Movies have portrayed ministers and/or preachers in a variety of ways. Some have been impressive while others…well, not so much. But looking through the history of cinema it’s easy to recognize a number of great characters who serve as ministers. That’s what I’m looking at today. Now it should be said that this isn’t a list of the greatest movie ministers. These are the most memorable meaning they may not fit the proper role of a minister. In fact, some may be down right evil. Either way, with so many great choices I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there is no denying that these five movie ministers were phenomenally memorable.
#5 – Jacob Fuller (“From Dusk Till Dawn”)
We first meet Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) at a motor inn with his two kids. Jacob has stepped away from his role as a pastor after the tragic death of his wife leads him to question his faith. Little does he know that in the same motor inn are the Gecko brothers – two killers who kidnap Jacob and his family. Danger, death, and vampires alter the courses of all of their lives. For Jacob these events provide him the opportunity to find his faith and use it against the unholiest of creatures. Keitel is perfectly cast and watching his portrayal of a struggling minister in the middle of such craziness is a treat.
#4 – Reverend Oliver (“The Patriot”)
Roland Emmerich’s historical drama finds its way back on a Phenomenal 5 list this time due to its character Reverend Oliver. While he is the shepherd of a small community church, Rev. Oliver still joins the local militia to help fight the British but also offer spiritual advice to his fellow soldiers. Rev. Oliver has several great scenes and he is brought to life by actor Rene Auberjonis. Star Trek fans will remember him as Otto from “Deep Space Nine” but he was also one of my favorite movie ministers.
#3 – Reverend Harry Powell (“Night of the Hunter”)
As I hinted at above, not everyone on this list is the ideal minister. Reverend Harry Powell from the 1955 classic “Night of the Hunter” is a shining example. Robert Mitchum gives one of his best performances as a self-ordained preacher who is really a wanted serial killer. Mitchum is chilling as he unfolds this evil and manipulative character to a gullible small town. There are so many memorable moments sprinkled throughout this intense thriller. Director Charles Laughton’s style would influence a number of top tier modern directors. But it’s Mitchum and his despicable character that is the most memorable for me.
#2 – Preacher (“Pale Rider”)
Clint Eastwood, western, preacher. Put those things together and I am instantly intrigued. In 1985’s “Pale Rider” Eastwood plays a mysterious stranger who appears to a group of persecuted minors seemingly as a result of an answered prayer. The character is known only as Preacher and very little else is ever known of him. He comes between a villainous corporate miner and a small group of families who mine a small portion of land to survive. And you know Clint, six-shooters pop and bullets fly as Preacher makes things right and protects the innocent families by any means necessary.
#1 – Father Barry (“On the Waterfront”)
One of Marlon Brando’s very best performances came in 1954’s “On the Waterfront”. But the movie wasn’t just about Brando. It was filled with great performances. One of those came from Karl Malden who played a burdened minister named Father Barry. He finds himself in the middle of a mob-controlled waterfront and the workers who are the victims. He struggles with balancing his clerical duties with pushing the bounds to end the mob’s violent grip on the docks. Malden is spectacular and he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. In fact, three of the five nominations in that category were from “On the Waterfront”. But for me Malden is right there with Brando in offering a pivotal performance that serves the classic well.
So there are my five phenomenal movie ministers. So many more are swirling in my mind including ministers from films like “Signs”, “Sleepers”, “Dead Alive” etc. etc. How about you? Agree or disagree with my picks? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
A really wonderful and varied list of ministers, Keith!
Thanks so much. Fun one to put together. Sooo many to consider.
Great list and iconic preachers. My first thought, though, was of Mel Brooks as Rabbi Tuckman in Robin Hood: Men in tights 😀
LOL!!! Great mention. Now that definitely adds variety to the list. I love it.
Mel Brooks can do no wrong 😀
An interesting and unusual topic Keith. The one that springs to mind for me is a bit obscure, I guess, but it’s Reverend Spellgood (played by Andre Gregory) in the Harrison Ford film The Mosquito Coast.
Oh wow. I definitely remember that movie from the 1980s. I really don’t remember much about it though. It’s been years since I’ve seen it.
I think your missing one 😀
Oh yes, I mentioned that one at the end. 🙂
Interesting list, Keith! Father Barry is my favorite and Signs is also a great suggestion, too. I’d add Matthew McConaughey as Palmer the minister from ‘Contact’ or from ‘The Crucible’ Reverend Parris. Since you’ve included priests, how about DeNiro in ‘Sleepers’ or Bing Crosby in ‘The Bells of St. Mary’?
Sleepers was very close to making this list. That is a movie that has forever shaped my wife’s opinion of Kevin Bacon. Every time she sees him she can’t shake that vile and detestable character he played in that movie.
Sure would love your thoughts on my Hitchcock review if you have time 😉
I still haven’t seen Night of the Hunter so Father Barry and Preacher from Pale Rider are my favourites of your choices. Clint Eastwood also played a rural preacher whose violent past catches up with him in 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
A couple of others that came to mind were Gene Hackman’s Reverend Scott from The Poseidon Adventure and Burt Lancaster as the eponymous Elmer Gantry.
I’m so happy someone mentioned Elmer Gantry. It could have easily made this list. I went for a little more variety but I was hoping someone would bring it up. It’s a great fit.
Great one Keith! Wondering if Max Von Sydow’s Father Merrin would count here? It’s a role and performance I’ll never forget from the few horrors that I have seen. 😀
That’s a really slick choice. I like it a lot.
Sad, but the only one of these I’ve seen is From Dusk til Dawn. With that in mind, some others I find extremely memorable:
Sang-hyun in Park Chan Wook’s vampire flick Thirst
Bishop Enoch in Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer
Steve Martin as Jonas Nightengale in Leap of Faith
Robert Duvall in The Apostle
Arsenio Hall as Rev. Brown in Coming to America
Wow! How did I forget Robert Duvall in The Apostle??? Great one. Completely slipped my mind. I literally laughed out loud when I saw you had mentioned Arsenio Hall. He is hilarious in that movie especially as the good Reverend!
Great idea for a Phenomenal Five post, Keith! Love that you put Robert Mitchum’s performance in Night of the Hunter. I saw that film a few years ago in an Intro to Film class and loved it! His performance is harrowing and certainly worthy to be on this list.
Mitchum is so chilling in that film. Its a movie that definitely leaves an impact, doesnt it?
It does! I haven’t forgotten about that performance since I saw it three years ago!
Brendon Gleeson from the recent ‘Calvary’ comes to my mind. One of the best films of 2014 in my opinion.
Very nice. Havent seen that movie yet. Count me as interested now!
What a great choice for Phenom5. I have some catching up to do on some films now. I’d like to add Shepherd Book in Serenity,
Thanks my friend. I really need to revisit Serenity. I like the flick but there is so much that I dont remember about it.