New Film “Woodlawn” Makes Me Ask: Why Have Christian Movies Gotten Good?

I love films…I’m a bit of a snob about it. I’m also a Christian…I try not to be a snob about it. I like really good films and I love our really good Savior. So I could name AFI’s top 100 films or talk about “Citizen Kane” (1941) and “The King’s Speech” (2010) but right now I want to talk about Christian films.

I remember growing up and even at six I remember thinking “these are pretty bad.” What I couldn’t articulate into words was that the production value was sub-par, the writing was stilted and un-realistic and the acting usually left much to be desired. I was six but I could tell. I knew the truth of God’s word and I loved the Bible stories I heard in Sunday School and I even kind of felt bad for being judgmental because I knew how Jesus could change lives, but I couldn’t get away from the fact that the Christian movies that were available (on VHS!) were poor excuses for the artistic beauty and creativity of God. Sure there was “Ben Hur” (1959) and “Chariots of Fire” (1981) but those were far and few between. Now I didn’t write this blog to bash all of the production houses and people with good intentions back then; I’m sure there was a struggle with budgets, not to mention overcoming the “devil-is-in-the-airwaves”* mentality of many Christians. But my point is that it has gotten better!

220px-Facing_the_giantsMy first memory of a good Christian film was getting roped into watch “Facing the Giants” (2006) at my parents church. My wife and I went a little begrudgingly thinking that we knew what to expect. But it knocked our socks off. It didn’t matter that it was about football (after all I loved “Remember the Titans”) it was a great story with a convincing gospel message. I had to know who made this! How did they get a studio to sign off? I started researching and come to find out it was a church! Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia created Sherwood Pictures  and with a budget of $100,000 they made an incredible film (that, by the way grossed $10,174,663 in the U.S.). Come to find out prior to that they made “Flywheel” (2003), which I still haven’t seen, but they weren’t done there. Subsequently they came out with “Fireproof” (2008) and “Courageous” (2011). Most recently we watched “War Room” (2015) at our church and I have to say I was again pleasantly surprised. It was such a moving story that both of my kids went home and wrote prayers for their closet (no spoilers, just watch it!) not to mention how the daughters competition turns out surprised me (again, no spoilers). Anyway, I went out and bought a copy for a person I know who doesn’t know Jesus. Great film.

How did this happen? I don’t want to come off as if Sherwood Pictures was our savior but they (at least in my mind) pioneered what it meant to make a good Christian movie. Now it’s 2016, everybody’s phone has a camera and anyone can grab an Adobe Photoshop or iMovie and throw something together. But it still takes a good eye, talented actors and good writing to make something that matters. We’re finally recognizing that a documentary of four college friends trying to figure out what the Christian life looks like in “Beware of Christians” (2011) or the scripted “God’s Not Dead” (2014) are valid and vital ways to communicate Jesus to others.


So now I’ve been hearing buzz about this film “Woodlawn.” It’s a true story about a high school in Birmingham Alabama in 1973 when forced integration created crazy conflicts. I’ve heard it’s the greatest Christian film ever made. Is it? I haven’t seen it yet but our church is showing it this Friday (3/25) night. So if you want to come to House of Grace in Hemet (4000 E. Florida Ave) at 6:30PM see for yourself!

But if you can’t come out then rent it and tell me what you think (in the comments below).

Mark Merrill hosts “Family First Podcast” and interviewed producer Jon Erwin (October Baby, Mom’s Night Out) about “Woodlawn” – Listen here. The podcast gives a description of the movie and some “behind the scenes” details on this incredible real-life story about how Jesus changed not only a high school but an entire town.

LEAVE A COMMENT! I don’t see a lot of Christian movies, what are some worth my time? What are the good ones that actually tell people the truth of Jesus while maintaining artistic integrity, award worthy cinematography and are technologically ground-breaking?


*When radio was first used for Christian broadcasts there was more opposition from believers than from secular groups because the Christians feared radio (quoting that Satan was the ‘prince of the power of the air’ [Ephesians 2:2])! Listen to my Early Church History Series by clicking here.