When Hollywood gives moviegoers entertaining movies with moral values and inspiring stories full of positive faith, moviegoers flock to the box office. Every year the Annual Movieguide® Report to the Entertainment Industry shows Hollywood’s decision makers that movies with faith and values do much better than movies that overtly attack traditional faith and values.
As we will see during Sunday’s Academy Awards, last year was no exception. Six of the most successful movies of the year — “Wall-E,” “Iron Man,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Prince Caspian,” “Gran Torino,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” — contained strong redemptive content with positive Christian references.
The comic robot hero in “Wall-E” is willing to give up his life and the love of his life to save mankind. In “Iron Man,” the capitalist playboy Tony Stark gets a new heart, gives up his life as a cad who doesn’t care about his country and battles evildoers.
“Prince Caspian” shows that prideful faith in self has to give way to faith in the Christ figure of Aslan, who saves Narnia at exactly the right moment in time. A priest teaches a gruff atheist that love and sacrifice are better than revenge in Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino,” which was unfairly snubbed by the Oscars this year. Finally, in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” Indiana Jones hears the words of Jesus Christ in a church as he finally does the right thing and marries his beloved, the mother of his son.
It was also the year that “Kung Fu Panda” showed that there is no hidden occult secret and that anyone can obtain greatness through self-sacrifice. The Christian movie, “Fireproof,” earned much more money than any other movie released by small independent film studios. And, it cost less to make than most indie movies
Not only did moviegoers prefer heroic movies with very strong moral virtues, they also rejected movies with anti-Christian, secular, nihilistic, and atheist content like “Religulous,” “Adam Resurrected,” “Save Me,” “Wanted,” “Hounddog,” “Bloodline,” “Hamlet 2,” “The Love Guru,” “Stop-Loss,” and “Saw V.”
The difference between the domestic box office averages for these two categories was $59.9 million per movie for the positive movies versus only $10.4 million per movie for the negative ones.
Furthermore, contrary to popular opinion, 2008 was the year that obscenity, sex and nudity didn’t sell — again. In fact, movies with no foul language, no sex and no explicit nudity earned much more money on average than movies with some foul language, sex and explicit nudity, or a lot of it, by 2 to 1 or more!
Once again, G-rated movies made more money than movies with other ratings, especially when compared to R-rated movies. For example, among the Top 250 movies at the box office in 2008, G-rated movies averaged $64.1 million in North America, but R-rated movies averaged only $14.6 million.
Just as good if not better, movies that matched Movieguide®’s highest, most family-friendly standards, including the traditional understanding of Christian theology and ethics, averaged $61.9 million at the domestic box office compared to only $17 million for those movies that we labeled “abhorrent.”
People of faith and values want to see role models they can emulate in the stories they watch on the big and little screen. They want to see good conquer evil, truth triumph over falsehood, justice prevail over injustice, and beauty overcome ugliness.
If Hollywood wants to reach more people, they should look to people of faith and values. Hollywood needs ticket sales, not bailouts! Movies with strong morals make money.
Dr. Ted Baehr is founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE® and Chairman of The Christian Film & Television Commission. Dr. Tom Snyder is the editor of Movieguide.