Long before "The Passion of the Christ" became a runaway box office hit, raking in more than $370 million domestically since its 2004 debut, Christian films have had a spot in Hollywood history.
Faith-based movies have recently enjoyed a resurrection. Audiences looking to see their own beliefs reflected on the big screen turned out in droves for films like 2014's "Heaven Is for Real" ($91.4 million), 2015's "War Room" ($67.7 million), and this year's "Miracles From Heaven" ($61.7 million).
Christianity is still the most common belief system in the United States, not just the world. For example, more than two-thirds of Americans — 68 percent to 75.2 percent or up to 242.72 million people — believe in Christianity, Jesus, and miracles, while up to 86 percent (or about 277.57 million people) believe in God, according to Movieguide, the biggest faith-based, family review service. In contrast to this, only 8 percent to 18 percent of America’s 322.76 million people refuse to believe in God or the Jesus of the Bible.
That said, movies about Jesus Christ and movies with strong Christian and biblical moral content dominate 90 percent of the top-grossing movies worldwide, not just in Christian countries, because people have hard lives and are looking for the good, the true, and the beautiful to triumph, which usually leads them to want a savior, whether allegorical or christological.
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A procession of Christian films paved the way for these modern-day, box-office success stories. Here, the editors of Movieguide and its publisher, Ted Baehr, have compiled for Newsmax a list of what they feel are the Top 25 Christian Movies of All Time.
The list is meant as a conversation starter, and not necessarily meant as a definitive list. The list considers the Christological, biblical content of each movie, combined with the movie’s aesthetic and entertainment value, its visual or cinematic quality, its dramatic power, the cohesion and energy behind its narrative structure, its moral and spiritual acceptability for family audiences, and the moral and spiritual depth of its message and themes.
1. "The King of Kings" (1927- silent), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: The famous H.B. Warner played Jesus in Cecil B. DeMille’s "King of Kings," still the classic of all movies about Jesus Christ.
2. "Quo Vadis" (1951), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: This very Christian classic places Marcus Vinicius, played by Robert Taylor, between the tyrannical Nero, played by Peter Ustinov, and the beautiful redeemed Christian Lygia, played by Deborah Kerr. The movie includes a great explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by St. Peter.
3. "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +1: "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," based on C. S. Lewis’ popular Christian fable, tells the story of four English children who enter the land of Narnia, where they meet Aslan, the son of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea, who rescues the land from the evil White Witch. Despite some minor changes from the book, "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," retains most of its Christian focus and is tremendously exciting, thrilling, and redemptive.
4. "The Robe" (1953), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: Starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, and Victor Mature, this Hollywood Cinemascope spectacle is the story of an Ancient Roman soldier, who turns to Christianity when embracing the robe of Jesus Christ.
5. "Les Misérables" (1934), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: Based on the redemptive novel by Victor Hugo, "Les Misérables" tells the redeeming story of Jean Valjean who goes to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s child and then comes to Jesus Christ through the sacrificial love of a poor bishop. Jean becomes a new man and dedicates his life to helping others though he is pursued by the unforgiving Javert.
Also highly recommended:
"Les Misérables" (2012), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: -1: The Hollywood film version of the beloved musical play of Victor Hugo’s novel about an ex-convict whose life is redeemed, though is still hounded by a legalistic policeman. "Les Misérables" is a brilliant adaptation of this inspiring, spiritually uplifting Christian story that beautifully depicts God’s transformational powers though the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but it contains some harsh scenes showing the brokenness of humanity without God.
"Les Misérables" (1998), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +1: Liam Neeson plays Jean Valjean, a reformed convict pursued his whole life by a legalistic police inspector. Literally overflowing with redemption and grace in the face of horrible legalism, rigidity, and the perils of war, this journey is wonderfully told through a near flawless script, excellent acting, great photography, and wonderful set design with moderate violence and no sex or nudity.
"Les Misérables" (1995), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: The magnificent movie by Claude Lelouch, "Les Misérables" is not another adaptation of Victor Hugo's redemptive story; instead, the movie is a unique re-telling of Hugo's masterpiece using Hugo's work as a metaphor for life. Henri Fortin travels through life from boxer, to prisoner, to criminal, to a man redeemed through the cruel and miserable experiences in the midst of the German cruel occupation of France during World War II.
6. "A Tale of Two Cities" (1935), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: In a movie starring Ronald Colman in the role of a lifetime, as the cynical lawyer Sydney Carton who makes a great sacrifice, the causes and effects of the French Revolution come alive through this richly textured rendering of the classic novel by Charles Dickens published in 1859. The movie closes with Jesus Christ’s words: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” (John 11:25)
7. "Lilies of the Field" (1963), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: Featuring a brilliant, Oscar-winning performance by Sidney Poitier, this wonderful family movie teaches the Gospel in a winsome, entertaining way that’s unsurpassed by most other movies. In the story, a group of German nuns transplanted to Southwest America convince a young black man to help them build a local church. In the meantime, the young man teaches the nuns the joys of Pentecostal Protestant worship focused on Jesus and His Gospel. Both Jesus and the local church are lifted up.
8. "Sergeant York" (1941), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: Based on the diary of Alvin York, the most decorated soldier in World War I, this moving story tells about a willful man, played by Oscar winner Gary Cooper, who comes to Jesus Christ and comes to terms with war.
9. "The Passion of the Christ" (2004), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: -2: Though the violent R-rated version is too strong for younger teenagers and other susceptible viewers, there is a PG-13 version of this powerful movie by Mel Gibson, with a striking performance by Jim Caviezel and a heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting ending that stirs the imagination and pierces the heart.
10. "Ben-Hur" (1959), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: Subtitled "A Tale of the Christ," this is an epic story of a young Jewish man, Judah Ben-Hur, played by an Oscar-winning Charlton Heston, who lives at the time of Christ. When his sisters are put in a Roman dungeon and contract leprosy, Ben-Hur can either choose to hate the Romans or find healing and forgiveness through the blood of Christ.
11. "The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: -1: The greatest, most redemptive fantasy epic ever written, about Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, and the Fellowship of the Ring, becomes the greatest, most redemptive fantasy epic ever filmed. A spectacular, singular achievement in filmmaking.
12. "Repentance" (1987 – subtitled, Soviet Union), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +2: "Repentance" is the one movie credited with helping to overthrow Communism. This magnificent movie exposes the evils of communism, statism, and totalitarianism while lifting up the suffering and the triumphant, eternal Church of Christ Jesus.
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13. "Chariots of Fire" (1981), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: In this Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Eric Liddell is a Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of Jesus in the 1924 Olympic games and who believes that Christ is his trainer.
14. "Babette's Feast" (1987 – subtitled, French), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: Set in Denmark during the 1800s, this Oscar-winning adaptation of the Isak Dinesen story features two Christian sisters who spend their lives helping the needy, sick, and poor. A renowned French chef named Babette, who has been forced into exile, serves the sisters as their maid.
15. "The Hiding Place" (1975), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: This true story is a powerful examination of a family's faith as Corrie Ten Boom and her family hide Jews in Amsterdam during WWII.
16. "Sophie Scholl – The Final Days" (2005), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: In the German movie "Sophie Scholl – The Final Days," Sophie and her brother, Hans, are part of a small group of Christians who are trying to instigate a student uprising to overthrow Adolf Hitler's National Socialist government in 1943. They are caught by the Gestapo, but Sophie challenges the investigator with a very strong evangelistic, Christian, Trinitarian refutation of the Nazi position. This movie is overtly Christian, but, more than that, it contains tremendous Christian theology as Sophie confronts National Socialism.
17. "The Ten Commandments" (1956), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: A remake of a movie he did many years previously, this Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic remains a favorite today. Christians like it because it is a Bible story. Jews like it because Moses is one of their heroes. Everybody likes it because it is masterful, engrossing filmmaking. Though not entirely biblically correct, it gives a powerful examination of one of mankind's greatest leaders, superbly portrayed by Charlton Heston.
18. "Places in the Heart" (1984), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +3: This movie, which stars Oscar-winning actress Sally Field, clearly shows that faith in Jesus Christ overcomes all obstacles — even death.
19. "Tender Mercies" (1983), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +2: Starring Robert Duvall in an Oscar-winning performance as a down-on-his-luck country music singer, this movie was penned by Horton Foote, one of America’s best writers.
20. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +3: Jimmy Stewart plays the beleaguered but good-hearted George Bailey, who finds out what life would be like if he’d never been born. A very slight caution is urged because of the false angelology, although the movie is high on our list because of its emotive revelation of man’s relationship to God, who answers our prayers.
21. "Lady Jane" (1986), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: -1: This is the powerful story of Lady Jane Grey who was crowned by the Reform Christians in England and ruled for nine days before being martyred for her strong faith in God and His Bible.
22. "Eleni" (1985), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +2: "Eleni" is the greatest movie about a mother’s love in the face of adversity. It is the true story of a mother who was murdered by the communists during the Greek Civil War. Eleni proclaims, “Christ is risen” on Easter, prays to God, and concludes before her execution with a touching statement: “It is such a joy to be a mother that I thank God for letting me know it.”
23. The best of the Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" adaptations: There are at least 15 movie and 25 television adaptations of Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol," according to the International Movie Database. Here are the best:
"Scrooge" (1951), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +3: Starring Alastair Sim, this well-crafted and faithful version of Dickens’ classic is so good it can be watched year-round. Sim does a marvelous job of bringing Scrooge to life in this heartwarming classic. Furthermore, Tiny Tim is adorable, and the Cratchit family is absolutely heartwarming and tear jerking.
"The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +3: This is a live-action musical that retells the classic Dickens story with all our Muppet favorites, and actor Michael Caine as Scrooge.
"A Christmas Carol" (1999), Quality: * * * Acceptability: +3: This very Christian version, which stars Patrick Stewart, has a great church scene that recaptures the essence of the Charles Dickens novel.
"A Christmas Carol" (2009), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +1: This 2009 animated version features an excellent motion capture performance by Jim Carrey and overt references to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
24. "A Man Called Peter" (1955), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: +4: This fine movie demonstrates a contemporary champion of the faith, Scotsman Peter Marshall, who became clergyman and U.S. Senate chaplain.
25. "True Grit" (2010), Quality: * * * * Acceptability: -2: "True Grit," adapted from the Charles Portis novel by Joel and Ethan Coen, hews a bit more closely to the book but also pays some homage to the 1969 version starring the great John Wayne. After her father is killed in cold blood, spunky 14-year-old Presbyterian farm girl Mattie Ross hires one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn to track down the killer. "True Grit" has a lot of humor, but it also has some heart-rending moments. There are, however, some strong obscenities and profanities, and one violent scene is extreme, but the movie’s overt Christian, biblical themes and powerful spirit of chivalry and justice are thoroughly stirring.
Ted Baehr is publisher of MOVIEGUIDE(r), a family guide to entertainment, and the chairman of The Christian Film & Television Commission™. An award-winning media authority, he is used by God to redeem the mass media and teach families to be media-wise. His many books include "How To Succeed In Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul)" and "The Culture-Wise Family," among many others. For more information, please visit: www.movieguide.org.
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