Copyright © 1999-2017, NZ Cult List (Cults.co.nz)
Battlefield Earth. 1999. Scientology-based sci-fi movie, universally slated by critics (ie, they all said it was horrible). Contains references to Scientology theology, while being supposedly just L Ron Hubbard's science fiction. (Hardly surprising, since a lot of Scientology writing is very similar to science fiction.)
Courageous. 2011. Excellent Christian movie about a group of policemen resolving to be better fathers, the fourth movie made by Sherwood Pictures (following on from Fireproof).
The Da Vinci Code. 2006. Based on the fictional novel by Daniel Brown (aka Dan Brown). Interestingly, while the book has been extremely popular, the movie (directed by Ron Howard) has failed to impress movie reviewers. Christianity Today put it this way: "Despite its inaccuracies, the book was a page-turner, but the movie's a 11/2 star yawner." They have a brief article which answers five questions the movie raises, and have a PDF version of it available. The movie has been banned in Samoa.
End of the Spear. 2005. Excellent Christian movie that even had a limited cinema release in this country. It tells the true story of missionaries Jim Elliot and Nate Saint and their families, from the perspective of Nate's son Steve and one of the Waodani tribesmen who came to know Christ through the events depicted in the movie. Based on a book of the same name.
Fireproof. 2008. Excellent Christian movie about the action a fireman (played by Kirk Cameron) takes to save his failing marriage. The movie is directed by the author of The Love Dare, which features prominently in the plot. Fireproof was made with huge community support and nearly 1,200 volunteers from Sherwood Baptist Church. It was the highest-grossing independent film of 2008.
God's Army. 2000. Funded by the Mormons cult.
Hacksaw Ridge. 2016. The story of Desmond Moss, an American Seventh-day Adventist and "conscientious cooperator" (as he called himself) who served as a medic in World War II. He saved the lives of dozens of injured soldiers on the battlefield, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the first conscientious objector to do so. Be warned, the movie contains much graphic violence, for which it gets its Caution rating.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. 2004. Yet another in the Harry Potter series of movies, said to be "far darker than the previous offerings." (One wonders where these are heading.)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. 2005. The fourth in the Harry Potter series of movies.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. 2007. The fifth in the Harry Potter series of movies.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. 2009. The sixth in the Harry Potter series of movies.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 2010 & 2011. The seventh and eighth in the Harry Potter series of movies, from the seventh Harry Potter book split into two parts.
Left Behind. 2000. Christian movie about the last days before the return of Jesus Christ, the movie of the first Left Behind books. Reasonably well made but it's not a big budget film and it leaves out a lot of the book. Went straight to video before theatre release. Available in New Zealand as NTSC only.
The Matrix. 1999. Basically, a mostly non-religious "cult" movie with lots of violence, although there are also some New Age ideas. Some claimed the movie was an inspiration for the Columbine High School massacre in the United States (it was released in New Zealand after that incident).
Nooma. A series of 10 to 14 minute videos (at last count numbering 24) by Rob Bell dealing with various aspects of Christian life, but in the process presenting a non-Christian gospel. The name "Nooma" (normally in all capitals, although it's not an abbreviation or acronym) comes from the Greek word pneuma (πνευµα), but presumably with an American phonetic spelling. On page 1 of his three page review Greg Gilbert summarises Rob Bell's Nooma gospel this way:
PREACHING THE GOSPEL
But Bell intends to do something more in NOOMA than provide "life lessons." He intends to preach the gospel. In fact, he says so repeatedly, with statements that run something like, "That’s the gospel, that’s the good news that Jesus brought us." And that’s where these videos become more significant than cool youth Sunday School lessons. They become dangerous.
The gospel as Bell communicates it in NOOMA runs something like this: All of us are broken, sinful, selfish, and prideful people. We carry around the baggage of our hurts, our resentments, and our jealousies. As a result we are just a shell of the kind of people God intends us to be. But our God is a loving God who accepts us and loves us just as we are. He can comfort us, heal us, and make us whole, real, authentic, living, laughing people. Not only that, but Jesus came to show us how to live revolutionary lives of love, compassion, and acceptance. By learning from his teachings and following him, we can live the full and complete lives that God intended.
And that’s about it. That’s not just the introduction that leads to an explanation of the cross, atonement, the resurrection and salvation, either. So far, at least, that’s what NOOMA holds out as "The Gospel." Full stop.
Greg Gilbert points out here that the vital elements of the gospel – the cross, atonement, the resurrection and salvation – are missing from the first 18 videos of the Nooma series. For such a carefully made series this is either an extremely serious oversight or those things are simply not part of Rob Bell's false gospel. Cameron Buettel (sic) explains why Rob Bell's nonsense is so dangerous in a sermon refuting episode 8 (Dust):
Why is it so important to expose this stuff? Because it's humanism disguised, masquerading as Christianity. Why is this stuff so dangerous? Because it's so close to the truth the lies often sneak right under your radar. When we elevate man we're actually lowering the cross and we can't afford to do that because the Cross of Jesus Christ is man's only hope.
The Other Side of Heaven. 2003. Mormon propaganda film about how much good a Mormon missionary did in Tonga in the 1950s. Got a really bad rating in the NZ Herald, including the comment that it's so saccharine it "makes Disney look like Tarantino."
The Omega Code. 1999. Reasonably good Christian movie – yep, the good guys win in the end. Possibly inspired by the dodgy book The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin, but with a quite different (and unexplained) "code" system. (Read a review of Drosnin's The Bible Code here.)
The Passion of the Christ. 2004. A film by Mel Gibson (a Roman Catholic) portraying the Passion of Jesus Christ - the last few hours of Christ's life before his Crucifixion. The most important thing to note about the movie is that it really is about the passion. The life and teaching of Christ – and even the resurrection – barely get a mention. Claims the movie is anti-semitic are quite unfounded, as the movie shows both good and bad Jews, and good and bad Romans. (NB. Jesus was a Jew.) It probably well deserves its R16 rating in New Zealand (since changed to R15 after a theatre chain complained) because of the attention to gory detail in the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus.
Zeitgeist, the Movie. A strongly stupid movie which takes cheap (and factually incorrect) shots at Christianity including claiming it was (conspiracy warning) started by the Romans as a means of controlling people, tries to present the September 11 tragedies as being a massive conspiracy to give an excuse to go to war, and sees income tax as being another conspiracy to provide a way of controlling the population while reducing everyone to poverty. The movie promotes what is basically Marxism as a solution to the perceived problem of profit. Conspiracies abound to such a degree that in a review for The Skeptics Society – not exactly a Christian friendly outfit – Tim Callahan summarises it by concluding "Zeitgeist is The Da Vinci Code on steroids." Wikipedia's Zeitgeist article criticism section quotes an article in the Irish Times saying:
These are surreal perversions of genuine issues and debates, and they tarnish all criticism of faith, the Bush administration and globalisation – there are more than enough factual injustices in this world to be going around without having to invent fictional ones. One really wishes Zeitgeist was a masterful pastiche of 21st-century paranoia, a hilarious mockumentary to rival Spinal Tap. But it's just deluded, disingenuous and manipulative nonsense. [...] If you pretend to know only truth, in truth you know only pretence.