What Makes a Good Movie in the Kingdom

This blog is about the good news of the kingdom of God. So, here we evaluate things in the context of what God intended them to be–in other words, what they should be as the Kingdom advances and transforms the world into the place God intended it to be.

And that brings us to the subject of movies. We are only a few weeks away from the American Academy Awards, so it seems an appropriate time to address what makes for a good movie in the kingdom of God. Mind you, this does mean we are asking what Christians like, but what they should like in a movie.

If you are are like me, before you watch a movie, you check on Rotten Tomatoes to see how highly the movie is rated. I look at both the audience rating and the critics rating, and rarely are they the same. That is because the audience evaluates movies for their entertainment value, while critics evaluate them on their technical merit. In terms of the kingdom of God, both are right and both are wrong, or better, both are incomplete.

As I have suggested above, movies start with a teleological question: What is the purpose of movies in the kingdom of God? I think there are three primary criteria.

Entertaining. Movies are a form of entertainment first and foremost, just as professional sports are a form of entertainment. They don’t exist so movie stars, directors, and grips can make a living; they exist primarily for the purpose of entertaining an audience. If a movie fails to entertain, it has failed fundamentally.

Engaging. A two hour chase scene might be entertaining, but it wouldn’t be particularly engaging. The best movies should engage us on an emotional, intellectual, or spiritual level so we can grow as humans i.e. be sanctified. This doesn’t mean the message has to be religious, but to the extent the movie helps us grow, the movie has done more than merely entertain. The technical aspects of a movie, such as the acting, the cinematography, and the script, which critics so often focus on are not the goal, but serve the goal of making the movie entertaining and engaging.

Honest. Lastly, movies should not lie to the audience. This means movies should not represent a false worldview as true. That doesn’t mean a movie can’t have profanity, or address difficult topics, or must have happy endings. But a good movie should not mislead its audience by promoting as true something that is false. If I lied to you, you would be right to judge me for it. We should be as demanding of our movies.

When you consider these three criteria, you can see why Christian moviemakers have so often fallen short. A movie isn’t “Christian” because it preaches the gospel, and so often, such movies do only that, are not very entertaining or engaging. And worse, the message is often so in-your-face to be off-putting to non-Christians, the very people it should be trying to reach.

When the world is functioning as God intends, movies will be more entertaining, more engaging, and more honest. Until then, Christians should vote by what they pay to watch. GS

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