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Movies Are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  379 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Movies are our way of telling God what we think about this world and our place in it. . . . Movies can be many things: escapist experiences, historical artifacts, business ventures, and artistic expressions, to name a few. I'd like to suggest that they can also be prayers. Movies do more than tell a good story. They are expressions of raw emotion, naked vulnerability, and ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by IVP Books
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Brian Eshleman
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From other exposure to similar attempts, I expected slipshod exposition to put the Word into the service of an author's favorite cultural expressions. Not so. The Bible narrative is primary and pulsates through this text. The examples from that point to it well are secondary and well chosen. I suspect you will understand and appreciate the Gospel more from reading this book. I also suspect you may look twice at the narrative beneath pop-culture the next time you encounter it. ...more
Jonathan Anderson
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you know Josh Larsen, the biggest surprise of this book is that he only made Wes Anderson films the centerpieces of two chapters.

A book that taught me some things about prayer AND film. I wish all of my fellow Christians put this much thought into film, we'd get a few less Fireproofs and a few more films worth thinking about.
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm a frequent listener of the always-interesting Filmspotting podcast, but wasn't sure what to expect from Larsen's book on faith and film. As a Christian, I'm always looking for writers/directors/producers who seem to be asking what I call "good questions" about the world and our place in it, regardless of their faith (or lack of it). I'd never really considered the "movies are prayers" concept, but Larsen makes a strong case for it. More than anything else, he makes you think. ...more
Nov 27, 2020 rated it liked it
This may get 4 stars after some more thought. There were aspects of the execution that held it back, but the heart and intention behind it are definitely praiseworthy.
Beau Stucki
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Written by a celebrated critic in the niche world of podcasts about movies, Larson's book is less a examination of the language of cinema as it is an examination of cinema as a language - a language we use to express the desires of our hearts. For Larsen each film is the prayer of its creator (whether intended or no) and he posits that, with a dose of sedulous meditation and reverence, we viewers can be participants in the prayerful act and commune with what is divine, both in and outside oursel ...more
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would give this 3.5 stars, but I rounded up because there were some really magnificent analogies present.

I didn’t really know what I was getting into when my aunt let me borrow this book, especially considering that I’m not even half the movie oficiando that she is, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Josh Larsen really highlights art, creativity, and they collide with faith and spirituality in film.

Whether or not any of his examples or specific thoughts were lost on me, I still enjoy
Despite its title, I didn’t expect this book to be a study of film through the lens of Christian theology. It became apparent in the first chapter, but my Puritanical need to finish pushed me to persevere. Larsen offers some interesting bits of film criticism, especially in terms of thematic considerations, but the doctrinaire rumination and application overwhelms the experience— I’m not sure the slog was worth it. I did note a few films I’d like to now watch though.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, religion, movie, 2017
As Filmspotting fan I was expecting excellant movie conversations but this was filled with way too much of religion talk. I wish Josh would have read audio book, at least.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best and most thoughtful books on the intersection of films and faith that I've read. Considering movies as prayers is a unique and, it turns out, hugely meaningful approach. ...more
Justin Hairston
Apr 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars!

I love Josh Larsen’s podcast, Filmspotting, and this book seemed to combine a lot of things I’m interested in, so I figured I’d like it. And I did - a lot - but for slightly different reasons than I expected.

As Larsen acknowledges in the intro, many church people hold a snobbish distaste for “Hollywood,” and many Hollywood people hold a snobbish distaste for the church. As a Christian and a film critic, Josh is at the middle of that Venn diagram, and he has nothing but respect for both
Martin Baggs
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked this up as a dear friend told me about it and it intrigued me. I love movies and have connected them with my faith for over a decade. I have seen them as ways we can experience transcendance as we engage with movies, learning something about ourselves, life, and God, and sometimes even experiencing God Himself. I had not necessarily thought of them as prayers.

Josh Larsen, cohost of the podcast Filmspotting, says “that movies, at their most potent, are not diversions or products or even
Adam Graff
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Movies are about life. As God's creation, all aspects of life are some kind of communication with him. So it makes sense that movies are prayers. It would also make sense that really anything is conversation with God whether we recognize it or not. This book is showing specifically how films can be that line of communication with God. So if you're interested in being more aware of God and like to watch a lot of movies, this film can help you fuse those two concepts together. I think this is impo ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Josh Larsen's recent review of Labyrinth, in which he not only explains the film's coherence but goes further to convincingly argue that David Bowie's infamous codpiece was the key to interpreting the film, I decided it was time to finally pick up Movies Are Prayers.

And I liked it. Larson knows his films, covering not only obvious faith/cinema conversation points — The Seventh Seal, The Tree of Life, Babette's Feast, It's a Wonderful Life, the work of Andrei Tarkovsky — but spends
Gavin Breeden
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book that takes movies and Christian faith very seriously, so pretty much perfect for me. I love how Larsen -- co-host of the wonderful movie podcast Filmspotting -- considers the various types of movies as prayers according to the Bible's redemptive timeline: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. A number of my favorite movies were mentioned and I added a ton to my "to watch" list. My favorite part of the book was the final chapter in which Larsen showed how one of his favorite movies, ...more
Jul 12, 2021 rated it liked it
Very interesting concept. At first, it was hard for me to grasp the looser idea of prayer presented in this book, but as he continued giving examples, it made more sense. It did become a little disappointing that there were so many movie examples that I haven’t seen. The most meaningful examples to me were of the ones I’ve watched. I think his goal was to pick the perfect movie for his point and hopefully expose people to new genres and open their eyes to how vast the movie industry is, but that ...more
Eli Johnson
Mar 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021, christian
A really compelling argument for the prayers that are presented through cinema, including a range of types of prayers and corresponding Scripture. I found every chapter as interesting as the last even when I wasn’t familiar with the movie discussed, and it confirmed the clarity of my own lens through which I see God’s story in film and TV
Natalie Bassie
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed how Larsen describes movies as ones of yearning, lament, confession, etc.! If anything, it was a reminder that art in all forms (this being film) usually reveals our true hearts and desires. Can you guess what kind of prayer Into the Wild is?
Kate Austin
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I can admit I’m a film snob. So add one star to this review if you aren’t. I really loved the idea and concept of this book. Movies as postures of prayer or crying out to God. But the film analysis was quick and not very in depth. I’d rather listen to one film per type of prayer instead of quicker comments and connections.
Jo Ann
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
This book was very readable and helpful to think about how prayer/meditation can be incorporated into film watching. I especially enjoyed the first few chapters.
Porter Sprigg
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Completely up my alley. God uses films to speak to us and we can speak to him through film.
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was very insightful, and should help me better appreciate many types of movies — including some of the ones I don’t really like.
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arts, film, faith
"Movies offer these sorts of unconscious prayerful gestures, only much louder and on a giant screen. If it helps, imagine stained-glass windows along the walls of a theater. It’s no coincidence, after all, that the spaces have similar architecture. The knee-jerk comparison to make is a pejorative one: that both places are designed for worship, the implication being that good people go to church to worship God and bad people go to the movies to worship everything else. There is some truth to this ...more
Bob Morton
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Standard disclaimer. I got an advanced copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank them and IVP books for the ability to be able to read it in advance.

I wanted to read this book because I think of myself as a bit of a movie person. Another reason was that my church ( does a series each July called At The Movies where our Pastor takes clips from movies and builds a sermon about them. I expected a kind of insight that Pastor Craig Groeschel g
Pushpak Karnick
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
The book is an interesting exercise in combining film critique with theology, and it is this premise that got me interested in the first place. Josh Larsen does have a very engaging style that appeals to a lay reader. However, it is the heavy-handed dose of Christianity that frankly turned me off. I was hoping for a more "spiritual" text, but this is a very "literal" interpretation of English translations of original Christian scriptures. I found it very reductive - both for Christianity and the ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Review Pending. I'm working on a longer review for another site.
May 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
As a heathen, I can assure you that Larsen's book is for Christians and non-Christians alike! And after about 3000 ratings and about 1900 reviews on I can assure you that movies are something. Maybe not prayers per se, and maybe I'd put "Films" in the main title instead of "Movies" and change the subtitle entirely (I'm a stickler for semantics and lately resent "movies" cheapening the form and whatnot), but they're something. The book troubled me a little, but ...more
Dave Courtney
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had been anticipating this book for a while, and thanks to the graciousness of my family (whom tracked it down on Father's Day) I finally got my hands on a copy.

As a concept, the whole idea of "movies as prayers" could certainly appear a bit gimmicky. Written from the perspective of one who truly appreciates film for what it is- story, art, dialogue, expression, it most assuredly is not that. Josh Larsen, a film critic for Filmspotting and a writer/editor for Think Christian, remains intuitiv
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Subtitled How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings, film critic and committed Christian, Josh Larsen, writes Movies Are Prayers to explain his perspective that films are one of our ways of communicating with God. Films, or movies as they are oftentimes referred to in this book, can be many things from a form of escapism to historical information and artistic expression, but as Larsen maintains, they can also be p
Greg Talbot
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Filmspotting is one the highlights of my week, giving an extra punch to my fridays, with it's thoughtful and engaging look at cinema. No small part of this is due to Josh Larsen, who is very much the opposite of everything i'm hardwired to find in a critic. He is neither opinionated, bulbous, braggadocious, and knows how to disagree as a gentleman.

So it's no surprise to me that his personal project "Movies are Prayers" was as welcomed as poolside iced idea on a bold summer day. Josh's easy-going
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I believe that many movies (those made for an American viewing audience, anyway) try to say something about who God is. While I think much of this is unintentional (it seems more likely to be a byproduct of moviemakers who grow up steeped in a largely Judeo-Christian culture), it has nonetheless influenced my movie-viewing choices.

In his now 1-year-old book, "Movies are Prayers," Josh Larsen articulates the idea much more concretely and intricately. His argument is basically that the films can
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