126: QUIZ: What Hollywood Teaches About … the Spiritual Quest for Truth

It’s quiz time again and we want to know: How does Hollywood’s version of spiritual truth stack up with our own?

    This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Hollywood’s greatest talents always have known that successful cinema is a search for timeless truth. It just took a century for technology to catch up with that creative optimism. At the core of the recent Hollywood writers’ strike was the realization that movies and TV series truly are eternal in this age of digital networking.
    As moviegoers, we’ve known this for years, haven’t we?
    Most of us have a favorite movie or two tucked away in our memory banks, intertwined inextricably with our deepest spiritual yearnings — our hopes for the future, our love of life, our sense of ourselves.
    That’s why, when the American Film Institute ran a contest looking for the Greatest Movie Quotes of all time — many of the lines have a ring of spiritual truth to them.

    Now, before we start today’s quiz, let us point out why seemingly silly stories like yesterday’s trio of St. Patrick’s Day videos — or today’s Hollywood quiz — actually are quite important in building spiritual bridges in our troubling world.

    One big reason is this: The world is vast and our cultural distinctions are tricky to understand. We find ourselves in friction all the time, these days.
    Two cases of friction involving ReadTheSpirit cropped up on Monday.
    First, we now send out a free Monday-morning Email to readers who request it called the ReadTheSpirit Planner that provides — “at a glance” — an overview of timely spiritual issues each week. In Monday’s edition of the Planner we said that the Jewish holiday of Purim “is Thursday.” By Monday night, I had heard from quite a few Jewish readers pointing out that Jewish days run sundown to sundown — so Purim continues through the daytime of Friday.
    We knew this, of course, and we’re sorry that we didn’t explain it more clearly in our text — because most non-Jews wouldn’t know this cultural distinction. We should have done a better job of explaining this.
    Second, a reader in the UK named Fred emailed to complain about our headline over the weekend about a man who “traveled” into Orthodoxy. Fred said this clearly should have been “travelled.” Well, we exchanged some emails on this point before realizing that we’re using an American-based Websters style that has a single “l” as the preference — and Fred uses the highly respected Oxford English Dictionary, where he points out that a double “ll” is the best way to go.

    That’s 2 points of friction in 24 hours — both points involving the honest and quite natural diversity we experience when we pull together a community of readers as we’re doing here at ReadTheSpirit. We thank both Fred and our Jewish readers for raising these issues. We’re just pointing out the basic challenge that we all face as we search for truth.
    Sometimes, the truth is more complex than we expect.

    So — let’s turn the focus back to Hollywood, shall we?
    How well do you know Hollywood’s most famous attempts at expounding upon spiritual truth?
    Most of the following quotes come from the American Film Institute’s famous-quotes project. Match the quotes to the 12 movie titles.
    (If you want to know more about spirituality and cinema, we’re big fans here of Greg Garrett’s work in this area. Click on the cover to his book, “The Gospel According to Hollywood,” and you’ll jump to our review — and you can even pick up a copy via Amazon if you wish.)


1.) You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it.

    2.) You can’t handle the truth!

    3.) SHE: What are you rebelling against?
    HE: What’ve you got?

    4.) I see dead people.

    5.) This is the people’s war! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it, then! Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right.

    6.) MAN No. 1: It’s alright. That’s in every contract! That’s what they call a sanity clause.
    MAN No. 2: You can’t fool me! There ain’t no Sanity Claus!

    7.) Would you like me to tell you the little story of the right hand, left hand? The story of good and evil? H-A-T-E. It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E. You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man — the right hand, friends, the hand of love.

    8.) We all go a little mad sometimes.

    9.) Let’s go home, Debbie.

    10.) If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any
further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never
really lost it to begin with! Is that right?

    11.) SHE: But judgment of any system of phenomena exists in any
rational, metaphysical or epistemological contradiction to an
abstracted empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in
the thing itself, or of the thing itself.

    HE: Yeah, I’ve said that many times.

    12.) No matter what I ever do or say, Heathcliff, this is me — now — standing on this hill with you. This is me — forever.


    “The Searchers”

    “Love and Death”

    “Wizard of Oz”

    “Wuthering Heights”

    “The Wild One”

    “To Kill a Mockingbird”

    “The Sixth Sense”


    “The Night of the Hunter”

    “A Night at the Opera”

    “Mrs. Miniver”

    “A Few Good Men”

   When you think you’ve got all the answers, CLICK on the link below in the online version of this
quiz, and the ANSWERS will pop up!

    Ready? CLICK for the ANSWERS below …


1.) Talk about a film that’s packed with meditations on the nature of truth! Those words were put in the film by \screenwriter Horton Foote and are uttered, every time someone watches the 1962 classic again, by Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the father and attorney in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

    2.) At their best, Hollywood artists often have tried to open the world’s eyes to tough truths. They haven’t always succeeded — and sometimes their version of truth has been skewed. But moviemakers often have served as modern prophets. This famous line about truth was shouted by Jack Nicholson in 1992’s “A Few Good Men, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Rob Reiner.

    3.) That sassy response comes from the leather-clad Marlon Brando, speaking to the small-town girl he meets in 1953’s tale of motorcycles and mayhem, “The Wild One.”

    4.) That’s little Haley Joel Osment in the 1999 film with Bruce Willis, directed by M. Night Shyamalan: “The Sixth Sense.” The movie may have suffered in reruns because, of course, most people now can’t avoid being “in on” the central truth of the film from the beginning. When it first hit theaters, though, the film danced a chilling flip-flop on our expectations of spiritual truths. Lots of folks couldn’t stop talking about the experience.

    5.) There wasn’t even a hint of the irony that’s so stylish today in Hollywood when these words were spoken in 1942’s “Mrs. Miniver.” During World War II, American leaders credited this movie about a British family surviving the German onslaught with helping to build American fervor for the war effort. Despite the devastation, the movie showed Greer Garson and her family struggling bravely to survive, to fight back — and the family even huddled with other brave British families in a bombed-out church for their weekly worship.

    6.) Hollywood was never above skewering popular American myths — even “Sanity” Claus in the still-very-funny 1935 Marx Brothers’ production, “A Night at the Opera.”

    7.) In 1955, Robert Mitchum emphasized this creepy little sermonette with tattooed fingers spelling out “LOVE” and “HATE.” The stylized production was written by James Agee and directed by Charles Laughton, far better known as an award-winning actor. The whole production sent chills through American viewers with its shockingly unusual “take” on the danger that may be lurking in our midst, even in small-town America.

    8.) Ain’t it the truth, hmmm? Except, hopefully we never go quite as mad as Tony Perkins, who uttered this line in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece: “Psycho.”

    9.) By the time John Wayne utters that line in 1956’s “The Searchers,” we’ve been through an amazing odyssey with Wayne’s bitter yet heroic character Ethan Edwards. The film ranks as one of Wayne’s and John Ford’s best and deliberately challenged Americans’ notions of truth on several different levels.

    10.) That’s Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz,” played by the great Judy Garland. In the film, she also declares: “There’s no place like home.” A host of Christian meditations have been written about the film and the novels by L. Frank Baum, including a number of reflections by Frederick Buechner.

    11.) That’s Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in “Love and Death,” a skewering of a century of angst in eastern European arts and literature.

    12.) And let’s hope they do go on forever into DVD and Blu-ray and whatever futuristic digital formats Hollywood dreams up — because this couple is Merle Oberon speaking to the truly timeless Laurence Olivier in William Wyler’s 1939 version of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” — adapted in part by the great screenwriter, Ben Hecht.

How’d you do?
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    Tell us what you think. Click Here to email me, David Crumm, or leave a Comment for other readers on our site.

    AND: COME BACK TOMORROW for our Conversation With best-selling author Bart Ehrman, the author of the provocative new book, “God’s Problem.”

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