Biblical virtues in the year’s best films

Josh Larsen

Now that I’m done haggling with myself over the top 10 films of 2009, I can look back at my list and see certain trends and patterns emerge.

One way you could group the movies I’ve selected is in terms of the Biblical virtues they extol.

Three of the pictures on my list chart the emergence of a moral maturity, an embracing of responsibility over frivolity. Appropriately, they’re all children’s films: “Where the Wild Things Are,”“Coraline” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

The first two focus on kids who struggle to negotiate the pitfalls of growing up. Max learns you can’t be a wild thing all your life, that even play time comes with rules. Coraline - who ditches her busy parents for a creepily attentive Other Mother - comes to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around her (and that when it does, it’s not necessarily a good thing).

Mr. Fox, meanwhile, is an adult who can’t let go of the thieving, rascally ways of his youth, even when he endangers his own wife and son. It takes a near-fatal encounter with farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean to show him that familial responsibility has its own rewards.

Compassion was also celebrated in some of the best films of 2009. “Precious,”“Bruno” and “Observe and Report” were all challenging in that they centered on “ugly” characters with whom we eventually empathize.

This is an easier task for “Precious” – we’re rooting for the obese, illiterate and abused 16-year-old girl of the title to escape her heinous surroundings right from the start – than it is for “Observe and Report,” in which Seth Rogen’s mentally unstable mall cop sticks to his delusions of grandeur right through to the end.

As for “Bruno,” in which Sacha Baron Cohen “plays” an aggressively gay Austrian fashion celebrity in a form of candid camera, arguments over the sinfulness of homosexuality lose sight of the movie’s main point: that homophobia – certainly a sin itself – is alive and thriving in America.

That doesn’t cover all 10 films on my list – for the complete roundup, visit As for your list, we’d love to hear it. What movies spoke to you, as a Christian, in 2009?

Topics: Movies