What the Academy Awards teach us about the worldviews of our society

January 25, 2016

Academy Award nominations were announced a few weeks ago, and while many of the nominees may not be the movies most frequently discussed around the water cooler, it’s worth taking a minute to look at the films from 2015 the Hollywood elite deem most deserving of praise.

While the Oscar for Best Picture does not always indicate a movie will hold up under scrutiny in the decades to come, many of the past winners of this top award have taken up permanent residence in our cultural consciousness. Films like “Casablanca,” “The Godfather,” “Rocky,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Schindler’s List,” and “Braveheart,” to name just a few, have with their Oscar wins solidified their place in American history. Many Best Picture nominees do not see top results at the box office, but they offer us something more important than mere entertainment. They offer us a way to enter into, and learn from, meaningful stories.

Many of this year’s top films represent a beautiful feature of good art—the ability to create empathy and inspire change. As Christians, we approach these films with a unique lens that allows us to engage the ideas presented by the filmmakers, identifying the good, lamenting the bad, and recognizing that many of the issues we debate impact individual lives. To that end, we offer a few themes from the films we've seen on the list of 2015 nomination:

There is a beauty in entering a new world through the eyes of masterful storytelling (an art form of which Jesus was a master), and we can appreciate these films just for the fact that this creativity reflects our Creator. But we can also go further. Sometimes we see movies we know others will be talking about, and these are opportunities to engage our neighbors and point them to truth. Yet while not every film is a blockbuster our neighbors will have seen, that doesn’t mean they don’t have merit. As with great literature, music and paintings, we have something to gain personally from great film.

The best stories instruct while they entertain, subtly inspiring change and empathy. When we engage with these messages as believers, we learn more about loving our neighbors, even those with whom we disagree.

This does not mean, as mentioned before, that we accept every message that Hollywood portrays, powerful though they may be. In Art and the Bible, the late Francis Schaeffer wrote that “As Christians, we must see that just because an artist—even a great artist—portrays a worldview in writing or on canvas, it does not mean that we should automatically accept that worldview. Good art heightens the impact of that worldview, but it does not make it true.”

Indeed, films like the ones listed above allow us to appreciate beauty and identify truth, while also examining faulty ideas and proposed empty solutions to our greatest needs as humans. Many films expose the desperation of image-bearers unknowingly searching for a Savior. As believers, we can walk away from these movies with a greater understanding of the struggles of those unlike us, while also knowing our greatest need is universal.

Catherine Parks

Catherine Parks writes and lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, two children, and a cute dog named Ollie. She's the author of Empowered and Strong, collections of biographies for middle-grade readers. You can find more of her writing at cathparks.com Read More

Erik Parks

Erik Parks is married to author Catherine Parks and has two children. He is a Nashville filmmaker whose debut feature film, “Why We Breathe” is currently in post-production and will be released in 2019. Read More by this Author