Movie titles for Lenten viewing

My husband and I are movie watchers. Not only do we love watching American flicks but we also enjoy foreign movies as well. We also enjoy British cop shows much more than their American counterparts, but that's another subject.

Over the last couple of years during Lent, I have compiled a list of movies on Yahbut that I think have good themes on which to contemplate during the season. This year I have combined two lists and have added two more movies for your consideration.

 “Les Miserables” (1998) 

In this classic tale, Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson) is imprisoned for stealing bread and is freed after 19 years of hard labor. After his release, as he makes his way to his parole officer, Valjean has a life-changing encounter with a priest and learns about reconciliation and forgiveness. Valjean then spends his life giving this gift to others, sometimes at great cost to himself, while being pursued by a former prison guard who recognizes him. If you are really ambitious, read the book by Victor Hugo. Otherwise, this movie is extremely well done. 

“To End All Wars” (2001)

This movie is based on a book written by Ernest Gordon, who was a British POW in Thailand during the Japanese occupation of that country. He was one of thousands of POW’s who was used as slave labor to build the “Railway of Death.” After World War II, Nelson was ordained in the Church of Scotland and later served as Dean of the Chapel at Princeton University. The movie adaptation of his novel shows what happened to four allied POWs who were in a Japanese prison camp during World War II.

“We were treated worse than animals,” he said years later, as quoted by The Internet Movie Database. “The conditions were worse than you could imagine.”

The prisoners learned to live in their circumstances and also won limited sympathy from their captors by conducting secret classes in which they studied the classics, including the Bible. Because of lessons they learned through their study, some took beatings for others, and one died in place of another. This caused considerable consternation among their captors, who followed the Japanese warrior code of Bushido. The movie demonstrates the evolution of the concepts of forgiveness and eventually reconciliation between prisoner and captor.

“Gandhi” (1982)*

Richard Attenborough’s classic movie has strong themes of social justice in the wake of the British occupation of India. Gandhi, India’s leader, who read Christ’s Sermon on the Mount daily, suffered great discrimination under British rule and eventually led his people to independence through non-violent means. In this movie, Gandhi provides a thought-provoking view on the much debated Bible verse, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” Matthew 5:39, NIV.

“Chariots of Fire” (1981)*

This movie is a must see for anyone who struggles with the temptation to compromise what he or she deeply believes. Based on the true story of runners on the British track team who participated in the 1924 Olympic games, viewers will watch an intriguing story that deals with God’s vocational calling, victory and, to borrow a phrase from ABC’s old show “Wide World of Sports," the “agony of defeat.”

“The Passion of the Christ” (2004)*

Since the year this movie was made, “The Passion of the Christ” is a staple for viewing during Lent, especially on Good Friday. Although gory, Mel Gibson’s flick gives people an idea of the incredible suffering of Jesus Christ during the scourging and crucifixion, on both spiritual and physical levels. Watching this movie makes the viewer more grateful for Christ’s sacrifice, which will inevitably lead to a more meaningful Easter celebration.

"For the Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada" (2012)

After the Mexican Revolution, the new government took religious freedom away from its people. This is the true story of the people's war against the Mexican government during the early 1920s. This movie's Lenten themes are forgiveness, standing up for justice and just war. At the end of the movie there are some real photographs of the people who were involved in the conflict; it also tells what happened to them in later years. It is a must see. 

"The Grey" (2011)

Another Liam Neeson movie, "The Grey" takes place in Alaska where Neeson's character Ottway works for an oil company. On the way home, the work crew is involved in an airplane crash in which Ottway and his fellow survivors attempt to find civilization in the Alaskan wilderness while being pursued by a pack of wolves. The story brings out interesting discussion starters about prayer and a relationship with God in the midst of extreme difficulty. However, even though I thought the movie thought-provoking, it is not for everyone. The rough characters of the cast toss a lot of "F-Bombs" and some may take offense at the characters' conclusions about God.

Whether you watch the movies or not, the Lent season is a time of reflection and confession. As we head into Holy Week this Sunday, be sure to spend some time reading the Bible and reflecting on the terrible price that God paid for us because of his love.