Here is a list of 20 secular movies that teach Christian values compiled by Michael Foust, ChristianHeadlines.com and published on Crosswak.com.
NOTE: Most of these films are appropriate for the whole family, but there are some that should be watched only by mom and dad.
Fifty-three slaves lead a revolt against a Spanish ship, “La Amistad,” that ends up on United States soil. They then are arrested and accused of murder and piracy – charges that bring the death penalty – when ex-President John Quincy Adams, no longer in office, takes their case. Based on a true story and set in 1839, Amistad is sprinkled with biblical references and rightly shows that most abolitionists were Christian. It’s also full of Christian themes, including protecting the vulnerable and standing up for what’s right, even when it’s not popular. This movie is not for children, though.
It’s rated R for some scenes of strong brutal violence and some related nudity.
2. Bridge of Spies
A Soviet spy is caught in the U.S. during the heart of the Cold War. A hesitant U.S. attorney then is given the task of representing him. It’s a movie full of scriptural themes. Every life matters – even guilty ones. In fact, all of us need a defense. The movie ends with a prisoner exchange that has biblical parallels. Tom Hanks stars as the attorney in Bridge of Spies, which is based on a true story from 1957. Mark Rylance, who plays the Soviet man, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
It is rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language.
Despite being released in 2013, it remains one of the most popular movies among many children, especially girls. Thankfully, it also has strong biblical parallels. The story follows Princess Elsa, who has magical powers that allow her to create snow and ice. But because she cannot control her powers, she runs away from her sister Anna to live in a self-made ice palace. Anna, though, continues pursuing her sister and in the film’s final act, sacrifices her life just as Elsa is about to be killed. It’s a parallel to Scripture that might be worth discussing with your youngest Frozen fans.
It’s rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.
4. Horton Hears a Who
Horton is a jovial elephant who believes that an entire colony of tiny people are living on a tiny speck sitting atop a clover. Everyone else thinks he’s crazy, but that’s OK. As he says: “A person's a person, no matter how small.” Christianity was unique in the ancient Roman world for its belief in the sanctity of all persons. Horton Heart a Who affirms that, in its own unique way. Christianity also was different from many religions in its belief that God was real, even if you couldn’t see Him. Horton Hears a Who helps children understand that lesson, too. (The 2016 film Pete’s Dragon has a similar theme.)
5. The Hunger Games films
When the first Hunger Games movie hit theaters in 2012, I was among the Christians who were upset by the plot. But once I watched it and understood the point that author Suzanne Collins was making in her novels about violence in the media, I became a fan. The dystopian movies are set in the future and tell the story of an annual event in which children fight to the death in a nationally televised reality program. In The Hunger Games, a little girl named Primrose Everdeen is chosen for the event when her older sister – the bold and brave Katniss Everdeen – voluntarily takes her place. Katniss then leads a rebellion to end the games. The movies include messages about love, sacrifice and opposing evil.
All are rated PG-13.
6. The Hiding Place
Corrie ten Boom and her family are Christians living in Hollard under Nazi rule who believe the law of God is greater than the law of man. Because of that, they defy the Nazis and hide as many Jews as possible. The Hiding Place is a 1975 film based on ten Boom’s own book about her experiences under Nazi rule and in concentration campus. It’s a classic true life story about forgiveness, obeying God rather than man, and finding joy and contentment in the midst of adversity.
7. Les Misérables
Frenchman Jean Valjean is released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread and for trying to escape, but he still can’t escape his past because of his record. A priest then shows him kindness and helps him get his life back on track. This 2012 film is based on the 19th-century novel by Victor Hugo and is packed with gospel themes: grace, mercy, and forgiveness among them.
The film is rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence, and thematic elements.
8. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Young Frodo Baggins and his friends have one task: Destroy the infamous evil ring of Middle Earth--but something strange keeps happening. They’re constantly lured to it, despite been warned of its power. Scripture has a similar message about sin. Ever since Adam and Even fell into temptation in the Garden of Eden, we’ve been drawn to evil, despite knowing it can’t bring us joy. The Lord of the Rings doesn’t have as many parallels to the gospel as seen in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but its message about temptation is one all of us should learn.
9. Walk the Line
Johnny Cash nearly killed himself with a life of hard living – drugs, booze and women – until he found June Carter and then, most importantly, Christ. The 2005 toe-tapping biopic Walk the Line tells us plenty about Cash’s downfall and gives us only a glimpse of his spiritual redemption, although it’s impossible to watch the movie and not cheer him getting a second chance and finding redemption. Cash and his new wife went on to record Gospel albums and even sing in Billy Graham crusades. To learn more about that, you’ll have to do a bit of post-movie research.
It’s rated PG-13 for some language, thematic material, and depiction of drug dependency.
Jesus spent much of his time on Earth defending the socially outcast. The 2017 film Wonder (PG-13) isn’t faith-based, but it, nevertheless, models what Jesus taught us in the Golden Rule: Love others and treat them the way you’d want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Wonder follows a boy named Auggie who is born with facial differences and must navigate life at school. It’s a must-see film for tweens and teens.
The movie is rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language.
It’s the true-life story of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, a Christian woman who was born into slavery as Araminta “Minty” Ross but escaped from the slave state of Maryland to the free state of Pennsylvania at age 27. Tubman, though, wasn’t content in letting her family remain in bondage and returned to Maryland more than a dozen times to rescue them and others.
Harriet includes multiple Christian themes: opposing evil, standing for what is right, and finding hope in the Lord. It’s a pro-life film that affirms the “Imago Dei” of every person. It also doesn’t hide her faith.
Rated PG-13 for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets.
12. The Greatest Showman
A desperate businessman named Phineas risks his fortune to open a circus-like show with “Unique Persons and Curiosities” – that is, people who otherwise would be teased and shunned.
His cast includes a bearded woman who can sing, a short man who rides a horse, and an individual known as the world’s “heaviest man.” The Greatest Showman is a musical loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum that delivers a strong Bible-based message: Every life matters. “Our own mothers were ashamed of us (and) hid us our entire lives … You gave us a family,” one of the circus members tells Barnum. It celebrates friendship. It spotlights love.
The film’s core message is also a message for the church, which has a mandate from God to welcome society’s outcast.
Rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl.
13. Hacksaw Ridge
A man named Desmond Doss volunteers as a medic for World War II but refuses to carry a gun due to his strict Seventh-day Adventist beliefs.
At first, his request is rejected, yet his persistence wins the day and he is sent to the Pacific theater, where he serves in one of the war’s bloodiest battles: Okinawa. Doss dodges bullets and bombs to save 75 wounded soldiers – an action that earned him the Medal of Honor.
Some moviegoers consider Hacksaw Ridge a pacifist film, yet its biggest theme involves self-sacrifice. Doss was willing to die so others could live. That’s a message rooted firmly in Scripture.
Hacksaw Ridge is rated R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence, including grisly bloody images, and language.
14. A Hidden Life
A hard-working Austrian farmer, Franz Jägerstätter, refuses to fight for Hitler due to his strong Catholic faith.
The film is based on the true-life story of a courageous man who grew deeper in his faith during a decade when his countrymen were growing in their devotion to the Nazis. He opposed Hitler when his local church leaders would not. “If our leaders are not good – if they’re evil – what does one do?” he asked his bishop. “I want to save my life, but not through lies.”
A Hidden Life is a film filled with biblical themes, including opposing evil and standing for righteousness when no one else will. Terrence Malick directed it.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including violent images.
15. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch
An ornery green creature invades the cheerful town of Whoville on Christmas Eve to steal their decorations, presents and happiness, but quickly learns that material stuff wasn’t their source of joy. “He didn’t steal Christmas. He just stole stuff,” resident Donna Who says.
The Grinch is a marvelous animated film that offers our society much-needed Bible-based lessons on materialism, loving others and even redemption. (If the Grinch’s heart can change, then perhaps anyone can, right?) No, it’s not faith-based, but Christian parents can fill in the blanks after the credits roll.
Rated PG for brief rude humor.
16. The Martian
An astronaut who was presumed dead and abandoned on Mars by his shipmates must learn to survive solo while NASA prepares a rescue mission.
This science fiction film starring Matt Damon includes a subtle-yet-profound pro-life message. After all, why would our government spend millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to save one life 48 million miles away? It’s because human life is precious and priceless. Humans are unique, and – unlike the animals – are made in God’s image.
The Martian is rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief male nudity.
17. Chariots of Fire (1981)
A British Olympic sprinter who won’t compete on the Sabbath due to his strong Christian beliefs refuses to run in the 100-meter heats because they’re held on a Sunday. But his devotion to his faith is rewarded when a teammate offers him a spot in the 400-meter race, which he wins to claim a gold medal at the 1924 Summer Games.
Chariots of Fire is based on the true story of Eric Liddell, who was the son of missionary parents and became a missionary himself. Liddell’s devotion to Sabbatarianism is secondary to a more important message: devotion to God. Liddell was willing to throw away years of training to remain true to his Christian faith. Seconds before his gold medal race, a friend hands him a note paraphrasing 1 Samuel 2:30: “He that honors Me I will honor.”
18. Hotel Rwanda
The manager of the most luxurious hotel in the capital of Rwanda turns his building into a refugee camp when a genocide breaks out around him.
Hotel Rwanda is based on the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hard-working Hutu man who was asked to take sides in 1994 when radical Hutus began slaughtering Tutsis. But instead of picking a side, he risks his own life -- and stands up to murderous radicals – to save as many people as possible. His heroics stand out in a genocide that resulted in more than 800,000 deaths.
The film spotlights several biblical themes: defending the helpless, opposing evil, and loving your enemy. (As a Hutu, Rusesabagina was told he should hate Tutsis.)
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief strong language.
A grouchy, aging widower named Carl escapes the city – and a court-ordered demolition – by tying thousands of helium balloons to his house and floating away. His goal is to fulfill a promise he made to his wife to visit a famous waterfall. But he didn’t expect a young Scout named Russell to accidentally tag along.
Up celebrates the sacrificial love within marriage, family and friendship. Carl is driven by love to fulfill a promise he made to his wife. He reaches that goal – yes – but discovers something just as fulfilling before the credits roll. That’s because he becomes the grandfather-like figure Russell never had.
Rated PG for some peril and action.
20. Groundhog Day
A self-centered television weatherman named Phil (Bill Murray) is sent to Punxsutawney, Pa., to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities but soon gets stuck in a “time loop,” waking up on the same day, over and over.
With no consequences for his actions, Phil engages in numerous flesh-pleasing actions – drinking and binge eating, among them – yet quickly learns they bring him no fulfillment. Only by serving others and performing charitable deeds does Phil escape the loop.
Phil never finds salvation – that comes only through Christ – but he discovers a foundational biblical theme: Sin leads to hopelessness and destruction.
Rated PG for some thematic elements.
If you can think of other secular movies with Christian values leave me a comment here or send me an email.