God in the Movies

A Guide for Exploring Four Decades of Film

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This informative guide helps readers combine their love of movies with their desire to grow closer to God. Foremost experts on faith and film, all connected with the Reel Spirituality Institute at Fuller Seminary, explore forty leading movies from the last four decades to encourage movie lovers and small groups to reflect critically and theologically on their film choices. God in the Movies introduces and analyzes the spiritual content of top films from the 1980s through the 2010s, opening viewers up to a conversation about life, faith, and God.

Following a format similar to Barsotti and Johnston's successful Finding God in the Movies, this completely new book covers different films spanning four decades. This engaging resource contains production notes and film synopses, relevant Scripture texts, theological reflection, discussion questions, film stills, recommended film clips, and more, serving as a treasure chest for hours of film viewing, discussion, and ministry. Clips from the movies referenced in each chapter are available online.

Contents

Foreword by Ralph Winter
Introduction: Film and Faith--Welcome to a Maturing Conversation
Robert K. Johnston and Catherine M. Barsotti
The '80s: A Decade of Changes
Barry Taylor
1. Amadeus (d. Forman, 1984, US)
Kutter Callaway
2. Babette's Feast (d. Axel, 1987, Denmark)
Lauralee Farrer
3. Chariots of Fire (d. Hudson, 1981, US/UK)
Joseph C. Gallagher
4. Crimes and Misdemeanors (d. Allen, 1989, US)
Eugene Suen
5. Do the Right Thing (d. Lee, 1989, US)
Avril Z. Speaks
6. The Elephant Man (d. Lynch, 1980, US/UK)
Joseph C. Gallagher
7. Field of Dreams (d. Robinson, 1989, US)
Robert K. Johnston
8. The Mission (d. Joffé, 1986, UK/France)
Kutter Callaway
9. Places in the Heart (d. Benton, 1984, US)
Elijah Davidson
10. Wings of Desire (d. Wenders, 1987, Germany)
Craig Detweiler
The '90s: A Bridge Decade
Barry Taylor
11. American Beauty (d. Mendes, 1999, US)
Avril Z. Speaks
12. Breaking the Waves (d. von Trier, 1996, Denmark/Sweden/France/Netherlands/Norway)
Lauralee Farrer
13. Dead Man Walking (d. Robbins, 1995, US)
Avril Z. Speaks
14. Groundhog Day (d. Ramis, 1993, US)
Elijah Davidson
15. To Live (d. Zhang, 1994, China)
Eugene Suen
16. Magnolia (d. Anderson, 1999, US)
Robert K. Johnston
17. The Piano (d. Campion, 1993, New Zealand/Australia/France)
Lauralee Farrer
18. The Shawshank Redemption (d. Darabont, 1994, US)
Robert K. Johnston
19. Three Colors: Blue (d. Kieślowski, 1993, France/Poland)
Lauralee Farrer
20. Unforgiven (d. Eastwood, 1992, US)
Elijah Davidson
The '00s: A Decade of the Unexpected
Barry Taylor
21. Children of Men (d. Cuarón, 2006, UK/US/Japan)
Mathew P. John
22. Lars and the Real Girl (d. Gillespie, 2007, US)
Catherine M. Barsotti
23. Munyurangabo (d. Chung, 2008, Rwanda/US)
Robert K. Johnston
24. Secret Sunshine (d. Lee, 2007, South Korea)
Eugene Suen
25. A Serious Man (d. Coen and Coen, 2009, US)
Elijah Davidson
26. The Son (d. Dardenne and Dardenne, 2002, Belgium/France)
Eugene Suen
27. There Will Be Blood (d. Anderson, 2007, US)
Lauralee Farrer
28. Up (d. Docter and Peterson, 2009, US)
Joseph C. Gallagher
29. WALLE (d. Stanton, 2008, US)
Elijah Davidson
30. Water (d. Mehta, 2005, Canada/India)
Mathew P. John
The '10s: A Decade for Spirituality
Barry Taylor
31. The Adjustment Bureau (d. Nolfi, 2011, US)
Catherine M. Barsotti and Mathew P. John
32. Calvary (d. McDonagh, 2014, Ireland/UK)
Catherine M. Barsotti
33. Get Low (d. Schneider, 2010, US)
Catherine M. Barsotti
34. Life of Pi (d. Lee, 2012, US)
Avril Z. Speaks
35. Noah (d. Aronofsky, 2014, US)
Kutter Callaway
36. Of Gods and Men (d. Beauvois, 2010, France)
Catherine M. Barsotti
37. The Tree of Life (d. Malick, 2011, US)
Robert K. Johnston
38. True Grit (d. Coen and Coen, 2010, US)
Kutter Callaway
39. 12 Years a Slave (d. McQueen, 2013, US/UK)
Elijah Davidson
40. Zero Dark Thirty (d. Bigelow, 2012, US)
Avril Z. Speaks
Appendix 1: Movies Listed by Biblical Text
Appendix 2: Movies Listed by Theological Topic


Endorsements

"In my conversations with Christian moviegoers, I find an old delusion very much alive: Many still believe that what matters most about a movie is its message. They speak as though art's method--its measures of beauty, imagination, and excellence--are merely secondary, just the packaging for delivery of didactic lessons. I find a far more rewarding vision in the work of Catherine M. Barsotti, Robert K. Johnston, and their community of cinephiles. God in the Movies is an essential text for courageous moviegoers. Paying attention to forty years of cinematic excellence and leading us into the questions raised by art's provocative ambiguities, these writers celebrate an incarnational vision. They show us that the Spirit moves in mysterious ways throughout the world of cinema--in movies popular and obscure, commercial and foreign, inspiring and disturbing. With prophetic understanding, they coax us to become wise interpreters of the world's big-screen dreams. They give us 'eyes to see.'"

Jeffrey Overstreet, Seattle Pacific University, author of Through a Screen Darkly and Auralia's Colors and senior film critic at Christianity Today and lookingcloser.org

"Spirituality in movies? You bet! With their book God in the Movies, Catherine M. Barsotti and Robert K. Johnston present a host of insightful essays. Each gives us eyes to see the subtle but powerful nuggets of spiritual wisdom tucked into mainstream Hollywood films. You've seen most of these movies; now take a second look. You'll be amazed at what you'll find!"

David C. McFadzean, writer, producer, partner, Wind Dancer Films (Bernie and TV's Home Improvement)

"Catherine Barsotti and Rob Johnston, experts in expressing the profound connections between faith and culture, have opened up the conversation even further in their newest book together, God in the Movies. They have drawn together brilliant authors, prophetic films, and fabulous insight into the importance of movies--their messages, their meaning, and their influence on our hearts, minds, and spirits. Christians today must be culturally engaged, and this book challenges us and guides us to connect our appetites for entertainment with our hunger for discussing divine truth."

Karen Covell, film producer and founding director of the Hollywood Prayer Network

"At their best, films help people engage with the most profound questions of human life. Christianity--and all religion--does this in a much more comprehensive way. In God in the Movies, Catherine Barsotti and Rob Johnston do a wonderful job of showing how film can stimulate religious discussion and how those discussions can inform our viewing of films."

George Nolfi, screenwriter, producer, and director (Ocean's Twelve, The Bourne Ultimatum, and The Adjustment Bureau)

"Looking at forty films from four decades, God in the Movies guides us to think about and talk about films theologically. I highly recommend it as a resource for scholars, filmmakers, movie lovers, pastors, or anyone wanting to engage others in a conversation about God through the movies."

Camille Tucker, screenwriter, screenwriting professor, Biola University

Praise for Barsotti and Johnston's previous book, Finding God in the Movies

"I've often suggested that Christians open up their homes for a film night: show a movie and follow up with snacks and a discussion. It's a simple idea but, for most people, is tough to carry out. Where do we begin? We begin with Finding God in the Movies. Robert Johnston and Catherine Barsotti have done a wonderful service in creating a book that teaches believers how to analyze films. They provide excellent examples of thoughtful criticism and great discussion questions to engage our minds. Use it alone, with your family, or, better yet, invite the neighborhood."

Charles W. Colson, founder, Prison Fellowship

"To read God into movies is not difficult. To find God there waiting for us--now, that is something else altogether. Finding God in the Movies peels back God's presence in thirty-three compelling films, leading us from superficial analysis and utilitarian agendas to deep, personal engagement. Bravo!"

Sally Morgenthaler, founder, Sacramentis.com and Digital Glass Videos

"Written with humility, grace, and sensitivity, Finding God in the Movies will be a tremendous resource for those seeking light inside the cinema. More than just a guide to great films, this book is a window into how to engage with them and find on the other side a deeper understanding of the Lord."

Todd Komarnicki, filmmaker and producer

"An important and insightful book that held me spellbound. Once again, Catherine Barsotti and Robert Johnston demonstrate their incredible ability to dialogue with both Hollywood and the community of faith. They offer rich spiritual insights and astute observations on thirty-three films. Unlike other film review books, they appropriate each film's vision of life and invite the reader to interact with it. Here is an invitation to enhance your journey of faith via the silver screen."

David Bruce, host of HollywoodJesus.com

"In every arena of youth ministry today, we are seeing that movies are providing students many of their takes on life. Those of us seeking to minister to youth need effective resources to help them engage in dialogue between faith and film. Barsotti and Johnston have been teaching Young Life staff for a number of years to creatively do this. Now their book, Finding God in the Movies, can help you use movies more authentically in your teaching and outreach. I wholeheartedly recommend this book."

Cliff Anderson, vice president of training and strategic resources, Young Life, Colorado Springs, Colorado


The Authors

  1. Catherine M. Barsotti

    Catherine M. Barsotti

    Catherine M. Barsotti (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is affiliate assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and a professor at Centro Hispano de Estudios Teológicos (CHET), a Latino ministry training center in...

    Continue reading about Catherine M. Barsotti

  2. Robert K. Johnston

    Robert K. Johnston

    Robert K. Johnston (PhD, Duke University) is professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and codirector of Fuller's Reel Spirituality Institute. He is the coeditor of both the Engaging Culture and the Cultural...

    Continue reading about Robert K. Johnston

Reviews

Praise for Barsotti and Johnston's previous book, Finding God in the Movies

"Johnson and Barsotti take the 'theology and film' discussion to the next level in what amounts to a wonderful discussion on connecting our faith with culture."

Youthworker Journal


Resources