Morgan Freeman reprises the role of God in “Evan Almighty,” the sequel to 2003’s “Bruce Almighty,” which got us thinking about other cinematic Almighties. We now command thee to read our list of the 10 most memorable portrayals of God in the movies.
10. “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989)
After traipsing all over the galaxy seeking out new life and new civilizations, where is there left to go? To Shakari to find God! In the much-maligned William Shatner-directed film, Spock’s half-brother, Sybok, hijacks the USS Enterprise to breach the Great Barrier, one of the last uncharted regions of space, because he’s had visions of a powerful entity within. Sure enough, the glowing entity (George Murdock) declares himself an angry God. He wants to use the Enterprise to get off of Shakari and through the Great Barrier, which prompts a skeptical Captain Kirk to ask, “Excuse me, what does God need with a starship?” Turns out this is one false God, but not as fake as a rubber-suited Gorn.
9. “Dogma” (1999)
In Kevin Smith’s controversial action-comedy (it’s not a satire), God is portrayed by Alanis Morissette (after Holly Hunter and Emma Thompson both passed). She possesses superpowers, of course, but singing is not one of them. The film is chock-full of Smith’s patented faux-clever (and utterly unbelievable) dialogue, and its presentation of ideas is loud and shocking enough to fool many people into thinking the movie has substance. We remain unconvinced.
8. “Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV” (2001)
It only makes sense that a psychotronic indie film is going to try to pull off a shocking portrayal of the Almighty. In this Troma production, God is played by frequent Howard Stern guest (and now deceased) Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf. Naturally this is an angry, lecherous and rude God, one who fumes that the Pope doesn’t really know Him at all and has only allowed 16 people into heaven. And 180 degrees away …
7. “The Ten Commandments” (1956)
True, this most reverent of depictions doesn’t actually show God (except as a pillar of flame), but His booming voice and demonstrations of power (burning bushes, controlling the weather, writing on mountainsides with fire) set the template for most movie deities. The voice is provided by Donald Hayne, whose only other film role was as a Catholic priest in 1963’s “The Cardinal.” Talk about being typecast!
6. “Switch” (1991)
Blake Edwards’ tale of a male chauvinist who dies and comes back to life as a woman to redeem himself and earn entrance into heaven features one of the more interesting manifestations of God in film. God, or “the Higher Authorities,” is presented in voice only, but as two voices — one male and one female — speaking simultaneously. Which brings up the question: What does, uh, He/She look like? Does God have two heads or look like John Travolta in the upcoming “Hairspray” remake? The mind boggles.
5. “Superstar” (1999)
In one of the rare “Saturday Night Live” spinoff movies that isn’t wretched, Will Ferrell plays Mary Katherine Gallagher’s (Molly Shannon) idea of God, a visual cross between Jesus, her dad and high school heartthrob Sky Corrigan. This super-mellow God enjoys His celebrity status, pointing out that Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” is about Him and reveling in sayings like “Oh my me!”
4. “Time Bandits” (1981)
In Terry Gilliam’s fantasy, six dwarves whose job is to keep the universe repaired decide to steal a map of time portals from the Supreme Being for whom they work. The dwarves are using the map to make themselves rich, but the Source of All Evil wants it so he can remake the universe in his own image. Sir Ralph Richardson plays the Supreme Being as a no-bullsh– gentleman in a pinstripe suit, which is actually kind of unnerving. Not only is it not the usual robe and sandals look we’re used to, it’s not even business casual!
3. “Bruce Almighty” (2003)
There are a few reasons we’re including our column-launching example here. One is that there haven’t been too many literal depictions of God in film, so we’re stretching to get 10. But the bigger reason is that Morgan Freeman makes a really cool God. He’s a friend of the workin’ man, a likable joe with a sense of humor, but one who isn’t likely to suffer fools gladly. The only problem with this God is He seems to care a little too much about what people think of Him and His job performance. Would God really have such a thin skin?
2. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)
King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table fumble aimlessly about the British countryside until God appears and gives them a task: They shall seek the Holy Grail. This God, an animated photo of 19th-century cricket player W.G. Grace, voiced by Graham Chapman, is a bit testy (“Of course it’s a good idea!”) and is really tired of everybody’s sycophantic behavior, not to mention those miserably depressing psalms. It’s worth noting that the Lord as a character has appeared in every Monty Python film.
1. “Oh, God!” (1977)
While debates rage as to what God might look like, there’s one thing on which everyone can agree: He (or She or It or Whatever) is really, really old. So the casting of octogenarian showbiz legend George Burns in 1977’s “Oh, God!” made perfect sense. God appears to grocery store manager Jerry Landers (John Denver) and asks him to be His modern-day messenger. This gentle, inoffensive movie ends in a courtroom variation on “Miracle on 34th Street” that ostensibly proves God’s existence, but we still have to ask: Why does God need a hairpiece? Two sequels followed, and Ellen DeGeneres is slated to take on the role in a 2008 remake (oh, we can hear the cries of foul already!).
Many different interpretations there, from the sacred to the profane — and we didn’t even get into the sometimes-scandalous TV depictions of God. But the wildly varying portrayals aren’t a surprise, and not only because of differing beliefs. Just imagine how tough it is for an actor to research the part!
Check out everything we’ve got on “Evan Almighty.”
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