Christian movies have matured a lot in the past few years. Where once faith-based cinema consisted mostly of Kirk Cameron and Amish romance, many new films have come forward to challenge viewer’s long-held beliefs and deliver powerful messages about Christ. Still, not all Christian movies are created equally. A number of them come across as tacky, clichéd, or poorly designed. So, what do the best of them have in common?
Well, that’s a difficult question. For me though, there are five things every good Christian movie needs to have.
A Flawed Hero
Nobody is perfect. That’s one of the first things the Bible teaches us. Unfortunately, a lot Christian movies can’t help portraying their hero as something pretty close to it. They’re always kind, generous, patient, loving, courageous, faithful, hopeful, the whole package. Any flaws they might have are acceptable flaws: they’re not people, they’re saints!
A good Christian movie is one that creates a character with warts. The hero needs to make mistakes, to struggle, or doubt, or maybe even despair at times, because that’s what real humans do. After all, the Bible isn’t about how God rescued mankind because of their faith, but how He rescued us in spite of it.
(Movies that did this well: Philomena, The Count of Monte Cristo)
Watching a Christian student debate his atheist professor is all well and good, but in terms of realistic problems, it falls pretty low on most people’s list of worries. What’s at the top? Battling illness, making ends meet, handling depression, social tension, taking care of family, and those are just a few. There’s nothing wrong with making an inspirational movie for a Christian audience, but what about tackling some authentic problems for a change? Problems the average viewer can relate to?
The best Christian movies are the ones willing to address the real, difficult issues of our day. Issues that can’t always be solved with a prayer or a trip to church. They may not come with safe solutions, but then again, when has God ever been safe?
A Focus on God (and Not the Church!)
Not all Christian movies focus on God. A lot of them focus on the Church instead. This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to reaching non-Christian audiences. So many faith-based movies spend their energy trying to convince viewers how great church is, or how fun church is, or how important church is, that Jesus becomes something of an afterthought. Last I checked, the church was supposed to point to God, not the other way around.
A good Christian movie remembers to put the real focus on Jesus. An individual can struggle with God, find faith, and discover redemption without ever stepping foot inside a congregation. God cannot and will not be contained in our little buildings.
They Ask Questions
Sometimes, we Christians are tempted to think we’ve got God all figured out. Jesus was the Son of God? Check. Died for our sins? Check. Rose again on the third day? Double check. Armed with that knowledge (and our trusty Bible) we’ll tell you everything there is to know about our Heavenly Lord and Saviour. How many Christian movies make the same mistake?
The Best Christian movies aren’t the ones that give answers, but the ones that ask questions. Questions challenge the viewer to pursue God, to actually learn about Him instead of just digesting what they’re told about Him. It’s that struggle to understand God that makes things more personal, both for the audience and the characters.
A Sense of Wonder
It’s terrible to say, but Christian movies can be pretty boring. Some barley qualify as movies at all, they’re just sermons draped in a threadbare storyline. Where is the imagination, the sense of wonder? This is the God who spoke the universe into existence, who inspired disciples and prophets to stand against the might of injustice, and touched the hardest of hearts. Doesn’t He deserve better than a cheap morality lesson pasted on a paper-thin narrative?
To make a good Christian movie, filmmakers need to find their passion, their creativity, but most of all, their sense of wonder. Like I said earlier, God is not limited to the pews in our Church. He can be found in talking lions, or traveling with wizards, or on strange planets in far-flung galaxies. God is the ultimate creator, so why not follow his example and stretch our creative muscles?
What about you? What do you think every good christian movie needs?
*This article published 3/16/2015