By Betsy St. Amant Haddox, Crosswalk.com
It can be hard today to find quality movies that don’t fill our minds with filth. My husband and I frequently analyze whether we should keep the various streaming programs we subscribe to. More often than not, we find ourselves deleting them for a season. Add children into the mix, and you’ll find it’s almost impossible to discover family-friendly films that are worth popping some popcorn and watching together.
However, lately I’ve been becoming increasingly more aware of the hidden, even accidental, positive messages and themes in movies. You see, God is not only our creator, He’s the creator of all things. Nothing exists on this earth outside of the Lord. On top of that, the Bible tell us we are made in His image.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26)
Because of this Biblical truth, the Lord’s creation—including people and non-believers—can’t help but reflect His glory… even if they don’t mean to! Film producers, directors, and screen writers aren’t immune to this reflection. One of my favorite pastimes now is finding “accidental” allegory in entertainment.
Here are 10 classic family movies with gospel themes—however intentionally or unintentionally they might be!
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/evgenyatamanenko
1. Pilgrim's Progress
Now this is one flick that contains obvious allegory! Pilgrim’s Progress, first a novel by John Bunyan in 1678, has recently been made into an animated movie directed by Robert Fernandez. With a cast including Kristyn Getty, David Thorpe and other known names, this re-telling does a phenomenal job of carrying the viewer through the journey of Christian as he walks the path of becoming a believer, living a godly life and overcoming obstacles, facing temptations, and seeing victory over death. Coming in at a little under two hours, this makes for a perfect conversation-starting and thought-provoking movie night for the entire family.
Credit: Fathom Events
2. Star Wars
While Star Wars qualifies as secular entertainment, there are elements that allude to Biblical truth. The original movies aired in 1977 and have since evolved into an entire empire (pardon the pun!) recently purchased by Disney. The characters in the show frequently refer to “the Force,” which is an energy source that provides power—especially in dire situations.
The overwhelming battle of good versus evil is prevalent in Star Wars, and the way the good characters interact with the Force can reflect how Christians interact with the Holy Spirit. Unlike the Holy Spirit, however, the Force isn’t a person, but a source that can be used for good or evil. Please note that the original movies, the more recent episodes, and the made-for-TV spin-offs such as the Mandalorian all vary in mild language, sexuality and violence. Parents should preview before viewing with their kids.
Credit: © Lucasfilm ltd.
3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
One of the best allegories of all time, C.S. Lewis’ novel, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe was turned into a film in 2005, followed soon after by the rest of the titles in the Chronicles of Narnia.
In the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the lion Aslan represents Jesus, and his moving, mighty sacrifice on behalf of Edmund reflects the death and resurrection of Christ. Other themes include forgiveness, overcoming jealousy and rivalry, and maintaining faith. This is a tear-jerking, cheer-inducing family favorite that’s a must see for all ages.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Ingo Stiller
4. The Wizard of Oz
Adapted into a movie in 1939 after the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this beloved classic film contains elements of allegory you might not have considered. Along the way, Dorothy’s constant wish is to go back home. “There’s no place like home,” she chants at the end in that famous ruby-slipper heel click.
Just as Dorothy was a foreigner in the land of Oz, we as Christians are aliens on this Earth, destined for our eternal home in Heaven with the Lord. It’s also interesting to see how all the characters traits Dorothy’s friends wished for, they already possessed but couldn’t see (courage, heart, and intelligence). They needed each other on their journey down the Yellow Brick Road to fight lies and discover truth—all of which relates back to how crucial community is among Christians.
Credit: © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
5. Beauty & The Beast
Perhaps one of my favorite Disney cartoons of all time, Beauty and the Beast reflects the heart of sacrifice as Belle gives up her freedom—her life—for her father in order to stay with the beast in his dark castle. Any movie that hangs on selflessness and sacrifice (or the willingness to sacrifice oneself) for others can’t help but reflect the message of the cross and how Jesus died in our place. Unlike Belle’s father, we are not innocent or victims. As sinners, we deserve our punishment of death. But because of God’s great love for us, Jesus took our sentence and paid it Himself.
The movie Annie is a very moving example of the gospel with its beautiful message of adoption. Just as dirty, scrawny little orphan Annie longed to be adopted and have a family of her own, we as depraved sinners are adopted into the family of God through no act of our own—but rather through the pure grace and love of our Heavenly Father.
Credit: © Disney
7. Harry Potter
While some controversy exists over Harry Potter among Christians, viewers can’t deny the epic battle demonstrated throughout the entire series between good and evil. Harry’s mother, in an act of true love, protected him at the cost of her own life. Glimpses of the hope of the gospel is also seen throughout the movies in the various characters as they fight evil, sacrifice for each other, and demonstrate true acts of friendship. Parents should use discretion when watching with children due to varying degrees of violence and darkness.
Credit: © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
8. The Lord of the Rings
The battle between good and evil reigns long and hard in this fantastic journey of friendship, courage, and sacrifice. One of the most gospel-ridden messages in the film is demonstrated through the allegory of the death and later resurrection of Gandalf, who had to temporarily die to save everyone else. He fell into a pit and emerged later, victorious, on the scene of battle just when all hope seemed lost.
Another theme is evident in the fellowship between Frodo, Sam, and the members of the fellowship. Just as Frodo needed his community for his perilous journey to destroy the evil ring, the church also needs fellowship as they navigate the spiritual battles of life. Parents should use discretion when watching with children due to varying degrees of violence and darkness.
9. The Lorax
The Lorax has a somewhat unexpected Biblical theme of overcoming greed, denying one’s self, and focusing on others for the greater good. This animated movie, created from a Dr. Suess book, demonstrates the truth that it only takes one person to make a difference and to fight for what is right. As Christians, kingdom growth is accomplished by one small deed at a time—all while having great faith.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Amanda Mocci
10. The Greatest Showman
In 2017, this musical took America by storm. With its catchy show tunes, talented cast and vibrant images, The Greatest Showman is well on its way to becoming a classic. As believers in Christ, we’re aware that every life is important, regardless of wealth, weight, height, color, race, or individual quirks. Just as Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan that every life matters regardless of personal differences, preferences or status, The Greatest Showman offers a strong message of welcoming outcasts and turning them into family.
Photo Credit: © 20th Century Fox