Video Clips

Films For Religious Education

The films listed here deal with a variety of religious themes and may be of use in the RE classroom. Themes are indicated and in many cases helpful clips are suggested. In fact using clips may be a lot more effective in education than showing whole films, which take up several classes, dissipating the impact. Also, some of the films may not in their entirety be very appropriate, but may contain some clips that will illustrate a point nicely.

See also the film blog for other reviews and the articles page for study guides to some of these films.

Amazing Grace (2007)
This is an inspiring film that tells the story on the campaign to abolish slavery in England, focussing on the efforts of William Wilberforce to get an anti-slavery bill through Parliament. It moves slowly, goes back and forward in time quite a bit, but still holds the attention. There are so many clips that could be used in religion class, and not just on slavery and justice issues. For example there's an early sequence where Wilberforce tries to discern his vocation in life - torn between the work of God and his political activities. Eventually he believes he can do both by campaigning against slavery. Other useful clips include a scene where he meets his mentor John Newton, writer of the song Amazing Grace and a former slave ship owner who is now haunted (metaphorically) by the ghosts of the slaves he carried. The representation of slavery is not that graphic, but there are descriptions in another early scene where a group of like minded friends gather at table to discuss the issue with Wilberforce, and later when some well off citizens are given a close quarters experience of a slave ship. The scenes where he addresses parliament should also be useful in holding students' attention and introducing issues.

The Execution of Private Slovik (1974)
I saw this film many years ago and it made a lasting impact. It's the true story of Eddie Slovik (played superbly by Martin Sheen) the only American soldier to be executed since the Civil War - he was shot for desertion in World War Two. It is simple basic and hard hitting, and as moving as when it was first made. It is not in the least heavy handed in it's message, and some viewers may even find Slovik a somewhat unsympathetic character. Two scenes in particular are useful for class - around the middle of the film the chaplain talks to the firing squad about the morality of it all, and towards the end there is Slovik's final experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He prays on the way to execution, but this scene is tough going and may not be suitable for younger classes at least. And without the context of the full film the emotional impact wouldn't be the same.
Man For All Seasons, A (1966)
Oscar winning account of the conflict between Henry VIII and St Thomas Moore. Paul Schofield is outstanding as Moore and script by Robert Bolt is intelligent. Students may find the full film hard to concentrate on, but there is an excellent scene in the jail near the end where Moore's family try to persuade him to capitulate and be set free - enough here for a few classes on morality, conscience and standing up for your principles. This is followed by the dramatic courtroom scene which should hold the students' attention big time. The execution scene follows directly but it is not graphic, and is useful in exploring issues of justice and forgiveness.
Mission, The (1986)
Another literate screenplay by Robert Bolt in this sweeping epic of idealistic Jesuit missionaries in South America at the time of the Conquistadores. I've seen the historical accuracy questioned on some details, and the portrayal of the conniving Church authorities is rather stereotyped, but Ray McAnally does humanise the Cardinal somewhat. The main characters, played superbly by Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro are complex and fascinating. One of the best scenes for classroom use, especially when dealing with the topic of reconciliation, is early in the film when the priest (Irons) challenges de Niro's devastated slave trader (he has killed his brother over a woman) to design a fitting penance. This is followed by a beautiful sequence, mostly visual, when he carries his burden, literally and metaphorically, to the people he has enslaved. The full film is probably too long for classroom use, the violence is quite strong and there is some ethnic nudity.
Of Gods and Men (2010)
This is a wonderful film, with many useful clips for Religious Education. It tells the true story of a group of monks under threat from insurgents in North Africa. One scene features a meal - it comes near enough to the end of the film when the monks are in serious peril. They have decided, despite the danger, to stay on and serve the local community, largely Muslim. This scene is particularly powerful, especially if you have watched the film up to this point so that you know the characters involved. Not a word is spoken, but the scene is beautiful and emotional. The parallels with the Last Supper are clear, and this clip is a wonderful resource for classes on table fellowship. The film has many other wonderful moments suitable for classes dealing with inter-faith relations, sense of community, the religious life, ritual and more - another to look out for is the first visit of the insurgents to the monastery. Click here for Study Guide.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson's controversial portrayal of the Passion is one of the most striking and powerful films on the life of Jesus. Some will have qualms about showing the whole film in a school context, even in senior classes, given the amount of intense violence. However, the opening scene in the Garden of Gethsemane is quite artistic, is not graphic and should be useful to illustrate the themes of temptation, prayer, trust. There's a Last Supper scene and some touching flashbacks to Jesus' youth. The scene where Simon helps helps Jesus carry the cross is also well done and useful for exploring themes of solidarity and love.

Raining Stones (1994)
English film by campaigning director Ken Loach. This one features an unemployed man's efforts to get the best outfit for his daughter's First Communion, despite sensible advice to the contrary from his local priest, played with genuine sympathy by Irish actor Tom Hickey. It's funny and poignant by turns as the loving parent tries to maintain the family dignity. Two scenes are striking - one where the father struggles to explain the Eucharist to his daughter, and one where he goes to the priest for a late night Confession. The film has an over-15 cert and there are a few F-Words, but it's heart is in the right place.
Romero (1989)
Earnest and effective biography of Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Raul Julia is excellent in the title role, showing the bishop moving from academic to concerned social reformer as he experiences first hand the sufferings of his people. The secondary characters aren't as well drawn, some being there merely to represent different points of view. Two scenes of particular use in the classroom are when Romero comes to retrieve the Eucharist from a church occupied by the military - this is tense and shocking in a way; there's also the last few minutes when we hear Romero speaking out against the repression on the radio as the assassin prepares to kill him and does, as the Bishop is saying Mass. The film has an over-15 cert which is about right.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)
A striking, Oscar nominated film about a young student, motivated by her Christian faith, campaigning against the Nazis in Munich, Germany during the Second World War. The religious element is there, but subtly integrated. In German, with English subtitles, it is riveting as we see her interrogated by the German police, and all the more poignant as it is based on real events. Julia Jentsch does a brilliant job in the main role. Despite the setting there is no graphic violence, but there is plenty of tension. One scene of particular use in class starts with Sophie praying one night in prison, leading to the final scene with her interrogator where issues relating to God, injustice and conscience are discussed. The film can be approached from the perspectives of religion, citizenship, history and study of the German language.

Click here for Study Guide

Static (1985)
This is a weird one. Keith Gordon plays Ernie Blick, an imaginative young inventor who claims to have invented a TV that can tune in Heaven. He also collects distorted crucifixes from the crucifix factory where he works! Food for discussion there. I've heard people claiming that it's blasphemous and others accusing it of ramming religion down their throats. It's certainly intriguing. The fact that it's hard to categorise was illustrated when the merchandising for the video version sought to portray it as science fiction, but it has been well received by the critics. The tone is ambiguous - are we meant to take it all seriously or is it just delicious irony? One of the best scenes for classroom use is when Ernie reveals his invention to his friends and family - the scene should hold students as it is rich in anticipation - we don't know until this moment what the great invention is. It could be a useful component in discussions on the afterlife, and it has resonances of the Tower of Babel story. The relationship between Ernie and a childhood friend (quirky but moving performance by Amanda Plummer) is platonic but very warm. There are about two F-words and some minor vulgarities in the film, which received an over-15 cert on video. Director: Mark Romanek
A Walk to Remember (2002)
Here's a novelty - a trendy teen film whose heroine is genuinely religious. The opening is dramatic and the film holds the attention with its fine charaterisations. It is not overbearing in its positive messages and that's not all that's going on. Apart from faith it deals with relationships, school bullying, marriage and death. Hard to fault though the ending is somewhat sentimental.
The Way (2010)
This film is about a father-son relationship and is set against the background of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. Martin Sheen plays the father, while his son Emilio Estevez plays the son, and also wrote and directed. It is quite moving, challenging and thought provoking. Gradually we get to know the Sheen character and the motley crew he meets up with. It's a strongly human film, and its empathy with the characters is what makes it involving and touching. The pilgrimage motif is a powerful one - the journey through life, the baggage we carry apart from our backpacks, the varying paths we take, the people we journey with. There are some fine set pieces, and such scenes may well be useful in RE (see Study Guide) though the full film is probably too long and leisurely for youngsters. Some elements raise questions of suitability of the full film for young viewers - in particular there's an ambiguous attitude to soft drug use.
Click here for Study Guide.