Sy's Spin On Film
Movies are our modern electronic tribal fire where we gather round to hear stories...stories which entertain but also speak on deeper levels. These subtext themes are universal, regardless of continent or culture, and are often, quite spiritual in nature. That’s why so many films play out across the cultural differences.
If you are not familiar with the idea of subtext in film, here are some examples…
Deep Impact isn't about a disaster...it's about re-evaluating what really matters in light of mortality.
Amistad isn't just about the slave trade...it's about finding God & hope in the midst of terrible circumstances.
Terminator 2 isn't just about time-travelling robot killers...it's about the human need for Divine intervention against evil & a boy's need for a father and a mother.
Saving Private Ryan was more than a war film...it's really a story about living beyond yourself for the sake of others - and the sacrificial price required to stop evil - this is a theme played out not only in war, but in the micro realm of the immune system all the way to the cosmic scale of Christ's sacrifice.
Just as Science Fiction isn't really talking about the future but is often about the present, so the Alien series isn't so much about Aliens as it is the dark & terrible consequences unleashed by unethical & greedy corporations & governments upon unwitting humanity.
While acknowledging that some films are indeed a waste of time and money and talent, there are many that are worthy of your consideration. The following list represents some of my best picks for films which reflect God’s redemptive character in the midst of the human experience. For more redemptive insights into film, visit: www.hollywoodjesus.com.
Redemptive and Inspirational Themes in Film
The following are some of my favorite choices. Note that films may be rated PG-13 to R. Some films mentioned contain sensuality, violence and coarse language. Mentioning these films is not necessarily an encouragement to watch them, although if you choose to do so, I hope you will discern the inspirational and redemptive themes.
CATEGORY 1: Relational Redemption
Best example so far on film of Sexual/Relational redemption: Christ enters the fallen world to win his corrupted Bride…the World and the Devil conspire to stop her, but she makes the ‘pearl of great price’ decision, and heroic love wins. (oh yes, please do skip the tarty music video remake of Lady Marmalade).
So many themes: Divine intervention; God using the weak rather than the capable; Character vs. Skill; emotional and relational healing and big doses of redemption for Forest, his girlfriend, their kid, and sergeant Dan.
Clever story of a son being reconciled to his father…it will really get you in the end…be prepared for tears.
Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood
A Mother-daughter crisis results in forgiveness and reconciliation. Here’s to learning ‘the rest of the story’.
A Walk in the Clouds
Keanu Reeves portrays a man of noble character who intervenes to rescue an unwed, pregnant woman from certain shame in the 1940s.
This lavish, well scripted/acted story of an outsider who breezes into a provincial town with life-changing impact: Go deeper: legalism vs. ‘grace’, Brittle religion vs. Christ; church culture vs. ‘God among us’ concern and intervention in people’s lives. And chocolate.
You’ve Got Mail
His kingdom keeps increasing, at the expense of hers…but she gets him and all that’s his, in the end. Sound familiar?
It’s not a disaster flick. It’s not a sci-fi flick. It’s about what really matters in life, especially when facing mortality. Relationships are mended…God is sought and living beyond one’s self for the sake of others highlight this film.
This rare 1940’s film depicts a disfigured war vet who falls in love with a plain, ‘overlooked’ woman. As their love deepens, their unattractiveness fades and they become ‘beautiful’ to each other…and can face the world again. Keep a hankie nearby.
CATEGORY 2: Justice & Redemption
Epic, 9-Oscar winning film of betrayal, injustice and Christ in the mix, and how He brings about justice, healing, and redemption. If you haven’t seen this 3 hour classic, I forgive you. But DO rent it, turn off the hell-a-phone, and be inspired by this famous period film.
Count of Monte Cristo
Classy film version of the novel, with the central theme stated at the beginning and the end: God will give me justice. Everyone needs reminding that God does not abandon us to our suffering, and that revenge isn’t as sweet as it promises.
I prefer the Liam Neeson version of the classic tale of Law vs. Grace, with brilliant examples of sexual and relational redemption too.
Our hero’s perseverance and character enable him to make the best of a bad situation-by serving to benefit others—while never giving up hope for that day of deliverance.
CATEGORY 3: Spiritual Warfare
A Jewish ‘instrument of God’ is teleported to a town to intervene in a pending disaster…meanwhile, vulture-like demons congregate in anticipation of doom. Can ‘God’s man’ resist the deceptions and temptations thrown at him so that he may fulfill Divine intent?
Lord of the Rings
Wow. How epic can you get—especially for our times: The dark shadow of war and evil rising requires our least-likely heroes to be loyal, self sacrificing and determined in their burdensome but destined mission.
Bless this Child
Kim Basinger portrays a believer whose faith has grown cold, only to have her faith reignited by a spiritual battle over the fate of her niece, who is destined to lead many to God. Angels vs Demons, intercessory prayer and it’s triumph.
Keanu Reeves again does warfare against the devil in this quasi-Christian-symbol cartoon tale, that—while a bit all over the map theologically—still makes some pretty cool statements verbally(you cant earn your way to Heaven) and visually (Satan is real, demons are real, Hell is real, Angels are real, Heaven is real and Jesus is the Lord).
Death Becomes Her
A stellar cast in a modern Faustian fable…with a very clever depiction of Satan. Two competing women make an unwitting deal with the devil…they suffer eternal consequences they didn’t anticipate, while the man they wanted resists temptation only to be ‘born again’ into a life worth living.
Keanu Reeves saves the day as the Messianic policeman who intervenes to rescue hijacked humanity from a Satanic-ex-cop.
CATEGORY 4: Sci Fi Redemption
In a spate of recent 'Apocalypic' films, this Nicholas Cage movie stands above the rest as one of the most clever post-modern tellings of 'the end times.' "Knowing" features key elements of the Biblical concept. Look for: the Torah code sealed up until the end of time; the code is providently placed into the hands of a scientist who can interpret it... that scientist (Cage) lectures on the two world views: Providential Determinism vs. Atheistic and purposeless evolution. Deeper, Cage is a widower estranged from God and his pastor father (his only link to family is 'Grace' his sister). There are angels in human disguise, days numbered in a book, prophetic visions, Ezekiel's wheel (Does God sometimes use technology?), the prodigal son's return, judgment by fire, and God's faithfulness to provide protection for a remnant-- and the tree of life. That's not all, but it's obvious this movie packs a lot in there, and it's told in a suspense building style I quite enjoyed. P.S. Look for the van in the swarming crowds-- painted on the side: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life... very 'Knowing' Indeed.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said. It’s still so cool.
This 2nd film in the Alien series depicts Ripley as an all too human but self sacrificing hero who confronts evil-even though she’d prefer not to, saves humanity as a consequence, overcomes prejudice toward robots, and saves a plucky but vulnerable orphan.
It’s NOT about Aliens…that’s just the postmodern frosting on this tale of a man’s foundering faith. A tragedy damages his faith…a greater crisis re-ignites it. The story is built on the Biblical concept: God works out everything for good--even the details and tragedies—if we will not abandon our confidence in His character.
War of the Worlds
This Oscar-winning film of the 1950’s retells the H.G. Wells classic story of space invaders who cannot be stopped until… Even more amazing, is the role of faith in God and His Divine, providential intervention. Humanity worships Him in the end. When are you going to see THAT again in a movie?
CATEGORY 5: Straight-Forward Redemption
Just in case you didn’t get the metaphors and allegories about redemption depicted in previously mentioned films, then this movie directly spells it out: Who Jesus is, why he came, suffered and died—and that He resurrected. Never has there been such a global conversation about the Christ. You’ve seen it…now how will you respond to Him?
Though previously mentioned…it’s worth mentioning again as Jesus is woven throughout this story of suffering and the God who is with us even then.
Jesus of Nazareth
This Franco Zefferelli visual masterpiece tells the whole story, and tells it powerfully. Rent it and watch the whole 6 hours in one sitting to really get the impact.
Who knew: This late 1930’s classic is about a pastor’s daughter (power-voice singer Jeannette MacDonald) who goes to the big city to become famous. She falls for a bad boy Cabaret owner (Clark Gable), whose childhood friend (Spencer Tracy) is now a priest. Add one academy award-winning earthquake, Clark repents on his knees and gets born again, and Jeannette inspires the survivors to sing ‘Glory Glory Hallelujah’ while San Fran burns.
More Movies to Consider:
Super Size Me
You should be forced to watch this. And if you do watch it, I dare you not to change your eating habits. Consider it ‘dietary redemption’.
Western women in Asia during World War 2 are imprisoned in a concentration camp…and how faith, hope, and helping each other brings them through.
Judgment At Nuremburg
Either the 1960’s version or the 1990’s version…both well tell the terrible story of how the professional classes in Germany aided the Nazis in World War 2. Deception, fear and a lack of empathy for others is a lethal brew.
Man’s inhumanity to fellow man in the slave trade, make this a dark but important film…punctuated by slaves being born again.
A Beautiful Life
The poignant story of a father and son in a concentration camp.
The Sound of Music
Mock me all you want, but it’s still a fab true story told brilliantly in it’s day, with faith in God’s leading…courage in times of danger…and those infectious sing-a-longs.
A sobering and vitally important docu for our times, hosted by an astute
Ben Stein. Seems that serious scientific pursuit about the origins of
life, must only start with the random Big Bang and follow the evolutionary
process. Any scientific inquiry outside of that is discredited, and those
who propose intelligent design, must be expelled--regardless of their high
caliber of education, merit, or position. This of course, is ultimately
anti-God fascism, so rampant in secular institutions of all types. Stein
shows us how such thinking ends in tears, persecution and death camps.
There are those in realms of science and education who like to think
themselves enlightened. But in this film they hang themselves with their
own intolerance and ridiculous notions of how it all began. That alone is
revealing and so worth seeing.
Sy QUOTES about FILM
“Why wouldn’t God speak through (some) film? He owns everything. As a Christian leader once said ‘There isn’t a secular molecule in the universe.’ Besides, we are no longer an agrarian civilization. Why would a smart God speak through the stars as he once did, at a time when the sky was our ‘global point of reference’. It’s not that season anymore. Now in the urban age, if the Star of Bethlehem appeared in the sky, we wouldn’t get it. We would simply see it as an astronomical event on the news. But having rebuilt our Tower of Babel through telecommunication and transportation, our global constellation of cities now share in a largely unified culture which drinks daily from the well of media-driven pop culture. It would be absurd to think God would not exploit this!”
“Never be afraid to walk out of a movie. Better to waste your money than your time, your brain and to slime your soul”.
“If you have a conviction that you should not go see movies, or certain films, then PLEASE obey that conviction. Just remember though, your conviction may not be someone else’s commandment. And for those of you who do go see films that ended up sliming you, please do be smart enough to wash off thoroughly”.