Avoid: The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Grossing over $611m, Mel Gibson’s 2-hour depiction of the last days of Christ caused an absolute outrage when it was released. Accusations of anti-Semitism were abound, with Gibson’s own inflammatory comments not helping matters, still thousands of devote Christians flocked to cinemas to see what all the fuss was about.
Although famed critic Roger Ebert awarded it his highest score, the film was mostly savaged by the critics with major outlets labelling it as a ‘pornographic bloodbath’, likening it to a horror moving. Unless you’re willing to sit through scenes of extended violence and torture, avoid it at all costs.
Instead watch: The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Scorsese’s underrated gem is often overlooked when Christian films are considered. With a human performance from Willem Defoe at its heart, there may still be a little gore but it’s balanced with solid cinematography and a well told story.
Avoid: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (2005)
Disney’s effort to revive C. S. Lewis’ proto-Christian fantasy novels ultimately failed after the disappointing performance of the third installment in 2010. Hot on the heels of the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Christians were excited to see a CG-filled parable that could entertain as well as educate.
Grossing a whopping $745m, the film was well received by critics for its visual effects and its young performers. However, the subtext of spiritual redemption, which was subtle in the books, was treated callously by the screenwriters giving the film an overly preachy tone.
Instead watch: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
The breakthrough Miyazaki fantasy that led to the formation of Studio Ghibli, Nausicaa is a sci-fi mash-up that captured the imaginations of children and adults alike upon its release. Its themes of War, Sacrifice and positive environmental message make it a must-watch movie with enough depth to not feel like its pandering to anyone.
Avoid: God’s Not Dead (2014)
Despite being universally panned by every major critic, distributor Freestyle Releasing somehow managed to score the biggest box-office success of their 10-year tenure. God’s Not Dead took nearly $60m, taking pretty much all its money at home in America.
God’s Not Dead patronised the demographic it was targeting and alienated anyone else. A sequel made on the back of its success was released this year, to similar critical reception, however it didn’t resonate as well with America’s Christians – so don’t expect another!
Instead watch: Magnolia (1999)
If you’re looking for a film that artfully balances moral dilemmas, and the consequences of our actions, then Magnolia is right up your street. This 90s ensemble piece features a stellar cast, playing characters all linked through varying forms of personal tragedy. Start it up early, as it runs up to 3 hours long but prepared for a faith-affirming conclusion!