Ten Christian Movies Better than God’s Not Dead
Why is it so hard for Christians to identify quality filmmaking?
In the spirit of NCAA Men’s Basketball annual March Madness tournament, ChristianCinema.com recently released a “Movie Madness 2015” bracket that contained sixty-four of what they determined to be the “best” (term used loosely) Christian movies of all-time. Fans then voted on each respective matchup and when the dust settled the winner was the 2014 drama God’s Not Dead.
Let that sink in. Christians voluntarily chose God’s Not Dead as the best Christian movie of all time.
The best. Ever.
It has become a cliche to publicly bash both faith-based filmmaking and the apparently less-than-refined artistic tastebuds of Christian moviegoers. Such criticisms are not levied exclusively by secular pop-culture snobs. Many Believers — especially those of us under the age of 35 — have grown weary of having to pretend to like the latest Christian film simply because it is “Christian.” We yearn for a day when great artists (who happen to be Christians) can tell compelling stories at the same level of artistic excellence as a David Fincher, Martin Scorsese or Alfred Hitchcock. We crave God-honoring content, but are starved for quality cinematic expressions of it that we would want to sit through ourselves (let alone ask our friends to endure).
In all sincerity, I am thoroughly pleased that God’s Not Dead did so well at the box office last year. It offered some good apologetic arguments (based, not always with clear attribution, on arguments from people like John Lennox, William Lane Craig and others). Voting with your dollars and time sends messages to Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a whole. It also provides the funds for future, hopefully better projects that require larger budgets if you want to compete with the big boys in Tinseltown.
But if this “Movie Madness” bracket is even a small indicator of where things actually stand in terms of American Christians’ appreciation and understanding of what constitutes a good movie, I can only remain silent for so long.
Of course, we could have a long discussion about what exactly qualifies a film as “Christian.” Must it be produced by a Christian? Be based on a book written by a Christian? Be produced by an explicitly Christian production house? Have explicitly Christian themes? Make arguments for the truth of Christianity? It’s hard to say. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume we have some intuitive sense of what it means for a film to be “Christian.”
Given the admittedly but unavoidably squishy sense of the word, below are ten “Christian” films that I know are better than God’s Not Dead. Some of them made the bracket. Some of them did not. But all of them could/should have defeated God’s Not Dead in any contest. I compiled my list in the time that it took to type the names of the movies. It wasn’t difficult. If you’re reading this, you probably can quickly think of a few more.
These are great films, first and foremost. They also have broadly Christian, faith-based messages contained within them. Some are produced by Christians. Others are based on books written by Christians. But in every case, God gave these filmmakers gifts and then they used those gifts to put together the best possible movies they could.
1) Ben-Hur (1959)
2) Quo Vadis (1951)
3) The Ten Commandments (1956)
4) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
5) Signs (2002)
6) It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
7) Shadowlands (1993)
8) The Passion of the Christ (2004)
9) Amazing Grace (2006)
10) The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Of course the ChristianCinema.com bracket is, on a very basic level, just some list of movies on the internet that anonymous people voted for. And certainly taste in movies is partially a subjective question. But aesthetics isn’t entirely subjective. After all, we believe in the unity of the Good, the True and the Beautiful.
We can do better than this. We must do better than this.