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The best nunsploitation films to watch after ‘Immaculate’

Hollywood has a habit of making killer nun films.

What are the best nun movies to choose from? With Immaculate with Sydney Sweeney now playing in cinemas, we thought we’d take a look.

best nun movies

In Michael Mohan’s Immaculate, we see the filmmaker take his own spin on the “nunsploitation” trope as Sydney Sweeney’s Cecilia spirals into disarray in her new home within an Italian convent when it is discovered that she is pregnant, despite never having had relations with a man. A subgenre of exploitation film, nunsploitation originated in 1970s European cinema, with a focus on religious and sexual oppression due to the confines of the convent. To celebrate the release of Immaculate, in cinemas now, we take a look at some of the other best nunsploitation films out there.

Benedetta (2021)

Non best nun movies list would be complete without the inclusion of this next one. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Benedetta follows the protagonist of the same name as she joins a convent in Tuscany in the late 17th century. Gifted with the ability to perform miracles, Benedetta soon wreaks havoc and mass hysteria within the convent when she embarks on a lesbian affair with fellow nun Bartolomea. 

Benedetta was praised by audiences but also polarized them, with the film chosen to compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021 whilst also resulting in protests from Catholic groups across America due to the film’s depiction of Christianity and lesbianism. Verhoeven’s film was considered the highest form of blasphemy and is a perfect example of a nunsploitation film.

Agnes (2021)

2021 was a year in cinema in which we saw not one, but two nunsploitation films with Mickey Reece’s Agnes. This was a film that Variety believed to be more flummoxing than Benedetta. As a religious convent becomes rattled by a supposed demonic possession of a young nun, portrayed by Hayley McFarland, this launches a church investigation by Father Donoghue and his assistant Benjamin.

As Father Donoghue and Benjamin investigate the situation, Benjamin is shocked to learn that Father Donoghue has been accused of sexual misconduct, and the investigation is an excuse to push him out of the diocese. As the pair launch further into Agnes’ possession, they set on a path of bloodlust and loss of faith. Whilst Reece’s film received a mixed response overall, positive reactions to the film believed Agnes to be a unique character study into a young woman’s past trauma.

Related: ‘Immaculate’ review

Best Nun Moviea: St Agatha (2018) 

Set in 1950s small town Georgia, St Agatha follows pregnant con woman Mary as she seeks refuge in an isolated convent after being taken in by their Mother Superior, who imposes strict rules within the convent. After drugging Mary into submission, she is renamed “Agatha” and forced into solitary confinement, which they only open to reinforce their brainwashing and manipulation. 

Mary, now “Agatha”, must unlock the dark secrets of the convent and find the means to escape before she is imprisoned forever, and her baby is caught in their clutches. 

Filled with shocking twists and turns, St Agatha keeps its audience engaged through its corruption and thrilling atmosphere which is only fitting for a nunsploitation film.

Nude Nuns with Big Guns (2010)

We continue our best nun movies countdown by taking a turn into the action genre with Nude Nuns with Big Guns, this atypical film follows Mexican nun Sister Sarah who is drugged and brainwashed into submission by the clergy. After being drugged, raped and left for dead, Sister Sarah receives a message from God telling her to take revenge on the clergy and all those who wronged her. Supplied with guns and armed with God’s will, Sister Sarah embarks on the path of a vigilante, her tormentors hire the Los Muertos’ gang to murder her.

Blending the nunsploitation trope with action-fuelled scenes of torment and revenge, Nude Nuns with Big Guns is an over-the-top flick which doesn’t hold back in its depiction of amoral religious figures and concepts.

Dark Habits (1983)

Acclaimed director Pedro Almodovar turned his attention to the nunsploitation film in 1983 with Dark Habits, a black comedy focused on Yolanda, a cabaret singer who seeks refuge in a convent after her boyfriend drops dead of a heroin overdose. Yolanda is welcomed into the group of Humiliated Redeemers by their Mother Superior, a huge fan of Yolanda’s, whose aim is to offer shelter to fallen women.  

Like the other nunsploitation films included on this list, Almodovar’s comedy divided critics and audiences with its depiction of institutionalised religion, with some deeming it blasphemous and a criticism of Catholicism. In contrast, Almodovar does not view the film as anti-religious and is instead an exploration of the women at the centre of the narrative.

Killer Nun (1979)

For the final film in our best nun movies feature, we head back to the 19790s. Controversial for the period, Killer Nun sees Sister Gertrude, a nun with morphine addiction, as she descends further into madness on the psychiatric ward in which she works as a doctor’s assistant. After recovering from brain surgery and returning to the ward, Sister Gertrude is gripped by paranoia and anxiety that her cancer has returned, soon venturing outside of the convent to pursue random sexual encounters. Whilst on the ward, Sister Gertrude’s patients become in danger of her unstable behaviour.

Killer Nun differs from the other nunsploitation films on this list due to its focus on a hospital ward over the traditional convent setting, embarking on the trope alongside a whodunnit mystery. Hard to believe, but this story is also loosely based on the real-life case of Cecile Bombeek, a nun who committed a series of murders in Belgium in 1977.

Immaculate is in cinemas now


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