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Jeffrey Overstreet has been reviewing films for CT Movies for several years. In his book Through a Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies, Overstreet recounts his obsession with cinema, his job as a film critic, and his efforts at reshaping how and why Christians watch movies. CT associate editor Rob Moll talked to Overstreet about his views.

Why should a Christian go to the movies?

For the same reason we read books or listen to music or visit new restaurants—to experience life in all of its variety and creativity and beauty, and to learn to look closely at the world, in search of what it all means. Also, as we encounter the world through the perspectives of others, we have an opportunity to respectfully and compassionately consider what others see, hear, and think. Then we can begin thinking that through in the company of our friends and neighbors.

That might be true for artistic, thought-provoking movies, but is it worth the trouble and money to find such movies when I've got good spiritual books to read and a family to spend time with?

Films do more than give us something to think about. They can overwhelm us with the power of spectacle and sound. It is tempting to stop thinking while we watch and just feel, absorb it all. Movies that are cheap, mediocre, lurid, or crass waste our time, at the very least. At worst, they can cultivate unhealthy appetites and lead us into serious consequences. But if a work is truly artful—if it's characterized by excellence, truthfulness, and beauty—it can minister to us in mysterious ways.

I'm not saying books are a waste of time. Heaven forbid! I'm a writer! In fact, literature has an advantage over cinema in that it demands more of your imagination. ...

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