So, every summer for the past three, I’ve shown a weekly movie at church. I select movies based on content and desirability (basically I keep in mind that most of my audience is older Christians). Don’t let that derail you, though. My audience is a hoot to be around. It’s a joy to spend a couple hours with them each week.
While picking the movies I showed this past summer, I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. Half the movies I wanted to pick were blockbusters while the other half was virtually unknown. But most of them had one thing in common- they were very heavy. Not that heavy movies are the only way to go- I enjoy a rom com or action movie as much as the next gal- but the ones I chose had the most redemptive value while still adhering to self-imposed censoring guidelines.
Having said all that, here are the movies I showed this summer, in order.
Don’t let the title throw you off. This movie has exactly nothing to do with Lions, aside from the fact that the main character’s name means Lion, which you don’t find out until the movie ends. BUT, this movie is great. It’s based on an incredible true story of an Indian boy named Saroo who gets separated from his family, lost and, eventually, adopted. Then, years later, he begins searching for his home town via Google Maps. Will he find his birth family? You’ll have to watch the movie. Be sure you turn on the closed captioning, as the first 40 minutes are in a foreign language.
If you haven’t heard about this movie, then you’ve obviously been in a coma for months. Also based on a true story, it tells the amazing struggle of three African-American women in the early 1960s who were mathematicians for NASA. How they overcame all the obstacles- and managed to do it so gracefully- is worth applause. You need to see this movie but beware: there is some language.
While not based on a true story, it is based on William P. Young’s book of the same name. You may remember it becoming wildly popular- and controversial- less than 10 years ago. The movie does NOT fall short on delivering everything that made the book famous- the drama of losing a child, the tension death creates in a family, and the awe of the supernatural experience Mack has during his weekend at the shack. If you haven’t seen it yet, go rent it. And make sure you have some tissues handy.
Yes, I know you’re thinking, “Ben-Hur? That’s the movie with the chariot race, right?” Yes. Yes, it is. But this isn’t the super lengthy Charlton Heston version nor is it like the gassy, Victorian-style Lew Wallace novel, either. This movie is more concise and, with phenomenal cinematography, wardrobe, and scenery, it offers a fresh twist on an old tale. There are so many reasons why I love this movie but my favorite is because of the ending (which differs from the 1959 version). But I can’t say more. You’ll just have to watch it for yourself.
If you’re from Arkansas, chances are you remember Brandon Burlsworth, the first Razorback football walk-on player to not only make All-American but sign with an NFL team. If that weren’t reason enough to watch the movie about his story, then you should know that, when it came to morals, Brandon set the bar high and influenced many around him to do the same. It’s definitely a movie (Burls)worth watching.
Alright, folks. This movie made a member of my audience with a heart condition leave the room. Poor thing. This movie gets really intense and super real. It shows a tale of sex trafficking and nothing about this movie beats around the bush. I do not recommend this movie for children under 13 at all. But it is eye-opening for those of us older ones who may not be aware of an evil that is so shockingly common in our country. But I leave it up to your discretion if you should see it.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
I strategically placed this movie between the former and latter during my movie nights because it’s so blindly opposite in genre. Lighthearted and comical, it’s is a refreshing break from deep, intense flicks. It’s the story of a former child-actor, turned wild partier, who ends up having to serve community time at a church. Even though it approaches serious subject matter from an upbeat perspective, it has redeeming qualities and promises a night of entertainment. And it’s a film that the whole family can enjoy together. Go rent it.
I’m Not Ashamed
For those of us who were around in 1999, we remember well the tragic events that occurred on April 20 at Columbine High School. This movie, which follows the life of Rachel Scott, was put together not only with facts from that day, but also from Rachel’s personal journals. Her testimony of Christ’s work in her life- and its profound effect on others- will move you to tears. And I’m not kidding about. This is the movie that made a grown man in my audience weep loudly. If you’ve never cried in a movie, be prepared to break that streak. This movie has scenes which are too intense for little ones.
None of the following movies made the cut for movie nights, but here are some that I highly recommend.
The Redemption of Henry Myers
Along the same lines of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, this movie shows what happens to a “bad” man when he decides to let God change him. Set in the old west, you’ll find this movie has some lighthearted moments, yet is engaging and enjoyable, but there arealso some scenes which may frighten young ones. Overall, it delivers a clean message in a clean way. I decided not to show this movie mainly because I wasn’t sure how I’d get my hands on it. But, I have since seen it for rent in the Christian section of my local movie rental store.
The Light Between Oceans
This movie got cut because of some sexual nudity, but the overall message was powerful and the story highly compelling and original. A lighthouse keeper and his wife, who live on a remote island by themselves, find a boat in which is a dead body. Also in the boat is a baby, who is very much alive and very much desired by them both, as they have suffered through miscarriages. They decide that there’s no harm done if they simply keep an abandoned baby. Only, they find out, the baby is not abandoned. The story takes many twists, mainly of the heart, and reveals the complicated emotions that live inside us all.
Mel Gibson delivers on everything in this movie. The message, plot, cinematography, and intensity are unsurpassed. Better still is that this movie is based on the amazing true story of Desmond Doss who saved the lives of 75 soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge in the Battle of Okinawa. His bravery, dedication to the sanctity of life, and his faithfulness to God are simply incredible to witness. The downfall of this movie is also something that may draw a varied crowd- there are extremely graphic scenes of war violence, as well as partial nudity (but not in a sexual context). I highly recommend this movie to all adult audiences.
And now to get to the rejects…
Last Days in the Desert
I had never heard of this obscure movie but the face of Ewan McGregor on the cover caught my attention one night while browsing the shelves at the movie store. He looked strangely Jesus-like and I discovered, when I read the back of the case, that he, indeed, was playing Jesus. Intrigued, I rented it and prepared to be awed by Hollywood’s depiction of my Lord. I have to admit: this movie had my brain going for a while. I couldn’t decide whether it was total heresy or it had some deeper theological meaning than I could have conceived. In the long run, I concluded that it portrayed a very deeply skewed perspective on God and Jesus, and their relationship with one another and, further, God’s relationship with Satan. If you are a Christian who enjoys movies which challenge your personal theology, watch this one. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and money.
I had read a movie review which compared this movie to Hacksaw Ridge. Ironically, both movies star the charming Andrew Garfield. Overall, the review praised this movie highly, while it criticized Hacksaw Ridge for overdoing the images of war. With more big-name actors like Liam Neeson, Ciaràn Hinds, and Adam Driver, and directed by Martin Scorsese, this movie promised so much. From the first scene, I was enthralled that Hollywood would portray Christianity with such fervent genuineness, such faithful perseverance. Then, with 20 minutes to go, the movie took a very severe turn for the worst. If this movie were a biblical character, it’d be Judas Iscariot. It was such a disappointment to watch what seemed to be such a powerful Christian portrayal of martyrs take such a sudden dive into spiritual suicide. I was more disappointed with this movie than perhaps any other I’ve ever seen.