Sharing your treasured films with others can be risky: “One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure,” "Do not throw your pearls before swine," and other sayings come to mind as caveats. But we still do it.
I remember lending one of my favorite films, Ladyhawke, to a friend, and was stunned by her reaction: “I am surprised that you of all people would like a film that has stuff like that.” The ‘stuff like that’ was, I suppose, a curse that is placed on a young couple by an evil archbishop in 13th century France. “It’s a fairy tale!” I replied. I scratched my head over this fellow believer’s passion for Bruce Willis’ Diehard franchise yet her taking offense over the dark themes in Ladyhawke.
Fairy tales, fantasy and science fiction films can be great tools for telling meaningful stories. This medium puts us temporarily outside of the gravity that holds us down: anything seems possible, beauty is in Technicolor, evil personified, and incredible challenges to be surmounted by our heroes.
Here are some of my favorites, primarily chosen for their themes of sacrifice, overcoming adversity, love and taking on evil head-on. When Jesus walked this earth, he was in the business of confronting evil, loving people, sacrificing his entire life for others.
The Matrix: “The matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes.” Read 2 Corinthians 4. "You cannot die because I love you." Read John 17. This film is unfortunately given a bad rap because of the supposed connection to the Columbine shootings (black coats, etc). In actuality, the film is a powerful story of good and evil, conversion, sacrifice and a willingness to confront evil. (Thanks to my friend Steve Froehlich for his insights into this film.)
Chronicles of Narnia: “’Aslan is on the move’.... At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer” (selection from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). Narnia is based on this amazing tale from Lewis, one of Christendom’s most treasured thinkers and authors.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy: “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Director Peter Jackson’s brilliant depiction of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels. I watch this trilogy about every six months and it always affects me emotionally and spiritually.
LadyHawke: What I love about this film is the determination of friends to see an innocent couple released from a terrible curse, even in the face of resistance and unbelief by the couple--they no longer have hope for themselves, so the help from friends to confront evil is crucial. Or, if an evil Archbishop giving himself over to the devil’s work offends you, go see Diehard.
Pan's Labryinth: Guillermo del Toro's very dark melding of fairy tale and reality, this is a film that will disturb and move you. Again, a confrontation of evil is afoot, and the courage and imagination of a child unhappy with her reality over which she has seemingly zero control.