The Top Five Jewish Films of All Time

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
November 13th, 2013

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The Top Five Jewish Films of All Time

Jewish culture has an ancient and rich history punctuated by periods of historic oppression survived against all odds. Some of the greatest cinematic masterpieces tell the tale of the Jewish struggle throughout history. These five films represent some of the best that Jewish cinema has to offer.

"The Chosen"
"The Chosen" is a beautiful and introspective film that tells the story of two young men who are coming of age and trying to reconcile their Jewish heritage and faith with the concerns of the society they so desperately want to fit into. Struggling against pressures from their family and the outside world to conform, the boys turn to each other to sort out their identities and come to terms with the ways in which their Jewish experience differs from that of their parents. It's a great adaptation of Chaim Potok's classic novel of the same name. Both the novella and the film have received significant critical acclaim for their portrayal of what it means to be a chosen people in a modern world.

"Shoah" is a remarkably vibrant and powerful documentary that chronicles the aftermath of the Jewish experience in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. No tale of Jewish history would be complete without an account of this dark and shameful segment of human history. The documentary doesn't hold back when it comes to describing the atrocities so many Jewish people faced during the Holocaust. The documentary runs for nearly ten hours, but you will find yourself grateful for every second of this painful yet important history lesson. Film is a powerful medium, and few documentaries have better used it to the advantage of humanity than "Shoah," which tells a story that must be spoken not only to honor the victims of tragedy but also to ensure such apathy never takes hold of humanity again.

"The Prince of Egypt"
This may be an animated film, but it is no less riveting and powerful for its chosen medium. From the beautiful musical score to the rich animation style, "The Prince of Egypt" does a great job of explaining one segment of Jewish history in a way that audiences of all ages can understand. The film is enjoyable and historically accurate for the most part, depicting the life of Moses, a Jewish man born a slave, risen to greatness as the Pharaoh's son, who would ultimately become the hero who led the Jewish people out of Egypt. This Dreamworks production does a remarkable job of bringing these historical characters to life in a way the whole family can enjoy.

"The Diary of Anne Frank"
Starring Millie Perkins as Anne Frank, this film is one of the most iconic pieces of Jewish cinema. The film opens with a look into the daily life of the young Jewish girl who became famous for her diaries, chronicling both the inner life of a normal teenage girl and her reactions to the atrocities that were slowly taking shape around her. Anne Frank and her family were forced to hide in the attic of a sympathetic family in Amsterdam when the Nazis invaded and began to round up every family of Jewish heritage to be sent to the Nazi concentration camps. The film puts a very personal twist on one of the most tragic chapters in human history, giving viewers an intimate look into the inner world of a young girl who could have easily been their neighbor or sister. Perkins delivers a stunning portrayal of Anne, captivating with each and every line and delivering one of the most heartfelt performances in film history.

"Schindler's List"
"Schindler's List" is a classic film that chronicles the life of Oskar Schindler, a ruthless German businessman who finds himself supervising a Jewish workforce in Poland during the Nazi reign. Although Schindler starts out as greedy and apathetic to the plight of his workers, time and experience change his heart and mind. The film is based on the true story of a man who saved more than a thousand Jews from the Nazi gas chambers in Auschwitz once he realized the truth about the atrocities being committed by Hitler's regime. The film is a story of human triumph over the darkest and most hideous situations, showing the impact that mercy and compassion can have on human lives forever. For this reason, "Schindler's List" deserves the number one spot on the list of the top five Jewish films of all time.