2013 and 2014 were billed as the ‘years of the Bible’ in Hollywood, but this never panned out. Unfortunately, barring a few exceptions, the Christian movies from these years were largely negative. Yet they did signal a sign of things to come. Before 2013, Christian movies were randomly and sporadically produced. No consistent creators existed save for the Kendrick brothers and other Affirm creators such as the budding Erwin brothers, the PureFlix conglomerate, and the remnants of Fox Faith. 2013 and 2014 also promised Hollywood-driven faith based and inspirational films and many movies crowded to seize on this new label, presumably to capture a consistent Christian audience. But in the end, little good came out of this push except for a promise of greater things to come and a blueprint on how to do it.
Fast forward to the year 2015, by far the best year for Christian films and the start of a new Christian movie era. With a record-breaking four Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame movies, it was a year for the books.
Early in 2015, rookie film maker Rik Swartzwelder burst onto the scene with a Valentine’s Day alternate to the grotesque Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a move that Christians need to take note of the next time they complain about or embrace all the bad movies in America. Untested and unproven, PureFlix took a chance with Swartzwelder and cashed in big. Swartzwelder brought a fresh look at Christian romance, driven by quality production and Jane Austen-like dialogue. Old-Fashioned not only signaled the possible beginning of a new era for PureFlix distributed movies, but the beginning of a new Christian film era.
In the underrated release of Pendragon, the Burns family showcased their ability to do a lot with small resources. Now, with better funding, better support, and a better cast and crew, they broke out with a rare Christian action adventure screenplay. Mask not only showcases a new genre but also demonstrates the ability to craft a complex non-typical Christian plot. We expect it to be the first of many Christian films to break into new genres.
Following their blockbuster Courageous and their exit from Sherwood, the Kendrick brothers’ next release was highly anticipated and highly marketed. It lived up to its expectations, both in quality and box office success. War Room proved that the Kendricks are not done any time soon and remain the Fathers of Christian Film Making.
The Erwin brothers have always performed ahead of schedule, with their only three films all being Hall of Fame rated. They demonstrate expertise in assembling and directing highly talented crews and casts and in amplifying the strengths of individuals. Not to mention that they write some great plots. Woodlawn was heavily marketed as well and did not disappoint on the big screen. The future is bright for these Alabama brothers.
Honorable Mention: Do You Believe
Following their first box office success God’s Not Dead, PureFlix sought to build on it with another inspirational film about the interconnected lives of individuals in a city. With increased production quality and interesting plot potential, Do You Believe continued a new era of PureFlix films. However, it still did not live up to Hall of Fame status. Nonetheless, it was something to build off of.
In summary, 2015 was a year that unexpectedly brought Christian movies to a new level—setting new standards for the industry. No one saw it coming, but it happened regardless. 2016 promises to bring films from new Christian creators to the scene, and we anticipate a fresh wind of creativity to blow across the Christian movie landscape. It’s time for a new generation of film makers to stand up and redeem the field—the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.