I started a tradition last year that I hope to continue. During the fall and spring, I watch recently-released movies that contain some sort of Christian inspiration. Based on things like how intriguing and compelling the movie is, the quality of cinematography as well as acting, and the level of interest it may hold from the viewpoint of a Christian, I select a handful of them that I think are the best. (I also consider some things automatic excluders, like strong language, excessive violence and nudity.) Then, on Tuesday evenings in June and July, I show the movies that made the cut in the auditorium of our church building. Since our congregation purchased a theater-quality projector a few years ago, I figure I should put it to good use. (And yes, for those wondering, we do have a CVLI license to do this.)
Last summer was my first summer to do this. We didn’t have much of a crowd but it was lots of fun, especially because of my movie-enthusiastic sidekick Meredith (whom I’m sad can’t join me this summer because she has a real life in another city far away). For me, watching and discussing “Christian” movies is a good way to bond with people.
As mentioned, there were movies that didn’t make the cut. Below are some of the movies (but probably not all) that I watched this past year that didn’t make the cut for one reason or other. I actually would recommend several of them, but with only eight Tuesday evenings to show movies, I couldn’t show them all. There were a few that I was ambivalent about and a couple that I downright didn’t enjoy or like. Meredith recommended Spotlight and Captive, which were both on my list of favorites but neither made the cut for the movie nights because of their content.
Do You Believe?
Like God’s Not Dead, this plotline weaves together the lives of several diverse characters (pastor, fireman, street-preacher, grieving parents, criminal, infertile couple, nurse, single mother, dying convict, lawyer), and eventually each person in some way touches the others. Their lives center around the title question, “Do you believe?” Once again, like God’s Not Dead, there is a little bit of cheesy acting and the story wraps up some characters’ lives with a too-happy-for-real-life ending and others with fatal tragedy. Despite this, Do You Believe? could help you gain a better perspective of how other people’s daily struggles affect their belief and faith in God.
The plot centers around an alcoholic ex-baseball player who’s not doing well as a single father. He meets a young man with Down Syndrome who works in the produce department of a grocery store and the two develop a friendship which eventually “saves” both of their lives. It lags and is unbelievable at times, but Where Hope Grows shows the power of innocence and purity over addiction and despair, and it highlights how trusting in God can bring peace to the uncertainties of life.
Faith Of Our Fathers
While interesting, the plot unfolds rather slowly and with a fair amount of overacting. It simultaneously follows the development of a relationship between two men in modern day and their fathers during the Vietnam war. In the end, walls of anger and fear are torn down allowing a faith in God to prevail. Faith Of Our Fathers contains scenes of war action and scenes of extreme overacting that will make you grind your teeth. Also, Candace Cameron Bure plays a small role in the film.
Directed and written by the same pair who came up with Napoleon Dynamite, Don Verdean delivers satirical humor centered around Don Verdean, a Biblical archaeologist who gets himself into a comedic tangle when he fakes an archaeological discovery. In the end, Don proves he has redeeming qualities that will make you like this conman even more. While some might regard Don Verdean as sacrilegious, others may find it very humorous and entertaining.
Not to be confused with The Captive starring Ryan Reynolds, Captive is based on real events in the life of Brian Nichols, a man who escaped from police custody moments before his trial in Atlanta in 2005, and Ashley Smith, the meth-addicted woman he held hostage for a matter of hours while he hid from law enforcement. It is during this short time that Ashley reads excerpts from Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life aloud and both of their lives are affected by it. Captive has intense scenes and also contains portrayals of drug use and violence. It is, however, remarkably similar to the true events and may leave you praising God for His mercy and miraculous involvement in changing people’s lives.
Based on true events, this story follows The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” crew, a small group of in-depth research journalists, as they unveil a corrupt shroud covering thousands of Catholic priests involved in child abuse in Boston and, ultimately, across the globe. Although not directly impactful on Christian beliefs as a whole, this movie will open your eyes to the way power may lead to corruption, even in a Christian setting, and how strongly the truth may be resisted by evildoers. Spotlight contains strong language and, although no images of child abuse, it is implied and discussed throughout the movie.
Amish Grace was released a few years ago and is inspired by true events. The Amish community of Nickel Mines was shaken to its core when Charles Roberts, a non-Amish man who had ties to the Amish community, held several Amish schoolgirls hostage and, eventually, injured and murdered them. Although this is the fictional story of one of the Amish families affected by this tragedy, the truth is shown in how quickly and completely the Amish community forgave this killer and his family. It is truly a display of forgiving others the way Jesus commanded us (Mark 11:25) and how difficult it is for some to obey this command.
Gallows Road is a story of modern-day racism, which could have had a powerful message of forgiveness (like Amish Grace), but instead ended up being confusing and disheartening. The family of Bob Collins, a black man, is unmercifully murdered by white racists. His brother Seth forgives the murderers and encourages his brother to do the same. Near the end, Bob professes to have forgiven the murderers, however when the murderers plan to ambush him, he and Seth arm themselves with weaponry and eventually kill one of them. I did not feel like the characters’ actions aligned with Christ’s words on forgiveness.
90 Minutes In Heaven
This movie follows Don Piper, a preacher, and his survival and recovery from a serious car crash. Many scenes highlight his pain during his recovery and also his mental anguish over his own survival, which is explained at the end when he reveals to his friend that he died during the accident and briefly saw the glory of heaven and how extremely disappointed he was to wake up on earth again. Overall, this movie was a downer and didn’t do any more or less to deepen my conviction about Christianity in any way.