Producers Peter and Paul Lalonde have taken a bold marketing step in releasing Left Behind as a video in the few months preceding its national release to movie theaters in February 2001.

The filmmakers express the breathless goal of attracting Hollywood producers' attention by filling movie theaters nationwide in February. Actor Kirk Cameron explains the plan in a brief message after the credits. By bringing along many others to see Left Behind, he says, "We will be telling them that there is a strong audience for films with a spiritual message. … We could literally be bursting the doors open for future Left Behind films, and other films like it."

To give Left Behind due praise, it is shot well and its script is fairly efficient. It creates some believable moments of post-Rapture chaos as people try to understand why their Christian loved ones have suddenly disappeared, leaving behind their clothes, eyeglasses, crosses, and even their Teddy bears. (All children are caught up, which makes even the "age of accountability" concept look spiritually stingy by comparison.)

The filmmakers mercifully spare us any special effects depicting millions of naked Christians slowly ascending into heaven. They're simply gone, leaving behind the inevitable car crashes, police curfews, and a frightened society ready for the continuing peace and affluence promised by the Antichrist. For a film about so sensational a topic, Left Behind is fairly restrained.

Compared to other films that depict an apocalyptic world—including The Omega Man (1971), The Day After (1983), The Postman (1997), or Michael Tolkin's The Rapture (1991)—Left Behind holds up remarkably well. Certainly it surpasses the production values and direction of the many Rapture and Tribulation films dating to the 1970s.

Gordon Currie turns in an understated, occasionally chilling portrait of Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist with a Romanian accent. The way he kills two powerful figures is nearly as frightening and tense as Robert De Niro's Al Capone taking a baseball bat to the skull of an enemy in Brian DePalma's The Untouchables.

An apocalyptic gospel?
Some admirers of the Left Behind book series have expressed disappointment with the film adaptation. But let's place the blame squarely where it belongs: the typical Christian mistake is in treating a theatrical film primarily as an evangelistic tool, and in thinking that telling End Times horror stories qualifies as evangelism. Even the most gifted screenwriters and director would have trouble turning Left Behind into a blockbuster.

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As The Meaning of the Millennium (InterVarsity) has demonstrated, many Christians throughout history have made sense of Daniel and Revelation without relying on premillennial dispensationalism.

Left Behind wants to be another supernatural thriller, but it asks non-Christians to enjoy an End Times story involving evil international bankers and conspiracy theories so byzantine that they cry for a flow chart.

Look at Left Behind as a new-generation film that Christians will watch on videocassette at their church's evening gatherings. Left Behind may even persuade some non-Christians, who hope to escape the horrors of the Tribulation, to become Christians. But "literally bursting the doors open" in Hollywood? Not this time.

Related Elsewhere

Read what other critics are saying about Left Behind: The Movie in November 26 installment of Christianity Today's Film Forum.

The official site of the film is different from the official site of the book series. Both differ from the official site of the "film project" which is aiming to get the movie into theaters.

The September 22 issue of Entertainment Weekly noted the frustration of the Left Behind author, director, and star with plans to release Left Behind: The Movie on video before a theatrical release.

"While Left Behind is certainly more substantial than a typical Christian movie, it has the feel, the look, the writing and the acting of a typical network TV movie," says a CNN review. "1C0asting Cameron and other actors that are primarily TV actors doesn't help dispel that perception. That aside, Left Behind is a compelling movie that will appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike, and will be engaging regardless of whether you have read the book."

For some reason, Canada's newspapers seem to be the only ones talking about the film. See stories in The Ottawa Citizen (two of them), The Vancouver Sun, and The National Post.

For more updates and rumors about the movie, visit, Coming Attractions, and

The Lalonde brothers, Peter and Paul, discuss why they make apocalyptic movie after apocalyptic movie in an interview on their promotional site.

Previous Christianity Today articles on the Left Behind phenomenon include:

Left Behind Has Been Very, Very Good to Tyndale | Success leaves publisher wondering how to best steward the company's increase. (Oct. 17, 2000)

Cameras Rolling | Bestseller Left Behind's big-screen debut set for 2001. (July 14, 2000)

Christian Fiction Gets Real | New novels offer gritty plots and nuanced characters—but can they find a market? (May 11, 2000)

Christian Filmmakers Jump on End-times Bandwagon | Bestseller Left Behind is slated for the big screen (Oct. 25, 1999)

Apocalyptic Sales Out of This World (Mar. 1, 1999)

The Bible Study at the End of the World | Recent novels by evangelical leaders say more about popular American Christianity than about the end times (Sept. 1, 1997)

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Directed By
Vic Sarin
Run Time
1 hour 36 minutes
Kirk Cameron, Brad Johnson, Janaya Stephens
Theatre Release
February 02, 2001
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