How to Judge a Movie
Are you viewing your world through a screen?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most successful movie franchise of all time. These movies have made $30 billion in box office sales alone. Marvel has produced 30 movies since 2008’s Iron Man, and four more are scheduled to come out next year. Each movie makes Marvel Studios about a billion dollars.

There are 11 Star Wars films, which have collectively made over $22 billion. There are also multiple animated TV shows based on the property.

There are many more extremely popular and successful franchises we could go through: Lord of the Rings, X-Men, Fast and Furious, Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, the DC Extended Universe, Hunger Games—even Despicable Me. I’m sure most of you have at least heard of most of those movies. Watching movies is very popular, but how often do we consider the kinds of movies we watch? When you watch a movie, you are investing your time in that piece of media. You are putting a certain ammount of trust in its creators. For some two hours, they can control what you think and feel—whom you cheer or jeer, even what you view as right and wrong.

How much do movies affect your view of the world? Likely the answer is: More than you realize. Movies influence your moods and thoughts—not just while you are watching them. Teens tend to devote a lot of mental energy to thinking and talking about movies. It is a subject that can absorb your time, energy and enthusiasm.

Who’s Doing Your Thinking For You?

Have you ever been really excited to watch a particular movie? It was all you could think about in school or at night? It’s much easier to get fired up about a movie than it is to be excited about a spiritual truth. I can’t recall ever seeing a group of teens in a rowdy discussion over a sermon or Bible study they just heard, but I’ve seen it plenty of times over movies.

Movies can be a powerful tool. If the filmmaker is thinking right, it can be a tool for good. But if the maker’s thinking is perverted, it can plant those same corrupt ideas in the audience’s head as well. Most viewers don’t consider that what they watch might be putting false ideas in their minds. They just go along and enjoy it. We cannot afford to let someone else think for us!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “Even the unconverted person who has not received the Holy Spirit to dwell with the human spirit has the mind power to discern the difference between good and evil uses of the human five senses—their selfish gratification or wholesome enjoyments.

“God intended to bestow upon us humans the pleasures and delights of wholesome and right uses and enjoyments. And right enjoyments that are beneficial and lasting gravitate in the direction of giving, and destructive and (to us humans) non-beneficial uses stem from motives of ‘getting’—lust, covetousness, vanity, self-indulgence” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).

Being able to discern good and evil is vitally important! Then you have to go beyond that, and actually choose the good and stay away from the evil!

Cinematic Minefield

We are all drawn to the power of well-made movies, but we still must exercise discernment about them. Is the technical excellence of a movie helping you appreciate something true, something good, something beautiful—or is it exalting lies?

Ephesians 2:2 says that Satan is the “prince of the power of the air”; 1 Peter 5:8 warns that he prowls around like a lion, “seeking whom he may devour”; and 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan comes as an angel of light. Satan is constantly presenting himself in a way that looks harmless and attractive. These verses are gold nuggets of revealed truth from God. If you understand them, they give you enormous insight toward discerning good and evil.

We have to understand that this evil spirit is working in the world—the people around us. That is the only way we can guard against it. 2 Corinthians 2:11 warns, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

Satan is always looking for an advantage over us. “Devices” means designs, or schemes. He has tricks up his sleeve! Paul said we are more vulnerable to the devil if we are ignorant of those things. The more you know, the better equipped you are to resist those devices.

Movies are a powerful influence, especially among young people. Youths watch more movies than any other demographic does. Satan knows this, so he puts all kinds of traps and mines in today’s movies. Gerald Flurry has said before that he thinks Satan concentrates his demons in places like Hollywood where that content is created.

Just like with our physical diet, we are bombarded by manufactured treats that lack nutrition and contain poisons. It perverts our taste buds to the point where we cannot enjoy mental food of real substance.

What’s It Rated?

The Motion Picture Association gives movies their ratings based on the appearance of several elements—really only the most obvious ones—among which are foul language, violence and gore, sex and nudity, and drug and alcohol abuse. There are rarely any movies made today that lack one or all of those elements. Movie characters curse like sailors, mow people down with machine guns, and are sexually immoral.

What does God think about that? There is something very sick about the thinking of the people who put these movies together. The world they inhabit is a world apart from God and hostile to God! In many ways, this sickness and filthiness is being exposed in recent years. Still, these people are the ones crafting our entertainment!

If you think movies don’t affect your morality, you are naïve, ignorant of Satan’s devices. What are they trying to convey? What values are they trying to promote?

In Psalm 101:2-3, David says, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. … I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” David had weaknesses, and he knew it, so he determined to never even look on those things. This was a man after God’s own heart. What does that tell us about how God wants us to police what we set before our eyes?

Immorality In Movies

There is another problem on the rise in movies that goes unpoliced by mpa ratings: the immorality of lgbtq+.

There are a lot of movies trying to normalize things God considers sin. Even Disney has been taken over by the lgbt movement. They deliberately stick this filth in cartoons for kids. But Disney makes much more than just children’s cartoons. They own abc, espn, Fox Entertainment, National Geographic and dozens more companies—including Pixar. Pixar’s most recent movie, Elemental, promotes lgbt characters. Disney bought Lucasfilm, the studio that produces Star Wars, and now those elements have made it into their latest movies as well.

Disney also bought Marvel. There is even a Wikipedia entry for “Marvel Comic lgbt Superheroes”—with 70 entries. It might be mostly confined to the comics right now, but it is edging into the more mainstream movies.

Deadpool is a character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who is canonically pansexual, which is alluded to in the films. The actor who plays him has said he wants to further explore that storyline in future film installments. Loki is another extremely popular character of Marvel’s who is gender fluid in the comics and was recently confirmed as bisexual in his TV adaptation.

Film corporations tend to be more subtle with these themes in movies because they know that blatantly showing it will cause them to lose money, but look at the direction society is heading on this subject. The current subtlety will not last. Other studios are following the same trend (Read our article “Disney is Coming for Your Children” in the Philadelphian Trumpet July 2022 for more).

Amos 6 warns of the state of our nations in the end time. “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came! … Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; … That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph” (verses 1, 3-4, 6). People are celebrating as our nations fall apart. They are at ease when they should be urgently concerned. Mr. Flurry writes in The Lion Has Roared, “They are living the ‘good life’ as our nations fall apart. They are celebrating when they ought to be grieving. This is happening right now!”

“Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed. The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein” (verses 7-8).

“Note that statement!” Mr. Flurry continues, “God says, ‘I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces.’ What we esteem highly in our societies, God abhors! That is a strong statement! What Israel exalts, God HATES! Might this be an area where we need to examine ourselves to see if we hate the same things God does? … Consider the television and movies of this world, for example—which people get so excited about. Do you hate the sin that is glorified in that entertainment? Does it make you yearn for a new, godly civilization?”

More Red Flags

Here are a few more common problems in movies: false religion, occultism and demonism. You do see the spirit world in these productions—the fairy godmothers, the genie in Aladdin, Rafiki in The Lion King. They have magic or cosmic powers, but it doesn’t come from God. You never hear about the true God.

Movies have been loaded with anti-family and anti-government messages for decades: the bumbling, stupid father; kids disrespecting adults; adults who hate their bosses; corrupt governments—all these are messages Satan is sending us through these captivating, entertaining stories.

We must also beware philosophical or theological error and a warped worldview (e.g. environmentalist, humanist, socialist). For instance, notes that Oppenheimer has “Strong secular humanist worldview with unjust politically correct depictions of anti-communists who disagreed with Oppenheimer about nuclear policy. … [T]he anti-communist villains in the movie … come across as jerks. … In reality, more and more evidence of Robert Oppenheimer’s connections to communist agitators has been revealed.” Does it surprise you that the director of this film is pro-communism? Do you want sit for three hours and let him tell you a story?

Movies don’t just tell us ideas; they show us ideas in the context of a story. Stories can connect to our hearts in ways that facts don’t. Movies engage the imagination. Without our realization, they can implant ideas in our minds that we would never accept through reason. We need to be discerning. We must be evaluating the messages that movies send so we are not ignorant of them.

Here are four points on how to use judgment regarding this influential form of entertainment: movies.

1. Do something else.

Build productive hobbies! There are many other productive ways to spend your time. If you are watching a lot of movies, you are watching too many. There aren’t many good movies, so you end up watching a lot of bad ones.

You can read the entirety of Animal Farm in not much longer than it takes to view a movie. You don’t have to just go along! You can make better choices! If everyone else is taking the movie route, you don’t want to go about it in a self-righteous attitude, but it takes some courage to do something else.

2. Read the ingredients.

Don’t go into a movie blindly. If you’re interested in it, look it up first. Check the “nutrition label.” Check the rating—if it is rated for sexual content and nudity, don’t watch it. Do your research and assess whether this is something you should really be investing your time in. Hide yourself from evil or corrupt things. Proverbs 22:3 says, “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” PluggedIn.comand are both good resources for the content of the movie.

Remember, it’s not just about whether it has sex, language or violence. Some movies demand more careful thought. Some G-rated cartoons blatantly promote pagan religious ideas, for example.

3. Engage your brain.

It’s easy to turn off your brain during a movie. If you’re going to be able to discern good and evil, however, you cannot just check out. Ask yourself questions while you watch: What is the movie’s message? Is the message true? How accurate is the historical perspective? What part, if any, does religion play? How do you feel after watching it—uplifted? Inspired? Watch actively—vigilantlynot passively.

Mr. Flurry writes, “When we watch television, or go to a movie, or watch sports—we must know the Spirit! We must think as if Christ is sitting right there with us” (The Last Hour). We cannot afford to push God out of our mind. It can be especially helpful if you watch with someone who will discuss it with you afterward.

4. Turn it off/Walk out.

Have you ever done that—just turned a movie off because it was going downhill? If not, why not? If something offends your conscience, walk out or shut it off. Your mind and time are far more important than whatever money you paid to see it. The more movies we watch that we know we shouldn’t, the more jaded and desensitized we become—less offended at things God hates! We need to flee from that kind of perversion, like Joseph fled sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18; Genesis 39:7-9). You have to protect your mind and your conscience. You have to build strong morality and learn to make moral choices. Learn to see things from God’s point of view.

This is a huge part of growing up. By exercising your senses, you grow in discernment. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” People today need to heed this verse. There are many grown men who haven’t put away childish things.

We all have to make our own choices, but you do have to be honest with yourself about what you are doing and how you are spending your time—what you are putting into your mind. Think seriously about this subject. Don’t casually go along with the world in this vital area of your life. Come out of this world.