The Renaissance for Christian Movies
“It is the idylic and unrealistic portrayal of life in some Christian movies that can make them ineffective in reaching unbelievers with a positive message.” ― Douglas Beaumont, The Message Behind the Movie: How to Engage With a Film Without Disengaging Your Faith
For a long time, I've struggled with Christian films. I think the biggest issue, for me, has been the fact that the Christian part — the testimony — has been strong, but the filmmaking hasn't matched that. In the Douglas Beaumont quote above, that's certainly a sentiment that's shared by many.
Seeing a "Christian Movie" released doesn't always get me excited. But a funny thing happened in 2014 — it feels like we might have turned a bit of a corner. While I didn't go see these movies in the theater at the time, I spent the last month catching up on some of the wave of Christian films that were released in 2014.
While Biblical epics made by big-time filmmakers — such as Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" and Ridley Scott's "Exodus" — dominated the mainstream movie news, quieter faith-based films dominated with audiences. For once, the shoe was on the other foot. People flocked to see "Noah" and "Exodus," but the poor execution of story and filmmaking led to poor reviews.
Meanwhile, a little movie called "God's Not Dead" was a surprise hit at the Box Office. Why? Because it was a film that focused on story and character, letting that drive home the theology, not the other way around. "God's Not Dead" isn't a perfect film, but it asks some hard questions, invests in real characters, and tells a fascinating story.
The same is true of "Heaven is For Real," based on a popular book. The film asks some tough questions, tells a fascinating human story, and lets that stand for an audience. And it worked.
Even a re-make of a Christian film — "Left Behind" — this time starring Nicholas Cage was better done in 2014. Was it a great movie? No. Was it better than the original? Yes, and it was even mildly entertaining.
For a long time it's been easy to say non-Christians make the best Christian films, but 2014 proved that trend might be changing. And it's about time.