Contact provides a typically balanced and insightful discourse between Ellie Arroway (played by Jodie Foster) and Palmer Joss (played by Matthew McConaughey) where some of the key debates between religion and atheism ensue. The movie, based on the Novel by Carl Sagan, leaves the debate open with some witty and thought-provoking questions on science, faith and belief.
2. Name of the Rose
Set in a monastery, this personal favourite of mine, highlights the fallibility of man and brings many of the church’s beliefs into question. Umberto Eco paints a grim picture of the clergy (and I’m not just referring to their physical appearance!) and questions the church’s factions and violent history. It also shows the detrimental effect of the church’s attempt to control “dangerous” knowledge. Brother William of Baskerville (played by Sean Connery) and Adso of Melk (Christian Slater) set out to uncover the cause of bloody events in the monastery.
This movie is based on actual events in the Catholic Church in Boston. It follows the Spotlight (Boston Globe) team’s investigation into a child abuse scandal that rocked the church and spanned decades of abuse and cover-ups. (Starring Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton).
4. The Da Vinci Code
In this controversial movie, based on the Dan Brown novel of the same name, Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) investigates the gruesome murder of the curator of the Louvre. The plot revolves around the secretive arm of the Catholic Church, Opus Dei, who are involved in covering up a legend which could lead to the end of Christianity as we know it.
5. The Third Miracle
Traditionally the Catholic Church requires two, but preferably three, miracles to be performed by someone prior to canonization (promotion to sainthood). Ed Harris plays the role of a skeptical priest, Frank Shore, who examines miraculous claims for the church. Shore appears to be fighting his own internal religious battles as well as those of the church.
6. The Root of all Evil
Richard Dawkins travels to various locations and in his usual style, does not show religion and religious doctrines any mercy. He uses the old testament to paint the picture of anything but a loving and merciful creator. The god of old religious texts is depicted as schizophrenic, ruthless, narrow-minded and generally unpleasant. Humans, he maintains, would generally be much better off without religion!
This is a movie about the life of Charles Darwin (played by Paul Bettany). Needless to say, Darwin’s theories on evolution received widespread criticism from religious quarters, making him a controversial character. Sadly, this battle is still being fought and even in the 21stcentury, the movie had its religious detractors!
8. Touching the Void
In 1985, Joe Simpson (the author of the book: Touching the Void) and his friend, Simon Yates, are involved in a climbing accident in Peru. The account deals with Simpson’s extraordinary story of perseverance and survival. Simpson, a proud atheist and ex-Catholic, makes no excuses for his lack of belief in a god and attributes his survival only to his dogged determination.
9. The Golden Compass
Based on the fantasy series by Philip Pullman, this book drew a lot of criticism from religious circles for being anti-Christian. It has strong underlying messages which challenge religion and promote critical thinking.
Two fallen angels (played by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) discover a loophole in Catholic dogma that can get them back to heaven. This controversial movie makes fun of religious dogma and drew the ire of the Catholic church in particular. Oddly enough, when I first watched Dogma, I was still in the clutches of religion. I remember being somewhat horrified at the content!