Frankie Paige (Arquette), a young woman in Pittsburgh, is stricken with what appears to be a Stigmata. Father Kiernan (Byrne), a priest who specializes in authentication of miracles, comes to meet her and examine her wounds.
Provides examples of:
- Artistic License – Religion: The film features a desperate conspiracy by the Catholic Church to cover up the existence of the newly-rediscovered Gospel of Thomas, which would apparently destroy the entire institution if published. In real life, the Gospel was actually discovered in 1945 and published shortly after with no opposition whatsoever, as the Church is quite accustomed to new findings of apocrypha and is usually rather indifferent to them. To show how little power those gospels actually have in the modern world, there is already a variety of ancient texts on public domain that call God the Devil and the Devil God, among other interesting doctrines, and none of them has really affected the Church's prosperity - all they need to do in those cases is to call it non-canonical.
- Award-Bait Song: "Identify", written by Mike Garson and The Smashing Pumpkins's vocalist Billy Corgan (who also composed the score alongside Mike), and sung by Natalie Imbruglia.
- Cassandra Truth: When doctors are looking at her wounds after the stigmata appears, they phrase the descriptions as if Frankie "did" them. When Frankie questions why, the doctors tell her that the wounds are "obviously" self-inflicted. Despite Frankie protesting they appeared on their own and she has no reason to harm herself, it's clear they don't believe her.
- Deadly Bath: Frankie steps into her Candlelit Bath to relax, only to be suddenly struck with a vision of the last tortured moments of the Messiah, complete with wounds opening in her wrists.
- Hollywood Atheist: Frankie is an avowed atheist (and her "sinful" life is well displayed for the audience). Which makes her manifestation of the stigmata baffling to Father Kiernan, who tells Frankie that only deeply religious people show stigmata.
- Hollywood Exorcism: Cardinal Houseman tries to exorcise the priest's soul from Frankie. When that doesn't work, he tries to kill her to silence him.
- Hot for Preacher: Kiernan is propositioned by several prostitutes on his way to work. They are not phased at all when he shows them his priestly collar, offering him, "The Vatican discount!", heavily implying that he would not be the first priest that they'd serviced.
- Impaled Palm: Frankie's wounds are through her wrists, and she gleefully notes that they should be through her palms if she has stigmata. However, Father Kiernan notes that historic crucifixions were done through the wrist.
- Pietà Plagiarism: Kiernan carries Frankie out of the nunnery this way.
- Tears of Blood:
- The statue Father Kiernan investigates began crying human blood at the death of the church's beloved priest.
- Frankie later cries the same tears.