Netflix binging will no doubt accompany many summer vacations, but who says that much couch time can’t have a little substance? From lesser known Indie flicks to Hollywood’s most successful Blockbusters, many movies unexpectedly point to God’s grace and redemption. Check out these five films, available on Netflix, Amazon, or your local video store, that might be more spiritual than you think.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
PG-13 | Drama
José (Eduardo Verástegui) was a rising, international soccer star on his way to sign a multi-million dollar contract when a terrible accident landed him in prison and ended his career. Now a cook at his brother’s restaurant, he befriends Nina (Tammy Blanchard), a beautiful waitress struggling to make it in New York City. When Nina discovers she’s pregnant and left to raise the child alone, she faces a difficult decision.
Bella follows the pair as they wander the streets of New York City, contemplating the value of life and the importance of supportive relationships. José introduces Nina to his family, showing her that support and unconditional love can help her through life’s most difficult challenges. As he helps Nina embrace her future, José is finally able to confront his past, and he makes an important decision that forever links their lives.
Bella gently addresses the issues of life, choice, and adoption through a story of healing and atonement. It is a picture of, as one reviewer calls it, “true love that goes beyond romance,” and God’s promise in Romans 8:28 that he “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (NLT).
Author’s Note: Get ready for some meaningful, post-movie discussion.
FOR THE KIDS (AND MAYBE MOM AND DAD TOO)
PG | Animation, Adventure
Chris Bruck and Jennifer Lee
Haunted by guilt and shame, the newly-crowned Queen Elsa isolates herself in a tower, trying to suppress her magical power to create ice and snow—an ability which nearly killed her younger sister, Anna, in a childhood accident. As Elsa’s self-loathing builds, she loses control of her magic, avalanching her kingdom into an eternal winter. Elsa fears she is a monster, beyond help or hope, and pushes away anyone who loves her as a way to both punish and atone for her past mistakes.
Fearless and optimistic Anna sets off on a journey to save her kingdom and help Elsa at any cost. Anna scales mountains and struggles against magic to prove to her sister that no one is beyond redemption, and that true love means willingness to sacrifice everything.
Frozen departs from the typical “True Love’s Kiss” theme of fairytales. Instead, it demonstrates the kind of selfless, unconditional love spoken of in the Bible’s first Book of John, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (4:18), and parallels the story of Jesus, in which he sacrificed his own life to save a broken and helpless people.
Author’s Note: Every Christian is talking about how Christian this movie is. Let It Go.
PARLE VOUS FRANCES?
The Intouchables (2011)
R | Biography, Comedy, Drama
Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Phillipe (François Cluzet) is a wealthy quadriplegic, interviewing candidates to be his full-time caretaker, when Driss (Omar Sy), a young, ex-con from the projects, shows up. Driss dismisses the interview. He asks Phillipe to sign his unemployment papers to prove he is seeking a job in order to keep his benefits. Phillipe is intrigued by Driss’s disregard for Phillipe’s social standing and lack of sympathy for his disability, and hires him from the pool of more qualified applicants.
The Intouchables tells the true story of the growing bond between two men, who have been pushed to the margins of society: Phillipe is deemed irreparable because of his circumstances, and Driss, irredeemable, through his choices. The two influence and challenge each other in ways that allow them to grow beyond their societal labels and self-protective bubbles. Phillipe’s principles and perspective slowly infiltrate Driss’s fatalistic attitude. Driss’s brash, emboldened nature challenges Phillipe to confront his fears and shortcomings.
The movie illustrates the transformative and healing power of compassion and acceptance, and what can happen when we love those not like us, bless who might harm us, and care for those in need both physically and emotionally (Matthew 25:40).
Author’s Note: You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll barely notice the subtitles.
IS THIS REAL LIFE?
Catfish: The Movie (2010)
PG-13 | Documentary
Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
When New York photographer, Yaniv (Nev) Schulman, receives a painting from a young girl named Abby, depicting one of his photographs, he strikes up an online friendship. Intrigued by the art-inspired correspondence, Nev develops online relationships with the rest of Abby’s family, whom he playfully refers to as “The Facebook Family.” His correspondence with Abby’s older sister, Megan, turns romantic. But as her story unfolds, Nev discovers troubling inconsistencies that lead him on a road trip to her doorstep to find out who she really is.
Catfish is a documentary capturing the online phenomenon of long-distance relationships built on false identities. Nev’s approachability and genuine interest in “The Facebook Family” is captivating, and trumped only by his gentle and compassionate confrontation of his deceiver. In 2012, MTV developed the spinoff Catfish: The TV Show, in which Nev helps people confront their online offenders and reconcile relationships. Catfish is a real-life, relatable illustration of grace, and what Jesus meant when he taught us to “forgive those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12).
Author’s Note: It’s liberty and restorative justice for all.
COMEDY MEETS GOD
Bruce Almighty (2003)
PG-13 | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) seems to have it all: a successful career as a local television reporter and a happy, long-term relationship with his beautiful girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Aniston). But Bruce wants more. When he gets passed over for his dream promotion to anchorman, his discontent boils over on camera, and he loses his job.
Bruce rages against God, accusing him of neglecting his duties and seeking pleasure in Bruce’s misfortune. God (Morgan Freeman) appears to Bruce and endows him with his powers, challenging him to “do better.” As Bruce takes on the role of God, he uses his new powers to satisfy himself, only to discover that being The Man In Charge is more difficult than he thought. His self-indulgence costs him what he desires most: Grace. And he learns the difficult truth of free will when he cannot, even with God’s power, make her love him.
Bruce Almighty is not a theological masterpiece. Rather, it’s a fundamental lesson of God’s presence in our lives, and a tongue-and-cheek exposition of us all, in our infancy of faith. It smashes the idea of God as “Genie in a Bible” and teaches that God is loving, desires for us to care for those in our lives, and is always “near to all who call on him” (Psalm 145:18). As Bruce discovers, true satisfaction is found in gratitude, selfless love, and abounding grace.
Author’s Note: It’s funny. It’s heartfelt. It’s B-E-A-UTIFUL.