The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Beyond the Oscars

Our reviewers pick the five most spiritual films of 1996

As the Academy Awards presentations near, we look back at the films of 1996 from a "spiritually literate" perspective. The Oscars focus on the best performances and production values in today's movies.

We're more interested in how films reveal the presence of God in our human experiences and in the world around us.

Here are our picks for the five most spiritual films of the year, chosen because they beautifully demonstrate key spiritual practices that are revered in Christianity.

Fly Away Home

(Columbia, PG)

Fly Away Home is an enchanting film about a project that brings a 13-year-old girl and her father together. They help some orphaned geese learn to fly and to migrate south for the winter. This story shows how the spiritual practice of imagination enables humans to serve and love animals.

The Spitfire Grill

(Castle Rock, PG-13--language)

The Spitfire Grill is about a young woman, an ex-con working in a diner, who brings new life out of darkness in a small Maine town. This film lifts up hope as the daily bread that feeds the soul.

(Touchstone, PG)

Phenomenon is about a mechanic who is transformed after he is knocked over by a bolt of light from the sky. This deeply satisfying drama celebrates the bounties and mystery of life.


(Fine Line, PG-13--language, brief nudity)

Shine follows the career of a classical pianist from his childhood debut through a mental breakdown to a triumphant return to the stage as an adult. The drama focuses on how the nurturing he receives from several people enables him to express his God-given talents.

Marvin's Room

(Miramax, PG-13--language)

Marvin's Room centers around the reunion of two estranged sisters and their journey to reconciliation. They discover that forgiveness and compassion are necessary practices in any true caring for others.


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Embracing diversity