Omnipotent, omnipresent, unlikely to exist; God is basically the ultimate cinematic superhero. Andrew Dickens rates His finest on-screen embodiments
CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV (2000)
In which God is played by Hank The Angry Drunken Dwarf, regular guest on The Howard Stern Show. That sentence should tell you where this sits in the reverence league table. Hank’s God has, as you’d guess, three main attributes: being a dwarf, being angry and being drunk, only one of which – to our limited knowledge – is ever mentioned in the Bible. It’s a combination that leads to lines more toxic than the titular hero, such as this pontiff-pummelling peach he asks the Avenger to take back to Earth with him: “Tell the Pope to stop talking about me. He doesn’t know me. He’s an asshole. And tell him that his hat looks f*cking stupid.”
Blasphemy rating: 10 (need we explain?)
A comedy notable for two things: first, its introduction of karma into monotheistic religion, by having the devil reincarnate a murdered promiscuous man as a woman; secondly, its approach to the old ‘is God a man or a woman?’ debate. It hedges its bets by making God transgender, vocally at least, by using the voices of Richard Provost and Linda Gary simultaneously. A good idea for about three seconds – a really annoying one for the rest of the film.
Blasphemy rating: 7 (for reincarnation and the headache)
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (2014)
For decades, God has been portrayed in films as either a man, a woman or a bush. But Ridley Scott’s new epic blockbuster (out 26 December, folks), which takes the Moses story and adds in some 21st-century oomph (awesome CGI, huge battle scenes), comes up with an innovative new vessel for holy orders: a 10-year-old child. What he says causes all kinds or ructions with Egyptians and Jews and frogs, so it’s lucky he is actually the voice of God and not just a very naughty boy.
Blasphemy rating: 2 (for excessive use of guy-liner)
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE (2002)
The God we want to believe in. A vision had by Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) on a rooftop – aided by the miraculous effects of Shaun Ryder’s Bajan weed – sees God (also Coogan) pass divine judgement on Manchester’s music scene in the Eighties. Yes, he says, Ryder is the greatest poet since Keats, Vini Reilly is overdue a revival and, as for Mick Hucknall, this is scripture: “His music’s rubbish and he’s a ginger.”
Blasphemy rating: 4 (for making God look like Alan Partridge)
THE HOLY GRAIL (1975)
The Pythons tapped the Bible for all its worth, but their standout God has to be the short-tempered misanthrope who sends Graham Chapman’s King Arthur on his mission to find a) the Holy Grail, and b) an extremely surreal ending to the film. Animated by Terry Gilliam, in classic flappy-jawed style, and voiced by Chapman, their God has an overtly low sense of job satisfaction, irritated by his creations’ grovelling, apologising, averting of eyes and general kissing of his holy arse. It’s all rounded off by another animated sequence in which heavenly creatures play trumpets with their anuses.
Blasphemy rating: 8 (primarily for the arse trumpets)
BREAKING THE WAVES (1996)
You’d assume Lars von Trier’s portrayal of God would be miserable, but this brilliant, utterly depressing jaunt to the Scottish Highlands takes ‘dark’ to another level. Emily Watson’s Calvinist marries an atheist oil-rig worker, who has a crippling accident. He then encourages her to take lovers and tell him about it. All the while, she has conversations with God, who answers her through her own voice. It ends with her committing suicide by getting raped to death. Merry Christmas.
Blasphemy rating: 8 (for God’s bad advice)
BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY (1991)
We have heard the ‘word of God’ and it is “Station”. Or rather that’s God’s only word when confronted by Ted Theodore Logan and Bill S Preston Esq (together, the Wyld Stallyns!), who beg for his help in defeating time-travelling doppelganger robots, saving princesses, etc. Rather than resorting to his usual methods of plagues, floods and avenging angels, God instead introduces the pair to Station, furry alien engineers (how easily we forget that he has a whole universe to deal with) who aid Bill and Ted in their mission. An excellent reminder that genocidal violence is not always the answer.
Blasphemy rating: 2 (for giving rock and roll to you)
“It’s not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me.” Alanis Morissette’s appearance as God was quite the twist in Kevin Smith’s biblical-character-based, most-likely-drug-influenced comedy, shocking people with the fact that God was not only a woman, but second only to Celine Dion among female Canadian pop stars. But, reading those martyr-ish lyrics from her 1995 hit You Oughta Know, it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. Speaking for most of the film through Alan Rickman (don’t we wish we all could?), God gets all vengeful at the end and finally unleashes her true voice, which is so horrific it kills Ben Affleck. Isn’t that ironic?
Blasphemy rating: 5 (as if God’s Canadian)
TIME BANDITS (1981)
Terry Gilliam gets a second God on the list; an achievement of biblical proportions. This time, rather than a cantankerous cartoon, he’s Ralph Richardson – more of an absent-minded great uncle with unlimited power, who employs dwarves to build planets. Every family has one…
Blasphemy rating: 6 (Gilliam wouldn’t be happy with less)
BRUCE ALMIGHTY (2003)
How many times do you think Morgan Freeman has played the Bible’s lead character? 12? 5,000? 666? Another biblical number? The answer is just twice: in Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty. Yep, if the Devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he didn’t exist, God’s is making us believe that he looks like Morgan Freeman. In the space of one good and one terrible film, he completely obliterated the old bearded white guy image he’d cultivated for several millennia. If Freeman’s lovable, softly spoken deity has one flaw, it’s a lack of mysterious ways, in each film temporarily bestowing his powers on a bland middle-aged American comedian instead of something more amusing, such as a cat who turns everything in the entire planet into fish and kitty litter.
Blasphemy rating: 3 (for making God workshy)
OH, GOD! (1977)
A unique God on this list in as much as he is played by someone older than the Big Guy himself: George Burns. The prehistoric cigar-chomping wise-cracker, with the aid of a Seventies ‘Moses’ (played by a guitar-free John Denver – the only man to meet God twice?), sets out trying to ram home a message of faith to the modern world. Much of it is done through the medium of one-liners, which makes you look twice at Tim Vine, but eventually God gets lazy and does a few tricks in front of a courtroom to prove his existence, thus removing any need for the faith he’s promoting. Genius.
Blasphemy rating: 4 (for being so flagrantly silly)
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (1998)
We all know from films and stained-glass windows that Jesus was a total hottie. But did you know Moses was totes fit, too? Just look at this big-eyed, bronze-skinned DreamWorks Moses, who proves that the 11th commandment is Thou Shalt Maintain A Careful Grooming Regime. Anyway, Val Kilmer, who was pretty hot in Top Gun, voices both Moses and God (who’d have thought it?). And guess what? God is hot, too. Literally – he’s a burning bush.
Blasphemy rating: 3 (for giving people impure thoughts about Moses)
THE BIBLE: IN THE BEGINNING (1966)
Director John Huston wasn’t humble, so filming the entire Bible wouldn’t have been beyond his ambitions. As it was, he settled for half of the Book of Genesis and casting himself as both Noah and God. A traditional God, too, with lots of smiting and casting out.
Blasphemy rating: 1 (just in case Huston thought he was God)
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)
You’ll notice how many actors play the voice of God and also the person who God’s talking to. Is the message that God is in all of us? That he created us in his own image? That you’re more likely to hear the voice of God if you spend time alone in a desert and/or a cave? Maybe it’s just cheaper to hire one actor. In this epic, Charlton Heston plays both Moses and God. It’s not that flattering a portrayal. He makes the ‘voice of God’ sound like the ‘voice of the Mysterons’. And he comes across as too house proud, telling Moses to take his sandals off. He’s in a cave! (Yes, we know it’s in the Bible.)
Blasphemy rating: 3 (mainly for the silly voice)
THE ACID HOUSE (1998)
“You f*cked this one up, you daft c*nt.” As the Bible might put it, “And lo, thus did the Lord make himself known unto him.” Yes, this is God’s (Maurice Roëves) first line in this Irvine Welsh adaptation. It’s delivered, in a pub, with a pint of Guinness in one hand, a fag in the other and an Edinburgh accent. The following theological debate features f*cks and c*nts coming at the rate of an Egyptian plague. Mary Whitehouse didn’t like this film very much.
Blasphemy rating: 9 (for encouraging smoking)