Many Christians grew up in a home that has this simple rule: No R-Rated movies. Period. End of discussion. For me growing up, thankfully, we did not have this rule at my house. My father was raised in a home whose rule was “no going to the theater until you turned 18.” Imagine being ten years old in 1977 and all your friends just saw the first Star Wars, except you. My dad did not want that life for me, but he did not let my siblings and I watch whatever we wanted. His rule was to look at each film individually. He would let us watch certain R-Rated films before certain PG-13 films. Why? Content. You judge a movie, or any piece of art really, based on its content and the message. Not just the cover.
As an avid film lover, I see the no R-Rated movies rule as a huge shame and a missed opportunity. The rating system was designed as a guideline for parents to determine what movies their kids should or should not see. There are plenty of great R-rated films I will show my children before certain PG-13 ones because of the message and stories they tell, which include ones with great Christian messages! I had a conversation with a close family member and made this argument: 50 Shades of Grey and Unplanned (the pro-life movie) are both rated R. I think you have to differentiate between both since one has great content and the other is well, it’s 50 shades. The content matters. Not the rating.
Here are my top 5 movies that contain Christian Themes and Values that I would encourage Christians and Christian families to reconsider letting their teenagers watch.
The Passion of the Christ (2004): I debated not including this in my list because it is a story literally from the Bible, but it is a horrific but sobering reminder of what Jesus went through for our sins. Directed by Mel Gibson (not the last time we will see him on this list), this film shows us a small glimpse of the horrors of the Easter story that your flannel graph in Sunday school could never tell.
Prometheus (2012): The prequel to the Sci-Fi Horror movie ‘Alien’, Prometheus follows a team of scientists searching for the origins of humanity and the horrors they discover. Our heroine, Elizabeth Shaw, is a daughter of a missionary and throughout the entire movie, never waivers in her faith and fights through the film to find the truth. Director Ridley Scott is agnostic, but his search for a creator is enough to perk this believer’s ears. Please watch the Alien movies before watching this.
Logan (2017): Probably the best written and most well-acted Marvel movie to date, this movie follows Logan, aka The Wolverine on a mission to escort a special mutant to safety with Professor Xavier. While being a heartfelt movie making the toughest in the room shed a tear in the final minutes, this is a story of redemption, love, sacrifice, and has a few interesting things to say about God and His plan for us.
Now to my Top 5!
Cranky, old Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), a Korean War vet just lost his wife, his kids barely talk to him, and his grandkids are not any better in his mind. Just waiting to die, he happens to befriend his neighbors who are Hmong, a group of Asians who escaped Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. Slowly, he puts aside his prejudices and begins to develop a relationship with Sue and her brother Thao.
Gran Torino is a redemption story of a man who was dead and learns that loving thy neighbor is not so bad. There is a lot to talk about after the credits roll. Clint Eastwood, who stars but also directs, weaves together this story that has an ending that you will not see coming.
I hate horror movies, but my college roommates convinced me to watch this. Unlike most movies where there are spirits and demons involved, this movie asks the viewer to accept two facts: God is real, and so is the Devil. Ed and Lorraine Warrens, who are devout Catholic demon hunters in real life, are called in to investigate some paranormal activity in the Perron’s new home. This movie will have you on the edge of your seat. Do not watch alone.
Now without debating too much into demon possession, the Warrens, and exorcisms, in general, this film poses a topic of conversations I think Christians in the Western Culture need to talk about – the Devil. What does he do, what are his motivations in our lives, can demon possession happen in my neighborhood? For those reasons, I put this movie as my number four – for the question it is willing to ask the audience about God and Satan.
Based on the true story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for saving Soldiers without a weapon. Desmond Doss is a prime example of a man who refuses to compromise his convictions and his beliefs in God and the Bible. Sent to Okinawa, the worst place on earth in May of 1945, Doss emerges as a true hero of the Battle of Okinawa not by taking lives but by saving them.
Directed by Mel Gibson (See, there he is again!), this true story is borderline a Christian movie without calling itself as such, but it is gory. Very gory. Gibson was trying to show the horrors of combat and what Doss was willing to go into and he delivers. Andrew Garfield makes you forget he was Spider-Man and embodies a humble man from Virginia who volunteered to go into hell. Sacrifice, standing up for your beliefs, convictions, and faith in God are the center of this story. Desmond Doss is a man more people should strive to be like. Please watch this movie. If you are to watch any movie on this list, make it this one.
This movie centers around a mysterious man named Eli (Denzel Washington) who is traveling in a post-apocalyptic world with precious cargo. A book. The most important book, a book so powerful it can change the world. Eli encounters an evil man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who will do anything for this book. Joined by this man’s stepdaughter, Solara (Mila Kunis), Eli embarks on his toughest leg of his journey, trying to protect this book from Carnegie and his gang from capturing and abusing the power this book has.
I do not want to give anything away, but this movie is very explicitly Christian. I do not think I have to tell you what book this is, but it is a great movie with great cinematography, well-choreographed fight scenes, and a lot of themes of faith and verses weaved into the script. You will want to pick up your copy of this book once the movie is over.
Surprised? Me neither. While the movie should not be your basis for theology, it relies heavily on Christian imagery and symbolism. It is very explicitly Christian, and your non-Christian friends could spot the themes from a mile away. Programmer by day, hacker by night. Tom Anderson/Neo (Keanu Reeves) attempts to find out what the Matrix is by searching for the famed hacker Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), but once Neo finds him, the truth takes him on a life-altering path.
The Matrix is a genre-defying Sci-Fi movie with an awesome story and great action scenes that hold up today. Underneath the Sci-Fi plot, killer robots, and computers is a story of a man who is destined to save the world and free those who are trapped. Sound familiar? If you have not seen this movie, I highly recommend it.
Those are my picks. Is there a movie that I forgot? What R-Rated movies would you consider having great values and themes? Let me know! I am always looking for more movies to watch and study.
Born and raised in Michigan, I am a huge fan of movies and a big history buff. I am a graduate of the University of Michigan (with a Bachelors in History, surprise) and currently an officer in the Michigan Army National Guard. I reside in the East Lansing, MI area. My hobbies include hiking, watching movies, playing video games, going to the shooting range, and traveling Up North (as we call it) for vacation.