These films about faith garnered praise from audiences and critics alike.
The release of the new film Jesus Revolution has scored well with audiences and exceeded expectations at the box office. Critics have generally endorsed the faith-based drama, with the film hovering just above a "Fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes.
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Movies dealing with faith can be challenging to evaluate, especially from a critical angle. But as films that deal with themes of Christianity have become more popular in recent years, many have scored well on Rotten Tomatoes with both audiences and critics.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Mass is the story of one conversation that takes place entirely in a church basement. Two sets of parents that are connected by tragedy meet in an attempt to heal from the deaths of both of their sons. And while the setting is simple, the movie deals with the incredibly heavy issues of blame, guilt, and reconciliation. The movie is the directorial debut of Fran Kranz, who also wrote and directed.
Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton all give moving performances of parents dealing with grief and hurt. The four of them create a lasting tension in the room together that makes trudging through their feelings difficult and volatile.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
First Reformed deals with crises of faith. Ethan Hawke plays Father Toller, pastor of a historic church in upstate New York with a dying congregation. Amanda Seyfriend plays Mary, a pregnant woman worried about her husband, a man consumed by the thoughts that the earth will become uninhabitable for their child due to climate change. These characters come together, dealing with the weightiness of their personal lives, local politics, and a worldwide existential threat.
The most marvelous thing about this film are the two main characters, played by Hawke and Seyfried. They're calm and understated, yet carrying the weight of the world within themselves. Yet this resonates as a human experience. Humans carry on in the face of death, loss, failure, uncertainty, and fear. These two characters look to Christianity for answers, but the answers don't come easily.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Women Talking is just what it sounds like. The film centers around a conversation between female representatives of a Mennonite community in Bolivia who must decide together how to respond to a crisis in their community. Over a period of four years, the women have been attacked in the night by certain unknown men in their community. They have a small window of time when the men are away from the colony and the women must decide to — should they run, fight or do nothing?
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This movie grapples with the question so many Christians deal with: What happens when I'm suffering and God is silent? Working out the answer to this question is exquisitely achieved in this film, which calls itself "a work of female imagination." The cast and crew was made up of nearly all females, with particularly excellent performances by Claire Foy and Rooney Mara. In the end, the women make their decision communally. They share their stories, their angers and their hurts. In the end they do come to a decision, and while they know it's right, it doesn't mean it's easy.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Calvaryfollows the story of a sincere, yet imperfect priest seeking to minister to a town that is burdened by sin and doubt. After an anonymous source warns Father James will pay for the sins of other priests with his life, the weight of the problems of the town seem to grow, and it seems there is a limit to the reconciliation Father James is able to usher in. Brendan Gleeson plays the priest Father James perfectly.
The film provides an interesting premise, rather than telling a story of a bad priest in a good world, this is the story of a good priest in a bad world. The values of forgiveness and restoration are strong, though they are always contrasted with despair and melancholy.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, an American who served in the army during World War II, but refused to handle a rifle or work on Saturdays because of his faith as a Seventh Day Adventist and pacificist Christian. Regardless, Doss enlisted in the army as a medic following the attack on Pearl Harbor. After enduring beatings, verbal assault and nearly being discharged from the army, the film culminates with Doss being accepted by his fellow soldiers, and saving 75 men at Hacksaw Ridge.
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Andrew Garfield is known for taking on roles that explore faith and meaning, and this is a prime example. Directed by Mel Gibson, the intensity of the war scenes he captures offer a stunning backdrop to witness Doss's unwillingness to bear arms.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Director Terrence Malick's Tree of Lifeis arguably one of the first and biggest mainstream films to deal with the concept of faith, pulling explicitly from the Bible, especially the book of Job. The movie follows the adult Jack O'Brien, played by Sean Penn as he reflects on his childhood, his parents being played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain.
One of the most theologically profound aspects of this movie is the attention it gives to two opposing forces of humanity: the way of grace and the way of nature. The adult Jack O'Brien feels both of these forces within himself as he remembers his childhood. His mother who is kind, nurturing and patient, embodies the way of grace. His father who is short-tempered, restless and at times cruel, exemplifies the way of nature. The adult Jack tries to work out who he is as these dual forces battle within him, like they do for all of us.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Silence is the movie Martin Scorcese waited over twenty years to make. It's the story of two Jesuit priests, played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, who go on a rescue mission to Edo-era Japan to rescue their mentor, played by Liam Neeson. Their mentor, Ferreira, is rumored to be dead or worse — to have renounced his faith. In their search, the two men experience persecution, hunger, and despair.
This film is clearly a labor of love for Scorcese. It's visually stunning, with sweeping shots of the Japanese coasts and forests. More intimately, Scorcese is able to showcase human suffering, loneliness, and hope (or the lack of it) through these characters.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
A Hidden Life is based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector during World War II, who refused to fight for the Nazis when they recruited soldiers from his small Austrian town. His fate is written on the wall, but the audience takes the journey with him, as he wrestles with his conscience, talks with his wife, and consults his local clergy about his moral dilemma. The punishment for not fighting is clear, but Franz accepts his death with sadness to lose his family but joy at having obeyed his Creator.
Directed by Terrance Malick, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful films ever made. There are wide, expansive shots of the family farm nestled in the Austrian mountains. We see the vastness of the country and also witness the intimacy between a husband and wife. We know that Franz's character has changed from how he was as a young man, but the struggle the audiences sees is more simple: the struggle to follow his conviction. Once he realizes that he cannot fight in the war, he is resolved. And while his bravery is simple, the audience sees the cost of his courage, culminating in his death.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
I Can Only Imagine is a biographical drama about the real life of Bart Mallard, lead singer of the band MercyMe. The film traces Bart's childhood in Texas, his abusive relationship with his father, and their eventual reconciliation. Dennis Quaid and Cloris Leachman are the heavy-hitters of the cast, but Broadway performer J. Michael Finley gives a moving performance as Bart and handles all of his singing.
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Because of its autobiographical nature, this story is intensely personal and resonated deeply with fans. It also just has great music, and the popular MercyMe song "I Can Only Imagine" gets to be appreciated on a deeper level, as fans now know the origin story, not only of the singer, but also the song.
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Jesus Revolution is inspired by the true story of a Christian revival that took place in the late 1960s in southern California, led by, of all people, hippies. The story follows the intersecting narratives of Greg Laurie, Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee, all leaders and pastors in this movement where thousands of people in California started following Jesus, leading to thousands more across the country in subsequent years.
The three men playing these roles also couldn't be more different. Greg Laurie is played by relative newcomer Joel Courtney, whose biggest role previously was as a child actor in Super 8. Chuck Smith is played by Kelsey Grammer, well-established in Hollywood and on television. Fans of Christian media will recognize Jonathan Roumie who plays Lonnie Frisbee from his role as Jesus in The Chosen. It's the differing paths of these actors and ultimately their characters that create the perfect storm for revival to occur in this story.
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