BA Film Studies and Portuguese

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
God at the Movies

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM20631
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Strange and interesting things happen to religious ideas when filmmakers get hold of them! This course unit explores 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.

After an introductory session on the theological interpretation of film, the course examines the cinematic depiction of Moses and Jesus in such films as The Ten Commandments and The Last Temptation of Christ.  The remainder of the course considers how the Christian notions of sacrifice, salvation, and eschatology have been transposed to non-biblical and often non-Christian contexts. Among the films studied are Cool Hand LukeThe MissionThe Matrix, and The Seventh Seal. A further theme of the course is to examine the role of religious motifs in the cinematic representation of gender and ethnicity.


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

(2) To examine the cinematic representation of gender and ethnicity in a selection of religious films.

(3) To equip students with the skills necessary to interpret primary and secondary sources

In Theology and Film.

Knowledge and understanding

  • have gained an understanding of cinematic techniques for conveying the sacred.
  • have become acquainted with the biblical epic and with cinematic representations of Moses and Jesus Christ.
  • have acquired an understanding of the cinematic representation of the themes of sacrifice, salvation, and eschatology.
  • have acquired an understanding of the cinematic representation of class, gender, and ethnicity in a selection of religious films.

Intellectual skills

  • 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

  • have developed skill in observing, describing, analysing and assessing film.
  • have consolidated and advanced your essay writing skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • 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

Essay plan 0%
Essay 50%
Online Exam 50%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Essay plans


Summative Essay

Summative and Formative

Essay tutorials


Online Exam

Summative and Formative

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).

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Law Unit coordinator

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