FFB: Top 5 Movies Ever & Their Greatest Lessons

FFB stands for “Friday Fun Blog.” It’s Friday! This means I get to scale the walls of endless possibilities to determine where I may go for a creative topic…… I’ve chosen to go with my “Top 5 movies ever & their greatest lessons.” I don’t only want to share what I think are the 5 greatest movies in my personal life, but I also want us to see that when we watch a movie we should be watching as active participants who are learning lessons from the media we take in. So, although there are many lessons each of the following movies may be able to teach us I will merely focus on the greatest lesson of each movie I list. I’ll go in reverse order… (Obviously these are skewed towards my age– I admittedly do not watch many movies made before 1975.)

5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Of the three in “The Lord Of the Rings” trilogy, this one is my favorite! I cannot think of a fight scene from any movie that is more aesthetically pleasing than “The Battle of Helm’s Deep.” This second act of Tolkein’s three part installment about Middle Earth picks up where “The Fellowship of the Ring” leaves off- with the fellowship breaking apart and each going their separate ways. So, essentially the movie is telling multiple stories at once! There is Frodo, Sam, and Gollum’s story; there is Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli’s story; and there is Merry and Pippin’s story. In the midst of all these different stories going on there is one simply amazing thing that occurs: Gandalf the Gray resurrects from the depths (reminds me of the OT Sheol), and becomes Gandalf the White! At the end of “The Two Towers” Frodo and Sam have still not completed their mission, Aragorn still has not been crowned King, and there is still work to be done; however, there is hope for the entire fellowship and its allies.

What can we learn from this? We can learn how to live in the already/not yet tension. I’m not suggesting this is an exact parallel, but what I am suggesting is The LOTR does a wonderful job of showing how a lasting sure hope (the destruction of the ring) is what motivates us in the present to persevere while always looking ahead to that great day! In Middle Earth, at the end of the Two Towers evil has been subdued, and Frodo and Sam press on towards their goal, and everyone waits in the balance as they look ahead to the great day when evil will be eradicated entirely. In the Bible, we now live in the victory of the cross of Christ, but even though death has lost its sting and sin has lost its power we still live in a reality where the penalty of sin has been removed but not entirely the power of sin. We currently live in the hope of the Second Advent of Christ who will fully consummate His kingdom and then we will live in heaven forever in the reality of the complete eradication of sin and all of its effects.

4. Forrest Gump:

Who doesn’t love Forrest Gump? The man does everything in his lifetime, and hardly even realizes how incredible he is. Just think about it… the kid with leg braces ends up being a college football star for his speed, he becomes a Vietnam War hero, he captains a shrimp boat, he runs across country over and over again simultaneously building a following, and he even appears to have invented the smiley face emoji!

The real lesson learned in Forrest Gump has to do with his life-long sweetheart, Jenny. Jenny was not too unlike the biblical character Gomer. She runs through life riding the highs of experience, and she ends up with many men along the way. Through it all, Forrest continues to love her and pursue her, and he does not allow her to go. One of the most powerful lines of any movie I’ve ever seen is when Forrest says, “I may not be a smart man but I know what love is.” Here is a man with one of the lowest IQ’s of anyone you’d ever meet, but even people with low IQ’s can know what love truly is- love is action and pursuit of another person. Forrest knew love was not an emotion, but it is a commitment to another person. So, here is this man who is beloved by everybody except for maybe the girl he’s always loved most, but he continues to pursue her with his active love all the way until the time she dies. You may not typically think of Forrest Gump as a love story, but when put into proper perspective I actually believe it’s as good of a love story as you will ever see. God loves people like Forrest and like Jenny. God doesn’t say you have to have a high IQ to figure him out! God bids thee come regardless of your intelligence, because we all are able to love Him because He loved us first and “God is love.” But, God also loves the “Jenny’s” of our world, and in this way Forrest serves as “Christ–figure.” No matter how far you think you’ve run away from God, and no matter how many idols you’ve worshipped, God’s grace is always sufficient for you, and He really will always love you with an active love.

3. The Shawshank Redemption:

Andy Dufresne (the protagonist) is convicted of murder against his wife, and her lover, and sentenced to prison at Shawshank where he meets Red (Morgan Freeman) and the two become friends. Red is the “deals-maker” of the prison, so he gets Andy a poster and a rock hammer early on in the story. Andy has many friends in the prison, but also many foes (The Sister’s) and this causes his time to be rather difficult. Then, he gets an opportunity to offer his banking expertise to aid the prison and the guards. In the meantime, Andy also writes letters to government officials asking for help with the prison’s pathetic library. Through a new friend in the prison Andy actually hears a rumor of a man in another prison who admitted to the murders Andy was incarcerated for, so he tells the warden but the warden completely ignores it! Andy begins to speak vaguely of his plans when he gets out of prison, and Red worries about him. Then something amazing happens! We learn that Andy had been digging a hole in his wall behind the poster Red had smuggled for him the entire time! Andy escapes through the hole and into a pipe, makes his way to an empty field of freedom, withdraws money he helped the warden launder, and he then mails evidence of his innocence to the local newspaper. Andy even works it out so when Reds gets out on parole the two can be reunited in Mexico.

There are so many lessons to learn from “Shawshank Redemption,” but I think the most basic and foundational for Christians would be learned from the warden. The warden was an evil man who just wanted to control people and get his way. He exploited Andy, murdered his friend, and turned a blind eye to injustice, all while allowing Andy to steal money for his benefit. In the end, the warden’s injustices and evil led to his own demise, and he committed suicide because he couldn’t face what he had done. The lesson here is that if we live for power and we exploit those we have control over then we will face the judgment of the Almighty, Holy, and righteous God who cares deeply about injustice. Had the warden turned from his own selfishness and to the Savior then things would have gone differently for him– but that didn’t happen.

2. The Dark Knight:

“The Dark Knight” is the second piece in Nolan’s trilogy of Batman. The main idea of the film is actually fairly straightforward: there is a psycho murderous, anarchist lunatic terrorizing Gotham (the Joker) and Batman is the key cog in taking him down. Other side stories pop up along the way which include Officer Gordon, and Harvey Dent who becomes “Two-Face,” but the main story-line is the battle between good and evil, Batman and Joker respectively.

Many commentators have noted the gospel elements of “The Dark Knight.” I’m not suggesting Christopher Nolan was making an overt Gospel claim, or that Batman is a wonderful Christian man, but what I am suggesting is there is power in the true story of Jesus defeating Satan, and that story gets retold in cultural ways over and over again– “The Dark Knight” is one of those attempts to fictionally capture the non-fiction of the Bible. The Joker appears chaotic, but his actions are really just the logical end of sin’s madness. Batman is a hero who has to take a fall in order to truly redeem Gotham. Batman needed to “die” so Harvey Dent could be the hero of the city and the city could begin to heal; in this way we can say Batman was a “Christ-figure,” albeit an imperfect one.

  1. “There will be Blood:”

I absolutely love this movie and I’m sure my wife is sick of hearing me quote it. This is my favorite of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, and my favorite actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, won “Best Actor” for his depiction of the main character, Daniel Plainview. This story is the best display I’ve ever seen of the biblical truth that “The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10).” It reminds me of Nebuchadnezzar who with all of his riches and power became an animal because of his greed and foolish pride. The greed isn’t only the demise of Plainview, but also of his arch-nemesis, a charismatic Christian leader named Eli. Plainview went to great lengths to try and find gold, but in the process he found oil (even better!). So, Plainview literally steals another family’s son and uses him as a financial bartering tool, then dupes a town into allowing him to build his empire. Plainview’s prominence and prosperity grow alongside the other key figure in town, Pastor Eli. The movie shows a remarkable showdown between these two men who are both overtaken by their love of money. Eli’s love of money causes him to be a slimy hypocritical leader, and Plainview’s turns him into a rich, lonely alcoholic who acts like a monster. We all see our own flaws in other people, and Plainview certainly sees that in Eli which causes him to hate him. The movie results in an epic scene you may have heard of with Plainview declaring to Eli, “If you have a milkshake. And I have a straw that reaches across the room and into your milkshake. Then, I drink your milkshake; I drink it up.” Plainview boasts of how his cunning business tactics cut Eli off from any due financial gain, and Eli is heartbroken. In the end, Eli dies because of his love of money, and Plainview has turned into an absolute animal because of his love of money. The movie teaches that the love of money will either kill us or cause us to be murderous animals, either way “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

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