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The Movies

Why Movies Matter
The moral, theological, religious, and cultural significance of the movies and why most religiously based rating systems and reviewers just don't get it.

Bad Title; Bad Documentary.

The Da Vinci Code
I liked the book and look forward to the movie. Here I explore the negative reactions of many of my Christian colleagues, and why they just don't get it.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Is This Star Wars The One?
"Star Wars, Episode III, The Revenge of the Sith" may well be the ultimate in the George Lucas series, as it continues to pioneer a new art form: spirituality fiction. Some have compared the sixth and final episode to Shakespeare. No way. For all its battle scenes, its vision is comic, not tragic, as is the core myth of American civil religion which the entire series promulgates.

Million Dollar Baby
One of the best movies of spiritual substance ever made. Here's why.

The Passion of the Christ
Mel Gibson's blockbuster reveals more about the personal faith and passions of the movie maker than about Jesus of Nazareth. And while Gibson is completely entitled to tell the story any way he pleases, he did not present it as his personal take on the gospel narrative; he advertized it as being true to the text. It was not.

The Lord of the Rings As A Christian Classic
R. R. Tolkien wanted to create a literature in which Christianity was implied rather than imposed, suggested rather than preached. He saw the need for speaking truth in fresh, new forms, accessible to those who are put off by official church dogma. In the Rings trilogy, the words "God" or "Christ" never appear, but the reality which these words refer to is communicated in every word and phrase of the text.

Ray: America's Mythic Hero
The Taylor Hackford movie, Ray, casts the singer and song writer as an icon of American civil religion. I commend this compelling film, but the truth about Ray Charles is more complicated.

Lolita: Lessons in Love Gone Wrong
Adrian Lyne's controversial film is not so much about pedophilia, as about an obsessive love that can poison a marriage as well as a relationship between an older man and a child.

The Matrix
The Matrix deals with a central theme of religion: the ultimate fate of life on this planet in the context of a titanic struggle between good and evil. The chief difference between this film and the Bible is the absence here of a transcendent God. Matrix reflects a topless spirituality in which people find salvation by drawing upon a power within themselves. But is this God? You decide.

The End of The Affair
On a rainy night in 1946, novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) begins a journey of discovery. Why did his ex-mistress Sarah (Julianne Moore) abruptly end their passionate love affair two years before? Never have I seen a movie that comes closer to telling it like it is: that a relationship with the Almighty Read Review

The Legend of Bagger Vance
This film conveys something that Christian mystics, Buddhist masters, and others have long understood. Becoming the person you are meant to be involves the sometimes ironic process of letting go of the ego and its needs, dying to the self, so as to enter a deeper relationship with the world, with other people, and with God. A deep truth packaged in the form of a good yarn. Read Review

The Hurricane
This movie centers around the story of the wrongly convicted boxer, Hurricane Carter. But it is neither about boxing, nor even the actual human being whom Bob Dylan brought to national prominence with a 1975 protest song. This movie touches the more fundamental questions that all of us face in our search for freedom and redemption. Read Review

Dogma is one of the most entertaining films ever made about religion. Keep in mind that it's a satire that aims directly at the flaws and pretensions of organized religion. Film maker Kevin Smith's humor is outrageous, so if you are easily offended, this film is not for you. But Smith is teasing us to share in his vision of a God who has a supreme sense of humor! Read Review

Dead Man Walking
The Tim Robbins masterpiece is one of the best films every made on capital punishment. Read Review

Saving Private Ryan
Redemption, of a sort, from the heart of darkness

The Thin Red Line
More than just one of the best war movies every made, this one drives the viewer to a point of mystical illumination.

Shakespeare in Love
Examining the New Religion of Romantic Love

There is enough eye candy here to please those who go to the movies for pure pleasure: the sensuality of Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, the picturesque French village of Lansquenet, and the action that flows in and out of a village church, chocolate shop, medieval castle and surrounding countryside. But this film also works as a parable, offering a formula for the reform of Christianity. Read Review

Fight Club
On September 11, as I watched the towers of the World Trade Center collapse, taking thousands of innocent victims with them, I was reminded of the final scene in this movie. Those who bring down the towers of corporate capitalism in this film are not terrorists from a distant land, but sons of our own, suggesting there may be more than we want to learn when we ask, "Why do they hate us so?" Read Review

Stealing Beauty
Can a film which is so obviously about sensuality also be about the spirit? Can a work of art which celebrates sex also speak of the soul? Can anything as secular as Stealing Beauty also be about the search for God? Using this movie as a case in point, the answer to these questions is obviously, “Yes!” Read Review

American Beauty

What this film reveals even in the midst of an apparently boring suburban culture is, to put it in a word, beauty. Not the simple beauty of appearances, but the deeper beauty that conveys a sense of the ultimate worth of life itself and the mystery that lies behind it. Read Review

The Spitfire Grill

This is a deeply theological film packaged as a feel-good drama. It is set in the down-east village of Gilead where institutional religion may be on the skids, but where the hearts and souls of its central characters are very much alive. As the film unfolds, we are drawn into a drama of sickness and healing, death and resurrection, sin and redemption. The combination works for me! Read Review

Deconstructing Harry
In this engaging Woody Allen film, the central character is a writer who embodies what Allen refers to as "my philosophy of life."

October Sky
There are two parables in this coming of age film; one intended, the other implied.


Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.