Kosher Movies: The Top Ten

I have been blogging about movies for the past several years and speaking at various venues about the topic, both at synagogues where we discuss movies old and new, and at schools, where I deliver professional development sessions for teachers.

Invariably, I am asked what is my favorite movie. Indeed, the question is simple, but the answer is not. Having written over a thousand “kosher movie” reviews, it is difficult to choose my favorite, keeping in mind that my definition of a “kosher movie” is a film that has something meaningful to say and that can help us navigate our own lives. Nevertheless, here is my list with a brief statement of why I consider it a “kosher” movie.

1. Changing Lanes –Two people meet in a fender-bender on New York’s FDR Drive. The white lawyer needs to get to courthouse; the black father needs to appear at a custody hearing to retain some connection to his kids. Both are late and anger takes over. The “kosher” message relates to how we relate to situations that provoke anger.

2. Searching for Bobby Fischer – A very young boy is pushed into the world of competitive class. The kosher message relates to whether winning is more important than being a nice person.

3. I Am Sam – A mentally challenged man wants to retain custody of his normal child. The kosher message relates to how viewing things stereotypically can lead us down the wrong path.

4. The Color of Money – Pool shark Eddie Felson is now a senior citizen. Does growing older cause you to value different things in life?

5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – A successful magazine editor in France has a devastating car crash leaving him only able to move his eyelids. The kosher message relates to appreciating the miracles of everyday.

6. Splendor in the Grass – If love between boy and girl does not work out, where do you go from there? Is personal tragedy always negative or does it open up new doors?

7. Chariots of Fire – Olympic racing events are the backdrop for a message about the importance of winning versus being true to one’s principles.

8. Rocky – Classic underdog boxing film that stresses the importance of having a good mentor.

9. The Bourne Legacy – Deals with a crisis of conscience for a government assassin. Shall I kill people if the government tells me I am saving the lives of my country’s citizens?

10. A Cry in the Dark – The evils of gossip and slander are depicted in the case of Lindy Chamberlain, who was accused of murdering her baby.

FYI, I will be touring the States in early December promoting my book Kosher Movies: A Film Critic Discovers Life Lessons at the Cinema. If you would like me to visit your community and make a presentation, please contact me via email regarding dates and times at rabbihjco@msn.com ASAP.

My time in the US is limited and I am trying to schedule dates based on geographical and chronological proximity.

About the Author
Originally from Mt. Vernon, New York, Herbert J. Cohen served in the pulpit rabbinate in Atlanta at the beginning of his career. After six years, he moved into the educational rabbinate and served for 23 years as Principal of Yeshiva High School of Atlanta. In 2010, he and his wife came on aliyah to Israel. His latest book, published by Urim Publishers, is "Kosher Movies: A Film Critic Discovers Life Lessons at the Cinema." He may be reached at rabbihjco@msn.com.
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