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Movie Nights for Teens: 25 More Movies to Spark Spiritual Discussions with Your Teen


In this sequel to the popular original book, 25 chosen movies are examined with a range of themes and story lines - to spark interesting conversations with their plots, engaging questions, Scripture applications and more. From recent releases to vintage gems, Movie Nights for Teens brings families together to discuss movies, culture and wise entertainment choices.

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In this sequel to the popular original book, 25 chosen movies are examined with a range of themes and story lines - to spark interesting conversations with their plots, engaging questions, Scripture applications and more. From recent releases to vintage gems, Movie Nights for Teens brings families together to discuss movies, culture and wise entertainment choices.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589972155
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2005
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.52 (d)

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25 More Movies To Spark Spiritual Discussions with Your Teen
By Bob Smithouser

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Focus on the Family
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-58997-215-5

Chapter One

Rated: PG-13

Themes: Courage, slavery, respecting authority, appreciating diverse cultures, justice vs. grace, monogamy, betrayal, overcoming loss, friendship, differences between Christianity and Buddhism

Running Time: 2 hours, 27 minutes

Starring: Jodi Foster as Anna Leonowens; Chow Yun-Fat as King Mongkut; Tom Felton as Louis; Bai Ling as Tuptim

Directed by: Andy Tennant


This true story contains mature themes and a few intense scenes best reserved for older teens and adults. While it doesn't promote Buddhism, the pervasiveness of Eastern religious idols and ideals warrants discussion. Dialogue alludes to the king's many wives and concubines. The film's most jarring moments, however, are violent ones. Victims of political unrest hang from trees. A man is shot in the head at close range. Others are shot during military or guerrilla attacks. A group of soldiers is poisoned. The most tense, disturbing scene involves a public beheading (avoid the worst of it by tuning out for 1:40 after Anna's Bible falls to the floor).

Story Summary

After spending most of her life in colonial India, British widow Anna Leonowens and her young son Louis head to Siam at the behest of King Mongkut to teach his eldest son English and instruct him in the ways of the West. They arrive in Bangkok in 1862 carrying luggage, a Bible, and an air of British superiority. Mother and son get a cool reception. It seems that, with England flexing its muscles around the world, some Siamese fear encroachment by the very empire she represents.

Meanwhile, Mongkut perpetuates a dynasties-old tradition of haughty chauvinism and imperious intimidation, and views Western education as a necessary evil. He rules a country steeped in Buddhism. He shares the royal palace with 23 wives, 42 concubines, and 58 children. Subjects fall prostrate in his presence. So how will he handle being challenged by a strong-willed Englishwoman who, despite wanting to show respect, runs roughshod over Siamese protocol and bristles at social injustice? Not well at first. In fact, Mongkut rewards Anna's effrontery with the assignment to educate his entire brood.

Their tempestuous start slowly gives way to mutual admiration. He's not the tyrant she first imagined him to be. And Anna models strength, intelligence, and wisdom, whether disciplining insolent children, defending an unjustly treated bondservant, or organizing a diplomatic dinner and defusing an awkward moment. During that event Mongkut honors her with a dance. It makes an impression-politically and personally. But any progress made between Anna and the king takes a devastating hit when Mongkut sends star-crossed lovers to their deaths in an attempt to save face. It seems his newest wife, Tuptim (given by her father), was so heartbroken at being torn from her true love that she snuck off to her soul mate's monastery, disguising herself as a Buddhist priest to be near him. Their public execution convinces Anna that she doesn't belong in Siam.

Lest viewers assume that Anna and the King is all about romance, it's not. The crux of the story involves political unrest, treachery, and a plot to destroy the royal family. Since Burma is a British protectorate, the fact that Burmese death squads have been attacking Siamese merchants and villages has Mongkut and his advisors worried. Retaliation could invite war with Britain. Still, something must be done. A traitor in their midst sets a plan in motion to intentionally thrust Siam into war and unseat Mongkut from the throne.

The trap is sprung after Anna has left for the docks. The best Mongkut can hope to do is create a deception that will buy him time to hide his children. The king's servant urges Anna to return and care for the little ones. She agrees. Cornered, Mongkut rides out to confront his enemies in what he realizes could be a suicide mission to preserve the royal line. But sharp wits and a lot of gunpowder save the day. Anna's and Mongkut's deep affection for one another leads to one last dance before she departs for England. He tells her that, until now, he could never understand how "a man could be satisfied with only one woman."

In a final voice-over the grown prince recalls, "Anna had shined such a light on Siam." Indeed, Anna Leonowens's influence led Mongkut's heir to abolish slavery, reform the judicial system, and institute religious freedom. This Christian woman's assignment wasn't to evangelize a Buddhist nation. Even so, her courageous, wise, loving example gained the respect of its leaders and created openness to Christian thought.

Before You Watch

Much like Anna Leonowens, the prophet Daniel found himself-by his wisdom, spiritual integrity, and noble example-influencing a nation that didn't worship God. During your family devotional time, study snapshots from his life chronicled in Daniel 1-2 and 5:29-6:28. We may never find ourselves attempting to gain royal favor through uncompromising lifestyle evangelism, but we still must submit to teachers, bosses, and others in authority who can be inspired to see Jesus Christ differently by actions that speak louder than words.

Bible Bookmarks

Dan. 1-2, 5:29-6:28; Rom. 5:15-20, 8:16-18, 13:1; Jn. 3:16-18, 16:33; Ps. 22:24, 34:19; 2 Cor. 1:3-11; 1 Kgs. 11:1-13; Matt. 5:14-16

Talking Points

1. How do Anna's early struggles exemplify what missionaries face entering a foreign culture? Apply Romans 13:1. Can Christians armed with eternal truth project an air of arrogance and superiority, just as Anna did about being British? In what ways? What "foreign culture" could you influence right where you live? How can witnessing Anna's maturity help us to, first and foremost, love people where they are?

2. Read about Solomon's harem and idolatry in 1 Kings 11:1-13. Compare his behavior to King Mongkut's. Was one more right than the other? Discuss the challenge, when trying to reach the lost, of loving sinners without giving the impression that God approves of their lifestyle.

3. Buddhists conclude that "all life is suffering." How does the personal, loving God of the Bible want us to view suffering? Read Psalm 22:24 and 34:19, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Romans 8:16-18, and John 16:33. Has the Lord comforted you amid pain? How?

4. Why are slavery and other forms of oppression no big deal to a society that believes "all life is suffering"? What fundamental beliefs in America are reflected in how we treat each other?

5. What did Anna mean when she told the prince, "Most people don't see the world the way it is; they see it as they are"? How should Christians view the world ... and themselves?

6. Mongkut realized that monogamy is better than a revolving door of sexual encounters with numerous partners. How does that testify to the fact that God designed sex for intimacy, not mere recreation? Do people still fail to grasp that truth? How? What are some consequences?

7. Louis and the prince get off to a rough start, but manage to become friends. What caused conflict early in their relationship? How do you think they overcame it? Have you ever made a friend out of an enemy? Do you need to?

8. During Anna's science experiment she warns the children not to assume that difficult tasks are impossible, noting, "One way to achieve the impossible is to change the climate." Are you dealing with a problem that seems unsolvable? Might changing the climate affect the outcome? Consider the possibilities. What can you do to get things started?

9. Why do you think the authorities dealt so severely with Tuptim's crime of passion? Contrast Mongkut's unbending desire to enforce the law and "save face" with how God demonstrated mercy and grace in redeeming us (John 3:16-18, Romans 5:15-20).

10. The grown prince recalls, "Anna had shined such a light on Siam." Read Matthew 5:14-16. Ask, "Is your lamp under a bowl or on a stand?" If you've seen your teen's light shining brightly, take this opportunity to describe what you've witnessed and how proud you are.

Follow-Up Activity

Teens unfamiliar with Buddhism might benefit from comparing its esoteric beliefs with core Christian truths. An outstanding way to do this is with the help of The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error 2: World Religions, Steven Cory's foldout pamphlet from Moody Publishers that provides a side-by-side analysis of Christianity and other world religions, including Buddhism. Another brilliant resource (available in adult and teen versions) is the book Jesus Among Other Gods by renowned Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias.

If you enjoyed the epic story of Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut, consider renting the Oscar-winning 1956 musical The King and I, starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr.

Just for Fun

Young Tom Felton is likable here as Anna's son, Louis. However, millions of moviegoers love to hate him in the recurring role he has become most famous for-Harry Potter's malicious rival, Draco Malfoy.

Rated: G

Themes: Christ's sacrifice, friendship, betrayal, perseverance, vengeance, forgiveness, pride, mercy, peace, God's grace and healing

Running Time: 3 hours, 32 minutes

Starring: Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur; Stephen Boyd as Messala; Hugh Griffith as Sheik Ilderim; Jack Hawkins as Quintus Arrius; Haya Harareet as Esther

Directed by: William Wyler


Some intense action and violence will seem harsh for a G movie, but should pose no problem for teens. There are whippings, beatings, and other cruel acts (including Christ's crucifixion) by Roman soldiers. A battle at sea features sword fighting and bloodied slaves struggling to escape a sinking galleon. Men get trampled when chariots wreck during a big race.

Story Summary

This winner of 11 Academy Awards (including 1959's Best Picture) is subtitled A Tale of the Christ because the title character periodically encounters an enigmatic Nazarene carpenter whose face we never see. It is a reverent tribute to Jesus, though the story focuses primarily on the trials, travels, and triumphs of Judah Ben-Hur, a Judean nobleman convicted of a crime he didn't commit by Messala, a boyhood companion who has become an ambitious, malicious Roman tribune.

The time is A.D. 26. Judah, his mother, and sister welcome Messala after years apart, but pleasantries turn to hostility when Judah refuses to sell out countrymen who oppose Rome's intrusive rule. A freak accident involving a parading governor and loose roof tiles gives Messala an excuse to make an example of Judah ("By condemning without hesitation an old friend I shall be feared"). The women are imprisoned. Judah's strong back makes him a valuable galley slave.

After three years of rowing Roman warships and tasting the cruel sting of a whip, Judah finds himself aboard the galleon of military consul Quintus Arrius. Their ship falls under attack. Judah saves Arrius' life, earning him the emperor's thanks and the freedom to serve as Arrius' slave. But Arrius respects him too much for that. In Rome, Judah becomes a respected member of the consul's household-not to mention an excellent charioteer-before being legally adopted as his heir. Judah accepts Arrius' signet ring, yet feels called to leave these comforts and return home.

On his way back to Jerusalem, Judah encounters a wealthy sheik with splendid Arabian horses who asks him to drive his team to victory over the undefeated champion, Messala. Although tempted by the offer, Judah's quest to free his mother and sister takes priority. So does his yearning for a less sporting form of vengeance.

Judah arrives home to find his household dark and neglected. His servant Esther is there to embrace him, and they soon express a long-unspoken love for one another. She warns him to let go of his hatred, quoting the teacher who draws crowds on the hillside. Reluctantly, Judah decides he will forgive Messala if the tribune restores his mother and sister to him. Messala, somewhat intimidated by Judah's new status, agrees to find and release them if they are still alive.

Sadly, the women have developed leprosy in prison. They appear briefly to Esther, but demand that she tell Judah they are dead, which she does. Overcome by grief and rage, Judah decides to reconsider the sheik's challenge to work with his horses and humble Messala in the arena. Judah wins, and in the process Messala's dirty play leads to his own fatal injuries. With Messala's body broken and bleeding, the proud, cold-hearted Roman takes a final stab at his old friend by telling Judah that his family can be found in the Valley of the Lepers.

What changed Messala? What destroyed Judah's family? What scourge threatens freedom? Rome. At least that's Judah's opinion. The bitter, tormented Judean prince respectfully returns Arrius' ring and embraces his former identity, though Esther claims she hardly recognizes the venomous man he has become. She speaks hopefully about the ideals of Jesus. Forgiveness. Love. Faith. Heaven. Then she and Judah prepare to take his mother and sister to the young rabbi, only to learn that the authorities have arrested him. A throng watches Jesus march toward Calvary. Then Judah has an encounter with Christ that changes him. And everyone learns that there is healing in the cross.

Before You Watch

Remind your teen that, unlike today's computer-enhanced blockbusters, Ben-Hur is an old-fashioned epic made decades before the advent of the technical wizardry we now take for granted. The extras are actors. And the stunts are real.

Bible Bookmarks

Gen. 37-45; Lk. 5:12-16, 17:11-19; Jer. 29:11-12; Jn. 4:13-14, 15:19, 17:14-19; 1 Pet. 3:15, 5:7; Rom. 8:28, 12:17-21; Matt. 6:26, 26:6; 1 Jn. 2:15-17

Talking Points

1. Much of Ben-Hur is its own spiritual reward-a straightforward presentation of Christian themes just asking to be explored further. Ask, "What moment was most meaningful to you?" and "How did you feel about the way Jesus came across?" Talk about the filmmakers' overall attitude toward Christianity and how that differs from most Hollywood portrayals today.

2. What does Messala mean when he tells Judah, "It's a Roman world. If you want to live in it you must become part of it"? Can you think of a modern parallel? What do John 15:19, 17:14-19, and 1 John 2:15-17 warn Christians about becoming enmeshed in a worldly culture?



Excerpted from MOVIE NIGHTS FOR TEENS by Bob Smithouser Copyright © 2005 by Focus on the Family. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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