It’s not as hard as some might think to find faith in Hollywood films – even today. In fact, 2010 had a handful of major motion pictures that honored in one way or another honored our faith. These five films are by no means completely biblical-based stories, nor are they produced with the intention of being Christian films; however, these blockbusters do have faith elements that provoke and inspire.
These five, in particular, moved me in a spiritual sense. In that way, this blog post is purely subjective and not a list of the “best” or “most overtly faith-filled” movies of this past year.
The Book of Eli
Rated: R for some brutal violence and language
Synopsis: A survivalist at his core, Eli fights his way through the barren wasteland that now covers a desolate America. After finding what could be the last remaining Bible and hearing a voice calling him to take it west, Eli does whatever is necessary to protect the Book. His journey is obstructed, however, by a power-hungry man named Carnegie, who is determined to use the book for his own gain.
The Book of Eli is by no means a family-friendly movie; at the same time, the Denzel Washington film is absolutely riveting and one of 2010’s most underrated movies. With a strong storyline about a God-fearing man determined to protect the Word, the Allen brothers’ film intrigues, to the point of pulling you in on this perilous journey with Eli, as he treks across a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Screenwriter Gary Whitta develops this Christian hero well showing how Eli realizes he’s been focusing too much on keeping the book safe that's he's failed to live by it.
Like Dandelion Dust
Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material, including domestic violence and alcohol abuse
Synopsis: After Rip completes his prison sentence for beating his wife, Wendy, they find their boy, Joey, in a loving home states away with the only two parents he's ever known. Unwillingly to give up their adopted son, Molly and Jack desperately try to find a way to keep Joey, while Barry and Mira are pursuing legal action to bring him home.
Like Dandelion Dust is a heart-wrenching modern-day parable based on a popular Karen Kingsbury novel. Paralleling the biblical account of King Solomon's wise judgment that revealed the selfless love of a mother, this movie, starring Mira Sorvino, embodies forgiveness and mercy wrapped inside an intense adoption story. It may sound like a film only moms would care about, but it's for dads too. Though Like Dandelion Dust is not marketed as a Christian film, its spiritual themes do inspire a certain reflection on God. This is especially evident as Wendy struggles with the concepts of forgiveness and unconditional love.
Rated: PG for brief mild language
Synopsis: Penny Chenery Tweedy knew little about horse-racing. But when her ailing father's ranch was in jeopardy, she set her housewife and mother duties aside and became the driving force behind reestablishing Meadow Stables’ spot in the race to breed a winner. Despite her critics, Tweedy enters the male-dominated sport and, with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin, brings an underdog racer to the national spotlight.
An inspiring film about an incredible moment in sports history, Secretariat gives the famous race horse's back-story with particular interest in owner Penny Chenery Tweedy. This drama goes beyond the track, setting up Penny’s courageous story with Christian elements sprinkled throughout (including a narrated scripture reading). Basing his script off of author William Nack’s Secretariat: The Making of a Champion, screenwriter Mike Rich perfectly captures the horse's life, trails, and Triple Crown win. The decision to add biblical scripture from the Book of Job perfectly encompasses the passion of the animal and the spirit of this winner's story.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Rated: PG for some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action
Synopsis: With Peter, Susan, and their parents away, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are forced to stay with their miserable cousin Eustace. Longing for the days they spent as a king and a queen in Narnia, the two, along with their cousin, are granted access to the magical kingdom once again. Swallowed up in a painting, the three children soon join King Caspian and a brave soldier mouse named Reepicheep on their magnificent ship, the Dawn Treader, as they are looking for the seven lost lords of Narnia. To defeat an evil sweeping over the land, the voyagers must resist personal temptations and their greatest fears as they sail to mysterious islands, continuing to hold true to their faith in the protection of resurrected Aslan.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a delight to watch, well surpassing the appeal of its predecessor, Prince Caspian. Even beyond it being a memorable movie, Dawn Treader is a testament to faith. This version of Lucy and Edmund’s return to Narnia is capable of touching audiences on a spiritual level as it delves into the reality of temptation, the consequences of giving in to dark thoughts, and the hope we discover in redemption. It’s a fantastic movie with messages that are divinely inspiring and thought-provoking. Parents should take this movie opportunity to talk with their children about Dawn Treader and what the C.S. Lewis story says about faith.
Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images
Synopsis: After her father is gunned down by Tom Chaney, 14-year-old Mattie Ross determines to catch the coward and bring him to justice. To capture her father's killer, Mattie hires a tough lawman with “true grit” known as Rooster Cogburn. Just as stubborn as Mattie, Rooster initially resists her offer, preferring to remain in his drunken, slothful state. His tune changes soon thereafter and the two, along with a Texas Ranger named La Boeuf, begin their hunt of Chaney, one that tests the will and “grit” of each trekker.
Faith plays a part in this remake of the award-winning John Wayne Western film from the late 1960s. In fact, the first seconds of True Grit feature a version of the following scripture verse: The wicked run away when no one is chasing them… Proverbs 28:1. The narrator goes on to say, “You pay for everything in this world. There is nothing free, except the grace of God”. Portions of Psalms 23 are spoken and the last song heard in the Coen brothers' film (and used during the credits) is “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, a hymn about resting in God’s peace and protection. In a movie world that isn’t keen on having religion a focus in film, True Grit stands as one that doesn’t back down from Christianity, keeping in step with the faith foundation many early Americans had in during our Cowboy era.
Did you see a great faith-filled film this year? Do share.