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Can I watch an R-rated movie?

A confession: I watched the movie There Will Be Blood last month. The critics all raved about Daniel Day Lewis’s performance. When I checked Plugged In for sex, violence and language, it wasn’t bad. Minimal amounts of each. It had been nominated for a Best Picture academy award. I thought I was s…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

A confession: I watched the movie There Will Be Blood last month. The critics all raved about Daniel Day Lewis’s performance. When I checked Plugged In for sex, violence and language, it wasn’t bad. Minimal amounts of each. It had been nominated for a Best Picture academy award. I thought I was safe. I love movies, and while I try to stay away from most R-rated ones, occasionally a movie like Dead Man Walking is redemptive and worth watching.

And therein lays the problem – nothing redemptive about There Will Be Blood. Lewis’s character, Daniel Plainview, is as wretched and evil a human being as you’ll ever see. Watching him put his deaf 11 year-old son on a train by himself left me feeling as bad as any murder scene.

Spending nearly 2 and a half hours in the company of evil is not entertaining, it’s just dumbing down your inner man. If it’s true, “as a man thinks, so is he,” then I’m just a little more spiritually calloused this morning.

I can hear some saying, “Come on – you’re being prudish. It’s a cruel world out there – we need to toughen up. Also, aren’t you being legalistic – Jesus set us free.”

To which I say, “Fair enough, but the Bible says, ‘Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.'” (1 Peter 2:16)

Living in our modern world is like navigating a boat in shallow, reef-filled waters. We were made to enjoy the ride, but the reefs can take you out. If you’re like me, it’s the subtleties of life that can slow you down. Choosing to watch someone do wrong things (in a movie or in real life) may not be the same as doing it, but it can pollute the pure flow of spirit-inspired thought in your brain.

Maybe that’s why Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Comments (11)

  • So true! I was just thinking on this as I travelled back home. I realized how I begin to change after watching things that aren’t Philippians 4:8 and what it does to my spirit.

  • All things are permisable, but not all things are beneficial.

    I know there are more than a few things I wish that I could erase from my mind. But, the reality is that we are usually in charge of what we allow to eneter, and we also are responsible for the consequences.

    Every foul or immoral image or idea that we expose ourselves to can be brought up and used against us in our minds. I know that I don’t want to give the devil any more ammo than what he already has, so I choose to draw a pretty conservative line.

  • Thanks for challening me. I’m not sure if I agree, at least not 100%. It depends a lot on the movie though: sometimes I feel I learn a lot watching movies loaded with sex, violence and hatred, when those things are part of the bigger story (as in real life) of a person.

    Some films exist (at least for me) only as packaging for sin, and sometimes the only reason why I wanna watch it is because I know there’s a sex scene in there.

  • R rated movies are someone’s opinion. Instead of letting a Hollywood determined letter rating be decisive, I agree with your approach of checking out what reviewers are saying, especially from a Christian standpoint. In addition to Plugged In, the US Catholic Bishops movie review section is good:


    I do think twice about seeing a movie rated “morally offensive”

    Here is the review on There will be Blood:

    Extraordinarily fine drama loosely based on Upton Sinclair 1927 novel, “Oil!” set during the early 20th century, about the rise and fall of a ruthless oil tycoon (Daniel Day-Lewis) who, accompanied by his young son (Dillon Freasier), fleeces a poor central California family of their land, and eventually finds himself pitted against one of the family’s sons, a charismatic preacher (Paul Dano). Director Paul Thomas Anderson has used the novel as a springboard to fashion a classic piece of American cinema, with Day-Lewis’ galvanizing performance among the great ones, though the confrontation between the tycoon and the preacher that forms the film’s climax is truly disturbing. Some brief but brutal violence, murder, three uses of profanity and several crude expressions. L limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (R) 2008

    The classifications are as follows:

    A-I general patronage;
    A-II adults and adolescents;
    A-III adults;
    L limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.
    O morally offensive.

  • “The eye is the lamp of the soul. If your eyes are good, your soul will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your soul will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness” Mt 6:22-23

    I am VERY cautious of what I watch… a lot of movies are also triggers – not entertainment. It’s like giving the devil a foothold. I truly do long to live a life of righteousness, holiness and w/o blame.

    Why should I put money in the pockets of perishing people who openly reject and even ridicule my Lord? I have learned (not easy) to live w/o this entertainment!

  • There is a great book out there called “Hollywood Be Thy Name” by Ray Comfort which talks about the movie industry’s history and how Christians have reacted historically and should react today.

  • My view on entertainment change when I heard John Piper say, ” there are almost no movies that don’t ask me to be entertained by attitudes, motives, and actions which Jesus died to eradicate. My heart will not allow me to be entertained by worldliness”

    Father hates sin so we should too. Being entertained by it/with it is by no means hating it.

    In light of God’s holliness just one word of filthy language is out of the question.

    Jesus didn’t come to suffer and die so we could live in luxury and laugh at sin. He came so that we might live a life free from that wretched stuff so many Christians watch.

    On top of that, couldn’t the money used for this kind of entertainment be used for something better?

  • Becky,

    Touch√©! I grant you the freedom – no questions asked. The main issue is to get people to wrestle thru this stuff rather than to set our default to society’s default setting for morality.

  • I think you’re right, it’s these subtleties that feed the flesh and can quench the Spirit in our lives. I try to guard against being prudish, but there’s a very fine line between living in the world and becoming LIKE the world. Good post.

  • Ok, friends. Allow me my freedom in Christ, and let’s agree to disagree on this issue!

    I enjoyed this particular movie very much. I was intrigued by the character studies of the two main characters. Here you have two power-hungry men who will go to any and all lengths in their self-absorbed, greedy quests. And oh the fireworks when these two butt heads!

    Oil man Plainview (with poster-child son by his side) uses the same, flowery speech and kindly manners to bilk one landowner after another. Young preacher Eli uses a similar guise of humility paired with flamboyant, anti-sin messages to gain his following. Both have their eyes on gaining power!

    So, what comes of it? Plainview becomes stinking, filthy rich; Eli, likewise, along with a huge congregational following. And yet (and here is both the irony and the overwhelming Biblical truth), they both lose everythingeverything of REAL value! In their quests to gain the world, they lose family, self-respect, honor, dignity, and their very lives. Their end is patheticall vanity and vexation!

    “He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.” Prov 11:27

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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