You are here Main Page >> Support Materials >> Film and Faith

Using film in the classroom is a very important medium, children are huge absorbers of the visual medium for learning, as are adults in this current world and the medium of film both "secular" and "religions" can be very important in the process of teaching RE. Like other art forms, film is a medium through which humans seek to explore, explain and rationalise our place within the world. It is incredibly rich and diverse… a single film may reflect multiple traditions, values and cultures

Why use it?

  • We all like to watch movies and this includes the children in your classroom
  • Filmic and Cinematic materials are effective ways of stimulating and transmitting knowledge, ideas and concepts
  • Film is more than story it can help is to explore meaning, response, ideas and concepts about life. You react to a film as well as watching it
  • The topics of films cover all the topics you will ever want to teach in RE

How can we use it?

  • It can be used as a starter or stimulus for a lesson
  • It can be used alongside other activities
  • When used well it can engage, deepen reflection, develop ideas, deepen spiritual responses, allow metal and emotional response, offer different perspectives and viewpoints

Films come in a number of "flavours"

  • There are films which are "representations" of religious ideas, themes, concepts, people, texts etc... Religious narratives provide rich picking for filmakers and there are many, many films which take the narrative directly from the religious, though these will not necessarily be "faithful" representations, e.g.:
    • Little Buddha (1993, PG)
    • The Miracle Maker(1) (2000, U)
    • Gandhi (1982, PG)
    • Moses: The Prince of Egypt (1998, U)
    • Jesus of Nazereth (1977)
    • Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
    • The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
    • Joan of Arc (Jean d'arc) (1999)


  • There are films which develop, exploit or explore religious materials which are situated within the faith community, or explore ideas of faith communities - remember however that filmic. like poetic, license mean that members of the faiths concerned may not easily recognise the religions in the ways that they are portrayed, e.g.:
    • Priest (1994, 15)
    • Bend it like Beckham (2002, 12) (Sikh)
    • East is East (1999, 12) (Muslim and Christian)
    • The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999, 15)
    • Signs (2002, 12A [cinema], 12 [DVD])
    • Ghost (1990, 15)
    • Fiddler on the roof (Jewish) (1971)
    • Yentl (Jewish) (1983)
    • Anita and Me (Hinduism and Christian) (2002)
    • Bhaji on the Beach (Hinduism) (1993)
    • Bride and Prejudice (Hinduism) (2005)
    • The Passion of the Christ (Christian) (2004)
    • The Last Temptation of Christ (1998)
    • Schindler's List (Jewish) (1993)
    • Seven Years in Tibet (Buddhist) (1997)
    • Shadowlands (Christian) (1993)
    • Sister Act (1992)
    • Whale Rider (Maori) (2002)


  • Other films depend for narrative coherence upon concepts that originated within, and are given meaning by, faith communities but that, in their portrayal may have little to do with those living religious contexts, e.g.:
    • City of Angels(3) (1998, 12) - link
    • The Devil’s Advocate (1997, 18)
    • Constantine (2005, 15)
    • Dogma (1999, 15)
    • Jesus of Montreal (1989, 18)
    • Bruce Almighty (2003)
    • Contact (1997)
    • Flatliners (1990)
    • The Guru (2002)
    • Seven (1995)
    • Signs (2002)
    • Stigmata (1999)
    • What dreams may come (1998)


  • Some films may be read as allegorical representations of faith stories, figures or traditions, e.g.:
    • The Matrix (1999, 15)
    • The Truman Show (1998, PG)
    • Deep Impact (1998)
    • Star Wars (Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977, U)
    • Contact (1997)
    • The Green Mile (1999)
    • The Golden Compass (2007)


  • Some films tackle ethical or moral issues in a sensitive or engaging manner
    • Gattaca (1997)
    • An inconvenient truth (2006)
    • Liar, Liar (1997)
    • Minority Report (2002)
    • Road to Perdition (2002
    • Pay it Forward (2000)

As you are able (see below) to copy sections of film [as long as you own a legal copy] and the use of computers allows clips of films to be fairly easily transferred to a central store or archive and then embedded in presentations or placed on the VLE for access for later use you can fairly quickly access clips for classroom use.

There are no absolute rules but generally choose clips which are 3-7 minutes long and which have a self-contained messages or idea, or one that you can easily explain.


The BFI publication, Making Movies Matter, chapter 4, para 4.6 quotes the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 as follows:

'...films or broadcasts can be copied "to make a film in the course of instruction by a person giving or receiving instruction". Teachers or students can record broadcasts "for educational purposes" so long as they are not sold or hired out to third parties. All works - including film and video - may be copied under the Act’s fair dealing provisions. This means that it is permissible to copy a reasonable proportion of the work for “criticism or review”.'

This advice covers copying rather than showing but BFI guidance is that you can SHOW film material as long as it is in the course of teaching in a bona fide educational institution.

Making Movies Matter is downloadable as a pdf from the BFI website:

According to the BFI, this means that the following is OK:
  • Showing movies, in whole or part, during a teaching session.
  • Buying a video for use in the classroom and copying relevant parts of it for students to take home and study as part of the curriculum.
  • Showing films as part of an after school club.
Providing that:
  • No charge is made for any of the above activities
  • That the films are not being shown for the purposes of 'entertainment' (schools that show films at the end of term please note!)

Teachers are strongly advised to ask for parental approval if they want to show all or some of, say, a 15-certificated film to a KS3 class. If teachers explain the educational context (and the judgement is a sensible one) parents usually give permission quite happily.

Children as filmakersGetting children to be film-makers

As well as showing the children movies you should be encouraging the children to become film-makers, using the tools that have become cheaper and cheaper - in fact many of the children in your class may be carrying video cameras around in their pockets which combined with system / free or very cheap software allows them to create simple films very easily.

There are a number of genres of film that you could be making in your classroom:

  • Adverts: Key aspects of a belief system / advert to become a member of a faith ...
  • Documentary: An exploration of the faith groups in a particular area
  • Using Puppets: RE-telling of a traditional religious story
  • Newsbroadcast: You could consider how an event within religions or religious history might have been presented ...
  • Interviews: Collecting opinions on the question, "Does god exist?"
  • Talking Heads : What does it mean to do the right thing?
  • ... and more
If you are interested in these ideas why not book Paul Hopkins to come and run a course in your school.
Further links
NE Religious Resource Centre
section on film and faith - Link

Journal of Religion and Film

Arts and Faith - Top 100 films
The British Film Institute
British Board of Film Classification: very useful for finding film plots / summaries - Link
IMdB: The internet movie database: A fantastic resource for all things filmic
Metacritic: Gives critics reviews of many, many films - Link
The Mystical Movie Guide
Hollywood Jesus: Pop culture from a spiritual point of view
Movie Theology: Movie Reviews and Resources - Link
British Pathe
The History Channel
The Newsfilm on-line digitisation project
Google Video
Wingclips: Movie clips that illustrate and inspire - Link
You Tube: A pou-pourri of the good, the bad and the ugly - Link
Vimeo: A community sharing site