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When the Good Films are Actually the Worst Ones

Yesterday, my parents came up and visited my wife and me in our mountain cabin. With the fire going inside and the biting winds outside, our place tends to either lull people to sleep or stir people to conversation. We saw both yesterday.


After our time at home, the four of us went to a local restaurant in which we started talking about movies. (This wasn't a surprise; while some families played games after dinner, the Bundys watched movies. As a family, we've discussed a lot of movies over the years.) After the waitress brought out the chips, we mentioned the relationship between film critics and film audiences.


Mom referenced a period piece that had a high a critical rating but a low audience score. Since I visit Rotten Tomatoes routinely, I see this often. In my experience, when I see a great disparity like this -- between the critic and audience -- I usually find the film unsatisfying.


Why does this disparity lead to dissatisfaction? Perhaps it's because the critics are looking for what they consider to be "good" films.

I'll let Francis Schaeffer in The God Who is There define what a "good" and "bad" film is.

We usually divide cinema and television programs into two classes--good and bad. The term "good" as used here means "technically good" and does not refer to morals. The "good" pictures are the serious ones, the artistic ones, the ones with good shots. The "bad" are simply escapist, romantic, only for entertainment. (40)

That makes sense, the critics are trying to assess the artistic quality of a film. There's nothing wrong with having great craft. Christians should strive to tell great stories.

But there's a problem here. Modern films that are "good" often pack in their bellies perspectives on the world that reflect the philosophical and cultural trends of the day.


Schaeffer elaborates on this:

But if we we examine them [the films] with care, we notice that the "good" pictures are actually the worst pictures. The escapist film may be horrible in its own way, but the so-called "good" pictures have almost all been developed by men holding the modern philosophy of no certain truth and no certain distinction between right and wrong. (40)

What Schaeffer notices is that the films with high technical excellence are often those that bring the most sinister worldviews. In a later post I'd like to examine why Schaeffer thinks this happens, but until then, I'll leave you with one final observation from Schaeffer.

This does not imply they [the aforementioned filmmakers] have ceased to be men of integrity, but it does mean that the films they produce are tools for teaching their beliefs. (40)


These modern filmmakers, producing stories that meet high critical acclaim are using their films as tools to teach their modern beliefs. And I've noticed that so many of the highly rated films are stories proposing depressing, despairing, cynical worldviews which have long moved past objective truth and morality.

This can be a helpful bridge for the astute Christian to connect with the non-Christian, but more often than not the average movie-goer doesn't want to sit through a film that's reflecting on the world in this way. They often find it boring, sad, or just overall emotionally unsatisfying.

In conclusion, this post brings up more questions in my mind for further reflection, but now to you:

  • Do you gravitate toward "good" films or "bad" films?

  • Do you see that the "good" films often carry a distinct type of worldview?

Until the next post, keep engaging stories with a Christian perspective!


Dane Bundy is president of Stage & Story and cast chaplain at LifeHouse Theater in Redlands, CA.

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