Faith-Based Films: On the Heels of Huge Box Office Takes for Christian-Themed Movies, an Abundance of Films Are Appearing Containing Christian Content, but Will They Be Any Good?

By Baehr, Ted | The New American, December 25, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Faith-Based Films: On the Heels of Huge Box Office Takes for Christian-Themed Movies, an Abundance of Films Are Appearing Containing Christian Content, but Will They Be Any Good?


Baehr, Ted, The New American


Hollywood has been abuzz lately with the big news that more faith-based movies like The Passion of The Christ and Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are on the way, but the reaction so far has been rather mixed.

Fox plans 12 family and/or faith-friendly movies a year. Sony Provident plans several faith-based movies in the next 12 months. Even little Maverick Spirit plans a dozen spiritually oriented films a year. Just during October alone, there are several faith and family films coming from both studios and faith-based distributors.

Many pundits--even Christian ones--have said "Enough! We don't need any more Christian movies, especially not more bad ones." Others, however, have rushed to stand in line to support all of these movies, whatever their quality.

Rather than move toward either of these extremes, we should exercise wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. By doing so, we can choose the good and thereby encourage Hollywood not just to throw Christians the scraps, but to make quality movies with faith and value--movies that will attract nonbelievers as well as believers and perhaps even soften hearts and change lives, as did The Passion of The Christ.

There are at least three fundamental components of a great movie.

First, it has to be a wonderful, terrific drama, or else few people will want to see it. As one of the most renowned screenwriting teachers, Robert McGee, says, writing a script is the most difficult art form because it is so demanding. Unlike novels, which can go on and on and include plots, subplots, themes, and sub-themes, or other art forms which can be wildly interpretive and unique, popular movies must tell a story well in a short period of time--90 minutes to two and one-half hours--to capture a broad audience.

The craft of screenwriting is well known, but often ignored by Hollywood veterans as well as innocent "wannabe" Christian dramatists. Studies have shown that, on average, dramatic movies that fit the classical dramatic formula do much better at the box office. This does not mean that there are no exceptions, but the exceptions are few and far between.

The second fundamental element of a great movie is the moral virtues within a script. As our annual comprehensive box office analysis at Movieguide clearly proves year after year, the more that a script adheres to a Judeo-Christian, biblical view of reality, the better the movie does, on average, at the box office.

Finally, the third element of a great movie is its spiritual quality. People want hope. They want redemption. They want a savior. Movies with these elements do better not just in western countries but worldwide.

Many of the new faith-based movies coming out from the major studios have very small budgets. This has raised concerns that these movies will be simply lackluster attempts to capture the Christian audience. However, these movies could be terrific, even though they're small budget. Those that are exceptionally good should be supported, and those that are not should not be supported. But, it is important not to develop a cynical, jaded attitude and paint them all with the same brush. Such is the case with the statement, "We don't need any more Christian movies."

So, if Hollywood executives really want to capitalize on the 142 million people who go to church every week, they must bring them movies that are well made, entertaining, morally sound, and spiritually uplifting. It's like the boy who cried wolf. If Christians and family audiences keep responding to the clarion call "Support your Christian movie!" and keep walking away disappointed, they'll soon start ignoring the call.

Good Christian Film

Two recent film offerings demonstrate once again that Hollywood can make wonderful movies that inspire and entertain: One Night With the King and The Nativity Story. Both of these films deserve the support of all people of good will who want to see a return to wholesomeness and quality in popular entertainment.

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Faith-Based Films: On the Heels of Huge Box Office Takes for Christian-Themed Movies, an Abundance of Films Are Appearing Containing Christian Content, but Will They Be Any Good?
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