2019-02-20

The Prince of Egypt

This 1998 film is a classic when it comes to Christian films for a family movie night. The animated feature retells the story of Moses and the Exodus. As is common with films about the Bible and Moses especially, the movie takes some liberties with the original story in the Bible, but “The Prince of Egypt” still sticks reasonably closely to the story as depicted in Exodus. 

What the film lacks in perfect biblical accuracy, it makes up with emotional impact. The movie drives home the plight of the Hebrews and the joy of their escape from bondage through critically acclaimed animation and music including the touching song “When You Believe” and the powerful call to God that serves as both the opening and closing number, “Deliver Us.” The film is appropriate for all ages and does a wonderful job of bringing one of the best-known biblical stories to life.

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

No list of Christian family movies would be complete without at least one of the films from the “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. Based on C.S. Lewis’ best-selling book series of the same name, “The Chronicles of Narnia” films tell the stories of the mythical and mysterious land of Narnia. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the first film in the series and is commonly accepted as the first book despite C.S. Lewis having later written a prequel novel, “The Magician’s Nephew,” which details the creation of the land of Narnia and the titular wardrobe from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” takes place during World War II and follows four siblings who are evacuated from London. They stumble across the land of Narnia, the entrance to which is hidden in a wardrobe. In Narnia, they meet the evil White Witch and the lion Aslan. When Edmund, one of the children, is threatened by the White Witch, Aslan offers his life in exchange. The White Witch kills Aslan, but he is resurrected and frees those she had turned to stone before helping the armies of Narnia defeat the White Witch. The film has a few violent scenes, such as the final battle and the bombing of London, but would be appropriate for most ages.

It’s a Wonderful Life

“It’s a Wonderful Life” ranks beside “Miracle on 34th Street” as one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time. Released in 1946, this black and white classic has stood the test of time. 

The film follows George Bailey from the time when he saved his young brother’s life as a boy to when he is an adult with children of his own. Throughout the film, George puts others ahead of himself despite talking nearly constantly about his own dreams. He prevents the local pharmacist from accidentally poisoning a child despite being punished for failing to deliver the accidentally poisoned pills. Even though he desperately wants to leave his hometown, he uses the money he has spent years saving for his education to send his younger brother to college after their father suffers a stroke. He listens to his conscience and turns down a lucrative offer from the slimy Mr. Potter as he knows that working for Mr. Potter would allow the man to continue to force citizens of the town to live in slums.  Despite always working to help others, George is unaware of how much of an impact he has had on his town. When everything falls apart, he considers ending his own life but is saved by his guardian angel, Clarence. George refuses to believe that his life has ever been worth anything, so Clarence shows him what the world would be like if George had never been born. In the end, George realizes that he has “really had a wonderful life” and returns home to his family in time for Christmas. The film is a classic and suitable for all ages.

Summer of the Monkeys

Based on the novel of the same name, “Summer of the Monkeys” follows Jay Berry Lee, a young man living in the early 20th century. Jay desperately wants to buy Annie, his favorite horse at Mr. Patterson’s horse ranch. The horse, however, costs $75, and Jay’s family is too poor to afford to spend the money especially as Jay’s younger sister, Daisy, is crippled and needs and expensive operation to be able to walk normally. 

One summer, a quartet of circus monkeys escape and a bounty of $85 is offered for their return. Jay becomes determined that he is going to capture the monkeys and use the money to buy Annie. After a series of false starts, Jay eventually succeeds. In the end, however, he decides to use the money to pay for Daisy’s operation rather than to buy Annie.

The film is a heartwarming tale and suitable for all ages. 

Soul Surfer

Based on a true story, “Soul Surfer” follows Bethany Hamilton, a teenager living in Hawaii and an accomplished surfer. She has excellent instincts for sensing when the biggest and best waves will form and is expected to go far in competitive and professional surfing. All of that is changed, however, when she is attacked by a tiger shark. Bethany loses her left arm and barely survives. 

After recovering, Bethany tries and fails to return to her previous surfing prowess. Angry and dejected, she gives up on surfing. On a mission trip to Phuket, Thailand, however, she is able to use her injury and surfing skills to help children traumatized by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami overcome their fears of the water. Realizing that she can use her story to inspire people, Bethany takes up surfing once again and enters a competition. Her excellent instincts leave her as the only one to catch the final wave, but time runs out and she does not win the competition. When asked if she would undo the loss of her arm if possible, Bethany replies that she would not as she can do more with one arm than she ever could with two. The film is an inspiring story of overcoming difficulties and further proof that everything happens for a reason. The shark attack scene is intense, so the movie might not be suitable for young children.

Ben-Hur

In the event that a family is interested in a more exciting and action-based evening, “Ben-Hur” is a good choice for the evening. There are several versions of this film, including two silent films, an Academy Award winning film from 1959 and a 2016 remake. All are based on the 1880 novel by Lew Wallace, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.”

The various “Ben-Hur” films all follow the fictional Jewish nobleman, Judah Ben-Hur. Judah is betrayed by a childhood friend and found guilty of attempting to assassinate the Roman governor of Jerusalem despite either not being involved in the attempt or the “attempt” being an honest accident depending on the film. Regardless, Judah is sentence to work as a galley slave but later become a chariot racer as he seeks revenge on his former childhood friend and Rome itself. On his quest for revenge, Judah repeatedly encounters Jesus. Judah eventually gives up on his revenge and decides to follow the teachings of Christ. The various films all tend to have a noticeable amount of violence as they are depicting a period of tension and war, but the movies would be appropriate for teens and some older children.

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