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BIS REVIEWS Blog

Wholesome Movies for Your Friday Night

family friendly movies

Looking for a reason to pop some corn, unwrap a little candy, and plop down on the couch? Good news: I have four.

Recently, I re-watched four movies that were beckoning to me from our small DVD collection. Two could be labeled “religious,” but God, not confined by my labels, makes His appearance in all of them. The movies encouraged me to emulate the goodness of the characters. The plot lines reignited aspects of my faith that have dimmed. They left me wanting to simply make others happy in the same way the movies entertained me.

Wholesome Movies that are Actually Good

Maybe these films will do the same for you. Take your pick or binge on them all!

Mary of Nazareth

2012, not rated

True to its name, this movie chronicles the life the mother of Jesus from her childhood to Jesus’ resurrection. Filmed in Europe, it beautifully captures the pure and loving disposition of Mary’s heart and the deep trust she had in God.

From reading Scripture, my imagination is filled with biblical scenes. But watching another’s portrayal of them in a film enriches my understanding of God’s Word and the history and context that surrounds it. It reminds me that the people in the Bible were not characters acting out a story with a forgone conclusion. They were people, like us, who encountered the difficulties of daily life, made choices, and struggled to believe.

A scene that captured my heart portrays Jesus preaching in a home as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21). In the movie, Mary arrives with some relatives, and Jesus is told they wish to see Him.

A Favorite Part

“Who is my mother?” asks Jesus, as He looks at Mary. “Whoever carries out the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.” Mary’s relatives are astounded and urge her to leave with them. “Didn’t you hear what he said? He repudiated you. He’s not your son anymore,” they say. But Mary refuses to leave and with peace and quiet confidence says, “He is my Lord.” Those words are not recorded in Scripture, yet I believe they portray the loving and trusting disposition of Mary’s heart.

Instead of inviting the crowd to look at her, Mary pointed to Jesus. I fear I would not have done the same. I believe I would have sought attention for giving birth to the man who was astounding everyone. But I can strive for more; and thanks to this film, I can imagine in a new way how beautiful that might look.

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The Hundred Foot Journey

2014, rated PG

This lighthearted movie will appeal to foodies, especially lovers of French and Indian cuisine. In the film, love conquers sadness, hate, jealousy, pride, and greed in humorous and poignant ways.

After a family tragedy, a young, gifted cook and his family leave their native India and eventually settle in a small town in France. In a rundown building across the street from a highly-regarded French restaurant, they establish a restaurant and serve traditional Indian cuisine in a somewhat garish fashion. A war of cooking, culture, and spirited personalities begins.

A Favorite Part

When I need a little happiness, this film delivers. Its characters are colorful and kind. There is eating, celebrating, friendship, generosity, love, and the discovery that walking 100 feet across the street will tear down walls that initially divided one group from another. Perhaps their journey will inspire us to take notice of the walls that separate us from others and prevent us from loving as we should, and to work to knock them down.

Of Gods and Men

2010, rated PG-13

When my son shared that he was watching this movie in his theology class, I could remember that I liked it. But I couldn’t recall much else. So, I pulled it out of the DVD pile.

It is loosely based on the true story of eight Trappist monks from France who reside in a monastery in Algeria in the early 1990s. They live in harmony with and serve the Muslims around them. When Islamist fundamentalists bring terror to their region, it eventually knocks on the door of the monastery.

A Favorite Part

Watching the monks discern whether they should stay in Algeria or flee to a place of safety is inspiring and instructional. One might assume that discernment for a monk is a relatively easy thing, something that someone who seeks to live closely with the Lord would not struggle with. The film shows otherwise. The humanity of the monks, their challenges and temptations, reminds me that we all have crosses we must carry and hard decisions we must make. It reminds me that the carrying and the discernment will be easier when we seek the Lord with confidence, desperation, truth, patience, perseverance, and complete trust.

The Way

2011, rated PG-13

I watched this movie late one night because a friend was walking across Spain on El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James), the movie’s setting. The Camino is a network of paths across Europe. That all lead to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest of Spain. It is believed that these routes were followed in the Middle Ages as a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James. Thousands still make the pilgrimage each year.

The film is written and directed by Emilio Estevez and stars his father, Martin Sheen. The film is funny and dramatic, yet light-hearted and thought-provoking. It follows four pilgrims who are walking for various reasons, all are on a journey of discovery. Each brings his or her brokenness and, sooner or later, lays it on the dirt path for all to see. Their eventual willingness to be vulnerable to each other reminds me that it is in our vulnerability and brokenness that we most authentically connect.

A Favorite Part

The movie does not acknowledge Jesus as the Way and none of the main characters professes a faith. But there is an openness to self-discovery, being with others in silence and noise, humility, friendship, and realizing that each of us has a cross that must be picked up and carried.

As I laid on my couch at 12:30 a.m., beginning to think it was an enormous mistake to stay up so late just to see the dirt paths my friend was walking on, my friend texted me from the Camino. To my surprise, she was in the same Spanish town as the pilgrims in the movie. I thanked God for blessing my late-night indulgence in a very detailed way and went to bed, inspired to continue my pilgrimage the next day with renewed openness to love, hope, and faith in Jesus, our only Way.

What are some of your favorite wholesome movies that are well done and entertaining?

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Nikki Frerker is a wife and mother of four who lives in Leawood, Kansas. She spends a portion of her time practicing estate planning law and enjoys serving as a catechist for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at her parish. You may find her running before the sun rises, driving her children around at all hours, or singing praise music just loud enough to embarrass anyone willing to listen.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Christina
    September 18, 2018 at 6:22 am

    I still need to see all of these movies you listed! Choosing movies for everyone gets harder and harder when the divide between ages increases in a family. One I would recommend is Hachi: a dog’s tale starring Richard Gere. I’m always looking for stories that engage my animal loving boys and this one tugs at every heart string. It’s a really beautiful movie about loyalty and friendship and you will definitely need tissues.
    From common sense media:
    Parents need to know that Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is the story of great love and respect between a college professor and the puppy he rescues on a snowy night. It’s a very gentle film that quickly engages the audience as it introduces a heroic dog, a man with a loving heart, and an idyllic setting. That engagement intensifies emotions, which later carry the story through the years to its bittersweet conclusion. The movie is based the story of a dog who lived in Japan in the 1930s; a statue of the real Hachi remains in the Shibuya train station there. Spoiler alert: A major character dies, which is heartbreaking and likely to upset most kids and parents. Though the film has a “G” rating, it’s best for kids who are comfortable with very sad events — including death — and the grief that accompanies those events.

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