All links were updated on 4/2/2012
It seems as though Christmas gets all the good inspirational holiday family movies. From the ever favorite "It's a Wonderful Life", "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", "Charlie Brown Christmas" and the many incarnations of "A Christmas Carol" there are no shortage of films.
But poor Easter is sorely lacking in the inspirational family movie department. I know there is Mel Gibson's "Passion" and we own a copy, but that is not something we would ever sit down to watch as a family, especially since some of my children are still young. It is more of an event to be viewed sparingly and by older children only.
I really wish there were more family films about Easter, Christ, the Resurrection and the early church. But that doesn't mean that there are not some real gems that can be used to convey the message of sacrifice and redemption; in the same way parables are used to teach us more about the Kingdom of God.
Christ often taught His followers with parables. He told earthly stories with Heavenly meanings. John and I have always used stories to convey our love and the Father's love to our children; some of these are found in the Bible, in family accounts, in fiction and non-fiction books and in films.
So I decided to share some of our favorites to inspire you this Easter season. I hope you watch with your family and have meaningful discussions and draw inferences to our Lord and the Easter story while being emotionally engaged and entertained. I listed them by age group starting with films that can be watched with younger children and ending with late Jr. High/adult.
Enjoy and Happy Easter.
1. The Miracle Maker:
This is my favorite movie about the Ministry of Jesus hands down. If I wanted to share the Gospel in movie form with anyone, regardless of their age or background I would show them this movie. Why? Because it is the SIMPLE retelling of the ministry, passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Don't let the fact that it is made in stop-motion animation fool you, this movie packs a punch and is Biblically sound without being preachy or watering down the message. It also has a stellar voice cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Ian Holm, Julie Christie, Alfred Molina, William Hurt and Miranda Richardson.
You can see from this clip how compelling this version is
You can purchase "The Miracle Maker" Here
2. City Lights:
This is Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece. It follows the misadventures of his iconic movie character The Tramp, think homeless person, as he tries to assist a beautiful blind girl he meets on the streets. The genius of this film is the juxtaposition of slapstick comedy and some thoughtful commentary on society, homelessness, hopelessness, the rich, judging others and mercy. Without giving too much away there is also a subtext of being falsely accused so others can benefit and having to pay a debt to society that wasn't deserved. The ending of this movie is one of the most beautifully filmed scenes in all of cinema. While this is technically a "Silent Film" there are sound effects and the music was written by Chaplin himself. Please note there is some alcohol use/abuse and a comical suicide attempt (only Chaplin could get away with it) so I don't recommend it for small children.
This is the entire restored film on Youtube
3. Captains Courageous:
They just don't make films like this anymore. This film has everything: Its' story was written by Rudyard Kipling and stars Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, Mickey Rooney, Melvyn Douglas, John Carradine and Lionel Barrymore. It was directed by Victor Fleming, who also directed Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz. The story follows Harvey Cheyne a young, trust fund brat who falls off his father's ocean liner and picked up by a fishing boat. He is transformed by the love and discipline of Manuel a Portuguese fisherman. The Biblical analogies are woven throughout this film. Harvey is nearly dead when he comes out of the water (baptism). He is also separated emotionally and physically from his father who loves him and is restored by the love and sacrifice of (Im)Manuel. This is just a beautiful story of redemption.
You can rent it on Netflix or purchase it on Amazon
4. The Dollmaker:
This film haunts me. It reminds me of a Steinbeck novel but with a redemptive ending. It is heartbreaking, powerful and a stunning portrayal of sacrifice. The main character is Gertie Nevels who uproots her children from the hills of Kentucky to follow her husband to a company town in Detroit. They suffer one hardship after another and the entire family is brought to the brink when they finally realize they were better off back at home. There is no money for them to return and that's when a sacrifice must be made. The characters are very "real" and are flawed, stubborn, at times cruel, unforgiving and despairing. Jane Fonda is a revelation, even if you don't like her as an actress, she will blow you away. The themes of this film are, forgiveness, bitterness, despair and redemption. Be prepared, you will cry. This is recommended only for mature children, 8th grade and older.
This trailer is really poorly produced but the film is stunning.
This is an impossible film to find but you can buy "The Dollmaker" Here