Here are a handful of films with elements of self-sacrifice to be found on streaming services this Lenten season.
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; these may be the three pillars of Lent but, let’s face it, they’re not usually the go-to ingredients for motion pictures. However, if we consider those pillars as spiritual exercises of self-sacrifice designed to turn us away from ourselves and towards God and the needs of others, then we can occasionally find movies with a similar theme. Here are a handful of films with elements of self-sacrifice to be found on streaming services this Lenten season.
Les Misérables (Amazon Prime) This 1978 made-for-television adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic may not be the best version for completists, but it might just be just the one for Lent. Eschewing most of the portions of Hugo’s novel dealing with the French revolution, this Les Mis’ concentrates almost entirely on Jean Valjean’s 20-year transformation from sinner to selfless giver, initially spurred by a simple act of charity from a bishop. It’s a slightly different take on an oft-told tale, but one worth watching.
The Prince of Egypt (Hulu) Speaking of familiar, settling in for the annual broadcast of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments has been a Lenten/Passover tradition for decades now. However, if you just can’t wait until Holy Saturday, then The Prince of Egypt will more than tide you over. With a voice cast to die for and several songs you’ll be humming for days after, this animated take on the tale of how Moses came to sacrifice his idyllic existence to become a servant of God and his people has become a classic in its own right. If nothing else, the Parting the Red Sea, which took two years to animate, will leave you in awe.
Molokai (Amazon Prime) Not all religious stories require such spectacle, though. Sometimes something calmer is just what’s needed, and if that’s the case, then Molokai fits the bill nicely. David Wenham (Faramir in TheLord of the Rings) stars in this simple, quiet biopic of the famed 19th-century Belgian priest, Father Damien, who sacrificed everything, including eventually his own life, to minister to the leper colony living in exile on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Sometimes God asks us to give all, but when He does, the results are astounding,
Up (Disney Plus) When it comes to selfless giving, however, not all gestures need be so extraordinary. Take the movie Up for example. While most of this Pixar effort is a rollicking adventure set in the Amazon forest, its first 15 minutes is perhaps cinema’s most perfect portrayal of the sometimes large, but more often small sacrifices married couples lovingly make for one another on a day-to-day basis, and not just during Lent. It is animation at its finest. Maybe the only reason not to share this one with your children is you might not want them to see you bawl uncontrollably as the prologue draws to a close.
The Way (Tubi) If you’re not emotionally drained after that and have a few tears left in you, then why not watch The Way. This film by the real-life father-son team of Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez follows an elderly American who travels to Spain to walk the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route after his son dies trying to do the same. As the man and his travelling companions make their arduous journey to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, they come to see that it’s not just external things God sometimes asks us to sacrifice, but internal ones as well. Preconceptions, bitter feelings, confusion; whatever is in the way of our path to God has to go.
Passion of the Christ (Amazon Prime, Pluto TV, Tubi, Vudu) Of course, this is where all paths, and most streaming services apparently, ultimately lead to. For many Catholics, Mel Gibson’s passion play is required Lenten viewing, and its nice to see so many services offering it at this time of year. And if films about self-sacrifice are what you’re looking for this Lent, well, how do you find better than this?