Jesus is just all right with the AFI

The American Film Institute, which is among the nation’s top-10 list-making-and -releasing organizations, has released a new list: The 100 Most Inspiring Films of All Time. The media is in the process of ripping it apart, and has already found it conspicuously lacking in Jesus-ness.

Not a single Christ-centered film made the top 100 — no Passion, no Greatest Story, no Last Temptation even. Nor did any Spike Lee films. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, on the other hand, got serious representation. Bible-derived or -inspired films like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur were honored, but they don’t have J.C. at stage center.

Is this enough to spark a new culture war? Gosh, I hope so. Because we haven’t had one of those in, like, five or six minutes. I’m jonesing. And let me just say this to the AFI: No Glitter? That movie and a three-liter Cherry Coke once inspired me to wet myself in a public theater. What gives?


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  • Paul U.

    I was so glad The Passion was not on the list…what would that movie possibly inspire you to do? Lose your lunch with it’s glorified violence? Sorry, but it’s true…the camera seemed to linger a bit too lovingly on all that gore, at least to me. I was just disapointed that Flashdance was not on there, c’mon she took her passion and made it happen!

  • Matty

    I just want to thank Scott for the following: “And let me just say this to the AFI: No Glitter? That movie and a three-liter Cherry Coke once inspired me to wet myself in a public theater.”
    It didn’t take a three-liter to inspire me.

  • Jimmy

    Quite honestly, I can think of no Jesus-centered film I would call inspiring; certainly not the Passion of the Christ. If I had to choose an inspiring Jesus-centered work it would be Franco Zeffirelli’s mini-series masterpiece, Jesus of Nazareth. Sadly, it has been long absent from television, but you can get it on DVD.

  • KC Holt

    The reason why there was no Jesus movie on the list? Because there are no good movies about Jesus, plain and simple, end of story.

  • Dave M

    “Chariots of Fire,” at number 100, was basically the token Christian film.

  • Chris

    If there were a Jesus film that focused on his teachings (other than hippie Godspell with dude from Alias), then perhaps the King of Kings would have a movie on this list.
    Also forget Hanks, Spielberg, Poitier,… I can think of at least one Jim Carrey film sadly missing from the list, and that would be The Truman Show.
    Oh, one more: I know Denzel had more than his fair share on the list (Philadelphia, Glory) but I was kind of surprised Remember the Titans wasn’t on there. Granted, it’s formulaic, but tons of my friends found that film inspirational.
    (sigh) Okay, one more observation: Pinocchio was the only animated film on the list! Where’s Dumbo? Where’s Shrek? Where’s Bambi? The Jungle Book? Toy Story 2? Mary Poppins? And, to a much more debatable extent, where’s South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut?
    Where’s Oh, God!? Where’s Dogma? Okay, I’m done. I better stop before I say The Naked Gun spoke to my heart and drove me to tears… Whoops.

  • Mike in Moncton

    The Passion of the Christ ruled. Pretty literally too. The box office numbers speak for themselves.
    Whine all you want about it, Passion haters. AFI is irrelevant anyway.

  • jason

    i’m the biggest mariah fan, but i did ask my dad who watched it if “glitter” or “showgirls”, was mentioned. they inspired me to wretch. (sorry mimi at least i have your back 99%of the time)

  • Jim

    I think Chris and KC nailed it. There hasn’t been a genuinely good or inspiring film about Jesus in a long, long time. “Passion” certainly inspired some people (including my ex-wife), but it was more divisive than inspiring. And sorry, no evangelical films of recent vintage cut the mustard–they just cut the filmic cheese.

  • Nick

    The article got it wrong. Jesus made the list, thru #56 entry “Ben-Hur.”
    How do you retract your headline?

  • Nick

    Jimmy, Franco Zeffereli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” is NOT long absent from television, it just played on the History Channel this past Easter.
    The Passion was simply fantastic… those who disagree do not understand 19th Century European art. There were many scenes lifted from Caravaggio masterpieces. I know of no other film that so freely used artwork masterpieces as an influence to propel a story, save for Hitchcock’s _Spellbound_.

  • Tony

    As a Disney fan, I was glad that Pinocchio made the list. However, I would have liked to see Dumbo on there as well. Who could not be inspired by the story of a child who was teased, humiliated and excluded for his appearance, whose mother is incarcerated for trying to protect him, and who then triumphs by using the very deformity for which he was shunned to his advantage?

  • karen tangent

    the only powerful jesus film i can think of is pasolini’s _the gospel according to st matthew_. the character of jesus is not what one would call sympathetic, but that has more to do with pasolini’s identification with jesus than any attempt to make christ and christians contemptible. this jesus is a revolutionary. it’s a stunning vision with beautiful cinematography.

  • J.D.

    The Messainic themes of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘E.T. the Extra Terrestrial’ indicate to me that while a film with the character of Jesus may not be represented on this list, his story and philosophy is there in abundance. True, these films are not about Christianity directly, but there are undeniable parallels to the life of Jesus.
    Chris – I agree with your comment about animated films, I probably would have included Dumbo myself. However, if they were to include one, and only one, animated film, ‘Pinocchio’ gets my vote hands down.

  • karen tangent

    and, i have to comment on my comment below: yes, i know the list was a compilation of american cinema. but, thinking strictly in terms of jesus films, i had to go to italy.

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