10 Alternative Christian Movies

Are you ready for some hyper-earnest biblical renditions? Russell Crowe packing the world’s most complete zoo on a boat. Diogo Morgado squinting his dreamy eyes of Christ, oozing with compassion and loving kindness. Yep. No shortage of that kind of Christian movie.

But, what about a Christian film for the restavus? Something a little less uber-preachy and painfully-predicatable. An alternative Christian movie. [1]

1. The Apostle (1997)

Robert Duvall as a Holy Ghost powered preaching and killing machine. Serious. Not a campy horror movie, but an earnest portrayal of deeply flawed man and his enduring heart for God. Sound familiar?

2.. Higher Ground (2011)

Higher_Ground_farmiga-praying

Finding and losing and then maybe finding your faith again can be a journey akin to Ulysses’ voyage home. Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut is heartfelt and sexy in ways that, I’m guessing, a lot of true believers can relate to.

3. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Lots of biblical liberties, not the least of which is the “last temptation of Christ,” which investigates a good and decent version of humanity that Jesus walked away from in order to fulfill his father’s work.

4. The Trials of Ted Haggard (2009)

Seriously. I hated Ted Haggard. I laughed for days when he got outted as a gay-prostitute-loving-drug-addict. But he’s earned my sympathy and even some respect. His faith carries on. And he’s a humbler and quieter version of himself now, gently preaching a more authentic gospel.

5. Saved! (2004)

004SVD_Mandy_Moore_036

Should I have sex with my gay boyfriend in order to save him from gayness? Yep. That’s sort of the 2004 theological equivalent to: How many angels can dance on the head of pin? An absurd effort of twisting everything into theological rationalizations, instead of, you know, simply being a good person.

6. Jesus Camp (2006)

The only horror movie on this list. This documentary shows Becky Fischer’s Kid’s On Fire ministry emotionally manipulating children into becoming “God’s Army” and preparing them to do battle against “The Enemy” AKA Islam. BONUS: footage of Ted Haggard loudly and proudly proclaiming that hetero-married sex is the best(!) and gay sex is baaaaaaad.

7. The Man From Earth (2007)

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What if there was an immortal man who was there when Jesus walked the earth? What could he tell us?

8. Doubt (2008)

A meditation on what it takes to maintain absolute certainty.

9. Dogma (1999)

A goofy, ridiculous, highjinks-infested supernatural thriller! And you’ve also got Alanis Morissette answering her own question: What if God were one of us?

10. Religulous (2008)

Religulous

I’m sorry. I know. Bill Maher is at least as close-minded as the people he makes fun of. But, taken as a tour of strange and unusual contemporary religious practices, Religulous is a heck of an amusing ride.

Honorable Mention (AKA movies that I think I liked, but are just so dang old that I can’t remember what happened in them): The Mission (1986), Babette’s Feast (1987), The Prophecy (1995). Did I miss any?

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NOTES

[1] Mark Moring of Christianity Today says that Christian movies are bad because they tend to be made by people that don’t really know how to make movies, a combination of bad production, bad writing and bad acting. But I think it’s a bit more than that. Some preacher (can’t remember his name!) gave a talk about how Christian movies are hamstrung by the problem that every movie has to end with the gospel. So there’s no real tension, because you know the ending. And, while a lot of movies are predictable, this particular predictability is particularly partisan. It’s sort of like watching a 90-minute long political commercial or a piece of propaganda.

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9 comments

  1. Tim · February 25, 2014

    I love reading your series… keep it up…

  2. Samuel · February 25, 2014

    The Last Temptation of Christ is my favorite Jesus movie of all time because it has nothing to do with the Bible. It got churches all riled up when it came out, banned by man. But this Jesus is the realest Jesus I’ve ever seen on the silver screen. All other Jesus’ are boring and no fun. This one is more human than I could ever imagine. And in this Jesus, I relate better than any other interpretation of him. Willen Defoe was amazing.

    • Juan Zung · February 25, 2014

      Yeah, in comparison, I get that Mel Gibson’s Jesus suffered, physically, like a lot. But what the Scorsese Jesus goes through is way more affecting. To me, it really shows how much it can cost to follow your faith.

      • Samuel · February 26, 2014

        And the real struggles and temptations Jesus went through — the same kind we go through as well.

  3. Juan Zung · February 26, 2014

    I forgot to include Greg King’s *Our House* on this list. It’s a documentary about this group of Christian anarchist squatters in New York City. http://www.gregoryking.net/film/documentary/

  4. Juan Zung · March 2, 2014
  5. samk987 · April 5, 2014

    I don’t watch too many movies, but I think I only missed 2, 4, and 7. And I’d love to see The Apostle again, to make sure I did see it.

    And as I vented a little on The Study blog (and in person too), the recent ‘Son of God’ made me very sad. I was screaming inside for 2 hours: “That’s NOT the Jesus I know!” Maybe that’s how Evangelicals felt watching ‘Last Temptation’ . . oh wait, they didn’t watch it did they (or worse, go to it wishing they’d like it).

    PS. How ’bout ‘Constantine’ (Keanu!) and my all-time-favorite ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ (1971 version, of course).

    • Juan Zung · April 5, 2014

      Yes! Constantine was awesome!

      We should make a list of “10 Christian Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies!”

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