Anonymous asked a question:
I’m sorry for the rant, I know it’s a common complaint. But there has to be a reason it’s a common complaint. I can’t tag on “Christian” music too much because it boasts a lot of great stuff, but Christian films are really slacking besides like 5. Idk. Do you have any recommendations?
Hey dear friend, I definitely believe that you’re not ranting. I’ve written on the topic of Christian art and its mediocrity before here.
My suspicion is that Christians are expected to “show grace and forgiveness,” so this somehow gets misapplied to Christians creating subpar art. There’s quite a lot of sloppy Christian niche-entertainment that gets away with mediocre production under the label of “Jesus,” when there was a time that Christians were the most celebrated of inventors, composers, artists, and musicians of their time. While I’m all for independent artists paving their way through the industry, I think it’s unfair to slip under a critical radar with the excuse, “It’s Christian, so it’s okay if it’s a little messy.” No, not when it’s unprofessional and pandering.
Saying that art is Christian doesn’t make it Christian, and there’s some “non-Christian” art that points to God more than so-called Christian art ever could.
To answer your question: Most of the Christian films that I enjoy are probably not for the sub-Christian niche-market, but instead are simply good movies that happen to have inspired Christian themes. And I must add: If you enjoy some of the corny, sappy Christian stuff out there, I can’t really judge and I don’t see why not. It’s ridiculous to think we’re too cool for Chris Tomlin.
– Waking Life, by Richard Linklater. A really trippy animated film that’s basically just one scene of dialogue after another, exploring the depth of the universe through the power of dreams and abstract connections.
– Passion of the Christ, by Mel Gibson. This is probably a bit obvious, but having seen so many cheesy movies about Jesus, this one is on another level. It’s visually arresting, rich in detail, has top-notch cinematography, and has an incredible central performance by Jim Caviezel (who I also love in Person of Interest and the underrated Frequency).
– Amazing Grace, by Michael Apted. A highly underrated film about William Wilberforce’s journey to abolish slavery in the British Empire. Albert Finney plays a very distinguised John Newton, and you’ll see Benedict Cumberbatch “before he got famous.”
– Selma, by Ava DuVernay. I expected the film to be a more obvious re-telling of the great Dr MLK Jr., but instead it covers some of the uglier stuff behind the scenes. It portrays MLK (played by the amazing David Oyelowo, a real-life Christian) as a flawed man striving to rise to his divine calling. The movie touches on his adultery and getting caught up in the political machine to win the fight for equality. Selma is also not shy to play up the Christian themes.
– Signs, by M. Night Shayamalan. You might dislike the director, but wow, did I love this movie. It’s about a priest who lost his faith after a tragic accident, and he wrestles with his doubt around the same time the earth is invaded by aliens. There are a ton of Christian allegories here, but the best scene is a quiet conversation between the former priest and his brother about faith, doubt, and trust.
– The Book of Eli, by the Hughes brothers. Denzel Washington (another real-life Christian) takes on an action role in a Mad-Max-type post-apocalyptic wasteland. He also has something everyone wants: a Bible.
– The X-Files, by Chris Carter. Maybe not a top pick, but Dana Scully is a Catholic FBI agent who legitimately questions her faith throughout the series, making for some powerful episodes as she finds peace with her understanding of God.
– The Apostle, by Robert Duvall. This film really should’ve done better. It’s about a pastor (played by Robert Duvall of The Godfather and one of my favorite older actors) who commits a serious crime and runs away, trying to atone for his sin and winning over a new community, while he waits for his past to catch up to him.
– The Matrix Trilogy, by the Wachowskis. It’s not very subtle on the Christian themes (mixed with Eastern influences), especially in its dialogue about free will versus predestination, with the protagonist Neo playing the Christ figure.
– The Prince of Egypt, by DreamWorks. Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes as the voices of Moses and Pharaoh? Jeff Goldblum as Aaron? Plus Sandra Bullock, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, and Danny Glover? And a musical about the Ten Plagues? Say no more.
– The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, by James Wan. Okay, hear me out. I was contacted by a Christian marketing company to help advertise the sequel, and though I ended up saying no, the company touted the very family-friendly Christian themes of a frightening horror movie with a demon nun. I admit, I giggled. Both of the movies are great as horror flicks, but it’s true: there are a surprising amount of family-friendly Christian themes in each movie. Also, Vera Farmiga is great, and needs to be in more things.
– Les Misérables, by Tom Hooper. Most versions of this story are quite good, and each iteration has managed to retain the Christian faith of original author Victor Hugo. Both Jean Valjean’s awakening and final scene are heavy with spiritual epiphanies. Also, Hugh Jackman, the Renaissance Man of entertainment, also a real-life Christian. Say no more.
– The Chronicles of Narnia, by Andrew Adamson. This was a pretty good adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s seminal series — and wait, is that James McAvoy as a deer who’s delivering mail in the snow? Dude. Say no more.
– The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by Peter Jackson. The original author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was quite a devout Catholic and frenemies with C.S. Lewis. The books and films are often said to be an allegory of WWII and how humanity is capable of great evil, yet able to overcome it with hope, unity, and purity. Personally, the movies were an acquired taste for me, but I’ve gotten to enjoy them more over time.
Also, I’m really looking forward to Hacksaw Ridge and the rumored movie about King David’s life, which would make an incredible big budget film. Let me know if you have suggestions, too!