Movies with a Message: Top Faith-Based Films of 2016

By Nancy Flory Published on January 1, 2017

2016 brought us an abundance of inspirational and faith-based movies. Not only overtly Christian movies, but also movies boasting main characters with strong faith. As we kick back this extended New Year’s weekend it seems a good time to recall some of the best from the silver screen for the year that helped pushed faith to the forefront of cinematic conversation.

If you haven’t seen them yet, here are some of 2016’s faith-based movies worth a watch:

Hacksaw Ridge — R (for graphic scenes of war violence)

This film is based on the true story of a soldier who goes to war with Company B in World War II without a weapon. Pvt. Desmond Doss was drafted in 1942, but because of his faith, he refused to kill anyone or carry a weapon. He spent his time at war as a medic rescuing injured soldiers, at risk of great harm to himself. Called a “conscientious objector,” Doss said his mental image of Christ kept him from harming soldiers. “I pictured Christ saving lives — I want to be like Christ who’s saving life instead of [taking] life.”

Doss spent much time in prayer and reading his Bible. At one point, his Bible reading and prayer delayed an assault on the enemy. His colleague said when he finally finished and the assault began, it was as if Doss said, “I’ve got permission from God.” By nightfall, Company B held Hacksaw Ridge and thanks to Doss’ efforts, 75 men were rescued. Doss later said that, “The Bible was my main source of strength all during the war and in the service — and then when I lost it I was lost. … I thank God He enabled me to do what I did to save lives.”

Director Mel Gibson underscored the power of prayer in Doss’ success. “What he did was supernatural. And he only did it through faith — that’s all. He was armed only with his faith. … This man existed, he was a man of faith and conviction, never fired a bullet [and ] got the Medal of Honor for extraordinary feats that he could only have achieved through the power of God.”


Risen — PG-13

The movie Risen, written by Paul Aiello and directed by Kevin Reynolds, is the story of Christ’s death and resurrection told from the perspective of a Roman military tribune who was present for the crucifixion. This beautifully written film documents the journey of Clavius — the Roman tribune, and follows his quest for truth about Yeshua, the Christ.

For Clavius, the discovery that Yeshua (Jesus) — a man whom he knew to be dead — was alive comes as an overwhelming shock. This discovery leads the tribune to begin a cross-country journey to follow Yeshua’s disciples, if only to find out more about him.

The beauty of Risen is in the genuinely felt love of Yeshua for others, and in particular, His disciples. The precious love story of Yeshua and his disciples was very tender and meaningful. The excitement of the disciples upon seeing Yeshua tells a believable story of mutual philos: love between friends and brothers as observed by Clavius.

Risen tells the story of Yeshua’s crucifixion and the resurrection with poise and grace, accuracy and even a little humor. For those who know and love the story, this film is one you won’t want to miss. 


Miracles From Heaven — PG

Miracles From Heaven tells the true story of Annabel Beam, a 10-year-old girl with incurable digestive disorders. The movie follows the Beam family throughout their struggle to find a cure for their daughter, praying for a miracle, yet feeling that God is nowhere near. However, when Annabel has what should have been a catastrophic freak accident at home, the Beams learn that God works in miraculous ways all around them. “God is real and God is faithful,” says Annabel’s father Kevin, “and He’s there even if you don’t see Him.”


God’s Not Dead 2 — PG

The sequel to Pure Flix’s 2014 God’s Not Dead highlights difficulties that Christians have in sharing the reason for their hope and faith. Starring Melissa Joan Hart, God’s Not Dead 2 is the story of a high school teacher, Grace, who reaches out to help a hurting teenager by sharing her faith, only to be told that she is not allowed to talk about God in school and to do so has jeopardized her job. A court case ensues, leading Grace to lean on her faith in God more than ever as she faces the loss of her beloved career and ability to witness to others.


Woodlawn — PG

What would a top movies list be without an inspiring sports movie? Woodlawn is yet another true story of miraculous events. These took place in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973, when 40 members of a high school football team gave their lives to Christ. The collective decision is even more astounding given the backdrop of a recently-desegregated high school where students and townspeople are filled with frustration and anger. Actor Sean Astin (Hank) heads the cast for this captivating faith-based film — another inspirational movie for the star of the football classic Rudy.

Hank points the way to hope and forgiveness based on his own experience of hope and love at a Christian revival. Following the team’s conversion, things begin to change in a big way around Woodlawn. Hank tells the players the changes occur not because of what they’ve done: “This is what happens when God shows up.”


Top Films of 2016, and a Sneak Peak at 2017

Box Office Mojo lists 2016’s top 10 “Christian” movies (by gross sales), defined as “movies produced by Christians that promote or embody their religions.”

  1. Miracles From Heaven
  2. Risen
  3. God’s Not Dead 2
  4. The Young Messiah
  5. Hillsong: Let Hope Rise
  6. I’m Not Ashamed
  7. Greater
  8. Priceless
  9. The Insanity of God
  10. Believe

Looking ahead, 2017 seems to be shaping up nicely as well for films offering a faith-based message or main character — starting right out of the gate with heavyweight director Martin Scorsese and his long-awaited passion project Silence. Based on a 1966 book by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō, Silence tells the fictional story of Jesuit priests in 17th Century Japan who endure persecution as they attempt to share their faith. The official release date for the U.S. is January 6, so be on the lookout for The Stream’s upcoming review.

And coming March 3, The Shack, based on the emotional best-seller about a grieving man who receives a mysterious, personal invitation to meet with God.

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