Intersection of Life and Faith

10 Films to Encourage You in Dark Times

  • Ryan Duncan
10 Films to Encourage You in Dark Times

It’s difficult to write about pop culture when so many terrible things are happening in the world. Try to pen something funny, and it just feels inappropriate. Try to be serious, and the darkness outside only spreads farther. Besides, why should anyone care about movies in the aftermath of a tragedy? Perhaps it’s because at their core, movies are more than light and film, they’re stories.

Stories don’t just entertain us, they inspire us. They remind us to be brave, to have compassion, and to persevere. So when life grows bleak and the road turns fearful, use these ten films to help you find your courage!

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    1. The Lord of the Rings

    Slide 1 of 10

    “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

    Amidst all the wonder and majesty of Middle Earth, it’s easy to forget about Tolkien’s humblest creations; the Hobbits. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin are some of the most unlikely heroes imaginable. They’re not strong like Aragorn or wise like Gandalf, but they are good, and loyal, and ultimately the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. Many of us can probably relate to the Hobbits; we’re not particularly tough or bright, but we can choose to be good. It may not seem like much, but it’s often the small acts of kindness and love that keep evil things at bay.

    When we discover this truth, we learn how to do the impossible.

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    2. Invictus

    Slide 2 of 10

    “Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”

    Our world believes in drawing lines. “Us” vs. “Them”, the “good guys” against the “bad guys”, and we’re only too happy to go along. No one knew this better than the people of South Africa, who spent years living under a brutal system of cultural and racial segregation. When Invictus begins, Apartheid has finally been defeated and the stirrings of change are at hand. Instead of celebrating petty revenge though, Nelson Mandela urges his people to show forgiveness. He reminds them that hatred will only perpetuate the cycle of violence, but by coming together, they can build a new future for their nation.    

    Forgiveness truly is a powerful weapon, one which restores instead of destroying. All we need is the grace to wield it.

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    3. Cinderella

    Slide 3 of 10

    “I have to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer. Have courage and be kind.”

    Fairytales hold more conventional wisdom than we give them credit for, and this is particularly true of Cinderella. Disney’s foremost princess has received her share of criticism, but the recent live-action remake demonstrates just how empowering simple virtues can be. Cinderella shows kindness where many would choose cynicism, and she endures mistreatment with grace instead of lashing out. More importantly, she doesn’t let her circumstances define her. No matter what trouble life throws her way, Cinderella holds fast to her belief in a better tomorrow.

    Many readers can probably relate to Cinderella; trapped in a terrible situation with no easy way out. The valuable lesson of this humble princess is that instead of wallowing in anger and self-pity, we can still choose to have courage and be kind.

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    4. Saving Private Ryan

    Slide 4 of 10

    “I hope that, at least in your eyes, I've earned what all of you have done for me.”

    Steven Spielberg’s classic film never sugarcoats the horrors of war. From start to finish, Saving Private Ryan is a grim spectacle of violence, tragedy, and loss. Yet, among this dark imagery, viewers will discover a fundamental lesson about life: That some things are worth fighting for. Freedom, justice, equality; these things can only exist if people are willing to defend them. While the sacrifices are heavy, we can still push forward with the knowledge that a single act of faith can ignite the fires of hope in our friends and neighbors.

    It is a comforting truth to know, even in the worst of days.

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    5. Howl’s Moving Castle

    Slide 5 of 10

    “A heart is a heavy burden.”

    Sometimes, our greatest adversary can be ourselves. Howl’s Moving Castle is a whimsical tale about a young woman named Sophie who crosses paths with a wily wizard by the name of Howl. Sophie is a fairly exceptional girl; she’s resourceful, hard-working, and sympathetic toward others. However, she spends a good portion of the movie believing the opposite. In fact, it’s only after Sophie is cursed, and face-to-face with her worst fears, that she discovers how strong she truly is.

    Many of us go through life the same way; comparing ourselves to others while overlooking our own gifts and talents. Howl’s Moving Castle is a gentle story about what God has always told us, “You are special because I made you.”

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    6. Captain America

    Slide 6 of 10

    "Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man."

    In Captain America there’s a scene where Steve Rodgers sits down with a scientist friend and asks why he was chosen to become Captain America. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, in fact he came in last for almost every test. The doctor explains that strength and bravery are not the same thing. A strong man can become a bully, but a brave man remembers compassion. It’s a lesson many people have sadly forgotten.

    As C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality”. We live in a world made up of many battlefields. Sometimes courage means protecting others from violence and cruelty, but other times, it’s daring to reach out with a compassionate hand.

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    7. Zootopia

    Slide 7 of 10

    "Life's a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes."

    Don’t be fooled by its sunny exterior, Zootopia is a surprisingly thoughtful film about the dangers of prejudice and its far-reaching effects on our society. When Judy Hopps arrives in Zootopia as the first rabbit police officer, she struggles to overcome the stereotypes which have defined her life. Over time however, and with the help of small-time con artist Nicholas P. Wilde, she comes to understand that even the best of us can make mistakes. Good for adults and kids alike, Zootopia shows us that the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional we become.

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    8. Chariots of Fire

    Slide 8 of 10

    "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure."

    It’s safe to assume that most Christians are familiar with Chariots of Fire. Winner of the Best Picture category at the 54th Academy Awards, the film charts a powerful story of perseverance, faith, and friendship through the life of Eric Liddell. Born in China to Scottish missionaries, Liddell would go on to represent Great Britain in the 1924 Olympic Games. His talent and love for running made him an ideal competitor, but when forced to choose between his faith and Olympic gold, Liddell chose Christ. Chariots of Fire is a brilliant adaption of Liddell’s story, showcasing many powerful moments of characters staying true in the face of overwhelming prejudice.

    In chaotic times like these, it’s comforting to remember that many before us have faced similar challenges and defeated them. So long as good men and women stand for what they believe, things will be alright.

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    9. The Karate Kid

    Slide 9 of 10

    “It’s ok to lose to opponent. It’s never okay to lose to fear"

    A classic in every way, the 1984 Karate Kid is brimming with inspirational moments from start to finish. The story focuses on a teenaged boy named Daniel who moves from Newark, New Jersey to California with his mother. Quickly branded as an outsider due to his accent and poverty, Daniel is ruthlessly bullied by a gang of students from a nearby karate dojo. Only after he’s taken under the wing of an elderly, eccentric Okinawan immigrant named Kesuke Miyagi do things finally start to change. Through Miyagi’s mentorship Daniel not only learns how to fight, but also discovers the value of discipline, self-control, and integrity.  

    The Karate Kid might feel a little dated by today’s standards, and it’s not exactly politically correct, but this never diminishes the values it tries to instill. True strength cannot be found in a clenched fist, but in a person’s heart, mind, and spirit.

  • 1. The Lord of the Rings

    10. Les Misérables

    Slide 10 of 10

    "To love another person is to see the face of God."

    Sometimes, a single act of compassion can change the world. Victor Hugo’s moving story of redemption has been an inspiration to Christians for years, and right now people need a tale of abounding grace. When the character Jean Valjean is caught stealing the Church's silver, the Bishop could have easily had him arrested. Instead, he shows Valjean mercy, and gives him the rest of the treasures before urging him to turn his life over to God. It’s a brief, yet powerful moment of grace which reminds us to forgive our enemies and seek forgiveness in turn.

    *Editor's Note: The following is an adapted version of 5 Films to Inspire Your Courage. To read the full article, follow this link.

    **Published 9/1/2017