It’s the last day to unveil our nominations, and we’ve saved the most spiritual for last. Christian movies are getting better with each passing year, and this year’s crop of nominees suggests the variety we’re seeing from them—from historical epics to modern dramas to the story of a bestselling song.
As always, chime in with your own thoughts. Pick your favorite among our nominees or, if you think we whiffed on one, choose your own. Let us know your own favorites down below, on our Facebook page or on Twitter, if you’re so inclined. You’ll have until Feb. 15 to vote. Winners will be announced Feb. 22.
God Bless the Broken Road: Amber Hill has given up: on her church community, herself and especially on God. After her military husband was killed overseas, she set aside her faith in favor of logic. But her young daughter hasn’t given up on God, and she’s still full of faith. That’s probably why she wants her mom to meet Cody, a cute new guy in town, so they can all move forward together. But Amber will need some supernatural healing before her life falls apart and she loses everything she holds dear. We see a few mildly violent scenes are witnesses and witness a lot of familial and personal conflict here. But those minor caveats aside, this could be a movie that helps some viewers navigate their own broken roads.
God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness: Division and conflict mar and mark our age, and the third God’s Not Dead movie seeks to speak into that cultural reality. Rev. Dave (a character in the previous two installments) seeks to deal with his anger and emotions when the campus church he pastors is burned down. We seem him struggle mightily to trust God in the aftermath, even as a pending lawsuit seeks to seize the church’s property—the church where Dave grew up, the one his father pastored before him. At times, it looks as if Dave’s bitterness may get the best of him. And some of his responses are downright ugly. Though it’s melodramatic at times, the story here moves toward an important message, which I summarized in my review: “Being light in the darkness requires listening and loving. It requires kindness and a willingness to sacrifice our rights. Those are important reminders for us all in the combative cultural moment in which we live, one in which being faithful is just as important—and perhaps even more so—as being a fighter.”
I Can Only Imagine: Sometimes overnight success is a lifetime in the making. And so it was with Bart Millard’s hit song with his band MercyMe, “I Can Only Imagine.” This drama tells Bart’s story—and it’s not an easy one. Young Bart was full of ideas and dreams. But his father’s had all died. And when Bart’s mom can’t take it anymore, she abandons her husband and son. Now Bart’s the only one left for Dad to unleash his bitterness upon. But even though the older man does his best to beat Bart’s “foolish” dreams out of him, Bart persists. He perseveres, pursuing his music—dreams that eventually pay off with him penning the biggest-selling Christian single of all time. Along that emotionally difficult and at times abusive road, both Bart and his father learn lessons about pain and redemption, about brokenness and forgiveness, about grace and second chances.
Paul, the Apostle of Christ: The streets of Rome are illuminated by burning Christians. Countless more are literally thrown to the lions. And the new faith’s greatest evangelist, Paul, is rotting in a Roman prison, counting his days until his own end comes. But Paul’s work isn’t done just yet. Luke, a doctor and writer, comes to visit, wanting to talk with Paul for a book he’s writing, one that’ll become known as Acts. And as they talk—and as a young, ambitious jailer called Mauritius puzzles over what to do with Paul—it becomes clear that Christianity’s story isn’t coming to an end: It’s just beginning. This powerful story from the Church’s early days is well told and well acted. But be warned: Rome can be a violent, deadly place, and we see that as well.
Unbroken: Path to Redemption: Following in the footsteps of the Angelina Jolie-directed story Unbroken, This sequel tells true story of war veteran Louis Zamperini after he returns from a Japanese POW camp at the end of World War II. Consumed by the terrors of his past, Zamperini wrestles to overcome his PTSD and destructive habits while supporting his wife and child. But his weaknesses become increasingly apparent, and he’s overcome by personal defeat—until he attends a Billy Graham crusade and encounters the God of heaven and earth. A few violent dreams are recounted, and Louis has a drinking problem, but all of his past mistakes are washed clean when he meets his Savior.
(All movie capsules written by Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Kristin Smith and Paul Asay.)