Why do you go to the movies? For many people it is for sheer enjoyment or to escape for a few hours from life’s pressures. One of the things I most enjoy in life is learning something significant about truth and reality. Therefore I like watching films that make me think about the deep questions of life.

Looking to the new year I want to recommend two films for people like me who want to think about the deeper issues of life and history. The great philosopher Aristotle said that human beings were made to reflect about life and that the pursuit of reflection is part of finding unique fulfillment and satisfaction as humans.

Since I am a passionate student of history, one of the films listed here is based upon a true story and centers on the Second World War, which I view as one of the most important events in humankind’s history.

Both of these films contain language and violence that some may find objectionable. So, for the most part, these are films for adult viewers. Please use your own discretion in selecting which thought-provoking movies you view in 2017.


1. Conspiracy 

This BBC/HBO television film (2001; rated R) depicts the historical meeting and personal psychology of 15 leading Nazis who meet at the 1942 Wannsee Conference in Germany to plan the Holocaust. In the meeting, the brutal SS Nazi leaders Reinhard Heydrich (played by Kenneth Branagh) and Adolf Eichmann (played by Stanley Tucci) charm, entice, argue, bully, and threaten the other officials to accept Adolf Hitler’s wishes to exterminate the Jews in what is called the final solution.

As the Nazis plan the details of the Holocaust at a beautiful lakeside villa in Wannsee they often sound like corporate members carrying out a mundane business meeting. The way they casually talk about carrying out mass murder makes the film truly gripping. Branagh’s dramatic depiction of Heydrich is chilling and earned him an Emmy for Best Actor. Tucci’s performance as Eichmann, Heydrich’s faithful right-hand man in planning genocide, brought him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

This film provokes the question of how a single meeting of 15 leaders lasting two hours could subsequently result in the murder of 11 million people, 6 million of them being Jews and 2 million of those Jews being children. Yet history testifies that some big government conspiracy theories can become catastrophically true.


2. The Matrix

Actor Keanu Reeves plays the role of Neo in this provocative film (1999; rated R) that serves to speculate about the very nature of reality and man’s ability to perceive and apprehend it. A computer programmer and hacker, Neo encounters an enigmatic man named Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) who challenges Neo’s cosmic understanding of truth and reality. Neo goes on to embrace an almost messianic role in seeking ultimate reality over deception and battles a malevolent artificial intelligence.

The film combines a number of philosophical and religious worldview ideas. Central to the movie is the haunting idea that humans see merely shadows and illusions—an artificial reality—whereas true reality is starkly different. Moreover, the film raises the thorny question of whether humans would really want to know the truth if it were presented to them, or if they would prefer to remain in a comfortably numb state of illusion.

The movie certainly has a healthy dose of peculiar religious mysticism and advanced science fiction. But the film provokes the viewer to ask the genuine philosophical-religious question about whether truth and reality are indeed as they appear.

So again, remember that Aristotle said that what makes humans distinct is our ability to think reflectively. In this new year, I encourage you to make a resolution to watch some movies that will make you think.

Reflections: Your Turn
What thinking movies would you add to this new year’s list? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

In case you missed it, here’s my previous lists of movies to make you think for 2015 and 2016.

Subjects: Critical Thinking, Life of the Mind, Movies

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

Email Sign-up

Sign up for the TWR360 Newsletter

Access updates, news, Biblical teaching and inspirational messages from powerful Christian voices.

Thank you for signing up to receive updates from TWR360.

Required information missing