Are All Christian Movies Bad?

Andrew O’Hehir at Salon wonders why Christian movies like the recent “Soul Surfer” are incredibly lame:

But do Christian-themed movies really have to be so bad?… Believe me, I have learned, over and over again, that ordinary moviegoers, a lot of the time, want to see a story that’s positive, predictable and not all that challenging, but even measured on that yardstick this one is pretty awful. Even [Carolyn] Arends of Christianity Today, who is eager to praise the film but too principled to be dishonest, admits that the writers offer up “some not-quite satisfying resolutions about God’s plans in the face of tragedy.”

The J-Walk Blog points to this response from pacificwhim which gets right to the point:

Christian films suck because by and large, the evangelical audience doesn’t want challenging, complex characters or art. They want the same pabulum spoon-fed to them over and over: God has a plan, accept Jesus and be saved, secularists bad, blah blah blah. There’s no shading or nuance or dark ambiguity in Christian cinema; just God and Satan duking it out. That’s why the films are as thudding, leaden and dull as those tracts the Jehovah’s Witnesses try to shove in your face every weekend while you’re trying to watch what you Tivo’d Friday night.

I’d add something to that list: In Christian movies, the bad guys aren’t really all that bad. You can’t really “hate” the Constitution-defending lawyer from the ACLU, or the rebellious kids, or the loving couple that has sex outside of marriage.

I can only suspend my disbelief so much…

And what’s with the idea that the good guy always wins? Not every story has a happy ending. Not every marriage ends successfully. Not every athlete makes the game-winning goal. That’s not how life works. Sometimes the bullies win and the heroine doesn’t get what she wants. But Christian films all seem to take place in HappyJesusLand, where there’s always redemption at the end.

(Yes, most films in general end on a high note, not just Christian ones, but can you name any Christian films that don’t end happily?)

You go to the movies to be entertained or challenged. If you wanted to be preached at or told the lie that everything will be ok if you just give your life to Jesus, you can go to church.

  • cut.throat.jane

    would it really be a christian film if it didn’t end happy? i don’t know many chrstians would want to watch a movie about a man who didn’t like christmas and “hated” god and he mangaed to stay that way through the entire movie.

  • Adam

    Kingdom of Heaven (if that’s a Christian movie) ended with the Muslims winning.

  • cat

    I am a fan of happy endings. Sure, life does not always end happily, but that is one of the benefits of escapism and film.

  • Tom

    Legion is kinda christianee, but it doesn’t adhere to the usual formula. It challenges a Christian audience and gets them to question their interpretation of the Bible.
    Also, Bruce Almighty gave me almighty lols.

  • TheBlackCat

    Movies aren’t real life. I don’t usually watch movies to be depressed, real life does that just fine.

  • pirmas407

    I feel Christian movies, like Christian music, are so bad because their focus is on shoe-horning Jesus into everything and not into producing a good piece of art. It is like Syfy movies, only replace dodgy CGI with Jesus.

  • Miko

    Propaganda films of all sorts usually suck, since they typically view plot, character, etc. as secondary considerations to message, and then market themselves to an audience that already accept that message.

    Similarly, if someone got the bizarre idea to make a film whose whole point was to glorify atheism, it would undoubtedly suck too.

    Yes, most films in general end on a high note, not just Christian ones, but can you name any Christian films that don’t end happily?

    I would suggest Left Behind, but after sitting through that I have to admit that I was actually pretty happy to see it end.

    Adam:

    Kingdom of Heaven (if that’s a Christian movie)

    It isn’t. A Christian film is defined (in terms of genre) as one which is made by explicit Christians (as opposed to a filmmaker who just happens to also be a Christian) and intended for an explicitly Christian market. Having Christian characters or dealing with Christian themes is not enough.

  • J.T.

    A coupla things:

    1)Kingdom of Heaven had some anti-religious elements to it.
    b)If you’re a Kirk Cameron fan, you should watch “Fireproof” to see how to fireproof your marriage under god’s protection. Although Kirk’s on-screen spouse is not Ray Comfort, it’s still a pitifully good laugh and very indicative of the current condition of the American evangelical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnitaVersion2.0?sk=info Anita N

    Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty are pretty good. Even as an Atheist I found them highly entertaining.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnitaVersion2.0?sk=info Anita N

    Oh, I see — I guess they don’t quite fit the criteria, even though they have a strong, blatant Christian message. I agree, then. I’ve never seen a good movie that does fit those criteria.

  • Brian

    Most, but not all. I submit “The Mission” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” as possible exceptions.

  • Kyle

    I do know of a Catholic movie called “Into Temptation” that ended on a down note. Kristen Chenowith kills herself at the end.

  • Noophy

    One christian movie I liked, which does what I think you’ve said a movie should do is To End All wars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_End_All_Wars

  • Nordog

    (Yes, most films in general end on a high note, not just Christian ones, but can you name any Christian films that don’t end happily?)

    Do “Man for All Seasons” and “Beckett” count?

  • flawedprefect

    Book of Eli was a covert Christian film, where the hero is (spoiler) revealed to be carrying the last copy of the king James bible to a printing press in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone seems to be godless. Stereotypes abound and the hero is almost superhuman because of his faith, described at one point as “seeing without seeing”. This of course turns out to be the big twist at the end, where (spoiler) he turns out 5 have been blind all along. Liked the film right yp until the end. The book really could have been anything, but cos it was the bible, makes this obviously a Christian film.

  • Rieux

    Really, Anita? I thought both “Almighty” movies were (1) obviously Christian (or at least monotheist) and (2) facepalm-worthy bad. For whatever it’s worth, they both (though especially Evan) rated “rotten” on the Rotten Tomatoes movie-review aggregator.

    Seems to me both movies have all of the horrendous flaws that O’Hehir and pacificwhim detail from Bible-banging movies generally.

    I know I respect Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell less for their having agreed to star in those flicks than I did previously. (Carrey also loses big points for his work as an accomplice to Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccination efforts—but I’m sad about it, because he’s also starred in two of my favorite films, The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both of which seem to me to deliver strongly pro-atheist messages between the lines.)

  • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

    Fred Clark at Slacktivist approached this article from his unique liberal evangelical perspective here:
    http://www.patheos.com/community/slacktivist/2011/04/14/ladling-calculation-upon-comedy/

  • TychaBrahe

    I don’t know if they were specifically Christian, but Oh, God! was very pro-religious, and ended not exactly happily.

    I was thinking of Leap of Faith, although that was more about Christians than for Christians.

    I have to say I love The Miracle with Carroll Baker and Roger Moore, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Going My Way, Boys Town, and Godspell. But I think a lot has changed about Christian movies in fifty years.

  • Elliott

    Passion of the Christ didn’t end happily. Unless you consider human sacrifice ‘happy .’

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610366855 Kev Mc

      i agree, they missed the plot there.

      the should have showed his resurection.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I’m generally not entertained by propaganda film and tend to avoid them.

  • Nordog

    Passion of the Christ didn’t end happily. Unless you consider human sacrifice ‘happy’.”

    Some atheists might think it “happy” that the story line portrayed God being sacificed.

    Well, except that it actually ended with the Resurrection.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610366855 Kev Mc

      Amen

      Jesus dies for us all and
      Jesus rose from the grave

  • Demonhype

    I was going to say, not only is “Kingdom of Heaven” not a Christian film, I actually heard two Christian kids at my Christian-founded university complaining bitterly about what a horrible movie it was because the Christians didn’t get everything they wanted and kick the Muslims’ asses at the end–as if trying to be historically accurate at least in the fact that the Christians eventually lost the Crusades was a personal affront to their faith.

    Amusingly enough, this was while we were all waiting for our Analytical Philosophy class to begin.

    Gee, when do you think the Texas Board of Education is going to rewrite that history to make it more palatable for the hyper-sensitive Christians-should-always-win-no-matter-what Christians.

    I agree with whoever said the Almighty movies were explicitly pro-God, at the very least. Though I never got to see the Evan one, I remember watching Bruce Almighty and thinking it was a variation on the story of Job. (What with God essentially making an “I’m bigger than you and you could never do my job” kind of challenge.) Stupid as fuck though. We need to cover for God’s slack because God can’t do everything, but at the same time we should worship him as a perfect and flawless being despite the fact that he isn’t. Because that’s how he wants it, and he’s bigger than you.’

    Any thoughts on Bedazzled? Or whatever that movie was with Elizabeth Hurley as Satan? Regardless of anything else, I remember finding God/Jesus to be pretty damned cute. He could jabber on about almost anything as far as I’m concerned, and I’d just sit there smiling!

  • Nordog

    The original “Bedazzled” with Dudley Moore is much better than the remake, though admittedly there is no Elizabeth Hurley to look at.

  • Emma

    I agree with Miko, that a lot of problems come from putting message ahead of quality. Tvtropes has a nice article on the issue.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheMoralSubstitute

  • Jimbo

    I’m more of a Saved! fan.

  • Scramble

    Brigham City is a Mormon movie, once foisted upon me by a former roommate and devout Mormon. Perhaps it’s because I was expecting very little that I was pleasantly surprised. It features many complex characters, each dealing with their own interpretation of their faith and how that butted up against other interpretations in the commnity. Add to that a reasonably compelling murder mystery and an ending that was ambiguous at best, and I have to say I was entertained.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    What about Jesus Christ Superstar? Judas was sort of a complex character in that one.

  • Gail

    Religious themes in movies can be good, but I’ve yet to see a movie made to be a Christian movie that was actually good. For example, GOD ON TRIAL was a great movie about religious issues, but it wasn’t made to promote Christianity. FIREPROOF, on the other hand, is terrible. I think movies made to promote an idealistic image of a single religion tend to fail, but movies that display the struggle of real-life religious issues tend to be good and thought-provoking.

  • Mark

    I saw Atlas Shrugged last night. I’m in about 75% agreement with Rand. Yet the I found the movie to be a big stinking pile.

    It’s the same problem. All message movies suck, especially those that are about an entire explicit world view.

    In the Derp Almighty movies weren’t preachy. They were just fantasy movies built around the monotheist mythos. To those you could add Angel on my Shoulder, Here comes Mr. Jordan, and pretty much everything Frank Capra did.

    There are book equivalents too. After reading Christohper Moore’s Lamb I wanted kind of wished Christianity was true.

    Ultimately I think the MST3K mantra applies.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610366855 Kev Mc

      Quote [After reading Christohper Moore's Lamb I wanted kind of wished Christianity was true.]
      Well the Good News is that it is True :-)

      Jesus is alive and real.

      After being an athiest most of my life i have found Jesus and He is alive, in my heart.
      My life has never been so good. 

      praise the Lord

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    hmmm. there are lots of movies about religion that i’ve liked. but in a more general sense, i suppose, than you mean here. the one that comes to mind? “The Rapture” with mimi rogers. it floored me the first time i saw it. “Pi” is another one, although that is about math as much as religion. “the messenger” is good too. i can’t think of a good non-monotheist film just now, but i’m sure they exist. oh, yeah, that movie about the Hindu princess and her Muslim hubby… i forget the name just now, but she’s like, the most beautiful actress in the world and plays a devout Hindu during the Muslim conquest. there’s lots of Bollywood dancing and singing; it’s awesome.

  • Swulf

    What I find worse than Christian movies is recent Christian music. It is uniformly insipid and sound-alike to the point where you start to suspect it is either deliberate and/or the work of just two or three people masquerading as different groups. It never ceases to amaze me that very nearly every single Christian female vocalist of a moderately popular band sounds *exactly the same* – they all project this icky saccharine quality which is unbelievably offputting.

  • Rich Wilson

    Expanding beyond Christian to religious, we have Battlefield Earth. Didn’t actually see it, but did waste a few days reading what supposedly passed for a ‘book’.

  • aproustian

    Christians like my parents don’t expect better, for one; it’s like they take the saying “bad theology makes bad art” and turn it around: if it’s the “right” theology (what they agree with), then it *must* be good art. They don’t evaluate it any farther than that (same with politicians, to my deep chagrin).

  • Tim

    TL;DR.
    …so I could say this with the appropriate bluntness that only ignorance of the above post awards.
    The simple answer is: Yes.

  • Lana

    I’ve never seen “Christian movies” per se, so I can’t comment on that. Are those just normal films with a strong religious message?

    I can, however, comment on Mormon films (brought up in another comment). I was raised on LDS films like “Saturday’s Warrior,” “Johnny Lingo,” and some song one with “god” in the title . . . can’t remember what it was called. My mom had the soundtrack on record. Anyway, those were all incredibly cheesy and stupid.

    Strangely enough, though, LDS films seem to be improving in production value until they’re palatable and even amusing to the general public. They still have a lot of LDS “in” jokes (Singles Ward, RM), but they can also be pretty funny in their own right. So maybe there’s hope for Christian films yet?

    One thing I do loathe is Christian fiction. I especially hate how it’s becoming so mainstream that you can be at the library browsing the regular fiction-fantasy section, pick up a cool looking book with a dragon on the cover . . . and *bam,* it’s thinly-veiled Christian allegory. I hate those.

  • Pseudonym

    Here’s the comment that I left on Salon’s site:

    Christianity used to be the repository and guardian of the highest art and culture in the European world. What changed?

    I think the rise of fundamentalism in the late 19th century is largely to blame. Fundamentalism can be thought of as the inability or unwillingness to distinguish myth, metaphor and allegory from fact and history. When you lose that, all sorts of artistic opportunities are lost.

    On the other hand, perhaps the problem is the definition of “Christian movie”. The Narnia and Lord of the Rings books are undeniably Christian artworks, and the movies based on them aren’t as nearly bad as these “faith-based” monstrosities. And outside of Christianity proper, other related mystical and philosophical films (e.g. Philip K. Dick adaptations) seem to be doing well.

  • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

    I’m a Christian and I hate “Christian” art. What’s wrong with just being a good artist and a Christian – like Bach.

    A Christian musician named Derek Webb came up with this quote in a HuffPost interview which I think explains a large part of the problem when it comes to Christian cinema.

    the job of any artist is to look at the world and tell you what they see. Every artist, whether they acknowledge it or know it, has a grid through which they view the world and make sense of what they see. Even if it’s a grid of unbelief — that you don’t think there is anything orchestrating the world and that everything is completely random — that is a grid through which you make sense of the world.

    A lot of “Christian art” is about the lens they’re looking through, rather than the world they see through it. I’m not going to criticize anybody for doing that, but I would rather look at the world through the grid of following Jesus and tell you what I see. But that doesn’t presume that all the art I’m going to make will be about following Jesus

  • ckitching

    Some atheists might think it “happy” that the story line portrayed God being sacificed.

    Torture porn is not “happy” in any sense of the word. The glorification of pain and suffering is horrible. I won’t even get into the antisemitism in that movie. Of all the things that they could’ve chosen to celebrate, he chose violence and torture.

    Christian art/music/movies usually is extremely heavy handed. Rarely do they trust their audience to get it for themselves, so the message is spelled out in extreme detail. This quickly gets very tiring.

    Then there is the aforementioned lack of nuance. I think it makes for a rather boring story when the only bad acts committed by the good characters in the story happen because they were either tricked, or were under the influence of the Big Bad. It makes it very difficult to identify with or empathize with a character that is this flawless and faultless.

    Christians are perfectly capable of producing good art, but they do this by putting the art ahead of the message, rather than the message ahead of the art. I think the long history of advertising shows that trying to start with a message and produce art tends to be nearly impossible.

  • Rieux

    Mark:

    In the Derp Almighty movies weren’t preachy.

    Seriously? Like Anita earlier, I have to wonder which movies you watched. I found Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty just absurdly preachy. I don’t get it.

    Derek Webb, via Nathan:

    Every artist, whether they acknowledge it or know it, has a grid through which they view the world and make sense of what they see. Even if it’s a grid of unbelief — that you don’t think there is anything orchestrating the world and that everything is completely random — that is a grid through which you make sense of the world.

    The first sentence is true enough (if clumsily expressed), but the second is just laughable ignorance. Sure, Derek, a lack of belief in your silly myths leaves us with nothing but “think[ing] that everything is completely random.” Whatever allows you to rationalize your faith in nonsense.

    ckitching:

    Christian art/music/movies usually is extremely heavy handed. Rarely do they trust their audience to get it for themselves, so the message is spelled out in extreme detail. This quickly gets very tiring.

    That’s a good point, and it suggests what might be a foundational problem with the O’Hehir/pacificwhim analysis: quite possibly the very elements that make a film identifiable as a “Christian movie” also unavoidably make it a weak one at best. A good “Christian movie,” perhaps, would not be obviously Christian.

    In that case, we should probably examine something like The Shawshank Redemption, which did poorly at the box office in 1994 but was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and has done very well with critics and home-video audiences alike.

    Well, Shawshank is a down-the-line Christian allegory, with protagonist Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) as Christ, Red (Morgan Freeman) as redeemable humanity, Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) as the Pharisees, and Shawshank Prison as life on Earth. Not too many people have noticed it, but Shawshank is actually a heavily Christian movie. And though it’s clearly a well-written and -made film, it’s hard for me to be terribly positive about any work of art that conceptualizes life as a prison-like existence that can only be made worthwhile if one hopes (the central word in the film) for something greater beyond.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610366855 Kev Mc

      you say “Whatever allows you to rationalize your faith in nonsense.”

      as an athiest i assume you would belive in the theory of evolution?

      this theory claims there was abig bang and out of that the universe just happened lol.

      and we came to life from pond scum, lol.

      that is the biggest fairy tale of all time.

      Please dont feel i am putting you down, i am trying to respond with the Love of Christ in my heart

      Read this from Romans 1

      God’s Wrath Against Mankind

      18The wrath of God is
      being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who
      suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be
      known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For
      since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and
      divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
      so that men are without excuse.

      21For although they
      knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their
      thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed
      to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the
      glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and
      animals and reptiles.

      24Therefore God gave
      them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the
      degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the
      truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the
      Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

  • http://www.twitter.com/marajade13 Mara Jade

    The only Christian movie I remember going and seeing in theatres was A Walk to Remember. My best friend Shannon *really* wanted to see it, and we went and saw it together. When we saw it I was atheist-ish, but I wasn’t nearly as sturdy in it. She ADORED IT. I… didn’t mind it terribly.
    For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is basically Mandy Moore playing a really goody goody Christian girl, and she gets bullied fairly regularly by a bunch of jerk-atheists who are just always doing mean things to her. One of the jerk-atheists gets partnered with her, and they eventually develop a love connection. The jerk-atheist then gets converted to her good Christian ways, and they love each other very much and get married because it turns out Mandy Moore is dying. I think of cancer.
    Recently I rewatched the movie, and was very disappointed with myself, because I honestly didn’t remember anything but the love connection. That’s movies for you, I suppose.
    Shannon still has the soundtrack. >_> And listens to it constantly.

  • http://www.twitter.com/marajade13 Mara Jade

    miller says:
    What about Jesus Christ Superstar? Judas was sort of a complex character in that one.

    I think of Jesus Christ Superstar as less of a Christian movie actually, because I feel like Judas is such an intense main character, and an athiest-ish one, too. He questions Jesus and challenges the religious parts of what he’s trying to do. Also I always felt like Jesus was more portrayed as an impassioned guy who had causes he was trying to work towards, rather than a preachy savior of all we see. So it is less religious in my mind.
    Maybe it’s just because I remember specific scenes more than others though. -shrug-

  • Candide

    I was raised in a non-theist household, and Jesus Christ Superstar was played so much that I could sing just about every single line from every single song, and I was devastated when I missed out on the chance to see the original cast perform it here in town before Carl Anderson (Judas) passed away.

    I like it because it’s fun, catchy, and it doesn’t show anyone in a bad light, really — Judas’ motives are shown as mostly noble, Pontius Pilate is shown as anguishing over his decision, and even the Pharisees and Herod are shown grimacing when Jesus recieved the lashes. The only downside is that everyone is playing their predestined roles according to God and can’t change them.

    JCS doesn’t show any of the supposed miracles of Jesus and even downplays the resurrection (at the very end after everyone gets on the bus to go back, you can see a barely-visible lone figure walking along the bottom of the screen.)

    I’m going to watch it again right now, in fact.

  • Alice

    I suppose you could argue the Jesus Christ, Superstar was an anti-Christian movie because Judas was a sympathetic character who didn’t toady up to Jesus, but rather tried to get him to see that he was buying into his own hype. His death scene was pretty moving.

    Now I want to go watch it again.

  • Adrienne

    Christians not only make lame movies, they try to ruin good ones. I remember when Chicago was broadcast on network TV. I don’t mind that they cut the swearing – that was to be expected in prime time TV – but it was disgusting when they substituted Joan of Arc for Jesus Christ in Flynn’s boast about his expertise.

  • Drew M.

    If I believed in the concept of guilty pleasures, the aforementioned, “A Walk to Remember,” would be one. I’m a sucker for glurge.

  • Daryl

    If I was a Christian, I actually would have found The Last Temptation of Christ quite positive: Jesus realises his mistake and returns to the cross to die for the sins of the world, thereby grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat. I find the idea of human sacrifice repulsive and absurd, but within the context of the film I think it worked. Great soundtrack as well. Gospel According to St Matthew is another pretty good Jesus film.

  • http://wonderfulpages.com/sawdust KirbyG

    A very challenging movie that isn’t at all a cliche Christian movie is “Ostrov”.

    It’s subtitled eastern European movie (we had trouble finding a DVD) but it is absolutely beautiful, artistic, and very thought provoking and a truly incredible movie. It’s based on the eastern Orthodox concept of “fool for Christ”.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0851577/

    We bought it when we were Christians, but I’ve seen it twice since I declared atheism and it’s still powerful. We dumped all of our Christian TV shows and movies, but kept this one.

    I very, very strongly suggest that anyone see it, atheist or not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610366855 Kev Mc

      hi there

      i am sadened to hear you have lost your faith, would you like to share what happened for that to occur?

  • http://www.belovedspear.org Beloved Spear

    Probably the best Christian movie I’ve seen was “The Apostle.” Brilliant, complex, subtle, but then, it’s Robert Duvall.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    A bit late to the discussion, but a friend of mine who is a cartoonist and a Christian asked about “offensive” Christian art. There was some really good discussion here: http://www.wesdraws.com/blog/should-christian-art-offend/

  • kenw

    All I have to say is the movie Jesus of Nazareth is one of the best movies of all time.

  • Tom

    No. not all christian movies are bad. I’m an atheist, but i don’t even wish that were true. They have a lot of good ones. Maybe not the BEST, or my FAVORITE, but some good movies.

    Here’s some Christian movies that are not bad.

    1) Ben Hur
    2) Lord of the Rings
    3) The Ten Commandments
    4) The Scarlet and the Black
    5) Amazing Grace
    6) The Passion of the Christ
    7) It’s A Wonderful Life
    8) The Prince of Egypt
    9) Into Great Silence
    10) Luther

    • Kev

      thanks for sharing that.

      i wouldnt think ben hur nor lord of the rings are christian movies

  • Thegoodman

    I came to say what Torn has already said.

    There are countless movies that have christian themes or comparisons that are very good.

    However, all movies made to promote Jesus and a wholesome Christian lifestyle suck ass.

    • Kev

      why do you say that?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I think it’s kind of funny that so many Christians complain about movies being “secular” when it seems to me that very few movies are entirely secular. References to the biblical deity abound, and characters routinely express belief in that deity and its accompanying mythology. It’s quite easy to find characters in regular movies who believe in the biblical god, who believe in sin, who believe in heaven and hell, as well as characters who pray and enter churches for religious purposes.

  • walkamungus

    In terms of movies that address Christianity as a complex, problematic religion (as opposed to Christian movies, which are all about feel-good):

    Probably the best Christian movie I’ve seen was “The Apostle.” Brilliant, complex, subtle, but then, it’s Robert Duvall.

    Absolutely — the best movie I’ve ever seen about Christianity; if you haven’t seen it, check it out. Duvall is excellent as a fundamentalist Christian faced with the consequences of his own un-Christian, sinful behavior.

    Another goodie is “Black Robe,” about 17th-century French Jesuits in what would eventually be eastern Canada. As un-PC as it is to say positive things about European colonialism, one of the things that “Black Robe” conveys is a sense of the awe, fear and courage the Jesuits must have felt.

    And I second “A Man for All Seasons” and “Becket” although both are more political than religious.

  • JP

    Well, I really, really, really hated Luther, but mostly because it was so amazingly wrong.

    The first example I thought of as a “non-happy-ending” Christian movie was the 1991 film The Rapture. I’m not sure if it qualifies as a Christian film, but the characters “reject” their sinful lives, become weird evangelicals, and go to the desert to meet God. It could play as a farce, except then the Rapture happens and the main character (Mimi Rogers) goes to hell because she rejected God.

    It’s not a great movie, and maybe a Christian would see a non-believer going to hell as a happy ending. I just found it depressing.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    It’s A Wonderful Life

    It’s a little strange to see this pegged as a Christian movie. While it certainly makes use of Christian mythology, the film has a profoundly humanist message. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either: An Atheist’s Review of It’s a Wonderful Life.

  • Jachra

    “Kingdom of Heaven (if that’s a Christian movie) ended with the Muslims winning.”

    This is definitively not a Christian film.

    Films with a Christian message are.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    I think part of it might be that religious censors get so focused on what can’t be part of the movie, so it won’t be offensive, that there comes a point when the characters and storyline are no longer believable. That’s not to say that a movie has to be vulgar, but if the movie is too sanitized (not willing to portray difficult situations or moral questions, for example) then it seems a bit like the writer is writing “down” to the audience. For example, a story in which all people of one group are always right and everyone else is always wrong is going to seem like it’s too simplistic. Even a fantasy story (with magic, elves, wizards, etc.) can seem more realistic to me if the characters and situations are believable (within the context of the fictional world), compared to a story in which one group is perfect all the time.

    Still, I’m uncertain if this is something particular about Christian movies or just an example of a larger trend in society.

  • Sven

    Is this discussion still going, or am I very late?
    Would ‘The Mission’ be considered a christian movie?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PLWEEWTOMLWQLTQBTC5PVUZRDI Paul

    I would like to explain what people refer to as “The Gospel” or “Good News”.  In this explanation, I will discuss God’s grace, which unfortunately so many people do not understand or have never been clearly explained.  

    Unfortunately, many people attend a Christian church regularly (or attended one in the past) but have never been clearly taught what the Bible stresses as the most important decision that one could ever make.   It is only in making this decision that one actually becomes one of God’s children and is “saved” from His eternal judgment.  This decision deals with what is referred to as “The Gospel”.  If you have never heard “The Gospel” before, here it is.  Around 33 AD, Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, paid the price for every single person’s sin in history by dying the death of crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.  He willingly died for every person’s sin that has ever lived and every will live.  That includes both you and me.  He willing died a death that we deserve for our moral failures in life.  Jesus was brutally beaten, whipped, mocked, spit upon, nailed to a wooden cross, and then died.  Three days later, He rose from the dead, as He foretold His disciples (group of followers).  Jesus then ascended into heaven forty days later.  He currently lives with God, His father, in heaven today.  During Old Testament times (times prior to the birth of Jesus Christ – B.C.), people had a keen awareness of their moral guilt, as any honest person still does today.  I know that I have wronged many people and have felt a deep-seated guilt within many areas of my life.  Many people during Old Testament times sacrificed animals to God as a form of limited atonement for their immoral actions.  God often accepted these sacrifices, but only in a temporary and limited way.  Over time, God changed this extremely limited form of atonement, as He had planned from the very beginning of time.  Moreover, God sent His one and only son Jesus Christ down to the Earth.  Since Jesus was both sinless and blameless, He willingly died on the cross as an unlimited atonement.  It was in God’s will for His son to die in this way.  This unlimited atonement is available to any person who whole-heartedly repents of their sins (moral failures) and then asks God to personally apply Jesus’ undeserved death and resurrection as a payment for their sins.  It is imperative here that one believes the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was ultimately an act of God’s grace.  God did not have to offer an escape from our moral guilt and eternal punishment.  However, God is gracious.  He has a compassion and love for people that is indescribable.  God wants to “wipe the slate” clean for us, in regards to our moral failures.  Through this action, we could then enter a personal relationship with His son Jesus Christ and escape his eternal judgment.  The Bible refers to moral failures as ‘sin’, or missing the mark of God’s perfect standard of morality.  “Sin” is an ancient archery term for an arrow that missed the target.  God is loving in the purest sense of the word and would like to grant us victory over the sins that still haunt us from our past.  All we have to do is accept this gift of grace from Him.  It is free.  

    God promises us a way to become morally blameless and gain entrance into heaven after living our physical live here on Earth.  Here is what we must willingly do on our part.  First off, we must truly believe that God is gracious and extended His grace by allowing His one and only son to die as a ransom for our sins on the cross.  We must admit to God that we have failed morally during our lifetime and that Jesus Christ’s brutal death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could ever forgive our sins.  After making this decision (accepting God’s grace), we are immediately forgiven of all past, present, and future sins.  In addition, we would be guaranteed entrance into heaven after our physical death here on Earth.  We would then live with both God and His son Jesus forever.  We would be guaranteed to see all of our loved ones who had made this decision during his or her physical lives on Earth.

    You could make this decision today.  Please do not wait for the “perfect time”.  You could ask God for eternal forgiveness through applying the death and resurrection of Jesus to your life within the quietness of your bedroom tonight.  This is the most important decision that you will ever make.  

    So you might be asking, “Where in the Bible does it explain what has just been summarized?”  Here are some passages clearly stating that Jesus seeks a personal relationship with us:

    “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 
      – Romans 10:9-10

    “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; “
    - Acts 3:19

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
      – John 3:16

    As long as you repent of your past sins (moral failures) from the heart, confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and apply Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross as a payment for your sins, you are guaranteed eternal life with God in heaven.  You can make this decision at any time, anywhere.  You can make this decision alone with God or within a group setting.    

    Please know that one cannot sit the fence on making this decision of accepting God’s gift of grace.  If one chooses not to decide, he or she has still made a choice.  This would be like receiving a check (hearing “The Gospel”) but never endorsing and cashing it in at the bank (personally applying Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection towards one’s sins).

    “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” 
    - John 3:18

    The result of not choosing to accept Gods gift of grace, which offers eternal life with both Him and Jesus in heaven is clear.  You will live the remainder of your life here on Earth apart from Jesus Christ and His empowerment.  You will then follow your life plan and not His plan for you.  After you physically die, you will then be brought to a dark place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  It is a place of eternal regret.  Here, you will remember this very letter and how you were told the truth but chose not to repent and begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Remember, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.  You could be diagnosed with a terminal illness tomorrow or be the recipient of a head-on collision while returning home on that all too familiar, two-lane highway this Friday night.  If you are considering starting your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, please do not wait to make this decision.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.

    The following passage outlines the only requirements Jesus Christ has set to both gain eternal life and begin a personal relationship with Him while you are still alive here on Earth.  He makes it crystal-clear in the Bible what is required… 

    “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 
      – Romans 10:9-10

    God has a plan for your life.  You can watch this plan unfold once you accept His gift of grace.  This great plan involves your life experience while here on Earth and continues after your physical death on into heaven. 

    “For I know the plans that I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” 
    - Jeremiah 29:11-13

    Please consider what I have said here.  I am not sure if you have ever made this decision before, but I needed to make sure that you had the facts.  If you should decide that you want to learn more about the life of Jesus and gain a better understanding of authentic Christianity, I strongly recommend reading the book of John within the Bible (NASB or NIV translation).  

    In closing, here is a verse that someone once shared with me that finally brought me into a relationship with God during an extremely low point physically and emotionally.  The understanding of Jesus’ desire to know me personally changed my life forever.  Here it is:

    “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  
    - Revelation 3:20

    • Kev

      Amen brother.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610366855 Kev Mc

      I  hope some people can read this with an open mind and an open heart

  • Joybear79

    Iv been Kirt Camroned , I know it hurts . His Movies are utter trash and Christians keep Buying Them so they stay on the shelf .

  • kandiamo

    I don’t want a plot to TELL me when there’s an altar call. I want to FEEL the altar call. That’s what good story does, Christian or no. And a writer has to accept sometimes people don’t answer an altar call simply because they have free will, so stop trying to get chaff to winnow with the wheat – it’s boring.

  • Stewbie

    I would say that the answer to your question (the blog heading) is an emphatic ‘no’. I say this not only as an atheist but as an ardent film go-er. The reason I say no is because of a film called The Gospel According to St Matthew, or il vangelo secondo Matteo, which depicts the life of Christ as a man first and foremost. It is really quite a good film and I urge your cinephiliac readers to watch it. I think it’s so good because it was directed by an atheist.

    Love your blog. keep it up


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