Diogo Morgado plays Jesus in 20th Century Fox's "Son of God." Photo courtesy of Lightworkers Media

Diogo Morgado plays Jesus in 20th Century Fox’s “Son of God.” Photo courtesy of Lightworkers Media

The Bible narrative has always been one heck of a story. It reads like a mix of action thriller, period drama, romance novel, and the more apocalyptic parts, like pure fantasy. The gripping narrative sections of the text are part of the reason why the Bible is the bestselling book of all time.

But in 2014, we’ll discover if the Good Book is as captivating on the modern day silver screen as it is in print.

The scrappy Christian film industry has been budding for the last several years, proving that people of faith are hungry for content that speaks to the soul. But what many religious films possess in terms of spiritual content, they often lack in star power and budgets. This year, however, big studios such as Sony and Lionsgate are entering the fray by releasing films of, well, biblical proportions. To wit:

“Son of God” | 20th Century Fox (February 2014)
Reality TV pioneer Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey, shocked the world last year when their History Channel series “The Bible” set cable TV records. Now, the Christian power couple has taken footage from that series and partnered with 20th Century Fox to create “Son of God,” a film about Jesus’ life that will doubtlessly attract churchgoing Americans. As the first film on this list to release, it may be helpful box office barometer for the others.

“Noah” | Regency Enterprises (November 2014)
A flood of publicity has already been created around the “Noah” film and its impressive $130 million budget. The cast includes Russell Crowe, as the sailor himself, as well as Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson. Darren Aronofsky of “Black Swan” fame directed the movie. If the trailer is any indication, it should be visually stunning while taking massive artistic liberties in creating details not found in the biblical narrative.

“Heaven is For Real” | Sony Pictures (April 2014)
Though not technically a biblical movie, Sony Pictures’ “Heaven is For Real” must also be mentioned because it will likely riff on popular Bible themes such as heaven, Jesus, and salvation. The film is based on the New York Times bestselling book by the same name and stars Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilley, and Thomas Haden Church. This story of a little boy’s life-after-death experience is not so coincidentally scheduled to release just before Easter.

“Exodus” | 20th Century Fox (December 2014)
Twentieth Century Fox has kept a tight lid on Ridley Scott’s “Exodus.” All we know is that the film is an adaptation of the biblical story of the ancient Israelite people’s liberation from Egypt. Christian Bale will star as Moses, and Sigourney Weaver will co-star. Critics won’t be able to help themselves from comparing the film to the 1956 movie “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston. The question will be whether this film can duplicate the classic’s box office success.

“Mary, Mother of Christ” | Lionsgate Films (December 2014)
The long awaited prequel to “The Passion of The Christ” is scheduled to arrive before Christmas after a long set of delays. The cast includes the late Peter O’Toole, Sir Ben Kinglsey, Julia Ormond, and 16-year-old Israeli newcomer Odeya Rush as the holy mother herself. The hefty cast combined with a serious budget from Lionsgate and the backing of several Christian notables (including mega-church pastor Joel Osteen who gets an executive producer credit) give this movie serious box office potential.

The uptick in biblical movies is a testament to the ongoing power of those ancient narratives to capture the hearts and minds of the masses. And it also reminds us that Hollywood is driven by money more than by agendas. The Bible’s stories are an enduring draw, so Hollywood is doing what it has always done best—turning a buck by giving audiences what they want.

In this way, the film industry is a mirror reflecting what society desires: sex, violence, and great stories with a touch of God in the mix. In 2014, we’ll find out just how much they crave the latter.

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Trailers for the first three films listed are available for viewing:

58 Comments

  1. Philippa Chapman

    I do hope that the ‘Son of God’ movie will finally get the Magi out of the stable/cave and to the ‘house where the young child was’.

  2. OOooohhh, I just can’t wait to see what sort of “artistic” license will be taken in order to make the story more interesting… as if the actual Biblical account isn’t good enough. The sad thing is that most people will watch these films and think that that’s the way things REALLY happened. The writers/producers will ADD and DELETE “facts” as they see fit. Deuteronomy 4:2 as well as Revelation 22: 18-19 says that a person should NOT add to nor take away from God’s word. If anyone makes an addition or subtraction, they will be accursed… Just a thought.

    • If the Passion of the Christ has taught us anything its that Biblical movies work best on a small budget. Preferably if it can entice people to see stuff on screen not usually associated with a Biblical film. (as in that example, gore film sensibilities).

      Expect Noah, Exodus and Mary Mother of Christ to be dead on arrival unless they can either find a way to be entertaining to people who do not attend church on a weekly basis or get them talking. Appealing to people who want to see their religious beliefs portrayed lovingly on screen doesn’t help if your budget is over $100M and requires overseas gross to break even.

      DeMille got by with his Biblical epics by subverting the genre. People coming to see religious exultation committed to film got to sit through hours upon hours of sin, debauchery and “martyrdom” and as long as the Biblical heroes either died in a noble fashion or were somehow victorious in the end.

      • I thought the Passion of the Christ was awesome. It was gory, but I believe the actual crucifixion of Jesus was also very very gory. They HATED Him because he came telling the truth. I think the purpose of Biblical films should be to portray an accurate picture of the actual events. Since the bible isn’t a screenplay it is almost impossible to not add to the content to put it on screen, but it should never replace the need to read and study the word of God.

  3. Gutsy move, including Heaven is for Real. As you say, it’s not a Bible movie. it doesn’t square up with Scripture and I hope it doesn’t pretend to. Lots of people will get their notions of God from it, though, just like people think Satan has horns and a red cape because of some medieval art. Oh well.

  4. I feel that, if these films are being described as authentic depictions, then it should be a given, that Hebrews should be used as its actors. 1) “Son of God”-Jesus, as well as HIS mother, Mary-Jews, 2) “Noah” was a Jew, and last, but not least….3) “Exodus”-God freed the Israelites (Jews out of the land of Egypt.) Respectfully submitted, and looking forward to seeing them all! CPR

    • Noah was NOT a Jew! Jews are descendants of Judah, the son of Israel (Jacob), the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Who all lived AFTER Noah. Goodness, read your Bible much?

    • No one can top the logically inappropriate casting of blonde blue eyed Swede Max Von Sydow as Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told.

      Its not like finding Jewish actors (or even people swarthy enough to pass for one of Mediterranean descent) is a difficult task.

    • Noah existed long before the time of the Hebrews and even longer before the time of the Jews. (The Hebrews became the Jews. That took MANY years.) Perhaps, you may want to research some Biblical history. Mary and Jesus were Jews, but not Hebrews. There is a difference.

    • Excuse me, Logan Lerman is 100% Jewish and Jennifer Connelly’s mother is Jewish, and they are both in Noah. If Lerman isn’t a Jew, no one is, and certainly not Noah (who wasn’t Jewish).

  5. No wonder there are 35,000 different denominations in the world!
    I’ve never seen so many negative comments from supposedly Christian people.
    Why can’t you see God’s sense of humor in all this?
    Here’s Hollywood – the great mocker of Christianity and Christian values delivering movies about God and Jesus Christ (yes to make a dollar!) !

    C’mon people! See these as an opportunity to talk to non-Christian friends about what the Bible might really say – but do it in a positive way or you’ll turn your friends further away from Jesus.

    • Here’s an idea: Instead of giving that $ to Hollywood, for each movie let’s each of us take the cost of the movie ticket plus popcorn or soda, and donate that $ to our local domestic violence shelter, or to our local food bank, or to Meals on Wheels, or to Habitat for Humanity, or to Easter Seals, or to March of Dimes, or to any of the many non-profit agencies that help people in need get a hand-up in life.

      • Anne, that sounds like a great idea ~ especially in place of the trash that Hollywood produces! I’m all for charities and the ones you mention are good ones. But these movies are finally some you can take your whole family to besides Disney and I can already predict leave you feeling uplifting and good. The world certainly needs more of that! Whether you are a Christian or not, you might consider checking one out and see if you don’t feel good! We need good news and inspiration and nothing is wrong with that!

  6. Lynn Johnson

    Fun facts about these films!

    Let’s see, we’ve got one where a man claiming to be a deity in human form spreads the message “Love me or I’ll send you to hell because I love you.” We’ve got a movie about global genocide. We have another movie about baseless assertions based on themes made up of baseless assertions. Next, there’s a movie where god sends plagues against the whole of Egypt, the vast majority of whom probably had nothing to do with policy making concerning slavery, and then god righteously liberates his “chosen people” and gives them specific instructions on how to handle foreign slaves (they get beatings and the slaves and their offspring are passed along as inheritance) and slaves among their own people (they’re basically indentured servants, showing not only that this god is an immoral f*** for letting people own other people, but ALSO shows that this god is or his inventors are racist). Finally, there’s a movie about more baseless assertions, these involving celestial rape (I don’t think that Mary was ever given a chance to provide consent).

    • Cynical much there Lynn? Have you even read the Bible – or are your views based on prejudice (your own or other peoples)? Read about the Gibeonite deception to see the mercy of God.

      • I am a believer. But the things Lynn Johnson say need to be addressed in a better way then simply labeling her “cynical”. Not only does what she say make perfect sense, but it resonates with a huge majority of the population. (it was also quite funny)

        I know because I used to be one of them. And what convinced me was not some pie in the sky miracle or massive spiritual awakening. I certainly wasn’t converted from atheism by Christians calling me cynical.

        It was a priest. A priest who spent many years as my dear friend even though he knew I was an atheist and would never believe what he believed.

        His willingness to accept the total validity and logicalness of my atheist beliefs, even going so far as to assist me with evidence for my side of the argument if I missed it – allowed ME to listen to HIS side.

        What I am saying is the man who converted me did so not by mocking my beliefs as an atheist, but by embracing them – and me, just as I am.

        Besides come on I am believer and even I can appreciate that Lynn’s comment was not at all mean or cynical, but rather quite humorous and eminently logical as well.

        And if I know Christ at all, if an atheist leaning coffee house was across the street from a church and you knew Jesus was in the area – I bet dollars to donuts you’ld find him sipping espresso and helping the atheists with their own arguments. Just like the priest who saved me.

        IN CHRIST JESUS — AP

  7. Noah’s Ark will be interesting because one of the main theme’s that always seems to get overlooked is that it is the ultimate Environmentalist story!! God has decided to destroy the earth but save ALL the creatures, not just man, (either 2 of each in Gen 6 or 7 pairs in Gen 7) and those include the ‘unclean’ animals. Going with the flow here, that would by definition include thousands of species (like the Dodo) that man has now made extinct. Would that followers of the God of Noah (Including Jews, Christians and Muslims) take the lesson to heart when considering environmental issues and species conservation, the world would be a far better place and give a bit of hope to the many many animals that are in danger of vanishing from the earth!

  8. K.A. McKinney

    Sexual immorality and violence are the 2 themes that generate the vast majority of revenues for movie producers. Genesis 6 makes it clear: the widespread wickedness that separated mortals from God gave birth to that same sexual immorality and violence. Long before Bollywood, Nollywood and Hollywood, these twin monsters spread widely from corrupted human identity, captivating audiences, households, communities, cities, nations -the world. Let’s not ignore the fact that the cinema houses cash in on our ancient dilemma in almost every film; 2014 Bible films were preceded by a grand canyon of Biblically-themed films on sexual immorality and violence. Our attraction to these forms of entertainment reveals the facts, that we’ve stopped grieving the human condition and no longer celebrate God’s Messiah; religiosity has blinded some of us to our shared plight, while following “every evil inclination of our heart…” has strengthened the grip of godlessness over the lives of others of us.

  9. Dorothy J Rader

    Why did you not list “God Is Not Dead”? It is the BEST of all the Christian Films this year. I saw it three times and would go again. It gave the message of Christianity far better than any of the one you listed above. “Heaven is For Real” gave a bad representation of a minister. I know — I am the daughter of a minister. True men called of God are not like that man was. Please include “God Is Not Dead” in your review. Peace be with you.

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  11. Jeez, thanks so much for posting this! It is gonna help when I am thinking about going to Carmike 10 in Fort Wayne! I am from Calgary so I am not familiar with Fort Collins. Next time I visit my family will be so much better! Super Incredible!

  12. chris elliott

    The most under rated faith film of all time has to go to Under Jakobs Ladder, in 2010, five time award winner, including best period piece, starring Jeff Stewart from UK TV Series ‘The Bill’, produced by Cube City Productions, out on DVD. Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szDF4YLHDFQ

  13. “Noah” is NOT “Christian”, nor even “Jewish” in its perspective. The only similarities are the names of Noah & his sons, the ark & flood, & the pairs of animals.
    “Noah” is a purely Cabalistic point of view; definitely nostic. Even the producer bragged that it would be the “most non-Christian ‘Christian’ movie ever”.

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