The coalition of film critics at Christianity Today (I'm one of them) has just voted for and posted its list of the "Top Ten Most Redeeming Films of 2007." The list is pretty solid--and I'd agree with all the choices with the exception of maybe Freedom Writers (which I have not seen). I'd stick Once in there instead, because I felt that movie was just about as "holy" as they come... Actually, I'm not quite sure what "redeeming film" even means. The website describes the criteria in this way:
Stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are "feel-good" movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films.
This seems pretty straightforward, but when you really think about "redemptive elements" I think it becomes a bit harder to categorize. Is it redemption in the sense of justice or justification? Is it redeemed in the sense of "making new" or "making pure"? Or can it simply be that something ugly is made beautiful or something wrong made right? In any of these cases, it's not exactly a clear-cut criteria.
We critics at Christianity Today also voted for the "Critic's Choice" top ten (i.e. our picks for the best films of 2007). That list will be unveiled next Tuesday (Feb. 5). But in my view, any film I would call one of the "top ten of the year" would necessarily also be one of the "most redeeming." And I guess I should say that by "redeeming" I don't mean Christian or even spiritual as much as "valuable" or "true" or "significant." But those are broad words too... I guess I just mean films that bring some new understanding or insight into the human soul and circumstance, and in the process a glimpse of the Other-centered desire that churns within us all. That may not sound "redeeming," but I think it is holy.