Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Big List of Lenten Movies

I'm never as interested in "Jesus" movies as I am in mainstream films with food for thought about sin, reparation, and redemption.

These movies run the gamut from humor to wrenching drama, from a science fiction journey to the depth of dreams to an Israeli couple hosting an unlikely duo for holidays. Dive in and see where these take you.
If you haven't heard of them be sure to check reviews for ratings. There are some excellent ones that use bad language and violence to make their point. For that matter, The Passion of the Christ was not for wimps. Just as Jesus' real story wasn't.

Links in movie titles go to my reviews. A number of these have been discussed by Scott Danielson and me on our A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Those links follow the descriptions.

  • Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (A Match Made By God) - A solid comedy and a funny, sweet look at true love. It delivers the strong theme of “seeing God in your beloved.” and has an overwhelming example of covenantal love when Suri humbly doesn't expect anything in return for his love. [Good Story episode 209]

  • Ushpizin ... a tale of love and living your faith to the fullest. As well as a template for how marriage should work. Simply charming. [Good Story episode 66]

  • Departures ... by turns funny, moving, and inspirational. Each character, no matter how small, is important in the big story which is something like an orchestra playing a symphony in this story.

  • The Intouchables ... Wealthy quadriplegic Philippe needs an assistant to help him with all the functions of daily life. He hires immigrant, ex-con Driss because the regular applicants are missing one important quality and the lives of both men are changed. Sounds predictable. Isn't. [Good Story episode 146]

  • In Bruges ... for me, this is the perfect Lenten movie. Redemption, sacrifice, humanity in it's worst and best are all mingled and shown here. [Good Story episode 29]

  • Gone Baby Gone ... A private investigator and his partner agree to search for a kidnapped girl because he has connections to the locals that the police do not. This can be tough to watch but you won't find a stronger examination of free will, the difference choices make in our lives, and personal responsibility in the face of evil. [Good Story episode 126]

  • Stranger Than Fiction ... I'm continually amazed at how well this story is told and what a wallop it packs. Redemptive and life affirming. [Good Story episode 8]

  • Of Gods and Men ...  a group of Trappist monks in Algeria must choose between the practical choice to abandon their monastery when extremist Muslims terrorize the area ... or following spiritual calling even when there doesn't seem to be any reason to do so.  [Good Story episode 58]

  • Les Miserables (2012) ... as Scott Danielson said, "This film makes me want to be a better person. Could there be higher praise for a movie? [Good Story episode 117]
  • The Women's Balcony ... Friendships are broken, marriages are stressed, and budding romances are tested as the moderate-extreme, male-female lines are drawn in this battle over something very dear to the hearts of all: how to practice their faith. However, it is all handled lightly and with good-natured humor. [Good Story episode 175]

  • Lars and the Real Girl ... this sweet film shows unconditional love and complete acceptance, in the family, in the town, and in the most unusual love triangle you can imagine. [Good Story episode 27]

  • Babette's Feast ... huge underlying message about God's unexpected and overflowing generosity and Jesus' complete self-sacrifice ... all wrapped up in a woman who gives all her lottery winnings to cook a perfect meal for a village. [Good Story episode 221]

  • Mary & Max ... a rich story for those who are not afraid to explore the heights and depths that imperfection humanity bring to our lives and the lives of those we touch. [Good Story episode 43]

  • Calvary - Not for the faint-of-heart. But simply astounding. A real masterpiece that provides food for thought for everyone from Catholics to atheists. [Good Story episode 101]

  • Pan's Labyrinth ...  as Joi reminded me in years past, "the imagery is amazing, the language beautiful, and the story mythic, AND it honors self-sacrifice as the truest expression of love. [It shows] the road to virtue is not easy, and it's about doing what's right, even if you don't always know why, and even when it hurts.  [Good Story episode 70]

  • Inception - perhaps the perfect heist movie doubling as a thriller, as well as being a wonderful look at truth and love. [Good Story episode 16]

  • Amadeus - A rich meditation on the way that God chooses to give his gifts and how we respond to the measure that has been given to us. Superb.


  1. I have to put in a plug for The Mission. The repentent mercenary (de Niro) who struggles to carry his weapons and armour up the cliffs only to be relieved of his burden at the top - we had a pastor who would just play us this clip when teaching about Reconciliation and penance.

    Also, Schindler's List. I can't quite articulate why, but it calls to me strongly during Lent. Maybe the idea of corporate sin and guilt? The idea that my sin (and therefore my penance) can affect the world?

    1. I've had The Mission recommended many time. Just haven't gotten around to it. (Somehow those easier movies always get my attention first!) I need to move it up closer to the top of my list!

      Schindler's List is one of those which I know is good and worthy but which I just can't watch. That trailer with the little red sweater did it for me on that one. That and having been traumatized by watching Sophie's List when my girls were little.

  2. Hi Julie,
    This past year I have gotten into Korean tv in a big way. I love seeing the way traditional culture (often aspects that were once shared with the West) survives in the modern world. I find the sensibility very much in keeping with golden era Hollywood movies--more romantic than sexy, bloody violence is not explicit, often done in the shadows or off camera, crime is driven by greed, not by every kind psychological or sexual deviency. The baddies never loose their humanity that way and they are never thrown away or written off. The Korean dramas seem very Christian to me, some are explicitly so.

    For Lent, I would recommend:

    Healer (Contrasts how brothers cope with the sin of keeping a lie for two decades.)

    City Hunter (Baby who was supposed to be aborted. grows up to sacrifically save both his parents.)

    Pinnochio (Man loves the daughter of the reporter who destroyed his family. There is a lot more to this one, but i dont want to give too much away.)

    Punch (This one is a bit darker and more serious than the others, which have all have more light hearted and romantic elements. It's about a corrupt prosecutor who finds out he only has 6 months to live. Needless to say, this reorders his priorities between his ex-wife, his young daughter, his corrupt boss, and the rotten system he is caught up in.)

    These are all basically 20 hr. mini-series. Production values, writing, and acting is top notcH. The one exception is the lead for City Hunter. His acting skills aren't quite up to the rest of the cast, but he has other charms. :)

    They can be watched with subtitles at or

    1. Ooooo, Rene! These all sound good! I'm printing this out ... Thank you!

  3. I'm putting in my 2 cents for Don Camillo with Fernandel. Also The Return of Don Camillo. Two of my all time faves with so much heart and humanity.

    1. I've seen both those movies praised and, having just read the book, want to watch them. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. I love Departures.