Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2008


With the Golden Globes awarded and the Academy Award nominations just in, film reviewers Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat announce their choices of 2008's most spiritually literate films -- those movies that best reflect the character qualities that lead to a meaningful life. "We've identified an alphabet of spiritual practices that are recognized by the world's religions as being signs of spirituality, and when we watch films, we look for them," says Mary Ann.

For nearly four decades the bestselling authors (Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life) have been looking at movies from a spiritual perspective, and this year's list is even broader than in previous years, with its new animated film category. "Some amazing things are happening in this genre, and it is no longer limited to children's fare," notes Frederic. He points to the powerful spiritual messages conveyed by the story of a robot on a quest for love (WALL.E), the tale of a caring elephant on a mission of mercy who hears the cries of strangers (Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!), and an adventure story about a kind-hearted mouse (The Tale of Despereaux). Also in this category are films about the Chicago 10 protesters in 1968 and the Israeli massacre of refugees in Lebanon in 1982.

The characters in the Ten Most Spiritually Literate Feature Films of 2008 model different aspects of the spiritual life:

  • a sister who experiences the grace of forgiveness and compassion (Rachel Getting Married)
  • two poor women who realize their connection with life (Frozen River)
  • an enthusiastic woman who demonstrates true happiness (Happy-Go-Lucky)
  • a professor whose closed-off heart is opened by music, friendship, and love (The Visitor)
  • a charismatic gay activist who speaks truth to power (Milk)
  • a young girl who experiences the healing and transformative power of love (The Secret Life of Bees)
  • two religious leaders struggling with the challenges of faith, openness, and not knowing (Doubt)
  • an angry old man whose heart is softened through his relationships with an immigrant family (Gran Torino)
  • an oddball outsider who relishes life with gratitude (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
  • a curious and resilient Indian boy whose love remains true no matter what life throws at him (Slumdog Millionaire)