I love movies. Probably too much. Definitely too much. I always think about whether something is beneficial or not. I am continually asking if such and such movie is promoting good or evil. I often don’t know. However, I have come up with three rules of thumb that I use in evaluation (I have written on this before). This is especially helpful when it comes to what I will let my kids watch.

Forgive my acronym, but it fits: CAN. You know…as in “Can I watch this daddy?”

Before I list them, understand that these three are in relation to sinful behavior in entertainment. The question is not simply does the movie contain sinful behavior (which is often where we stop), but does it have sinful behavior in relation to these three.



Is the sinful behavior celebrated? In other words, does the movie glorify the bad behavior.


Is the sinful behavior accessible? This speaks to the practical nature of the behavior. Is it something that we can expect people to actually do?


Is the sinful behavior normalized? This speaks to the cultural acceptance of the behavior. Is it something that says “Everyone is doing it, you should not be afraid to do the same?”

Now let’s flesh this out some. I am not saying that all of these things have to be present. Nor am I saying that only one will have to be present.

For example, take Harry Potter. Here we are almost a decade after these movies began to be made. They are still making Harry Potter movies which gross a few hundred million each. Kids are still seeing them and they are still reading the books. Witchcraft is still evil. But you know what? I have never once in my life seen a warlock. We are not having a witch epidemic in this country. Even if you saw every one of the movies and read every one of the books there is virtually no chance you will be involved in more witchcraft than if you had not seen it. Millions of dollars and tons of time has been wasted by the church on all these Harry Potter warning campaigns. Why? Because the fantasy of Harry Potter is not accessible. It is just not the issue here in America. A young boy has no more likelihood to become a warlock by watching Harry Potter than does the same kid have a likelihood of becoming a superhero by watching Superman. The same is true with the Twilight trilogy. I have yet to see any vampires produced. Remember Star Wars and its relation to pantheism? One of the most watched movies of all time and you probably do not know any pantheists produced from the movie. While one might be able to argue that the “bad behavior” in these movies is celebrated, we have to realize that, for the most part, the accessibility is just not there. It is fantasy. 

Now take celebration. Often I find that movies contain bad behavior that are both accessible and normalized, but not celebrated. This is often a very good quality. A good illustration is country music. I live in Oklahoma where we love country songs. Its all about divorce, drinking, and bars. Bad stuff right? However, this does not mean that it always has an negative influence. You know what happens when you play a country song backward don’t you? You sober up, get your truck back, your girl back, and your dog back. The point is that in many (not all) country songs, they have so much bad behavior, but the consequences are depressing and sad. The behavior has serious consequences. It is not celebrated or glorified at all. Normally, in movies, so long as the bad behavior is not celebrated in any way, I am not as concerned as I would otherwise be. If the bad behavior has dire consequences illustrated, then it moves it up a few more points.

The Bible does the same. There is so much bad behavior that is accounted for in the Bible. Think about it. If Hollywood were to turn the Bible into film, it would most definitely be rated “R”. However, the evil actions are not celebrated.

I remember Denzel Washington, who is a Christian (from what I hear), would not play in the movie Training Day unless his character was killed at the end. He said that his character was so evil that he must suffer the consequences of his bad behavior. The question here is not whether or not the evil is present, but is it celebrated?

An opposite example is the 80’s sit-com Cheers. Some of you can hang with me here. It was my absolute favorite show on TV. I never missed an episode. What a cast. However, Sam Malone, the show’s central character, could not be accused of being a Christian moral example. He was a womanizer. Not only this, but he was a heroic womanizer, celebrated by every passer-by in every episode. The celebration of womanizing was a problem. It could create a sense in the viewer (especially males) that in order to be “successful” and liked by everyone, you have to be as much like Sam Malone as possible. Not only is womanizing celebrated, but it is accessible. People actually can and do become sexually promiscuous. It actually is a temptation.

Finally, another characteristic I look for is the normalization of the behavior. Sometimes the behavior, while it may not necessarily be celebrated, is accessible and normalized. A normalized behavior is one that everyone is doing. If there are no consequences, and the people who are participating are the “heroes” of the story, then this can have a negative influence. For example, premarital sex is normalized in most entertainment today to the point that if one does not participate, they are the odd fanatics. In the end, people want to be “normal.” I want to be “normal.” This is not the issue. The issue is who do we let define normal? When bad behavior is normalized, whether it be premarital sex, homosexual behavior, drugs abuse, drunkenness, or otherwise, this can be a sign that the entertainment will have a negative influence.

There are other issues involved, I know. Is this or that evil behavior gratuitous? Is the entertainment meant to be historical? These are all issues to think about. But what I have found is that these three questions cover most issues, whether it be movies, songs, or any other way we engage in entertainment.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    62 replies to "What Movies CAN a Christian Watch?"

    • […] I find Michael Patton’s article on movies and Christians rather accurate and enlightening (read it here). He mentions how the mere presence of immoral content is not necessarily a reason not to watch a […]

    • Peter

      Dear All,

      God has permitted a man to look ONLY at his wife having sex in mind and not at any other woman in the whole world. This thought that I believe God gave me helps me to overcome the temptation. This is also applicable to women as well. God bless.



    • Scarlett Clark

      I did not mean to “like” Daniels comment on #45, I was trying to hit the “dislike” button but it wouldn’t let me. I do not agree with you at all Daniel, I am with Concerned Mom. I think that the Bible is very clear on this issue, Jesus said if your right eye offends you pluck it out. Too many Christians make excuses for what is an outright abomination to God and witchcraft and sorcery are just that! It doesn’t matter if they are fantasy or real they have no place in the homes of a Christian. Period.

    • Fiona Cornett

      You are naive in your breakdown of why one can watch Harry Potter movies. You need to do your research. Witchcraft is real, warlocks are real and the occult is real and there are millions of people that worship Satan through these practices. The Harry Potter books and movies as well as all the vampire movies that have been released over the past 20 plus years have normalized this behavior. These movies present witchcraft as being fun and cute and it is not! Witchcraft is a sin and goes against the word of God! The increase in the production of these movies has caused an increase in the number of teens who want to dabble in witchcraft or become involved in satanic worship. These kinds of movies are bringing new souls to the satanic kingdom! Harry Potter is a celebration of witchcraft and most kids can access books on this subject by going to the library or a bookstore. Unlike the Pope, warlocks aren’t walking around with a staff or cloth armor and a cone hat! That is not how they present themselves. This is a deception and you are deceived if you think this. I really do think that you need to be careful about the kind of (unresearched) advice you give to other believers, because you are deceived and you will deceive other believers who are uniformed, struggling or weak in this area. God bless.

    • charles

      Is this really what the “body” of Christ thinks about movies? How can you claim to be a follower of Christ when you promote the very sins he DIED FOR! I don’t understand you people, you say Harry potter is just fantasy,well so is living like the devil and thinking your on your way to heaven. Like somehow God owes you something for saying a prayer one time in your life or writing blog about him, get real people we are called to be holy (set apart) not like the world,but saving people out of the world. People like you remind me of Romans 1:32 Thought they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. And many of you will say movies are not real, but the producers of those movies sure do go to great lengths to make them seem very real don’t they? I believe its the mature believer that does not feed the demons and the babies that do the feeding by their lack of understanding of the word of God and what God has called us to be,holy. Can you please tell me how Harry Potter as brought you closer to God? or how the violent movies you watch build your spirit and bring glory to God? And how dare you compare the true stories of the Bible (that were written by holy men of old, carried along by the Holy Spirit) to the wicked minds of the men and women who produce the filth we see in most movies of today! How blinded are you by your own pride?! No wonder the Church is such a sad state.

      • Scott

        God-sent the flood because the imaginations of men were constantly upon evil.
        So God was even against evil That could Be Imagined.
        The word says that even if a man that looked upon a woman with lust in his hart. That man hath committed adultery.
        So what you feed on naturally and spiritually and mentally is what the person you become.
        So your mother was right, you are what you eat.

    • Denis

      Jesus said if your eye is making you sin, pluck it out. It better to enter the kingdom with one eye than enter hell with both eyes. He didn’t tell everyone to remove his eye because he knew some can be able to control their eyes. The same thing today, if violent movies make you sin, stop watching them. It doesn’t mean they make every one sin. We have different strengths as Christians which means we have different things that tempt us.

      For instance the devil was tempting Jesus by offering him the whole world yet he tempts us with just a single thing from the world. The point is different levels of Christianity have different levels of temptations

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