There's a lot of trash coming out of the movie industry. But as 2023 proved, a lot of light is coming out of it, too.
In fact, 2023 may have been the best year in the past two decades for excellent faith-based content, thanks to new companies such as Angel Studios and Great American Pure Flix and veteran companies like Affirm Films and Kingdom Story.
This year featured a summer blockbuster and multiple Top 5 box office hits. It also included several streaming movies that may have gone under the radar but deserve your consideration nonetheless.
Here are the 20 best Christian movies of 2023:
1. After Death
Stories of near-death experiences are examined in this fascinating documentary, which includes interviews with scientists, researchers, and individuals who say they briefly visited heaven before returning to this life. One of those is Don Piper, a minister who was involved in a car crash in 1989 and says he remembers leaving this world. A film from Angel Studios, After Death, opened in the Top 5. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, including violent descriptions, some bloody images, and drug references.
2. Birthright Outlaw
A devoted father goes on a quest to rescue his daughter after she is kidnapped by bandits. Set in the 1800s, this old-time Western movie stars Lucas Black (NCIS: New Orleans F9, Furious 7, and Tokyo Drift) and Sarah Drew (Grey's Anatomy), and was directed by Aaron Burns. Black told Crosswalk, the family-centric film tells the story of a man who fights for what's right. "There's a lot of people out there that are hungry for these types of movies and for content like this."
3. Big George Foreman
A broke, washed-up boxer gets back in the ring in order to raise money for his ministry and youth center. Incredibly, he also overcomes all odds to win the heavyweight title. The film is the story of boxer and minister George Foreman, who won the heavyweight title in 1973 before retiring and staging a comeback to win it again in 1994. A near-death experience in 1977 played a key role in his decision to preach the gospel. It's one of the best sports movies you'll ever watch. Rated PG-13 for some sports violence.
4. The Blind
Photo credit: ©Fathom; used with permission.
A couple falls in love and gets married at a young age, only to separate due to his alcoholic, angry ways. The film is the backstory to the life of Phil and Kay Robertson (Duck Dynasty), who only reconciled after Phil became a Christian. It's gritty and redemptive, and it includes a message from Phil Robertson himself at the end. Andrew Hyatt, who directed Paul, Apostle of Christ (2018), also directed The Blind. Rated PG-13 for thematic content and smoking. It also includes some coarse language. Because of dark themes, this one isn't for small children.
5. Camp Hideout
A troubled teenager finds redemption at a Christian summer camp. He also outwits a few career criminals who chase him to that same camp, searching for an electronic device they think he stole. This hilarious and inspiring movie features the physical comedy of Home Alone and the quirky plot of Ernest Goes to Camp. It also stars someone you've seen: Christopher Lloyd, the Emmy-winning actor best known for playing "Doc" in the Back to the Future trilogy. He portrays a quirky camp leader. Rated PG for slapstick violence and thematic elements.
6. Divine Influencer
A social media influencer loses everything only to discover her true purpose while volunteering at a homeless shelter. Lara Silva, known for her portrayal of Eden in the Bible-based series The Chosen, plays the lead character, Olivia. Shari Rigby (Overcomer) directed it. The film, Rigby told Crosswalk, will urge viewers to consider: How can we use social media to do things better? "First, by loving God. Second, by loving others," she said. It's available on Great American Pure Flix.
7. Heaven Sent
A grandmother and a widowed pastor find love again thanks to modern technology. This romantic comedy stars Karen Abercrombie (War Room, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) and Charlene Tilton (Dallas) and stands out for its unique plot: characters in late adulthood falling in life. Tilton told Crosswalk that the movie is the "best thing I've ever done." It debuted on Great American Pure Flix.
8. The Hill
Photo credit: ©Briarcliff Entertainment, used with permission.
A young boy born with a degenerative spinal disease overcomes long odds to become a professional baseball player. The movie tells the true story of Rickey Hill, who developed an uncanny ability to hit a baseball by practicing with a rock and stick. He also faced opposition at home from his father, a Baptist minister. It stars Dennis Quaid (Blue Miracle, I Can Only Imagine) and Colin Ford (Walker, A Thousand Tomorrows) and was co-written by Angelo Pizzo, who is best known for writing Rudy (1993) and Hoosiers (1986). Rated PG for thematic content, language and smoking throughout.
9. His Only Son
The Old Testament patriarch Abraham goes on a long journey in order to obey God and sacrifice his son, Isaac. The film opened at No. 3 and received a CinemaScore grade of "A" from moviegoers. It was written and directed by David Helling, who was serving as a Marine in Iraq more than a decade ago when he says God "got a hold of my heart" and led him into filmmaking. "I wanted to do everything I could to bring others to the Word," Helling told Crosswalk. Rated PG-13 for thematic content and some violence.
10. Identity Crisis
A college student struggling with self-esteem clones herself, only to learn she already has the skills needed to succeed in life. This whimsical comedy was produced by the same company, The Boylan Sisters, that previously released Switched (2020). Shari Rigby (Overcomer) directed it. The film stars identical twin actresses, Scout Tayui-Lepore and Sophia Tayui-Lepore. Producer Alexandra Boylan told Crosswalk: "We want to make hip and fun films that girls … want to go to school and can't wait to tell their friends about it."
11. Jesus Revolution
A straight-laced minister welcomes long-haired hippie Christians into his church, sparking a nationwide revival. The movie tells the true story of Chuck Smith, a California pastor who embraced hippie evangelist Lonnie Frisbee and other young believers in the late 60s and early 70s. It outraged some of his more traditional members, but it also birthed the so-called "Jesus Movement." Jesus Revolution grossed $52 million domestically and earned an "A+" CinemaScore from moviegoers. Rated PG-13 for strong drug content involving teens and some thematic elements.
Photo credit: ©Lionsgate, used with permission.
12. Journey to Bethlehem
The story of Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child is retold in this groundbreaking musical, which features pop-style music mixed with traditional tunes. It features musical names you know: For King and Country's Joel Smallbone, CCM artist Moriah, and Christian hip hop's Lecrae. Affirm Films, the company behind War Room, Risen, and The Star, produced it. Adam Anders, who received Grammy nominations for Glee and Rock of Ages, directed it and co-wrote the screenplay and the music. Rated PG for thematic elements.
13. Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist
A television reporter tries to uncover the truth about a worldwide mystery: the recent vanishing of millions of people. The film is a sequel to the 2014 film Left Behind, which was based on the bestselling novels and imagines what the world will be like in the days surrounding the return of Jesus and the Rapture. (Those novels, in turn, were based on a pretribulation, premillennial interpretation of the Bible's passages about the Last Days.) Rise of the Antichrist is the best Left Behind movie yet.
A convicted serial killer undergoes a psychiatric evaluation prior to his execution and claims he is a demon. He also predicts the psychiatrist will commit three murders. No doubt, this R-rated thriller isn't your typical Christian movie, but its strong faith-centric themes -- the reality of evil and the supernatural realm -- warrant its placement on this list. Co-directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon also co-directed Unplanned (2019). This movie is thought-provoking, but it's not for children. Rated R for some disturbing violent content.
15. The Shift
Photo credit: ©Angel Studios; used with permission.
A man gets separated from his wife in the middle of a dystopian multiverse and must fight to find her again. The movie broke new ground in the faith-based realm for its science-fiction plot, even as it has a strong biblical framework: It's a modern retelling of the biblical book of Job. It starred Neal McDonough, Kristoffer Polaha, Elizabeth Tabish, and Sean Astin. It stayed in the Top 10 its first three weekends and was released by Angel Studios. Rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements.
16. Sound of Freedom
A federal agent quits his job to travel overseas and catch child sex traffickers. The movie was inspired by true events and follows a man named Tim, who rescues a young boy from sex trafficking only to learn the boy's sister is still in captivity. Unable to just "let it go" -- as his friends suggest -- Tim goes on a quest to catch the criminal. This Angel Studios movie was a surprise hit and was directed by Alejandro Monteverde, who previously helmed Bella (2006) and Little Boy (2015). Rated PG-13 for thematic content involving sex trafficking, violence, language, sexual references, some drug references, and smoking throughout.
17. Southern Gospel
A hard-partying rock-and-roll star dedicates his life to the pastorate after a tragic arrest. Unfortunately, a few of his church members don't have the same view of God's grace as he does. The film is based on real events and follows the story of Samuel, a young man who helps grow his small church but encounters resistance from traditionalists. Emmy-nominated actor Max Ehrich portrays the lead character. (In real life, Ehrich also was baptized on set.) Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, drug use, some violent content, suicide, and language.
18. Sun Moon
A young woman seeks solace overseas after being left at the altar. While there, she discovers God's purpose for her life. This charming film tells the story of a young woman named Kelsey (Mackenzie Mauzy), who moves to Taiwan to teach English at a Christian school and learns a lesson straight from Romans 8:28: God works all things together for good. It debuted on Great American Pure Flix.
19. Surprised by Oxford
A young agnostic woman faces a clash of worldviews when she befriends people who believe in God. The film is based on a nonfiction book of the same name and tells the story of a postgraduate student, Caro, who enrolls at the University of Oxford in pursuit of knowledge but is shocked to learn some students are in pursuit of faith. The film's inspiration was the book's author, Carolyn Weber, who currently serves as a professor at New College Franklin in Franklin, Tenn. Although not rated, it likely would have garnered a PG-13 for language and a discussion about sex.
20. On a Wing and a Prayer
A middle-aged man must learn to fly an airplane after the pilot dies in the middle of the flight. That may sound like a far-fetched plot, but it's based on the true story of Doug White, who was traveling with his family back from a funeral in 2009 when the pilot suffered a heart attack. Although Doug didn't know it at the time, experts on the ground gave him only a 5 percent chance of survival. Dennis Quaid stars in the lead role. Roma Downey is a producer. Her company, Lightworkers, helped make it. The movie debuted on Prime Video. Rated PG for peril, some language, suggestive references and thematic elements.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Xiu Huo
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.