What is a “Christian” Film?
I am about to start a series of reviews highlighting my "Top 4 Christian Movies". But, before I can start my list, I have to clarify my definition of a “good Christian flick”. I have often criticized mainstream and independent films labeled “Christian”. I could fill an entire review with the problems I see in the writing and execution of these movies, but at the same time, I feel guilty because I call myself a Christian, and as such, shouldn’t I like this art produced by and for people like me? Instead I’m privately embarrassed that the word “Christian” is associated with them.
Whenever someone finds out that I am interested in film, and also a Christian, I am often asked what my favorite movies are. (Yes, I am going to name titles) People ask what I think of “Facing the Giants”, or if my dream is to make a movie like “Fireproof”. At that point, I tend to laugh nervously. While I did enjoy “Fireproof” and admire the group at Sherwood Films for their ambition to make “Christian” film mainstream- I do not consider their movies good “Christian” movies, or good movies in general. Their movies are okay at best, and at worst...
Preachy. I have wrestled with the problem of why “Christian movies” are so bad for a long time. There may not be an easy answer, but one of the main flaws that I see is that they are preachy.
Interestingly enough, this is not a problem that only plagues religious films. Any movie that begins with an agenda to prove a specific point often falls into annoying preachy rhetoric. “FernGully” is a kids movie about saving the rainforest- and it falls into the category of preachy.
The sad thing about preachy films is that they tend to do the opposite of their intent. Because the audience is being told what to believe- sometimes very bluntly, they feel that their intelligence is being insulted and often retreat to the opposite stance in resentment.
The list I have compiled do not fit the usual “Christian” label. They are not made by overt Christian filmmakers, and they do not present “The Gospel Message” in its most recognizable form. However, these films rank very high with me because the Christian characters represented onscreen are refreshingly compelling and relatable. They are real people with real flaws and struggles- yet they aspire to the same goals that I do. I admire them for their relationship with God. A good Christian film encourages me to continue deepening my relationship with the Creator of the Universe- and while doing that, I see hope for meaning in life.
That being said, here are my top four “Christian Films”. Let’s talk about them- their flaws, their highlights, and those two elusive questions that intertwine through all: What makes a good movie- Christian or not- and, what is it like to be human?