Narnia and other “Christian” Films

Lucy in the Magician's Study Voyage of Dawn Treader
Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Eustace, Edmund, Lucy and Prince Caspian

I happened to be spending a few minutes seeing how the Voyage of the Dawn Treader was doing at the box office and I stumbled across a list of films that were deemed Christian films by the website box office mojo which gives you lists of films and how “successful” they have been.

Amusingly, they have been saying what a flop that the third movie in the Narnia series has been with headlines such as “Dawn Treader sinks” and “Dawn Treader crashes” with them saying that it was doing far worse than the previous film, Prince Caspian. Then they tuck away in a paragraph the line:

With a $242.9 million overseas total and its Japanese debut yet to come, Prince Caspian‘s $278 million final total seems well within Dawn Treader‘s grasp

Now I don’t really mind one way or the other and maybe I was in one of those bemused moods on Sunday night(what with the previous blog posting about zodiac signs)

But what really caught my eye was that Voyage of the Dawn Treader was seen as the 4th highest grossing Christian film of all time. What??????

So, I went to the list.

No. 1 The Passion of the Christ

Then 2,3 & 4 were the three Narnia films.

Lord of the Rings - Arwen

Arwen from Lord of the Rings

Now if we allow the three Narnia films to be specifically Christian films then what about Lord of the Rings???? You only need to read the back plot the Lord of the Rings (the Silmarilon) to get the idea or know that Tolkein wrote it as implicitly religious. Indeed he said of it:

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”

Indeed I don’t recognise many of the works on the list – indeed at number 75 is the “immortal” work “The River within” which grossed a massive $9,811 at the cinema.

But then you look at the list and you see Pride and Prejudice (2003) which, I believe, is a take on Jane Austen’s work (having looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes – a great site if you haven’t come across it) and the Celestine Prophecy (which is definitely not a Christian film). They have missed out A Walk to Remember (which would come in at number 4 in their chart). There is even a case for The Matrix with its Christian imagery.

So maybe what the list is saying is that these are the works that make them feel uncomfortable. That don’t have anywhere else that they want to put them. The bin of films.

But put it the other way. It seems to me that this classification of Christian film is far too limited. There are no doubt some films, such as the BBC’s Nativity, which are obviously Christian. But that still shouldn’t be sufficient for us who are Christian. We want good drama. We want well written, well acted, well directed films.

BBC Nativity Mary


The BBC’s Nativity is also good drama and has an appeal beyond a group wanting to feel good about their faith. Good drama challenges and makes one re-think things and see things in new ways. That’s what Christ did. But just as its easy to create a saccharine Christ its also easy to create saccharine Christian art. Rather I would prefer to see great art informed by the artists faith, even when I might disagree with it.

So fellow travellers. What has been a film that you felt informed your faith. And if you aren’t a person of faith what film represented faith best for you? And why?


7 comments on “Narnia and other “Christian” Films

  1. Rosie Edser
    January 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Definitely “Another Year” (Mike Leigh)… what ‘loving your neighbour’ looks like in practice in real life Suburbia in 2010 or 11.

    Oh and Will you really really can’t have *only* and *read the Silmarilion* in the sentence!

  2. Will Cookson
    January 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    Rosie, do I detect a certain obsessiveness about the Silmarilion by any chance?

    • Rosie Edser
      January 18, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

      no, really! I did enjoy it as part of a course on The Inklings but I remember it being pretty demanding. Wouldn’t want potential fantasy fans to be deterred…

      • Will Cookson
        January 18, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

        “Course” and “Inklings” in same sentence. Case proven!

    • David Silcock
      January 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

      And there I was thinking that Silmarilion was a French white wine!

  3. harveyedser
    January 18, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    If a film’s intelligent, emotionally honest and has integrity, it doesn’t really matter whether or not it’s ‘religious’. There are so many films I’ve found helpful – and not primarily the explicitly ‘Christian’ ones.

    Fiddler on the Roof – one very human Jewish father’s struggles with life, family and faith
    Hotel Rwanda, Cry Freedom, Gandhi, Schindler’s List – all those true-life tales of sacrifice and courage
    Fight Club – violent and disturbing but extremely thought-provoking
    The Green Mile – similar to the Shawshank Redemption, but with an innocent healer who ends up ‘sacrificed’ by sadistic prison guards
    Dead Man Walking – powerful film about a death-row convict
    Life is Beautiful – incredible film about a father’s protection of his son within a Nazi concentration camp
    Creation – poignant film about Darwin’s struggles with faith in the face of his daughter’s death
    … and the list could go on and on.


  1. Narnia and other “Christian” Films | Will Cookson’s Blog – church tech news - January 31, 2011

    […] its also easy to create saccharine Christian art. Rather I would prefer to see … READ MORE: new “christian films” – Google Blog Search Related Reading: Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines Headline Signs® […]

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