What ten films have you seen that had a freethinking, agnostic, or atheist sensibility, even if it is not the main theme, even if the movie only suggests the writer or director might be a non-believer because the film is irreverent or sacriligeous if in a mildly comedic sort of way? Things like Peter Medak's The Ruling Class, John Huston's Wise Blood, and almost any film by Bunuel or Pasolini.

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The Second Coming (2003)
The Rapture (1991)
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Meaning of Life (1983)
In Satmar Custody (2003)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Life of Brian (1979)
There Will Be Blood (2007)

I liked it so much I saw it twice.

Here's a nice review:

There Will Be Blood: Religion and Capitalism in America
By Rick, on February 15th, 2008 |

Warning: There be spoilers ahead!

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood explores themes that include the dynamics between fathers and sons, the corrosive effects of greed, and the role of religion in the rise of industrial capitalism. This last is perhaps the most striking, but it’s also the most misunderstood. It’s been described as a “conflict between religion and capitalism,” but this underestimates the subtlety of Anderson’s argument.

On the surface, it appears to be an escalating exchange of blows between preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) and oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis): Sunday extorts five-thousand dollars out of Plainview at the outset, to help him establish a church. Plainview humiliates him at the dedication of his first oil derrick. After the derrick fire, and the injuries to Plainview’s son, Sunday attempts to collect on the five grand and is savagely beaten for his trouble. But Plainview is forced to join Sunday’s church, undergoing an humiliating baptism, screaming out “I have abandoned my child, I have abandoned my child!” Not long after, Sunday leaves for bigger and better evangelical pastures, apparently carrying with him the last laugh.

Until the end, anyway . . . in unspecified (but shady) financial trouble, Sunday returns many years later to beg Plainview to lease his land for oil exploration. In a mirror of his own humiliating baptism, he forces him to scream out that he’s a fraud, before explaining how he’s siphoned the oil under Sunday’s land dry (”I drink your milkshake. I drink it up!”). Finally, he beats Sunday to death with a bowling pin, and the last words in the film are spoken by him: “I’m finished.” Cut to black.

And though it’s tempting to view this as a knock-down, drag-out fight between religion and capitalism, it’s a bit more subtle than that. From the very first time we meet Eli , the lines between religion and capitalism are blurred — he looks just like the man who sent Plainview to the Sunday property in the first place, taking $500 in return. And when we first meet Eli, in the cabin of his parents, we’re not told that it was Eli’s twin, but left to figure it out on our own . . . thus, from the very first, religion has two faces: piety and greed. (1)

So does capitalism: though Plainview doesn’t attend church regularly, he certainly benefits from the faith of his men, in a “keep ‘em down on the farm” kind of way. Although he regards the church warily, and with no small amount of contempt, he recognizes that putting on piety can be useful (a fact that hasn’t changed). And the culmination of that is in that baptism scene: his forced “conversion” directly benefits him by enabling the pipeline that finally makes his fortune. That fortune is directly tied to religion — without that humiliating baptism, there would be no pipeline to the coast, no lucrative deal with the oil company.

In the end, There Will Be Blood is about the conflicted relationship between capitalism and religion–the growth of both in the late 19th and early-twentieth centuries are intertwined. One would not have happened without the other, and I think the film makes that clear. Sunday’s rise is made possible by the fact of Plainview’s association — without the money brought into the community by the oil rigs, there would be no church, and no consequent rise of Sunday into demagoguery. But at the same time, without the church, the local oil operation would not be as successful as it is . . . and Plainview’s personal wealth would not have been assured.

Thus, the film portrays this country’s historical penchant for mixing religion and commerce into a mutually-beneficial stew. As our economy expanded, so did our peculiar theology: wealth is a sign of God’s favor, and therefore pursuing it is our God-given right. Conversely, if wealth is a sign of God’s favored, the wealthy must be the most favored of God. Further, since America is (or was) the wealthiest of nations, we must also be the most favored; thus the “doctrine” of manifest destiny and our self-designation as the “New Jerusalem.” Our progressivism has always been shored up by this very warped version of Christianity, and our sense that we are God’s favorites.

Is it any wonder that the most prevalent theology in America today is this so-called “prosperity doctrine?” We’re bombarded on television with it, from the Trinity Broadcast Network to Joel Osteen to the Crystal Cathedral. It provides a theological underpinning for our single-minded pursuit of personal wealth, often at the expense of everyone else, and has contributed to the near annihilation of our Native American predecessors and the eminent destruction of our environment.

Through the interactions of its two main characters, There Will Be Blood explores this theology and shows how morally bankrupt it really is. When Sunday is confronted with financial ruin, he is faced with a crumbling of the foundations of his faith. In a prosperity-doctrine world, if he is a financial failure, then he is no longer favored by God, or — worse — he never really was. And although Plainview “wins” he has lost all that matters: he is an empty, used-up shell. It’s a powerful metaphor for the morally empty husk of the American dream.

I think the film was so bleak and so nihilistic it turned off a significant portion of its audience; when I ask people if they have seen it, they wince and talk about how negative it was from start to finish. One suspects that it rattled their cage as did the equally bleak American Beauty. When I asked one matronly type her opinion of it, she had nothing good to say. I could tell from her body language and pious tones that I had touched a raw nerve (as had the movie). Now that I think about it, even Plainview's adoption of his partner's surviving son was designed to show how children can be exploited; we later see his interaction with the Dano family of Jebus nutjobs. But is Plainview to be justified by atheist or at least secular principles? I also wonder if the film is not a little too long to make what is so obvious ("in Plainview") a point.
Why do you think Cool Hand Luke is an Atheist film? It is used as an example of an Image of Christ in some college cirriculums.
Strictly Ballroom
The Man from Earth
Life of Brian
The Princess Bride - High Fantasy that is all just smoke and mirrors.
One Week
The Iron Giant
Fight Club
A Simple Plan

and Star Trek V - William Shatner did more damage to Gods reputation then anyone I have ever seen. Any god worth its salt wouldn't have let that movie get made.
Touching the Void
Planet of the Apes
Mosquito Coast
The God Who Wasn't There
The Golden Compass (after all, the writer is an Atheist and production was halted on the sequel by Christians)
Harry Potter (all movies) Harry Potter, or his alter ego, Daniel Radcliffe is an Atheist
Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
The Holy Grail
The Man Who Fell To Earth
I like your choices, Mark, and I very much enjoyed Dogma, Mosquito Coast, The Man Who Fell to Earth (and, I take it, Monte Python and the Holy Grail?) All excellent choices. Has anyone noticed that Peter Weir, who made Mosquito Coast, continued such themes as the un-Christian missionary when he has the ship's Darwinesque doctor pitted against his Master and Commander? Or in my favorite of his works, The Year of Living Dangerously, the quasi-nihilistic Buddhism of some Far Eastern countries is contrasted againtst Mel Gibson's TV reporter, unethical and (presumably) Christian. (Linda Hunt may be a dwarf, but she certainly is convincing as a diminuative photographer seen piggybacking on ol' extra-Roman Catholic Mel Gibson. Love the shot of the two of them, he darting this way and that; "he" taking wind-up Bell & Howell 16mm TV footage all the while!)

The God Who Wasn't There gives me the creeps. I do not mind divulging my age when I say that this movie is mind-blowing. I've never seen a more cogent, potent argument for the proposition that Jesus is a non-historical invention of Saul-Paul and his little chamber of scribes, diligently making up new myths and superstitions for the pathetic sadomasochists who soon will be referring to themselves as "Christians." I mean, it gave me the creeps because I felt guilty watching it. I live in the tip of the Bible Belt and wonder if my neighbors can hear the TV sound.

Besides, I was raised a Protestant, but as I grew much older I realized I really was: I am protestant in the sense that I protest.

Yes, of course I meant Monty Python and the Holy Grail. How could I have made such a mistake? Guess I'm have to "Run Away". Lol.

Anyway, The Year of Living Dangerously, in which Linda Hunt won an Academy Award for playing a man, convincingly, is an extraordinary film of Mr. Weirs. He did another unique film too called Picnic at Hanging Rock. Have you seen it?


As for his themes, yes he has always chosen very controversial scripts that he either wrote himself or was a fan of.

I guess I could have listed Blade Runner as well. Ridley Scott has always picked some extraordinary works for his films and they are both on my list of favorite directors.

As for The God Who Wasn't There, well, I'm Jewish so the movie definitely creeped me out but it was one of the few items that I read or watched that eventually led me to a secular lifestyle. I love how the Pastor in his old church basically cuts off the interview with him when he discovers why he's actually being filmed. That was too funny for me.
The Golden Compass (after all, the writer is an Atheist and production was halted on the sequel by Christians)

It was? I thought it was just because the film was crap. (Unlike the book from what I hear).
Touching the Void was great. For Joe Simpson to endure what he did and not desire to cry out for god for help was powerful.
Ok, I'm going to chime in with one more picture. This one belongs in everyone's collection. Of course the movie I'm speaking of is Root of all Evil by Richard Dawkins. If you haven't seen it go watch the entire program. Make sure you want the two parts that are 47 minutes or longer. These are the correct videos of parts one and two. Just go to http://www.video.google.com and search for The Root of All Evil.

Root of All Evil by Richard Dawkins

Add to this:

The Atheism Tapes


Daniel Dennett on the Charlie Rose Show

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/475 for the original interview





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