For some people, the Easter season is a time for spiritual reflection. For others, it’s an excuse to eat lots and lots of chocolate. For families, it’s an opportunity to go on Easter Egg hunts if the Easter Bunny has travelled their way. And for the majority, it’s time to take a break from the rigours of work and enjoy a few good movies on TV.
If you can relate to any of the above (especially that last point!) this article is for you. While the following movies can be watched at any point during the year, they have special significance during Easter. Will any of these be on your watchlist this year?
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
On the surface, this adaptation of CS Lewis’s classic children’s book is about 4 children who discover the magical world of Narnia after stepping through an old wardrobe. But beneath the surface, the movie is riddled with Christian symbolism, as was the original work of fiction by the Christian author and theologian.
The movie, like the book, is a story about good and evil. Aslan the lion is a representation of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His life for the benefit of the many. The White Witch is a representation of the great tempter himself, the Devil. And the Turkish Delight the White Witch uses to tempt Edmund is a symbol of the forbidden fruit that leads many people to sin. Of course, you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy the story as it can be taken as a simple fantasy adventure. But if you have any knowledge of the Gospels at all, the movie will take on greater significance for you.
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
There are loads of movies about the life of Jesus Christ so like a kid in the Easter Egg aisle at your local supermarket, you are spoiled for choice. However, this epic adaptation of the Gospels is one of the more popular tellings of ‘the greatest story ever told,’ so if you have four hours spare on an Easter afternoon, this could be the one to settle down with.
The movie covers the whole gamut of Jesus’s life, from His birth to His death and resurrection, so everything we need to know about the story is here. The great Max von Sydow takes the lead role and there is room for many other famous actors in this Biblical saga, including John Wayne, who, as the Centurion present at Christ’s cross, drawls the now-famous line: “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
This adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel is perfect for Easter due to the wide number of sweet treats on display, including the coveted Wonka Bars, the chocolate river, and the everlasting gobstoppers. The movie is also a great educational tool for those parents whose children tend to overindulge themselves on Easter Eggs because, as you will remember, some of the children come to a sticky end because of their sweet obsession.
Of course, if you’re looking for something that is more faithful to Dahl’s book, you could watch Tim Burton’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory instead. However, this movie will always retain its classic status due to the superior songs and the performance of Gene Wilder who will, despite Johnny Depp’s great performance, forever be the definitive version of Willy Wonka.
This mash-up of CGI and live-action is far from being a classic but if you have ever wanted to see a movie where the Easter Bunny poops jellybeans, this one is for you! It’s also one for your kids, who will be far more tolerant of the bonkers plot – the Easter Bunny wants to be a drummer in a rock band. So, if you have planned to get on with a few DIY activities during the holidays, this dim-witted but well-meaning children’s film could be one way to keep the kids from getting under your feet.
The Matrix (1999)
Why would we include this on a list of Easter movies? It’s a kick-ass action flick that many of us view multiple times each year. Well, consider the fact that Neo is labelled as ‘The One,’ the person who can free humanity from the machines that have enslaved them. This is remarkably close to the Christian perception of Jesus, the Messiah figure who came to free humanity from a sinful nature that holds them captive.
At the end of the first Matrix movie, Neo sacrifices himself before rising again, which is an obvious parallel to Christ’s resurrection. And then there’s the character of Trinity. While she doesn’t seem to have any spiritual significance, her name references the ‘Trinity’ which is the term used to describe the relationship between Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.
This would appear to be a perfect Easter movie then. And let’s not forget the reference to the White Rabbit in the movie, which has to be representative of the Easter Bunny! I’m joking, of course, as that is a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland rather than the Bible. Still, if you need a way to convince your other half to let you rewatch The Matrix again this Easter, you can use the bunny reference as your excuse for returning down the rabbit hole.
Rise Of The Guardians (2012)
Forget the Avengers and the X-Men. This movie features the greatest team-up of heroes ever! Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, Jack Frost, and the Easter Bunny (hence its inclusion here), get together to take down the villainous Pitch Black (surprisingly not played by Vin Diesel) before he engulfs the world in darkness.
This is a movie that is often shown at Christmas but because it takes place near Easter and features the Easter Bunny, it makes for ideal viewing post-Easter Egg hunt if you want to keep your children entertained. And as the Easter Bunny is the Guardian of Hope (a little like Jesus), and because he gives a great explanation of the meaning of Easter during the movie, there are extra reasons to include this entertaining animated feature within your Easter viewing.
Ice-Age: The Great Egg-Scapade (2016)
Do you know how Easter Egg hunts first originated? According to this animated short, it began when Manny, Diego, and the rest of the Ice Age gang, set off in search of the eggs that Squint, a dastardly pirate bunny, had stolen. Of course, this isn’t close to the truth at all! The origins of Easter Egg hunting are linked to an old pagan tradition. But rather than bore your kids with a long-winded piece of history, you could give them this to watch as an (inaccurate) educational lesson if they want to know the reason why you’re sending them out into the cold to look for hidden eggs.
Lasse Hallström’s adaptation of Joanna Harris’s popular novel tells the tale of chocolatier Vianne (Juliette Binoche), who opens up a chocolate shop in a small remote village in France. For most of us, this would be a dream come true, especially in this age when stores are closing down all over the place. But for the villagers in this movie, Vianne and her tempting confections aren’t so warmly welcomed. Still, they do give in eventually!
Admittedly, this is sometimes considered to be more of a romantic movie than an Easter movie, but as chocolate features heavily within the plot (including scenes where Vianne prepares a spread of chocolates for the Easter festival), you might still be tempted to sit down with this one again during the Easter season. It might even encourage you to give in to temptation and visit your local chocolate shop if you have room for more chocolate after eating your Easter Eggs.
Superman Returns (2006)
“Everyday, I hear people crying for a saviour,” says Superman to Lois Lane at one point in this semi-sequel to the classic Christopher Reeve movies. It’s a pertinent thing for the hero to say as, in comic book legend, he has often been considered as a Messiah-type figure who has come from another world to protect mankind. In other words, he is a lot like Jesus, but the spiritual symbolism doesn’t end there.
In Superman Returns, our hero is stabbed in the side by Lex Luthor, as was Jesus when He was hanging from the cross during His crucifixion. After sacrificing his life to save others, Superman wakes from a coma after three days, which is an echo of Jesus’s resurrection three days after His dead body was placed in a tomb. And when discussing his lineage, Superman says: “the son becomes the father, and the father the son,” which is a homage to Jesus’ description of His relationship to God – “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
Of course, you probably won’t come to this movie for a Bible lesson. Still, if you ever needed an excuse to rewatch Bryan Singer’s underrated superhero flick, you could let the Easter holidays be it.
The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson’s movie is not for the faint of heart. It unflinchingly depicts Christ’s torture and crucifixion and is far more authentic than those other Biblical movies that have shied away from the reality of the beatings and violence that He endured. For Christians, The Passion of The Christ is a heart-breaking watch as the suffering of Jesus is powerfully shown. Theology tells us that Jesus died for our sins and this fully captures what He went through as He sacrificed His life for the sake of mankind.
There is more to the movie than the horrors of crucifixion, however. Jim Caviezel gives an emotionally tender performance as Jesus so even if you’re not a Christian, it is still worth tuning in to see him in the role of a lifetime. And while there is graphic brutality depicted on screen, there are also heart-wrenching scenes of another kind, such as when Mary, Jesus’s mother, runs to comfort her son when He falls while carrying His cross. Their relationship is another reason to give this one a go.
For people of faith, this is the ultimate Easter movie. But if you’re not a Christian and you are resolutely unmoved by the spiritual meaning behind Christ’s death and resurrection, you could still watch this for the history lesson it provides.
So there we have it, our 10 Movie picks to keep you busy over Easter.
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!