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BA Film Studies and East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
God at the Movies

Unit code RELT30631
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Religions & Theology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Strange and interesting things happen to religious ideas when filmmakers get hold of them! This course unit gives students the opportunity to explore the way Judaeo-Christian stories and beliefs have been taken up and transformed in a selection of classic and popular films, ranging from the Hollywood blockbuster to the European art film.

The course begins with a discussion of the biblical epic, followed by a study of Jesus films. The remainder of the course considers the cinematic representation of the themes of sacrifice, salvation, and eschatology. Among the films studied are The Ten Commandments (DeMille, 1956), Exodus: Gods and Kings (Ridley Scott, 2014), The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988), Cool Hand Luke (Rosenberg, 1967), The Mission (Joffé, 1986), The Matrix (1999), and The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957).



(1) To explore the way Judaeo-Christian stories, beliefs, and symbols are featured in a selection of classic and popular films.

(2) To equip students with the skills necessary to interpret primary and secondary sources in Theology and Film.



Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: The Biblical Epic Part I –The Ten Commandments (DeMille, 1956).

Week 3: The Biblical Epic Part II – Exodus: Gods and Kings (Scott, 2014).

Week 4: The Jesus Film Part I – The King of Kings (Ray, 1961).

Week 5: The Jesus Film Part II – The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988).

Week 6: Sacrifice Part I – The Mission (Joffé, 1986).

Week 7: Sacrifice Part II – Silence (Scorsese, 2016).

Week 8: Salvation Part I – Cool Hand Luke (Rosenberg, 1967).

Week 9: Salvation Part II – The Matrix (Wachowskis, 1999).

Week 10: Eschatology Part I – The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957).

Week 11: Eschatology Part II – Left Behind (Armstrong, 2014).

Teaching and learning methods

  1. Lectures.
  2. Seminars – students will be required to give 15-minute papers on one of the films covered in the course.
  3. Lecture summaries, key texts, and video clips (subject to copyright restrictions and availability) will be provided on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course you should normally:
  • have gained an understanding of cinematic techniques for conveying the sacred.
  • have become acquainted with the biblical epic and with cinematic representations of Jesus Christ.
  • have acquired an understanding of the cinematic representation of such themes as sacrifice, salvation, and eschatology.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course you should normally:
  • be able to translate a critical awareness of film into individual research for seminars and essays.
  • be aware of and able to account for social and historical factors that contribute to the religious themes explored in the films studied.
  • be familiar with the visual style employed to illustrate subtextual religious themes by the filmmakers studied.

Practical skills

By the end of this course you should normally:
  • have developed skill in observing, describing, analysing and assessing film.
  • have consolidated and advanced your essay writing skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course you should normally:
  • have sharpened your skills in independent research, critical thinking, and essay writing.
  • be aware of how religious ideas permeate popular culture and an ability to identify and analyse cultural expressions of these ideas.

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Seminar Paper


15 mins/1000 words




3000 words




2 hours



Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Essay report forms


Essay tutorials



Recommended reading

Louis D. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, multiple editions (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1993-2013).

Joel Martin and Conrad Ostwalt (eds), Screening the Sacred: Religion, Myth, and Ideology in Popular American Film (Boulder; Oxford: Westview, 1995).

Eric S. Christianson, Peter Francis, and William R. Telford (eds), Cinéma Divinité. Religion, Theology and the Bible in Film (London: SCM, 2005).

John Lyden (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film (London: Routledge, 2009).

Adele Reinhartz, Bible and Cinema: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2013).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 156

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Law Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Please find a full description of this course unit in MyManchester.

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