Mike King Film Studies

Film and TV as window into the social imaginary

Mike King



Hi, I am Mike King and this page is dedicated to my film studies books, film reviews, and related material. I am interested in how film, TV, videos and computer games form a window into our social imaginary. The term 'social imaginary' was coined by the philosopher Charles Taylor and means the sum total of the images and ideas by which a culture lives. I believe however that any society is made up of sub-cultures, and so the social imaginary is not a monolithic entity, but rather a range of imaginaries varying within a nation and across nations. There will still be dominant elements of the social imaginary within a nation, so America, for example, is more inclined to violence and the libertarianism than, say, Denmark, whatever the subculture. Film and TV, or more generally moving image, give us a window into the mainstream imaginary and also that of one or more subcultures, possibly in opposition to each other.

Below you will find details on my books and also a section with some published film reviews. Do follow me on Facebook or email me with comments.


The Beauty of Judaism on Film

More information including Amazon prices

Publisher: Stochastic Press, 2017, 278 pages softcover. Filmography, appendix, notes, bibliography, index ISBN 978-0-9956480-2-9

Watch films and discover the living religion of Judaism. This unique guide to Judaism on film explores over forty cinematic productions leading up to the ten-best ever films to convey the religion on screen. This book shows that despite being a faith with few outward symbols the inner dramas of Judaism lend themselves well to cinema. Both highly popular and readily-available lesser-known films are used to explore the following themes:

  1. Essential Judaism
  2. Musical Judaism
  3. Mystical Judaism
  4. Crazed Judaism
  5. Secular Judaism
  6. Holocaust Judaism
  7. Israel Judaism
  8. Gendered Judaism
  9. Family Judaism

This book forms both an introduction to Judaism through film and the basis for a film club or study group.


Luminous: The Spiritual Life on Film

From Amazon UK. From Amazon US.

Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc., 280 pages softcover. Filmography, appendix, notes, bibliography, index ISBN 978-0-7864-7642-8 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4766-1323-9 2014

Foreword by Linus Roache

This book is a comprehensive survey of religion and spirituality on film. It explores different aspects of the spiritual life as projected in more than 400 movies. Film settings embrace all of the major faiths, smaller religious groupings, the New Age, and even contexts that are in the first instance secular, atheist or anti-religious. A dozen themes have been identified in which to group them. Two types of film were excluded: escapist fantasy and the religious costume drama. The final selection are films of highly serious intent (which include however very human dramas and humorous moments). The 12 chapters of the book illuminate the lived spiritual life from many angles, mostly within the drama of people’s lives rather than in matters of creed or religious specifics. When the unique art-form of film, with its aesthetics of light and movement, coincide with scenes of high spiritual drama we have a cinema that can be called “luminous.” The search is on for such films.

Download The Sixty Must-See Films for the Spiritual Life.

American Cinema of Excess


The American Cinema of Excess: Extremes of the National Mind on Film

From Amazon UK. From Amazon US.

Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc (15 Feb 2009) 111,531 words Paperback: 271 pages

This book draws conclusions about the American mind through analysis of what might be called a “cinema of excess:” cinema about Americans that includes culturally transgressive material such as violence, graphic sexuality, apocalyptic themes, and paranoia. The work begins with an introduction to far left and far right schools of film criticism, including Marxism, cultural conservatism, and religious conservatism.

The author then takes a balanced look at various films’ interpretations of several traits of the American conscious: paranoia (Dr. Strangelove), aggression (Rambo, Natural Born Killers), oedipal/Freudian themes (The Hulk, Star Wars), sexual obsession (American Beauty), the apocalypse (The Passion of the Christ, the Left Behind trilogy), Native Americans and cultural genocide (Little Big Man), new age narcissism (I Heart Huckabees), nihilism and self-destruction (Fight Club, Taxi Driver), intellect and cultural autism (A Beautiful Mind), and virtual reality/fantasy (The Matrix). Finally, a look at American sanity is provided through films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Fisher King, Vanilla Sky and 21 Grams.



Film Reviews

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, Published in the Online Journal of Religion and Film, Vol. 9, No. 2, ISSN 1092-1311, October 2005

Northfork, Published in the Online Journal of Religion and Film, Vol 8, No 1, ISSN 1092-1311, April 2004

Book Reviews

Screens of Blood: A Critical Approach to Film and Television Violence, by Gregory Desilet, reviewed at Amazon UK, reviewed at Amazon US.