassing at the grocery store, much less talk to the dead. —Pixie

Angels in the Outfield (1994)
A very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in this Disney classic as Roger, a kid in the foster-care system who prays to God to help his local baseball team, the Angels, become league champions—this after his mostly absent father makes an offhand remark about the two reuniting once the terrible team does the impossible and wins the pennant. His prayer is answered when real angels, led by Al (Christopher Lloyd), start leading the players to victory. There’s obviously a Christian element to this story, but really it’s about optimism and how much you can achieve when you have faith in yourself, and that’s why I adore it. Angels in the Outfield is one of the great underdog-athlete movies. You’ll undoubtedly get so wrapped up in it that you’ll start flapping your arms while watching (if you’ve never seen the movie, that statement probably doesn’t make sense at all, but mark my words). —Amber

Father Ted
1995-1998, Channel 4

My dude is Irish and felt it was his duty to introduce me to Father Ted, which has since become one of my favorite television shows, on account of its absurdity, Seinfeldian plots, and general hilariousness. Set in a parochial house on the fictional Craggy Island that holds three wayward priests and their housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle, the show may come across as slightly dated (or slightly inaccessible, to those who don’t pick up on every Irish Catholic joke), but it holds up and is still hilarious, thanks to the writing, acting, and basically every expression made by Father Dougal McGuire, who has a heart full of gold and a brain full of…well, air, mostly. —Pixie

Doubt (2008)
Doubt is not one of those “fun nun” movies, like Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley and based on his long-running play, it is a film about allegations of child abuse in a 1960s Catholic school, and mostly it focuses on a silent war between Meryl Streep’s Sister Aloysius and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Father Flynn, the priest suspected of impropriety. This adaptation still feels very much like a play, with only a few actors, and very few locations—there are no pyrotechnics here, only tiny fissures in a facade. Faith and human fallibility intersect in surprising ways. You will probably cry. —Emma S.

Signs (2002)
I know a lot of people identify this movie as the shark-jump moment in the Shyamalan ouevre, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. (Truth be told, I’d watch Joaquin Phoenix tie his shoes for nine hours, so his inclusion in the cast doesn’t hurt any, and one must remember that this film came out before Mel Gibson’s career, and Mel Gibson himself, went awry.) Gibson plays a former priest who has given up on his faith after the accidental death of his wife, when suddenly crop circles—and signs of little green men—start appearing around his farm. The movie hits on one of Shymalan’s best tactics as a filmmaker, which is that what you DON’T see is more thought-provoking (and, at times, more frightening) than what you do, which is sort of a nice summation of the nature of belief itself, no? —Pixie

Homeland
2011-present, Showtime

On Showtime’s Homeland, Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a C.I.A. agent who suspects that a recently freed prisoner of war is actually working for al-Qaeda. Danes is amazing here—the part requires her to have some pretty serious meltdowns and she’s always so real and intense. The show is about people who’ve had their beliefs challenged and the aftermath of that disruption. It’s also one of those crazy suspenseful dramas that, in my opinion, is actually better to hold off on watching until the entire season is over (the second one just ended), so that you have every episode available to you on demand or on DVD or online or however you watch your TV shows, because you’ll want to watch it in one sitting. —Amber

The Believer (2001)
This movie stars a young Ryan Gosling, at the height of his hotness, as a neo-Nazi leader who hates Jews…and is secretly Jewish. A lot of it doesn’t make total sense, and some parts are just kinda boring, but Gosling makes you want to cry in almost every scene, because you can feel him searching for meaning and belonging, but you can also read on his face his continual disappointment at every person and idea he encounters, himself and his own included. Don’t watch this if you don’t like that uncomfortable sensation when you apprehend the humanity in a hateful person. Personally I love that experience; I’m into ambivalence and I get stoked on the faint possibility of redemption. More uncomfortable is feeling sexually attracted to a dude as you watch him carry out violent hate crimes—but it’s Gosling, and his big, crooked nose is beautiful, and you know this is a movie and not real life, so you live with yourself. It was, however, based on a true story of a guy who was arrested at a KKK rally and was outed by the New York Times as a Jew. The guy told the Times reporter that he’d kill himself if the story was published—it was, and he did. I’m not gonna tell you if the movie ends that way; you should just rent it. I made many of my loved ones watch it back when it was on Showtime in 2001, because it got stuck in my head and my throat in a way I couldn’t explain—I had to force people to have the same experience I’d had so they’d understand my feeeelingz. And so now I’m doing the same to you, beloved Rookies. Please watch this weird, flawed movie. —Anaheed

Treme
2010-present, HBO

One of the most heartbreakingly real shows out there, Treme chronicles the lives of several New Orleanians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The characters include jazz and street musicians (the main one is played by New Orleans resident Wendell Pierce of The Wire) who have to scramble to make a living after the storm, an enraged college professor (John Goodman) who can’t focus on his work because he is so disgusted by the local and national response to Katrina, his lawyer wife who is trying to understand and find justice for victims of police brutality during the storm, a chef who is uncertain if she can get her restaurant running again, a bar owner dealing with the increased violence in her neighborhood, and a Mardi Gras Indian chief who is trying to rebuild his home and, in the first season, prepare his elaborate costume for the first post-hurricane carnival. Produced by David Simon, who also created The Wire, this show is definitely gritty and dark, but the music, strength, and faith of the characters make it a powerful reminder of human resilience. —Stephanie ♦

58 Comments

  • simplebutchic December 20th, 2012 11:12 PM

    Run Lola Run is one of my favorite movies!

    http://simplebutchic.blogspot.com/

  • MegW December 20th, 2012 11:16 PM

    I do love me some Bill Murray, and I am going to have to check out Run Lola Run!!

  • atticus December 20th, 2012 11:17 PM

    Keeping the Faith is such a great choice!!!!

    • Maggie December 20th, 2012 11:37 PM

      Whoa I was JUST TODAY thinking about that sexy jogging/makeout scene from Keeping the Faith. What an odd little jem

      • Maggie December 20th, 2012 11:39 PM

        Ha ha you can tell an eighties child when they spell gem with a j. Holograms 4ever

  • brightredhoodie December 20th, 2012 11:42 PM

    higher grond is a pretty great little movie about faith.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1562568/

  • chloegrey December 21st, 2012 12:05 AM

    FINALLY ANOTHER PERSON ON EARTH KNOWS ABOUT THE BLACK NARCISSUS!
    When the guy is riding around on that pony and his long hairy legs are just totally too long for the pony? And that red lipstick? Such a creepy and sort of hilarious movie.

  • baratully December 21st, 2012 12:13 AM

    the life of brian is possibly the best monty python production ever, my family all watch it around christmas to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. ‘he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!’

  • peppermintmoo December 21st, 2012 12:13 AM

    Pixie- I just got a boxed set of Jimmy Stewart movies for my birthday! I watched The Shop Around The Corner a few nights ago and I’d say that it’s now one of my favorites. I love everyone’s earnestness, and of course Jimmy Stewart is unbelievably charming. Now I want to see You’ve Got Mail, too. Do you have other favorite Jimmy Stewart movies?

    • Cerise December 21st, 2012 2:02 AM

      You’ve Got Mail is wonderful (definitely see it!), but so is Jimmy Stewart. Everything from the sentimental and sweet (It’s a Wonderful Life, Harvey, etc.) to the suspenseful/scary (Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, anything Hitchcock, really…) is just made better with Jimmy. I nearly flipped from excitement when I found out he did voice-acting in one of my favorite childhood movies: Fievel Goes West.

      • peppermintmoo December 21st, 2012 2:52 PM

        Thanks for the recommendations. A Hitchcock marathon is definitely in order over break! Also, last year when I went to watch my friend’s forensics piece there was a guy from a different school whose demeanor was just like Jimmy Stewart’s, voice and all. I was in loveee.

        • Cerise December 21st, 2012 3:57 PM

          You’re welcome! Oh, a Hitchcock marathon sounds like a great idea. Personally, I hate most horror (too squeamish), but I love psychological suspense, so Hitchcock is just right for me. Also, love your Jimmy Stewart doppelganger story–if I had been there, I would have been swooning right along with you. <3

  • Sssophiabh December 21st, 2012 12:14 AM

    YO Run Lola Run!!!!!!!

  • Taffy December 21st, 2012 12:40 AM

    Oh my goodness, Father Ted is absolutely my favorite show.

  • evagm December 21st, 2012 12:52 AM

    The series Big Love that was on HBO was actually one of my all time fav shows about religion and faith. It’s so good and melodramatic *sigh*

  • DreamBoat December 21st, 2012 1:17 AM

    UMM, can we just talk about Run, Lola, Run being the best movie ever? Plus Franka Potente is the like, the most rad babe EVA. That movie and the music and the clothes! UGH IT’S PERFECT. WATCH IT. WATCH IT NOW.

    Also, Long-Island Medium! I LOVE YOU, THERESA. I totally love her, partially because I 100% believe in mediums, and partially because she is awesome <3
    AND DOUBT! THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE LISTE EVER!

    http://psychedelicdaisy.blogspot.com/

  • pearl irene December 21st, 2012 1:32 AM

    Saved! with macaulay culkin, jena malone, and patrick fugit is one of my absolute favorites but it’s not included :(

    also life of brian is soo great

    • laurajane June 16th, 2013 3:50 PM

      DUDE i was thinking the same thing why is saved! so unappreciated something must be done more people must know about this movie it’s so great

  • llamalina December 21st, 2012 2:28 AM

    I really like this theme, but there’s a book that I think fits it really well– Night by Elie Wiesel. It’s about some of Wiesel’s experiences during the Holocaust, and in the book he talks about battling his faith a lot. I read it for school during a time when I was battling my faith as well, and it had a huge impact on me.

    • DreamBoat December 22nd, 2012 1:42 AM

      I WAS THINKING OF WRITING ABOUT THAT BOOK AND SENDING IT TO ROOKIE! I recently read it for school, and it is now one of the most amazing and the most terrifying book I’ve ever read. It is all about faith, and has had a huge impact on me on well. Everyone should read it; it provides incredibly insight into the horrifying times of the Holocaust.

  • Teez December 21st, 2012 3:36 AM

    doubt is hard to watch at times but so worth it. meryl (as always) is perfect. as is amy adams. und lola rennt ist fantantasich auch. great list!

    • indaslicht December 21st, 2012 11:50 AM

      is your username supposed to be butt in arabic because if it is then i love you

  • annafay December 21st, 2012 3:47 AM

    So excited to check out these! plus, Homeland is amazing. but what about American History X?

  • alix December 21st, 2012 6:07 AM

    okay 2 things.
    Father Ted is the best show ever created. I watch it for hours and cry laughing at it. I love the one when the priests are lost in the lingerie section of the department store!
    And homeland, omg I need to find me some fangirls here! I love it so much and none of my friends watch and I’m like “whose gonna ship Carrie/brody with me?”

  • NotReallyChristian December 21st, 2012 6:13 AM

    I recommend ‘Lourdes’ – it’s all ‘can miracles happen? What do we do if they do??’
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOPyDkYvxuw

    • Lascelles December 21st, 2012 4:34 PM

      Just watched it. I am probably wrong by the meaning I get from it is your life will suck if your nurse is a rich model :D

  • taboocrazy December 21st, 2012 6:49 AM

    Ah! father ted…makes me glow with irish pride

  • bugaleeto December 21st, 2012 7:14 AM

    Homeland is amazing. Also black narcissus make me think of a dark and sinister Sound of Music

  • Mary the freak December 21st, 2012 8:24 AM

    RUN LOLA RUN!
    How awesome! I love love love love love this movie so much <33

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • Jeanne December 21st, 2012 8:54 AM

    I would add The Blues Brothers to that list :)
    http://www.teenbadger.blogspot.com

  • enface December 21st, 2012 9:07 AM

    I recommend two shows (both vaguely fit the theme):
    1. The Booth at the End. It’s very short, more like a series of clips. It’s thought-provoking and simple – everything is filmed in a diner booth, the dialogues carry everything. It’s about this man with a notebook, who sits in the booth all day. People come to him and tell them what they want (to save their child from cancer, to be prettier, whatever). He checks in the notebook, and tells them what they need to do for it to happen (“find a shut-in and get them to leave the house”, “rob a bank”…). They don’t have to, and he doesn’t urge them – he just wants to hear the story, but it’s unclear what he is.
    2. Wonderfalls. I only started watching this, but I like it so far. A girl, who recently got her philosophy degree, works at a tourist shop in Niagara Falls. She’s mostly bored and cynical and amusingly deadpan. Inanimate objects start talking to her, and at firs she thinks she’s crazy, but when she follows their instructions, she ends up helping pople in unexpected ways. It’s better than it sounds.

    • hellorose December 21st, 2012 6:21 PM

      Wonderfalls is SO good! I never saw the last episode because I couldn’t find it anywhere online, but now you’ve reminded me I may just have to watch the whole thing again from the beginning.

      • Tyknos93 December 22nd, 2012 6:21 PM

        Stop someone else KNOWS of Wonderfalls! I only know of it because my Lee Pace obsession is borderline unhealthy and because the creator of that show also made Pushing Daisies. I’ve only been able to find a few clips online as well. poopoo.

  • FlorenceEyre December 21st, 2012 9:51 AM

    Can´t wait to see The Believer!

  • Pearl December 21st, 2012 10:08 AM

    Doubt is the only movie I’ve watched out of this list. Clearly I have a lot of catching up to do!
    http://www.pforpearl.blogspot.com

  • jenaimarley December 21st, 2012 10:08 AM

    What about Saved!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je18yGc6jXk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  • Mikazuki42 December 21st, 2012 10:20 AM

    Gosh, do I love Life of Brian.

  • Mikazuki42 December 21st, 2012 11:03 AM

    I love Life of Brian.

  • missblack December 21st, 2012 11:44 AM

    Why isn’t Saved! on this list?!?!?!?! It is one of my absolute favoritefavorite movies. (PATRICK FUGIT!!!!)

    Sometimes I feel like I want to get my youth group to watch it as a church activity.

    Little&Trivial

  • meemes December 21st, 2012 12:24 PM

    Must add The X-Files…the greatest show of all time. All nine seasons are on Netflix Instant View.

  • M.Rose December 21st, 2012 2:47 PM

    He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy. My Favourites from Life of Brian include:
    ‘You are all individuals!’ and one little person says : ‘I’m not!’
    I also like the part with the Judean People’s front and the People’s front of Judea.

    http://fledglingstyle.blogspot.co.uk

    • enface December 21st, 2012 3:31 PM

      My favourite part too! Somewhere I read that the guy who said “I’m not” was just some extra, but he got fully paid just for improvising that line :D

  • FlowerPower December 21st, 2012 3:44 PM

    I remember hearing about “Run Lola Run” , and telling myself to remember to watch it sometime, but then I forgot. So, thanks for reminding me! I just finished watching it and I don’t think I’ve ever been so caught up in a movie’s suspense. So. Good.
    Here’s the link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaD9HKbn5nY
    Click on CC to get subtitles (unless you’re fluent in German)
    ~Caroline~

  • saramarit December 21st, 2012 3:46 PM

    Joan of Arcadia! I love Amber Tamblyn.

    • Bieb December 26th, 2012 6:08 PM

      Yeah, Joan of Arcadia was great! Surprisingly great.

  • Lascelles December 21st, 2012 11:56 PM

    I just watched The Magdalene Sisters (2002). Not a happy film… I totally lost it at the end but I recommend it.

  • annamarie December 22nd, 2012 2:31 AM

    Run Lola Run aesthetically influenced Lizzie Mcguire (says wikipedia) so I really need to hurry up and watch it.
    Father Ted is so great, but people should also check out Vicar of Dibley which is great to watch with your mum.

  • Bieb December 22nd, 2012 3:05 AM

    My favourite film about faith is the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man

  • HollinsCollins December 22nd, 2012 10:51 AM

    Run Lola Run looks sooooo good :D
    I shall have to go and plead with my parents bye XD

  • laurenniee December 22nd, 2012 6:33 PM

    Father Ted/Lola Rennt/The Life of Brian – three of my favourite things ever, seriously Rookie, stop it!

    http://passmeamineral.com/?p=1011
    That would be an ecumenical matter.

  • StellaBerlin December 23rd, 2012 5:16 PM

    RUN LOLA RUN is seriously one of my favorite movies of all times!!!!! EVERYONE MUST WATCH IT!!!!

  • all-art-is-quite-useless December 24th, 2012 4:55 AM

    What about Priest? It’s not a happy film – its about a gay catholic priest who is told in confession by a teenage girl that her father sexually abuses her, so he feels that he must tell someone but has sworn to the secrecy of confession! The film is about his crisis of faith.

    Also, the Vicar of Dibley!? If Father Ted is on the list, then the Vicar of Dibley deserves a place because it is hil-ar-i-ous.

    • Lascelles December 25th, 2012 8:52 AM

      For all the Rookie anglophiles I recommend sister Wendy because she is awesome :D I watched Priest. Not sure I get it. I think if I saw it in the 90′s it would have been more impactful. Last Temptation of Christ. I think that is worth a mention too. Just because it is banned…. ohhhweee… *BANNED* :D Happy holidays!

  • Sorcha M December 24th, 2012 1:36 PM

    Run Lola Run was the first film I saw that made me want to make films of my own.

  • guiltfreedonut December 24th, 2012 10:29 PM

    Run Lola Run is so mindblowing

  • Sue Denim April 13th, 2013 2:31 PM

    AGNES OF GOD!