Best Mormon-themed movies

Ok, movie fans, it’s time to vote on your favorite Mormon-themed movies.  After several days of voting, M* will announce our choice as the best Mormon-themed movie, based on the poll results and our own set of random artistic criteria.

Here are the movies (we are open to other suggestions, but anybody suggesting  “The Book of Mormon Movie” gets banned).

In no particular order:

[poll id="3"]

Vote, brothers and sisters!

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

53 thoughts on “Best Mormon-themed movies

  1. I would submit for consideration “The Best Two Years,” which is surprisingly good. Given that its hard to find anything from Halestorm that is even watchable, much less halfway decent, I consider “The Best Two Years” to be well above average for a Mormon movie.

    That said, I still voted for New York Doll.

  2. There are definitely Mormon themes in Casablanca (honor, selflessness, etc). After Rick and Louis walk off together, they both convert, stop drinking and gambling and smoking and become missionary companions. Both find eternal companions in Rhodesia but are unable to get sealed to their respective spouses because they die before a temple comes to Africa. Sad ending.

  3. Where’s “Errand of Angels” – I really liked that film. “Return with Honor” too. And I think “Forever Strong” would also qualify as Mormon-themed and I would cast my vote for it being the best Mormon-themed film.

  4. You should probably also include “Emma Smith: My Story” and “Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration.” Both are excellent films.

  5. mormondad reminded me of something. Errand of Angels didn’t do anything for me as a movie (it probably would have been better if it covered just a piece of her mission rather than try to cover the whole thing), but I have to say, its version of the song “As Sisters in Zion” has become my favorite. It’s available on iTunes, if you’re into iTunes.

  6. Geoff, that clip is pretty classic, don’t you agree?

    But you’re right, I do have a mean streak. Anybody who doesn’t vote for Napoleon Dynamite deserves to get a personal visit from Rex Kwan Do.

  7. I am going to have to add New York Doll to my “movies to see” list. Sadly, I can walk into almost any video store and even old titles are new releases for me.

  8. Write in: Wall-E for its powerful portrayal of the Mormon doctrines of stewardship and the fortunate Fall.

  9. Vote: Napoleon Dynamite (after all, I don’t want a Rex Kwan Do smackdown!)
    Honorable Mention: Best Two Years (a non-member friend who forgot I’m LDS recommended that to me one time, saying she liked it and I just seemed like the kind of person who would like it too, LOL!)
    Nomination: Wall-E!
    [ducks]

    GeoffB, I love your analysis of Casablanca. Awesome.

  10. I have a pre-teen memory of The Dolls. When we watched the movie, a memory flashed into my head of a friend and I sneaking into her older brother’s room to look at the cover of *The New York Dolls* and was seriously shocked out of my mind. She played a song for me and we decidedly panned them as awful. Definitely not David Cassidy! As an adult I like a few of their songs “Personality Crisis” and “Trash” are my favorites.

  11. Tie between Saints and Soldiers and New York Dolls. Glad to see both are getting a lot of votes.
    I also really liked the Gods Army movies. I felt they better portrayed the emotions and insane situations that arise in a mission (although the insane situations in my mission were certainly spread out a lot more).

  12. Honestly Saints and Soldiers, New York Doll, Napoleon Dynamite and Best Two Years are the only movies on that list that I’d consider recommending to anyone I know. If those I think New York Doll is the best. All the others are pretty bad, and I believe only get mentioned as movies for people to see out of guilt people feel that they should either be watching LDS movies or supporting those that create them.

    Other than those four mentioned, everything else suffers either from poor acting(Brigham City, Johnny Lingo, Charly) or poor writing/ dialogue (Singles Ward, God’s Army, Other Side of Heaven).

    Unfortunately we have a relative that insists on buying birthday and Christmas gifts from Deseret Book, so we end up owning many of these before selling them on Ebay or Swaptree.

  13. RE-DO! RE-DO! :-)

    You didn’t include my two favorites. Baptists at our Barbecue, and Mobsters and Mormons. Others not on your list:

    – The RM (how could you forget that?)
    Singles 2nd Ward. (Much better than the 1st.)
    – The Home Teachers.
    The Work and the Glory.
    The Work and the Glory II, American Zion.
    The Work and the Glory III: A House Divided
    Suits on the Loose.
    The Legend of Johnny Lingo (the 2003 remake of the original),
    ……….. (aka a movie-length commercial for Noni Juice.)
    Brigham Young (1940), with Tyrone Power, Dean Jagger as BY
    …………. and Vincent Price as JS.

    Ya know, The Book of Mormon Movie could end up being a cult classic in 20 years, midnight showings at art-movie houses, audiences going in costume, quoting the lines, and throwing things at the screen. As a movie, it was laughable, but there were a few moments that make it worthwhile waching on DVD.

    But seriously, I can see a montage or a “mash up” of the Book of Mormon Movie being made that uses clips from the original, and a new voice-over, sort of like Mystery Science Theater 3000.

  14. Voted for Brigham City, if given three votes, the next two would have gone to States of Grace and Johnny Lingo, in that order.

    I guess I need to see New York Doll.

  15. “Groundhog Day” lays out in explicit detail the LDS concept of the Plan Of Salvation. Bill Murray’s character is the personification of the Natural Man; carnal, sensual, and devilish. His life is going nowhere – literally – until he puts off the natural man and finds joy in a life of service and selflessness. Then he is allowed to progress (eternally). If you watch the movie with this framework in mind, it’s amazing how many parallels (types and shadows?) will emerge.

  16. Can somebody remind me why Napoleon Dynamite should be considered Mormon themed rather than Utah/Idaho themed?

    If we are looking for general religious themes, I agree with larryco_ that Groundhog Day is one of the best out there. Chariots of Fire is also worth mentioning.

  17. ts hard to find anything from Halestorm that is even watchable

    If it weren’t for the awful, awful courtroom scene (which was so bad it retroactively ruined all that came before), I would have said The RM was okay.

    Actually, I still kinda like The RM, given that for the most part it’s on the level of a well-done TV movie. I might even watch it again, if I was allowed to skip over the courtroom scene. But it’s the only Halestrom movie that’s worth a darn.

  18. Mark D.,many people don’t think Napoleon Dynamite counts as a Mormon movie. Reasons against it could include:

    —It was successful. Further, it was even successful with audiences unaware of any connection to Mormons.

    —No one in the movie is explicitly identified as a missionary, bishop, or other church official. Also, neither baptism, administration of the sacrament, nor any other ordinance is depicted.

    —”Vote for Pedro, and your wildest dreams will come true” is not found in the Book of Mormon. (On the other hand, Thomas Monson has preached in conference, twice since 2001, in regard to not insurmountable challenges, the inspiring line from the play Shenandoah: “If we don’t try, then we don’t do; and if we don’t do, then why are we here?”)

    The way I figure it though, if a couple of BYU alumni write a movie and one of them directs it with an old classmate in the lead role, set and filmed in a town two miles up the road from where Ezra Taft Benson was born and buried, a town that has 4,000 people and eight wards, and there’s ambiguity as to whether it’s a Mormon movie, then there’s apparently nothing particular about Mormons that can be communicated in a movie. Further, what gentile anymore has five younger brothers on whose antics he could to base his scenes? Plus, President Hinckley shaped an admonition to the young men around the warning that girls are only interested in guys who have skills

  19. Ivan, I actually found the RM watchable. I’ve probably seen it 2 or 3 times with my older kids, who think it is really funny. The court scene is bad, I agree.

    The problem with saying something like this is that inevitably somebody (or many somebodies) like Jjohnsen will come along and say how horrible it was. It was not an artistic movie — it was a sometimes humorous portrayal of Mormon life, basically an hour and a half of fluff. It doesn’t have to be “Citizen Kane” for you to get a few chuckles out of it.

    Agreed on “Groundhog Day.” I even wrote a post on this three-and-a-half years ago:

    http://www.millennialstar.org/2005/08/04/non-mormon-mormon-movies-part-1-groundhog-day/

    Napoleon Dynamite is a borderline Mormon-themed movie, and is included here because the directors are Mormon, some of the main actors are Mormon and the setting is a Mormon part of Idaho. If you don’t want to see it as a Mormon-themed movie (religion is not mentioned), then be my guest.

  20. It doesn’t have to be artistic to be good, I wouldn’t consider Groundhog Day artistic. The problem is having to settle for mediocre actors, scriptwriters crowbarring “Mormonisms” into the dialogue, and generally including humor that only Utah Mormons would find humorous. Generally they seem to be going for a quick buck playing in Utah theaters rather than actually making something that is good. And yes, I’d include the RM in that group of poor movies.

  21. I think that Napoleon Dynamite would have been a good movie, but the “breast enhancement” stuff ruined it. It was ridiculously out of character for young people in small town Utah and doubly so for Mormons.

  22. But, Mark D, you forget. The movie was set in Idaho. (I mean, what other state’s name can be turned into a rhetorical question. The right answer, of course, is “No. Youdaho.”)

    GeoffB: I second the kudos from sister blah 2 for your Casablanca analysis.

    And, larryco is right about Groundhog Day. But it goes deeper. I once gave a pretty good talk about the parallels between Enos and Phil Connors. Read Enos–all 35 verses or whatever. And tell me you can’t see Phil Connors in it.

  23. Mark B., It almost seems a sacrilage to discuss Bill Murray in sacrament meeting (he is not my favorite person to discuss in any setting), but, there are a lot of great lessons to be learned from Groundhog Day. I loved the movie in spite of Bill Murray.

  24. Haven’t seen “New York Doll.”

    So I’m forced to vote for “Napoleon Dynamite” — though there’s nothing explicitly Mormon about it (except that we fair better in flirting with the absolutely ridiculous than with getting in the ring and duking it out with solid story telling).

  25. Methinks I still have a comment in moderation. Geoff left out a bunch of other Mormon-themed movies, including the very first one that I know of, that preceeded God’s Army by over 50 years.

    Anyone know what happened to http://www.HolyMovies.com ? I bought several from them. Where’s the next best place to buy mormon-themed-movie DVD’s?

    By the way, I stocked up on “Book of Mormon Movie.” As I’m sure it’s going to be a cult classic, like Rocky Horror.

    I still think BOMM can be mashed-up, re-done ala MST-3000, dubbing in new dialogue and commentary, into something worth spending $10 on for a DVD.

  26. My non-member bride (a Baptist) and I liked Baptists at Our Barbeque. They hired actors for that movie but I think it was based on our ward. My bride thinks the Baptists in it are those in HER church as well. Humor is most effective when there’s some truth to it.

    Since everyone is voting New York Dolls, I guess I’ll have to put that on my “to see” list.

  27. Anyone who hasn’t seen New York Dolls shouldn’t vote. It is by far the best but I think it hasn’t been seen enough. It was on the free movies on Comcast On Demand a few months ago, not sure if it now.

    Mark D- I must disagree with your statement that Napoleon D is out of character. My best friend grew up in that small Idaho town and says it is right on.

    And what about Saturdays Warriors? Or would that be considered a play on DVD? My husband who is a recent convert has never seen it and gives me a hard time when I break out into song. However, I tell him he will never be a really indoctrinated until he sees it. It’s not good but worth mentioning!

  28. Anon, I agree that most of Napoleon Dynamite is very much in character. The glaring exception I mentioned would have been much more accurate if replaced with vitamins, homeopathic remedies, health/fitness gadgets, or some other quasi-respectable MLM scheme. Marketing of the material that was chosen would cause a young person to lose his respectability in a small town overnight.

    I don’t doubt that there are such people in small Idaho towns, but they would now doubt be older and be of the same sort that would consider a position in the pornography industry an attractive career move.

    I agree that Saturday’s Warrior should rank among the top (if not the top) truly LDS themed movies ever made.

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