The 5 Most Overrated Films I’ve Ever Seen

Braveheart (1995), [R]
I know, right? You’d think a historical epic like Braveheart would be on my list of favorites. Well, it would be – except Mel Gibson and Co. concentrated so intensely on making things “epic”, that they all but forgot the “historical” part.
Not that I should be surprised. After all, this is Hollywood we’re talking about here.
Scottish history has always interested me a great deal. I may not have a PhD or some fancy diploma to prove it, but I do know a few things. And I know enough to recognize that the history in Braveheart is ludicrously inaccurate. From its suggestion that Wallace and Isabella of France were romantically involved, to its sorely lacking recreation of the Battle of Stirling Bridge – the historical errors abound.
If you happen to be a fan of the film, you’re probably crying foul at this point: “Oh, come on. It’s entertainment, for goodness sake! You want a history lesson, go somewhere else. Besides, the story isn’t supposed to be based on fact: it’s based on legend, and should be taken as such.”
I understand the argument; I even agree with it to a certain extent. In fact, I might be able to look past the glaring flaws and just enjoy the (admittedly rousing) tale of valiant men fighting against tyranny. All this I could do, and more. But ultimately, what I find hardest to swallow about this movie is its warped depiction of Wallace’s character.
The William Wallace of history was a remarkably noble man; a dedicated warrior who was also a devout Christian. The William Wallace of Braveheart differs from this model in many respects. His faith is all but non-existent. He moons his enemies on the battlefield. He seeks ruthless vengeance against the noblemen who have forsaken his cause. And he fathers a child by a woman who is not his wife. In short, his character is closer that of a vulgar savage than to that of a God-fearing knight. Seriously?
I wonder what Wallace would have to say about that.

Fiddler On the Roof (1971), [G]
The music is fabulous. The filmmaking is stellar. And the story demonstrates the necessity of passing on to our children, not merely traditions, but also the reasons behind those traditions.  So what’s not to like? Several things, actually.
Fiddler On the Roof makes a mockery of fatherhood and winks at the rebellion of a younger generation against an older one. Overstatement? I think not. Take, for example, the marrying off of Tevye’s three daughters.
The eldest girl pledges to wed a devout Jew, but goes about it in a less-then-honorable fashion. After some flustered frustration, Tevye backs down and consents to the marriage. This sets a precedent.
The second girl becomes engaged to a radical Jew, making it clear to her father that she does not desire his permission, only his blessing. And once again, Tevye relents.
The youngest follows the rebellion of her sisters with the boldest move of all: she marries outside the faith. Elopes, in fact. For a while, Tevye stands firm by his convictions and refuses to bless the match. Of course, by the end of the film, he’s relented there, too.
What sort of message does this send? That if you truly love someone, you will give them what they want. That the dishonoring of parents is something to be laughed at, even admired. That a father’s role as head of the home counts for nothing.
Stop being so “old fashioned”. The times are changing. Roll with it.

Bambi (1942), [G]
Where do I even begin with this one? It’s a children’s film of course. The hand-drawn animation is delightful (especially in this age of CGI overkill) and the songs are fun. The story follows the life of Bambi the deer and his friends, Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk.
Such a whimsical set-up is obviously appealing to small children. Not only that, but parents can feel safely confident that their youngsters won’t be exposed to sex, foul language, or graphic violence over the course of the film’s 70 min. running time.
Yes, yes, Bambi is remarkably clean when it comes to such content issues. But is that really all that matters? How often do we get so caught up in counting the number of curse words in a film that we almost completely forget about the worldview?
The prevailing worldview in Bambi is environmentalism. And it’s about as subtle as a smack upside the head. The forest animals – including carnivorous ones, like “Friend Owl” – are depicted as a big happy family where everybody gets along just fine “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” they chortle in their joy.
Drumroll please. Enter that despicable intruder, “Man”. We never actually see him, but he lurks about the periphery, like a fiend from a monster movie. He roams the forest with his hunting buddies: shooting his terrible gun, killing poor, helpless animals, and setting the woods ablaze by leaving his campfire unattended. Is he not detestable and cruel?
There’s a fancy word for that sort of heavy-handed propaganda: it’s called crud.

Casablanca (1942), [PG]
I know I’m running afoul of many movie critics by adding Michael Curtiz’ masterpiece to this list. It’s generally considered one of the greatest films in history. And I would agree, but only to a certain extent.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that, artistically-speaking, Casablanca is incredibly well-done: it has a great script, exceptional cinematography, and top-notch acting from a top-notch cast. Also worth noting is the fact that several well-known expressions we use today – such as “Play it again, Sam” or “A penny for your thoughts” – are derived from it. In these respects, Casablanca is rightfully regarded as a classic piece of cinema.
Story-wise, though, I’m not completely sure I get it.
Consider: it revolves around a love-triangle; the affection of two men for one woman. And even though the men are decent enough fellows, the woman, Ilsa, clearly treats her marriage vows lightly (at one point in the movie, she brazenly determines to leave her husband in favor of a past lover). The movie doesn’t treat this as morally wrong in the slightest, and further, seems to suggest that the audience should have sympathy for Ilsa and her self-imposed woes.
Excuse me?
Casablanca may be one of the greats of Hollywood history, and well worth the time of every movie enthusiast. But that doesn’t mean it should be viewed without discernment.

Facing the Giants (2006), [PG]
A good effort, to be sure, but I don’t understand the large amounts of praise that so many Christians lavish on this movie. Sure, the quality of the filmmaking was above-average  – as far as independent Christian movies go – but once again, the story makes me pause and scratch my head.
Author Ted Kluck more or less sums up my own opinion when he writes,
I took a surprising amount of flack on my blog for ripping Facing the Giants, a movie I thought, and still think, was famously bad, even by famously-bad Christian movie standards. I think this not because it wasn’t a great effort on the part of some earnest, good-hearted actors and writers (it was); rather, because it really encouraged a sort of prosperity-centered “God as a cosmic vending machine” theology, where one begins to pray, and then in the case of Coach, one receives a state championship team, a new truck, and a fetus. This just isn’t, in my experience or understanding of Scripture, how God works most of the time. Which raises a greater question: Are we required to “like” or “support” something like this just because it’s “Christian”? (Why We Love the Church, p. 112)
It is because of this that I much prefer Sherwood Pictures’ first film, Flywheel (2003). It may be artistically rough around the edges, but the message is a far sounder one.

There you have it: the 5 most overrated films I’ve ever seen. That doesn’t necessarily mean I regret watching them, but I do think the “veneration” they receive is a bit much. Feel free to agree or disagree with me down in the comments section. Better yet, share some of your own “overrated film experiences”. I’d love to hear about ’em.

36 thoughts on “The 5 Most Overrated Films I’ve Ever Seen”

  1. Reblogged this on Justification by Grace and commented:
    You know, with all the brew-ha-ha in the presidential race of late, it would be nice to see the kind of honesty, integrity, and discernment among the political leaders as displayed by my dear friend and brother in Christ, Corey the Ink Slinger.

    Frankly, these days of Code Orange and Elephant Rooms, etc., I’d be overwhelmed with joy unspeakable just to see Corey’s honesty, integrity and discernment in the pulpits of American churches.

  2. Thank you for putting Facing the Giants in there. Unfortunately most of the Christian films I’ve seen have the same problem.

    1. Indeed. Flywheel is one of the better Christian films I’ve seen – you should give it a look. Again, it’s a little rough around the edges (artistically speaking), but the story is quite good.

  3. Agree for the most part, especially about FtG. And I agree with your complaints re: Braveheart. But for the sheer emotional charge of it all, I still love the movie. I agree that Wallace was even more noble, from all accounts, than depicted here; but you have to admit, he comes off pretty noble in the end. Again, your criticism is good, but maybe it’s just the savage in me that loves the film!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :) Braveheart is indeed an emotionally rousing film – I was on the edge of my seat more than once! I guess my dislike of it stems primarily from the fact that William Wallace is one of my heroes; to see his true character dimissed in favor of Hollywood fantasy just irks me.

  4. I haven’t seen the whole of “Facing the Giants”, but I’d like to. I’m assuming you’ve seen Fireproof, though?

    I always got freaked out as a kid about Bambi. What an awful movie to be peddling to children. *groans*

    Good list, interesting read.

    1. FtG is worth a watch perhaps, bearing in mind the questionable theology. I haven’t seen Fireproof, though I hear it’s good. Supposedly Courageous is the Kendrick Bros’ best movie yet. It just came out on DVD this past week, so we’ll probably rent it.

      Glad I’m not the only one who finds Bambi disturbing… :)

      1. I found parts of Fireproof, and specifically the conversion scene to be a bit forced and overdone, but overall it was very good.

  5. Oh, good review! I agree with most of what you said – the Mel Gibson take in Braveheart is sickening, though I’ve never watched it I’ve heard enough from others to make me SICK!

    Fiddler on the Roof, is in my mind one of the greatest tragedy movies ever. Yet it’s spouted as sooo good. It is good if you look at it that children who disobey their parents don’t get rewarded but rather well – a mixed up life, that could have been so much better if they had taken their father’s advice. Sure, matchmaking is a little old fashioned but it’s a loooooooot better than people’s idea of getting matched up today – he is cute – is NEVER a good reason, he should not be cute but rather chivalrous.

    But I hate that Hollywood always make parents look like bumbling fools and idiots! I want to scream. Though in my stories parents aren’t always exemplary – they are human and just as much capable of failing as we are but – that does NOT mean that they should be mocked and laughed at, and told they are old school! (Sorry this is one of my most passionate subjects.. *ahem*) Have a parent on a death bed and then you will realize how much they know and how much you can’t live without them.

    Bambi – Never saw it that way in my whole life, but you are right. I was terrified of Man as a kid and there is a reason that I don’t eat dear when it’s served to me. I can’t bear the thought of eating Bambi – good thing I didn’t see Chicken Run as a kid. Bambi was scary! That is where I learned to be afraid of THUNDER storms. I still don’t like them.

    Casablanca – cool story with some horrible ideas in it, the love triangle and a few other – well a lot of other things could be left out but overall… so so… :) not a favorite.

    Facing the Giants. I must confess that I haven’t watched the whole thing through in once sitting – I don’t think I’ve even watched the whole movie. I’ve never thought of it in that way – and you are right. God isn’t a vending machine for fervent prayers but – it does show the power of prayer – and there are some people who do live like that. Okay maybe they don’t get all of that in a year. But they do live day to day on a prayer basis, where God opens the doors of heaven upon them for food, clothes, and more…but I get your point. Being a christian and praying won’t MAKE that happen in your life, and if that is what you are looking to happen if you become a believer then you have problems….

    But you probably weren’t thinking I’d leave you a book for a comment so I’ll stop now.

    1. Don’t worry, Jessica – I always appreciate long comments. :)

      Fiddler on the Roof is a tragic film in many ways. And as I said in my post, I appreciate the lesson about passing on, not merely traditions, but the reasons behind those traditions. Still, the film (particularly because it’s a musical) treats the rebellion of the children too lightly; and Tevye, though we may appreciate his good humor and funny antics, isn’t exactly someone to emulate.

      Chicken Run has some themes similar to Bambi, but because it’s meant to be a spoof of The Great Escape, I don’t really take issue with it. :)

      Agreed on Facing the Giants. Yes, there are indeed times when God pours out His blessings like that. However, I think the film (intentionally or not) makes it look too simple: “Just turn your life over to God, and your troubles are over.”

      In Flywheel, the main character repents and turns to God… but that doesn’t make his troubles disappear. In fact, they multiply.

      1. If you want a movie that’s more realistic about the “repent and make your troubles disappear” try watching Kerry LIvgren an Kevin Max in “The Imposter.” Not a classic in acting, and there are some hitches in the plot movement, but the message is so much better than the FtG kind of thing. And the music is great!

  6. Thank you for adding Casablanca. I am a HUGE fan of classic movies and while it is an okay movie it is definitely not THE classic movie. Bergman’s Gaslight or Notorious are better showcases of her talent and as better films. As for the romance aspect…I will just harrumph and leave it at that.

    1. To be honest, I’m stunned nobody is throwing rotten tomatoes at me yet, considering Casablanca‘s revered status. Glad I’m not the only one who think it’s overrated. :)

      I’ve never seen the two films you mentioned, but I’ll add them to the queue. Personally, I didn’t even think it was Bogart’s best movie; I prefer him The Maltese Falcon. His role there is more memorable, in my opinion.

  7. Braveheart – agreed. “Good” – Yes. “Great” – no. “Greatest of all time” – not on your life. I’m not sure that I’d be willing to put any movie on the ‘great’ list that feels it has to take me into a ‘bedroom,’ marital or otherwise. And, of course, Braveheart does both. If you want a great movie about a godly Scot, go to Chariots of Fire. Wallace dies for national freedom, Liddell dies for Christ.

    FtG – Never seen it. But I agree about Flywheel. Good movie. Again – not great. And there’s also a little bit of the “God as vending machine” going on in there as well. Put in your obedience and get out the cash to pay off your ‘overages’ to the penny.

    Fiddler/Bambi – Haven’t seen/haven’t seen in decades.

    Casablanca – It’s a great story. And don’t miss the fact that even in great stories with a lot of sin in them there can still be strong biblical imagery. LIke Sidney Carton in T2C, there is a sort of ‘rebirth’ in Rick. There is, of course, that strong ‘scent’ of a past that found him fighting in a romantic cause (with Hemingway in Spain, perhaps) that blacklisted him with the U.S. But Rick’s ‘conversion’ back to a ‘fighting romantic,’ forsaking the girl and freedom and taking Louis with him to fight the Germans in the Resistance has overtones of Carton’s last words in T2C…”Greater love hath no man…”

    1. Braveheart – Agreed. I’d take Eric Liddell’s story over Gibson’s Hollywood fantasy any day of the week.

      Flywheel – Good point. That sort of faulty theology seems to be the bane of many an independent Christian film, though Flywheel has less of it than others.

      Casablanca – I hadn’t quite thought of it in that light, Pastor. Excellent point, though. I guess I’ll be thinking on that for a while… :)

      1. Haha. My friend, consider yourself lucky. Spend the six hours you saved avoiding those films doing greater things :D

  8. I will admit, there I have a place for Casablanca in my list of movies I liked watching, but mainly on the good points you mentioned, I thought the morality was questionable in many places. Therein is the catch of film, you can’t appreciate all of how it’s done, coming from unregenerate people, but there are a few good pieces you can walk away with.

    Glad you mentioned Flywheel over Facing the Giants, that one was certainly the better of the two, despite some minor cheesiness.

  9. I can’t really argue with you, Ink, despite the fact that I’ve always included Braveheart among my top five favorite movies! The things you found wrong with it…are definitely wrong with it. I didn’t appreciate the way it messed with history, either. Actually it’s been years since I’ve seen it, and I’m not sure how well it would hold up for me.

    I honestly found Robert the Bruce a much more interesting character in the movie than William Wallace. His struggles of conscience were fascinating to watch, and Angus Mafadyen did a beautiful job playing him. I always think of the scene where Robert the Bruce roams through a bloody battlefield, knowing that those people were killed because of him, is one of the finest pieces of acting I’ve ever seen.

    Cindy at Notes in the Key of Life

  10. Clash of opinions. o_O

    I can only really voice my opinion for two films, Fiddler on the Roof and Facing the Giants (I haven’t seen the others…. oh wait, I saw Bambi but who cares….).

    I seriously love Fiddler on the Roof, but I’ve also never analyzed/thought about it the way you did. It’s one of our “classic” family films that we’ve watched since we were little. So I don’t really want to dispute it. :\

    And Facing the Giants: I thought it was the best-quality Christian film out there for awhile (until Fireproof and Courageous came out), and I have no problem with the story. I think generally, films that are under the label “Christian” generally have a problem anyway (lack of story, lack of quality, lack of acting….), so that’s a given. But I also don’t agree with the thought that the movie portrays God as a vending machine. So there’s that.

    Again, though, certain movies, I just don’t like to analyze. Mostly because I’ve been close to them since I was little, so disputing them is like messing with my childhood :P

    I was very intrigued by your opinions, though, and of course, don’t think I don’t respect them.

  11. If you are going to review movies, you should pay better attention to the details. In Casablanca Ilsa has been told her husband died at the hands of the Nazis.
    She then meets Rick. When she later finds out her husband is alive, she leaves Rick immediately.
    I think you were just looking for a hook to attack what most people consider one of the top 5 movies of all time, in order to garner attention.
    You then attack Bambi, as the animals have the temerity to fear and loathe hunters? Hello Mister Thicky, if some Elmer Fudd was hunting you, you might resent it too. The movie is aimed at kids, I doubt one would want to scare the heck out of them by killing all the critters in it, no matter how tasty they might be, unless you have no ability to relate to a childs fears.
    William Wallace a noble man? You know knowing about him, he was more barbarian than noble, and while a Christian like most celtic men of his era he embraced much of the old pagan faith.
    You have a child like faith in the mythic hero, such as a Patton. Old Georgie, the great Christian warrior, carried on a affair with his NIECE till the day he died, breaking his wife’s heart.

  12. A lot of people feel the same way about brave heart. But did it ever proclaim itself as being historically accurate?

    Even the opening dialogue suggests otherwise. “I shall tell you of William Wallace. Historians from England will say I am a liar, but history is written by those who have hanged heroes.”

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