Is 2014 the year of the biblical movie?

Shane Harper plays a Christian student forced to defend his faith in God's Not Dead (


If Christian movie lovers have been hoping for more selection at mainstream theatres, it appears their prayers are being answered. The uptick in films featuring faith-based themes and stories -- from indie films (God's Not Dead, Heaven Is For Real, Son Of God) to big budget Hollywood productions (Noah, Exodus, Left Behind) -- has spurred some observers to call 2014 "the year of the biblical movie."

Jian seeks insight from Donna Bowman, a pop culture writer and frequent contributor to the A.V. Club. Bowman is also an associate professor at the University of Central Arkansas, with a specialty in Christian theology.

3 movie controversies

Taking on religious subject matter is not for the faint of heart -- filmmakers must be prepared to field questions about their intentions, their interpretation, and their imagery. Here are three films that have stoked debate and divided opinion in recent years.

Do you think films inspired by the bible should be held to higher account? Why or why not?

The Passion of Christ by Mel Gibson, 2004

The Passion of The Christ certainly sparked passionate opinions in 2004. Some argued that the film's portrayal of Jews bordered on antisemitism; others that the movie focused more on the brutality of Christ's death than on his message. The movie also split opinion within many Christian families. While some thought it important to show the hard-hitting film to their children, others thought it was far too graphic for young viewers.

The Golden Compass by Chris Weitz, 2007

The Golden Compass was boycotted by many different Christian organizations. Some Catholic groups felt the movie to be a direct attack on their denomination; however, others countered that the movie was more of a commentary on oppressive religious practices than an affront to Christianity or Catholicism.

Noah by Darren Aronofsky, 2014

Some Christian groups have argued that Aronofsky's latest film is not an accurate depiction of Noah's story from the Old Testament. The director says the movie is based on the biblical flood story; however, the message is more environmental than biblical. The film has also been banned in many Muslim countries for conflicting with Islamic rules of depicting prophets. Quite a flood of controversy.

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