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"Lets face it, Christian movies suck," says Nicole Cottrell.

My husband is a movie junkie and a film geek. By osmosis, I too ,have become somewhat of a movie nerd (although not quite a geek…yet). Jonathan and I often sit and discuss the films we love. We talk cinematography, direction, screenplay, and of course, acting.

We see all kinds of movies, from comedies, to dramas, independent films, to cult classics. But one type of film we avoid at all costs is the dreaded Christian film. [twilight zone music here…followed by a woman’s scream]

Lets face it, Christian movies suck. In decades of cinema history, maybe 3 or 4 films rate as a quality Christian film. Chariots of Fire would be one. The Passion of Christ another. I’m blanking on a third or fourth off the top of my head.

Most of them are, shall we say, totally cheesy, lame, boring and unrealistic.

Here’s what happens: Some movie producer guy and his movie producer crew say “Hey let’s make another Christian movie and let’s make it so unappealing, so unrealistic, and so corny that not a single non-Christian would ever want to see it. It’ll be a movie for Midwest Bible belt families and it will be rated G.” Yippee.

Film is a powerful medium with which to influence and affect individuals. A single film can impact pop-culture, introduce new slang, and even spearhead an entire movement.

So where are all the provocative, convicting, entertaining, and excellent Christian movies that even (and especially) non-Christians would want to see? I long to see a Christian film that a person who has never stepped into a church or cracked open a Bible could relate to…basically, I’d love to see a movie about Christ not a “Christian” movie.

Why are we squandering and wasting the medium of film when it holds great opportunity to evangelize and reach those usually unreached?

There are quite a few reasons why Christian films, overall, tend to be plain bad. For starters, we are dealing with Hollywood–not the most moral nor faith-based of industries.

Secondly, Christians demand “Christian movies.” Why? I guess so that they have something to do on a Friday night or to have a selection to show to kids at home or in youth group.

Dallas Jenkins, an Evangelical, who also happens to be a movie reviewer sums it up brilliantly:

Message films are rarely exciting. So by their very nature, most Christian films aren’t going to be very good because they have to fall within certain message-based parameters. And because the Christian audience is so glad to get a “safe, redeeming, faith-based message,” even at the expense of great art, they don’t demand higher artistic standards.

As a result, Christian films take place in some kind of alternate reality in which no one swears, no one smokes, no one gets angry, no one really struggles, and certainly no one struggles with sin. It’s like a big ball of cotton candy; sugary, sweet, pink and fluffy.

The hubster and I dream about starting a film production someday, but in the meantime I hope someone out there in movie land gets their act together and decides to produce an award winning Christian film (and Movie of the Year awarded by your local moms Bible study doesn’t count). I long to see a film that underscores our need for Jesus without diluting the story of people’s lives within it….a movie that acknowledges the hardships in life, not one that ignores them altogether. And certainly a movie that doesn’t sell Christianity as the solution to all problems or the way to an easy life.

How about a film that sells Jesus as the King and nothing less. A film that demonstrates our need for Him, actually everyone’s need, and captures (as best as humanly possible) the power of His love. And a film that stars Brad Pitt or George Clooney (I’m just saying…) That’s the movie I want to see and no doubt many others would too.

So if you’ve got an idea for a rockin’ Christian film, get to writing. The world needs your screenplay.

Do you think film is a good or not-so-good-way to evangelize? Why or why not? Why do you think Christian films are lame? Or do you happen to love them?  

Nicole Cottrell Nicole Cottrell is trained in the fine art of button-pushing. She uses her skills daily on Modern Reject where she writes about the intersection of faith and culture as well as the unpopular stuff no one else likes to talk about. Nicole is a speaker, writer, discipler, and coffee fanatic. She and her husband planted the Foundation, a network of house churches in Arizona. Nicole lives in Scottsdale with her husband and two little munchkins, three of the coolest and funniest people she knows.

More from Nicole Cottrell or visit Nicole at

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  • Keith Smith

    Yes, I want a film that is more realistic.  It doesn’t have to be shown in church but shown in my house.  And for goodness sake, let’s be honest Christians do cuss.  

    • Virak_Mac

      Hell, yes, we do.

  • Jeffrey M Ford

    Dallas Jenkins also happens to be a filmmaker. Have you seen his films?

    You also fail to mention the enormous costs involved in making a decent feature-length film… the two you mentioned weren’t made on pennies from Heaven, if you know what I mean, lol. Unfortunately Hollywood is paying the bills… or Mel Gibson. The more “widespread” films like the ones out of Sherwood Baptist, are funded independently and by parishioners… yet, I assume, these are the ones you are critical of (as I would point out they can be cheesy and schmaltzy).

    Sherwood Baptist wouldn’t be able to afford a Brad Pitt or George Clooney for their entire film budget. You’ve got to be satisfied with Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin… both actually decent actors in their own rights and will work for what you’re paying, but just not box-office draws.

    I will tell you we’ll get a decent box-office award winning Jewish film as Warner Bros. is courting Steven Speilberg for a big-budget epic on Moses’ life and he seems keen… we as Christians can live vicariously through that one.

    • Andrea Tharp

      That actually explains a lot. If a writer has to work with a very conservative church, they may have to compromise a lot of ideas as to not offend.
      It wasn’t even the acting that bothered me. Sorbo’s acting was actually very good, it was just too many stories going on at one time. A character like the professor would have been an ideal opportunity to look at someone who may have been hurt by so called Christians instead of the mother backstory. That just seemed too simple and lazy.

  • Rob Sorbo

    I think some of Tyler Perry’s movies are accomplishing this. They aren’t afraid to show the ugly side of life and how God redeems it. Unfortunately, the very Christian ones still kinda suck (compared to mainstream movies) and the more mainstream ones don’t have as strong of a Christian message (although still a very positive message).

  • J. Byas

    I think you make valid points but I think there are deeper issues here as well. For instance, since the verbal message of the Gospel is so central in Christian culture, we have lost the ability to appreciate the medium as well as the message. We are not really concerned about the package the gospel comes in, just that the message is loud and clear. In fact, the less “noise” that surrounds the message the better, the more the message stands out (think of Christian music here). This is, by the way, why we are uncomfortable with the fact that our Gospel is packaged in four stories. So we “get rid” of the story and come up with “straightforward” theology textbooks – to get at what the gospels are “really saying.”

    I think until we learn to appreciate the art itself as a witness to the beauty of Jesus, that the form can speak just as much truth as the content, we will continue to make poor music and movies as Christians.

  • Bill_york

    The Left Behind movies were pretty good

    • Virak_Mac

      Can’t tell if sarcastic.

    • OtterMatt

      For the love of all that’s holy, I hope you’re trolling.

  • Evan Forester

    Thanks for writing this, because I totally agree. Christian films should be the best films, because they have the best message. There are ways of telling redeeming stories well, and they don’t have to be made by 100% christian companies either.
    Look at Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. Christian themes, but still a solid movie with a big budget. We need some Christian screenwriters who can do compelling stories that will be picked up by the big companies.

    • Andrea Tharp

      Amazing Grace was another one in that category.

  • Virak_Mac

    As someone said, “I can choose to paint the light, or I can choose to paint what I see because of the light.” 

    In my opinion, we make better art when we choose the latter. For so many Christians in the arts, there’s a pressure to be didactic, rather than descriptive. We’re afraid to tell a complex, nuanced story with rich, realistic characters. Look what happens when we try — other Christians demand a high JPM (Jesus Per Minute) count, and start asking questions like, “Has director/musician/artist X traded their faith for fame?”

    We tend towards the preachy or the sentimental — they score easy points with other Christians, but make neither good art nor a big difference.

    • OtterMatt

      ^This. I’m glad someone else gets it. You can’t make an effective statement using bad art.

  • person

    Old post but the 50’s Samson and Delilah was quite good. Violence was true to story, was well cast (Delilah being properly sinfully hot).

    The problem is this

    1. Hollywood is cheap thrills using any profitable means with no goal sans profit.
    2. Most churches are dull to their own detriment,so scared to offend, so scared to tempt or be tempted they stagnate spiritually and in getting the notice others. They cut the world into good/evil,hero villian and forget to include in the story the grey areas where good does great evil with good intentions/evil sees good,etc… Its a human story and humans won’t want to hear it if you try to carve it up into such simplicity because they can’t relate because thats how NONE of our lives are. Your not going to sell order to the confused.

    I was never taught to relate my own errors to the “villians” in stories. They were sold as some disney jafar,evil scientist with no depth to it. No lessons learned, no impressions left. You really accomplish so much more when you teach the grey instead of masking it in b/w.

    I really think that movie is a good model for how they would need to be. Delilah is the same old vile evil (lame) temptress, the bane of a godly man, but the human element is included and highlighted with the jealousy from the hunt/sister/mary and then the good is shown in remorse from seeing wickedness sown come to and doing her best to amend it with gods help.. Good example of flaw,mercy, righteousness even if only learned from actions of wickedness.. You must allow room for some exaggerations because you have to ask yourself if your preserving a story or trying to accomplish something. Generations change (very obvious fact to see now). Stories have always changed with them as well. I don’t think God is upset each time the fish gets a little bigger or changes from catish to salmon to trout to sardine. Its the message, your the modern messengers and its been dropped in the mud and whitewashed more times than be counted so put your heart in the pen when you fill parts of it. Fear comes in every form but it chokes everything. Let go,let god. Maybe then the creative types will be more willing to pick up on some bible stories with the fear of mobs picketing their theatres and flooding their mail with rants because some innane part of the story was altered a tad like Jezebel having an equally hot twin sister who wasn’t in the story because she was in her bedroom smoking poppy all day but looked good on the screenings is gone.

    • PivotPoint

      Watch Pivotpoint. Just watched it last week, excellent movie. No preaching in your face, but very life-like struggles of everyday people and put together nicely.

  • Dennis Packard

    You think Christian movies suck because they are un-realistic
    and cheesy! The real reason they suck is they are made for very little
    money. The sad fact is that most people
    think like you. They think the film needs to be Hollywood produced in order for
    it to be worthy of your attention. George Clooney! Really? You need to understand one huge fact, FILMS
    COST MONEY! Once you have actually produced a film and worked for 20 or so
    weekends using volunteers with only a prayer and a few thousand bucks, you
    would understand how difficult it is. With a good story, great directing, cinematography,
    acting, marketing and distribution deals, any Christian film has a fair chance
    of becoming a success. But it takes
    MONEY! Put your money where your mouth is;
    cough up $500,000.00 for just the pre-production and another 5 for the
    production, then another for the post production and if your smart and hire the
    right people, you could be rivaling anyone in Hollyweird. Most struggling Christian filmmakers make
    films for the glory of the Lord, at the same time trying to establish themselves
    as a director, producer or cinematographer in order to get the funds to make
    the next film just a little better. Pay attention to their cheesy little films,
    they deserve respect because they are doing it and you are not.

    • OtterMatt

      You really don’t get it. NONE of what you just mentioned will turn a bad movie into a good one. These movies we’ve been bombarded with the last few years have been plagued with bad-to-the-core writing, and you can’t save that no matter how good your production values are. Writing a cast of unsubstantiated stereotypes isn’t hard to do, and it’s impossible to make a good film out of it.
      I’ve seen better stories turned out every year by the local film festival here in Austin, all of which are EXPLICITLY Christian in their messages, so don’t tell me you need a budget.

      • Dennis Packard

        What do you think I don’t get? A good story that is made into a great film takes lots of time and talent. Yes you can make a good film with a limited budget, which proves my point. However, if you cant get at least the minimum audience expectations covered, it’s just a good idea that fails due to the lack of production value, i.e. money! Sounds like you are agreeing with me here. I never indicated that making a bad idea into a good film takes simply money. Of course the script is at the top of the list. An accomplished screenplay writer who has real talent usually knows that by now. All it takes is paying him or her write the thing! Then after that a talented filmmaker is needed to know if it’s any good, then do rewrites. Once he gets the script in a presentable mode, then he gets to go out and find the money to make the film. (Oh joy!) Getting the money is also expensive, if you are not established in the business of raising funds. Believe me, a decent budget is the next most important element after the good screenplay.

      • Andrea Tharp

        yes yes yes! “God’s Not Dead” was so badly written it makes me want to take up screenwriting…By the end of the film I had half a dozen changes I would have made to make it better.

        • kitti glisson

          ONLY half a dozen? Haha, I’m guessing you’re counting each character as a “change.”

          I loved the message of the movie, and all of its potential. But man, the execution… I was disappointed. The characters were the problem. I liked a couple of characters and I looked forward to their parts whenever they came on-screen. I had high expectations for the rest, but I had already figured out from the beginning how each character would end their story, and it was all based on stereotypes.

          Money was most certainly not their issue. The creative writing process in making the characters was not terribly creative at all.

          • Andrea Tharp

            I know right? The directions each character’s story took were as predictable as a Chick Tract – with one exception. I was expecting Dean Cain’s “Big Bad Businessman” to die in a fiery crash.
            Mad at God professor walks in front of car and leads to last minute conversion…really?

          • kitti glisson

            What I heard was that it was based on a true story, and if that is true and this part is true to the story… I wouldn’t be so upset about the random car accident, but they just didn’t build up anything in the professor to show that at any time his heart was in conflict about what he was learning about from his student. We as viewers needed time to witness the process of change in him. This “Death ex-machina” moment just doesn’t work without any form of setup.

          • kitti glisson

            Well okay, the “ex-machina” part obviously implies a lack of setup… But you get what I mean. XD

  • Guest

    I love biblical epic films (especially the ones they made in the 50s – so cool and retro). However, I think Christian filmmakers waste a lot of time and effort trying to produce live action films that will appeal to a broad audience of adults. Occasionally, a big successful film comes along, like “The Blind Side,” but it’s rare, like a winning lottery ticket. Frankly, most adults won’t be moved to adopt your worldview. Children are more open to messaging, as any advertising company will tell you. That’s why they brand things like cigarettes using cartoon Camels, to appeal to an ever younger and younger audience. You’re much better off producing animated feature films for kids. Better yet, take a series like “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” Ignore for a moment the criticisms it has received in some circles, and look at what it really does: it galvanizes a fan base of youth, who are drawn to it not only for it’s beautiful animation, complex characters and storytelling, but also that every episode also teaches lessons about friendship and kindness and how to be a good person. Hello?!?!? There is a huge hunger (among children and teens) for this kind of morally-driven content, but when was the last time a Christian film company produced a really popular animated series like this? The only one I can think of off-hand there right now is VeggieTales, which doesn’t have the same kind of anime styling in the visuals — part of the huge appeal of MLP FIM. Instead of studying “why Christian movies suck,” it would be better to think about why more Christian film companies don’t dedicate more budget to producing high quality anime.

    • Andrea Tharp

      Well there was that entire boat full of animals….

  • Melany Perkins

    The first movie that got me thinking about God was The Sound of Music, next it was Star Wars, then, The Matrix. A few years ago, my teenage daughter suggested we watch a movie on Netflicks together called Ink. I looked at the pic and remarked, “That looks like a horror film, you know I’m not into that.” She persisted, “It’s not like that, it has a really good message; trust me you’ll love it.” I agreed just happy my teen wanted to spend time with me. I was blown away. It was the best movie on spiritual warfare I’ve ever seen. I did some research and discovered it was the work of a filmmaker named Jamin Winans. He and his wife started a company called Double Edged Films. It somehow we know how) made it into the big time (Netflicks). Unfortunately, for whatever reason, most likely $, they haven’t done much since and are trying to survive on the residual success of Ink. Point is, it got my 16 yr old’s attention. If it was marketed as a “Christian” film, I wouldn’t be posting here ’cause that cool moment with my daughter and the impression the film made would never have happened. God is not going to limit himself to what people think is Godlike. Let’s let his Spirit move and stop getting in the way. And Nicole, keep pushing those buttons, somebody has to ;)

    • OtterMatt

      I’m adding it to my queue now. This I need to see for myself. Thanks for the tip!

  • Logan Judy

    I don’t think we need profanity in order to make a Christian film good. It would be absurd to have further temptation for people to stumble when they go to see the movies that we’ve made, which would completely undo what our purpose should be in the first place. That said, however, there’s something in what you’ve said that I think really hits the nail on the head.

    The feel-good kind of Christian entertainment that we’ve become accustomed to does, as you say, create an alternate reality where it’s almost as if evil doesn’t actually exist. I’ve heard, and I’m sure you have to, about amazing stories where God has rescued someone from a drug addiction, alcohol, a porn addiction, and other harmful and addictive lifestyles. How inspiring would a film like that be? (and if you doubt that you could make an appropriate film about porn addiction, look at how Fireproof did it. It’s completely doable) Or, what about a film about the militant atheist who studies himself to faith? That’s happened, as well. I know a man like that myself. Why aren’t we exploring those stories?

    The day that we start making films about those inspiring stories instead of focusing on safe and feel-good is the day that we will make a far greater difference in the culture. Non-Christians want to be rescued from addictive lifestyles. Jesus is the answer. And to the one who is truly seeking the truth about how the world began, God is the answer. But if we never address their questions, we can never give them the answer.

  • CarrieLynn

    I do like clean movies with no sex and no cursing. I can just go to the mall here in California & hear & see all kinds of perversion. I got saved so that I could be transformed into the image of Christ, not so that I could keep acting like the old unregenerate sinner that I used to be.

    • Andrea Tharp

      Some of the most hurtful, nasty things ever said to me didn’t involve one curse word. Even classic films don’t need swearing. If they wrote the dialogue well enough, nobody would notice its absence

  • Kevin Herrin

    Let’s face it, the Christian culture has to be the hardest group to make meaningful content for. You are damned if you do or if you don’t. Some want edgier movies so you add cursing and some violence now you’ve alienated a majority of the Christian base. I think the problem is that we are our own worst enemy. We are OK with watching Hollywood films for entertainment’s sake but when we watch a Christian film we watch with a different set of glasses. Making great films, Christian or otherwise, isn’t about stuff like swearing, sex,violence or even doctrines, it’s a about telling a great story. As Christians we have the greatest story to tell and we need to be flooding the culture with our own stories.

    • OtterMatt

      I hate to break it to you, but by any critical standard there is, the faith-based community has no knowledge of what a good story is, which is why we get two-hour long sermons where strawmen get knocked down by logical fallacies.

      • Steven Whatley

        I kindly disagree–we in the Christian community have every knowledge of what a good story is. In fact, we have the best story ever told–the life and death of Christ and how he came save us. And that’s not “logical fallacy”–it’s truth from God’s Word!

        • Anythings possible

          It’s this sort of ignorant stubbornness that prevents Christians from understanding what makes a good story. If you call terrible storytelling good and refuse to change your mind you’ll never improve. It’s self explanatory.

          • Lance

            Why so rude my friend? It is just his opinion.

        • Andrea Tharp

          That’s what’s so frustrating to me about Christian films.The characters in them are usually perfect (Fireproof being the exception) Noah wasn’t perfect. Abraham, Issac, Jacob all had spectacular failures. If the writer of Bible isn’t afraid of his children having failures, why can’t a screenwriter that serves him do the same?

  • Ben Steinke

    The trouble with deleting profanity, sex, and violence from a Christian film is that it merely confirms what Nicole was saying about this alternate reality that simply does not mesh with what REALLY HAPPENS in our world. The fact that Christians are far more offended by these things than they are by rampant hunger, police brutality, Wall Street/banker criminality and fraud, and GMOs in our food (just to name a few examples) doesn’t say very much about them. It is always better to portray the world is it REALLY IS than to portray the world as some people WISH IT WAS.

  • Jim Shepard

    Thanks for an intelligent and insightful article. Have you never seen Denis Arcand’s wonderful film Jesus of Montreal? It has to rank at the top of your list of great films about the meaning of Jesus. It will make you cry. But good tears.

  • DisasterMovieGuy meteorapocaly

    Do you guys love the horror movie section? Because I am the biggest horror fan of all time, and films in general.

  • OtterMatt

    The problem with Christian cinema is that everything has been turned into a soft, toothless hugbox—an echo chamber for the pew-warmers to come and feel good about everything they already feel good about without being challenged in any way.

    As far as where good religious-themed cinema has gone, I’d say it’s being exported to other countries where faith is worth a damn. Check out “The Secret of Kells” if you want to see a film that treats religion as so inborn to their culture that it doesn’t even need to be defended, it merely speaks for itself. Consequently, it’s also one of the better movies I’ve ever seen.

  • Victoria

    I love watching Christian movies but alot don’t follow the king james bible. So this bring lots or error like making Mary Jesus mother his strength when it comes from his father because that is our example. Then in other movies Jesus don’t have a clue what he is to do. He is our hope that shows us how to pray, to drew strength from the father, and the most important thing is he knew his purpose was the cross. Please make movies that will lead them to Jesus and he will do the rest.

    • Justin Telfer

      I get wanting real connection to the source material, but why the KJV? Wouldn’t getting someone who could read the original Latin, Greek and Aramaic (depending on which gospels you’re basing it on) version accurately and build the script off of that be more preferable and accurate to the message of Christ? And I’m not even a Christian, but I’d like to see some good, artistic Christian (or Muslim or Hindu movies — not Jewish, though. Those are usually pretty good, actually, we have enough), that are actually appealing to a wide audience. Noah was good in that sense, but was definitely a Jewish movie more than a Christian one. I’ve always thought an accurate rendition of Revelations would be stunning just from a visual stand-point.

  • Pluto Animus

    The Passion of the Christ is relentless torture porn, depicting bloody violence in minute detail for two hours.

    Naturally, Christians love it.

  • jaydog

    This author hit it right on the point. Christians are so afraid to step outside of the box in Christian film. Christian films should be exciting and fun to watch while still sending a clear message of truth. And I absolutely agree that Christian films should be more powerful than Hollywood films. Video and film are a tremendous medium to reach others for Christ not to just edify the believers.

  • kitti glisson

    God’s Not Dead is an example of good potential, bad final writing. But I can think of a couple of Christian movies I saw that were actually good. Now, these aren’t going-all-out-with-Hollywood-theatrics movies (but not necessarily bad in any way, either), but the stories themselves were pretty good. I liked Grace Card, and one from the 1970s (I think) called The Cross and the Switchblade was entertaining. Kids in gangs and doing drugs, so obviously they weren’t afraid of showing the real world, and they did it in a tasteful fashion (by 1970s standards). I’m interested in seeing Fireproof, and hoping it’s as good as it looks to be.

    But yeah, I would love to see more Christian movies that are written with more creativity and less fear. You don’t have to show all the explicit material; it can still be plenty good without it.

  • Vits/Vicente Torres

    “Do you think film is a good or not-so-good-way to evangelize?”. That’s the main problem. There’s a difference between a movie with a message and a propaganda movie. In order to make a good Christian movie, the filmmakers shouldn’t try to convert the audience. They should show the good aspects of religion (and the bad ones, to contrast), so that the viewer can decide for him/herself whether he/she wants to convert. That’s why I liked NOAH.

    There ARE Christians in the biz. The thing is that they tend to love God and hate fanatics, so they make fun of the latter in their movies. A good example of this is LIFE OF BRIAN. Jesus appears very quickly and he’s shining. That’s because the Monty Python gang had nothing against him. That’s another thing that religious filmmakers have to do: Not be afraid of self-criticism.