My Opinion on Why Most Christian Movies Suck!

sylia

Sylia Gray

As an aspiring screenwriter, I was listening to a screenwriting podcast called “On the Page.” And in one particular episode, the host of the show Pilar Alessandra, who is also a professional screenwriting instructor and author, invited two experts from some Christian media group as guests. And they were talking about screenwriting for a niche market of religious films. (Pilar’s podcast is secular. Faith-based films is just a subject of this one particular episode.) In that episode, they were talking about the faith-film market, and how religious people among the listeners could break into that niche outside of the Hollywood mainstream. And one of the things that the guests said that surprised me (if I correctly remember how they said it) was that even they themselves were dissatisfied with how most Christian movies tend to alienate general audiences because they tend to get too preachy. And as an atheist, I totally agree.

To be honest, there have been some Christian-themed movies that I have enjoyed even as an atheist. One of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies was Wall-E which was written and directed by Andrew Staunton and Pete Doctor – both of whom are devout Christians. And as devout Christians, during the story’s development process, both Doctor and Staunton took creative liberties to instill Christian themes into the story for Wall-E. But in spite of the Christian themes, they were still able to make Wall E into a successful movie with mass appeal for the general audiences worldwide and generating half a billion dollar in revenue. In fact, Pete Doctor once said in an article about his role as Pixar’s storyteller is that his Christian faith is his own private business, not anyone else’s. Which I admire.

Another Judeo-Christian themed movie that I enjoyed was Darren Aronofsky’s Noah movie. Aronofsky (He’s is an atheist Jew) and Paramount Pictures didn’t have an agenda to preach the Bible. They just want to entertain broad audiences, Christian and non-Christian alike, by presenting the story as a Jewish mythology (which, to my understanding, the Jews actually ripped from the Babylonians).

Now… I think the reason why some Christian-themed movies like Noah and Wall-E are enjoyable and appealing to broad audiences as opposed to hardcore Christian movies like any of Kirk Cameron films is because Walt Disney and Paramount Pictures’ business is to entertain people in order to make money. And in order to cash in and make as much money as possible, studios need to produce movies that are generally appealing to a broad range of audiences. Disney and Paramount’s agenda is to make as much money as they can by entertaining wide range of audiences by making widely appealing movies.

The problem I see with a lot of hardcore Christian movies is that many of them tend to have preachy storytelling with an “in-your-face” approach to conveying Christian themes. You know, where it has things like:

– Christian characters, like a preacher, going “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” or “The Bible says this and Bible says that” almost every 10 minutes.
– Stereotypical (and often deliberately misrepresenting) caricatures of LGBTQ people, atheists, and other non-Christians

For those who read this post, let me ask you:

Why do you think people go to the movies? Why do YOU go to the movies? You go to the movies because you want to be entertained, right?

I think most people go to the movies because they want entertainment first and foremost. And a hardcore religious film with a preachy in-your-face message would be a HUGE turn off. Thus, wasting $10 – $15, plus, you cannot refund the 2 – 3 hours you could have spent on watching something more enjoyable. General moviegoers want to be entertained, not preached to. If they want to be Preached to, they’ll just attend church, mosque, synagogue, etc.

Apparently, unlike mainstream Hollywood, it seems like most hardcore Christian movie studios have their agenda backwards. Their movies appear to be produced to preach to audience first, rather than to prioritize on entertaining them. It’s no wonder that most Christian movies only tend to appeal to their core Christian audiences, even if it stars Hollywood heavyweights like Nicolas Cage. And there are people like Ray Comfort whining and complaining about Aronofsky’s Noah movie not “being Christian enough”. And speaking of atheists and Christians, Kirk Cameron blames atheists for his Saving Christmas movie’s spectacular failure. (Kirk, it’s not our fault that your movie sucks! It’s YOUR fault that you can’t make movies that are appealing broadly beyond your core Christian audiences!)

Here are two quotes I found interesting that I think relates very well to this thread:

“Out of our years of experimenting and experience, we learned one basic thing about bringing pleasure and knowledge to people of all ages and conditions, which goes to the very roots of public communication. That is this: the power of relating facts, as well as fables, in story form.” – Walt Disney

“Orestes is made to say himself what the poet rather than the story demands.”
– Aristotle

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One thought on “My Opinion on Why Most Christian Movies Suck!

  1. William Gibbons October 12, 2016 at 6:21 PM Reply

    The problem with Christian movies is – they are made for Christians. Preaching to the choir does not impact the world for the Kingdom. Movies like The Passion Of The Christ earned $612 million at the box office, mainly because it was controversial and was torn apart by church “leaders.” Nevertheless, most people who went to see it were for the most part, secular. In comparison, movies made by Christian directors do not fare so well at the box office.

    God’s Not Dead earned $62 million
    Son of God made $67 million
    Risen earned $46.1 million
    Miracles from Heaven did slightly better with $73.8 million
    Noah earned $326 million
    Exodus, Gods & Kings, came in at $268 million
    Left Behind only $27.6 million

    My point? Bible based movies produced by Hollywood with big name stars and extensive marketing make far more money and draw bigger crowds, even if they are Biblically inaccurate. The pay check counts for a lot too, especially if you want to attract people like Christian Bale, Jennifer Garner and Russell Crowe as the stars of the production. There are few Christian movies that I like. The ‘oldies,’ such as The Robe, The Ten Commandments, The Bible, Ben Hur – A Tale of the Christ,The Sign of the Cross, Quo Vadis, and King of Kings were all block busters. Another great movie was A Man Called Peter starring the wonderful Richard Todd, and ‘How Green Was My Valley,’ starring a young Roddy McDowell. The latter two had strong Christian themes, were immensely popular, and worth getting on DVD (try Ebay!). One modern Christian movie that I really enjoyed but did poorly in sales, is ‘Time Changer’, starring the much under-rated D.David Morin. A timely film indeed that is worth getting. But it earned a paltry $1.5 million in sales. The book of Eli was a successful Christian-themed movie, as was ‘Unbroken’, directed by Angelina Jolie. Mel Gibson’s new faith based movie ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ looks like a huge winner, and he is proceeding with his plans to make a sequel to The Passion of the Christ.’ I can’t wait.

    So, what is the answer? We should stop making “Christian” movies and start making movies that are realistic, gritty, reflects the real world, portrays people with real struggles, and with a solid redeeming message than runs through the production without being predictable, sugary sweet, tacky, and ending in a disappointing anti-climax. I also see lots of Christian movies with the same actors in them. I’m not saying they are bad actors, but as Nicole points out in her article, nobody, swears, smokes, drinks, or even lets out a ripping loud episode of flatulence. We need to find fresh faces that can act, even if they are secular (yes, really). The downside is, Christian actors Jim Caviezel and Kevin Sorbo believe that their Christian faith has excluded them from bigger Hollywood productions. When was the last you saw Christian actors, David A.R. White and Kirk Cameron in a block buster movie that wasn’t produced by Christian directors? In the 1994 movie, Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson played a ruthless, profane hit man who killed people for a living. However, Jackson’s character decided to give up his evil ways and become an evangelist after he believes that God saved him and his partner (played by John Travolta) from a hail of gunfire at point blank range. He even quoted scripture (Ezekiel 25:17) a few times in the movie. Now, I am not saying that this is a suitable film for Christians, but it has certain elements that a faith based movie can use to impact the secular mind for Christ.

    At the end of the movie ‘God’s Not Dead,’ the audience was encouraged to whip out their cell phones and text everyone on their call list with the message “God is not dead.” I noticed that the movie theater was full of Christians, as practically everybody was texting. Had I done that as a business owner with all my clients contact numbers, I would have lost every contract I had secured in my 12 years in business, and my 85 employees would have been out of work within a week.

    However, to end this long communication, I have since sold my business and have started making progress towards making movie ‘shorts.’ That is, 30 minute productions that are realistic with a solid faith message, and will (hopefully) make people sit up and take notice. Most movie goers these days (even You Tubers) have a notoriously short attention span, so it is more important than ever to produce work that will hold their attention and impact them for Christ. The first production will be completed by the end of this month. I have created a YouTube page for all my work, which will be followed by a Face Book page and perhaps a website. But, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day!.

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