Whether we go to the movies or nestle in to watch time-honored holiday favorites like Rudolph or binge-worthy series like The Night Of or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the effect is still the same. We escape to a place where anything is possible if you just believe.
And believe we did, all week long on WomanScape. We shared the angelic work of Native American, Kateri Takakwitha and talked angels with Irish mystic, Lorna Byrne. So it seemed fitting to wrap up our #FunFriday by looking at angels in the movies.
Turns out there are more angel movies than I knew. There are good angels and bad angels, fallen angels and saving angels. But how to categorize these angel-centric movies? Because anything is possible, our WomanScape list of angel movies highlights only a few in randomly fun categories:
Classic Angel Movies
These tend to be older movies with stereotypical angels that save people from themselves, one human at a time. The best in this category include James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and John Travolta, Andie MacDowell and William Hurt in Michael (1996).
It’s A Wonderful Life flopped at the box office when it was first released, but it’s now quite possibly the most recognizable Christmas holiday classic. This 1946 film is a modern-day Aesop’s fable, and readers are left with a series of lessons on the virtues of living a life rich in family values over materialism and wealth. The idea that “an angel gets its wings every time a bell rings” has worked its way into popular folklore.
Michael is an American fantasy film without the dreamy backdrop of It’s A Wonderful Life. The storyline revolves around two skeptical journalists who follow a report about a man named Michael claiming to be an angel. Director Nora Ephron does a superb job making us laugh and helping us to feel empathetic towards Michael, a down and out archangel whose faltering habits (boozing, smoking. slovenliness) make him relatable and swoon-worthy.
Dramatic Angel Movies
These movies are always fun. There are loads of dramatic angel movies and ironically, some of the best drama roles including Tom Hanks in Angels and Demons (2009) don’t actually have any angels in the film. The action and suspense made this movie based on Dan Brown’s book a box office hit.
In Constantine, Keanu Reeves plays an action hero from the DC comic book, Hellraiser who literally has gone to hell and back after committing suicide. Keanu works as a struggling cop to pay for his sins and help Rachel Weisz’s character solve the mystery of her brother’s death. This role is a dark but uplifting, albeit gritty, angel role.
Dumpster-worthy Angel Movies
Not sure why but there are loads of these movies. Perhaps anything dealing with the spiritual or supernatural world creates a tall order? Making a movie about angels should be difficult but Legion (2010), Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) and Angels and Outlaws (2016) by Quinton Tarintino are so poorly done they easily meet the thumbs down rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The $26 million spent on Legion is disappointing. There’s a talented cast including Dennis Quaid but it’s not enough to save the plot. God has lost faith with the human race and the angels who have come to destroy the world with the only hope resting in the survival of a baby boy.
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) was nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Director, but even this can’t lift this movie out of the dumpster. The cast (James Cagney and Pat O’Brien) grow up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and get into trouble with the law.
Rocky gets caught up in racketeering and Jerry decides to become a priest. The closest we get to seeing angels is the silk-screening technique on Jerry’s face when he is saddened by his friend’s death.
There’s not much to say about Angels and Outlaws (2016) either – a little-known movie that will stay that way for its producer, Quinton Tarintino. A family is taken hostage at gunpoint and ruthless killing in a hopelessly failed spaghetti-western style drama fails miserably.
Melt Your Heart, feel good, angel movies
Movies that make you weep and challenge us to believe in the real work of angels tug at my heart.
City of Angels is a 1998 romantic fantasy-type movie starring Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan. When Nick’s character is willing to give up his wings for life as a human so he can be with Meg’s doctor character, the plot takes a wide turn and the tears of angst flow.
Heaven Can Wait is another feel-good movie starring Warren Beatty (1978). Death changes Warren’s plans as a pro-football player and he returns to earth only to become a changed man. Like Angels in the Outfield (1994) directs the audience’s heartstrings onto the baseball field where Christopher Lloyd and Danny Glover find their luck has changed thanks to a foster kid who loves their team – the Anaheim Angels. Both movies tap into our good-old-rooting for the underdog sports story but the takeaway, while simple, renews your faith in the world.
While I will head to the movies this holiday season and hope to discover some new uplighting gems, I’ve found myself secretly watching the Hallmark movie channel when I get a chance. Many of us pretend not to be interested in these formulaic simple plots that are often overly dramatized. But if there’s anything I’ve come to learn about movie-goers and angel seekers, we all love to see the stage set for a Christmas miracle.