Academy Award Contenders
…Faith and the Oscar
by Phil Boatwright

From Phil Boatwright’s book, MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad

With SON OF GOD opening nationwide 2/28/14, I got to thinking; we don’t see many faith-based films from the major studios. That wasn’t always the case. Here are the best-picture nominees over the Academy’s past 80-some years that have candidly represented Christ’s teachings. (That year’s Oscar winner is listed in parentheses.)

1935 - LES MISERABLE. Due to a man of faith's compassion, a thief turns his life around, serving God and man, including his enemy. (MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY)

1938 - BOYS TOWN. Spencer Tracy is both tough and compassionate as Father Flanagan founder of an effective school for juvenile delinquents. (YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU)

1941 - ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN. A devout minister (Fredric March) and family deal with the community and church life during changing early 1900s America. Fun scene has the good Reverend attending his first movie. (HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY)

1943 - THE SONG OF BERNADETTE. A French girl claiming she saw a vision of a woman with a message for the world causes suspicion and fear among church and political leaders. (CASABLANCA)

1944 - GOING MY WAY. Bing Crosby as easy-going Father O'Malley. He sings, helps juvenile gang members, and saves the church from financial wows. (GOING MY WAY)

1945 - THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S. Crosby reprises his Father O'Malley role, facing the same problems in a new parish. (THE LOST WEEKEND)

1946 - IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. James Stewart's George Bailey is given the opportunity to see what his community would have been like if he had never been born. He reminds us that we can have a real influence on many souls. (THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES)

1947 - THE BISHOP’S WIFE. A debonair angel helps a frustrated pastor rediscover his faith - and his neglected wife. Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven. (GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT)

1951 - QUO VADIS? During the time of Nero, a Roman soldier falls in love with a pretty Believer. (AN AMERICAN IN PARIS)

1953 - THE ROBE. A centurion wins Christ's robe in a dice game. Soon his life is changed by discovering Jesus to be the Savior of the World. We see Jesus through the use of long shots and camera angles that focus the attention not on an actor portraying Christ, but on the people who came into His presence. (FROM HERE TO ETERNITY)

1956 - FRIENDLY PERSUASION. Charming portrayal of a Quaker family caught in the Civil War conflict. THE 10 COMMANDMENTS was also nominated that year. (AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS)

1959 - BEN HUR. Story of a noble man forced into slavery and the effect Christ had on his life. “And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.” Also nominated that year, THE NUN’S STORY. (BEN HUR)

1963 - LILIES OF THE FIELD. Sidney Poitier won Best Actor as a handyman who helps build a chapel for a sect of nuns. A gentle, sweet film, kept believable by Mr. Poitier's solid performance. (TOM JONES)

1964 - BECKET. Flawless acting and a sharp-edged script highlight this tale of the tumultuous friendship between the Archbishop of Canterbury (Richard Burton) and Henry II (Peter O'Toole). As the story unfolds, Becket becomes more serious about his faith and more concerned with Henry's defiance of it. (MY FAIR LADY)

1966 - A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. Paul Scofield stars in this conflict between Sir Thomas More and Henry VIII over the king's desire to break with the Church of Rome so he can divorce his wife and marry another. (A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS)

1981 - CHARIOTS OF FIRE. Exquisite production concerning Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish missionary who ran in the 1924 Olympics. "I believe that God made me for a purpose. For China. But he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell. (CHARIOTS OF FIRE)

1983 - TENDER MERCIES. A country singer on the skids finds redemption. (TERMS OF ENDEARMENT)

1985 - WITNESS. A NYC cop finds himself living among the Amish and falling in love with the mother of a boy who witnessed a murder. Some tender moments, but also contains R-rated material. (WITNESS)

1986 - THE MISSION. Story of 18th century Jesuit priests (some devout, some not so) struggling against political factions and ignorance to bring the word of God to the Brazilian natives. (PLATOON)

1994 - SCHINDLER’S LIST. True story of a war profiteer affected by the mistreatment of the Jews during the Holocaust. Besides the historical value of this piece, it presents a great example of redemption and contains one of the most spiritually uplifting endings found in the movies. Though deserving of its R-rating for violence, sexual activity and language, it also contains scenes that represent God's intervention and His power to heal relationships. (SCHINDLER’S LIST)