10 Movies That ... Deal With Honour & Authority - 4th Commandment (Honour Your Father and Mother)
Reformation Rush Hour
So you like movies? Here's a list of 10 movies that deal with honour and authority, with parents and children. Listen to Pastors Ted Giese and Craig Donofrio talk about their picks on the Reformation Rush Hour program on KFUOam radio. Also these 2 lists of 5 movies are not necessarily always going to be recommendations, generally speaking this is a conversation about movies that delve into the topic of the 4th Commandment as found in Luther's Small Catechism, there are some commendable movies in this list but some of these movies are not really salutary or beneficial. These two lists run the gambit from positive father son relationships, to a seriously messed up father son relationships, from faithful children to "Brat Pack" children; there's even a movie about a man who wants to throw his mother from a train but in the end thinks better of it! It's another full hour of two guys talking about and movies and the catechism.
The 4th Commandment
Honour your father and your mother. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honour them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them. Get the app! Get the book!
Giese's List Of 5 Picks
5) The Mosquito Coast (1986) Rated PG
First up for Giese is director Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast a story of a father, Allie Fox (Harrison Ford), who sells the family home and leaves the USA to go to Central America to build an ice factory in the heart of the jungle. He's an opinionated inventor, the kind of guy who dropped out of Harvard to 'get an education.' The first clip is the movies theatrical trailer, the second clip shows him imparting some of his fatherly wisdom to his son Charlie (River Phoenix). As the head of the family Mr. Fox has the responsibility to take care of his family and they have the responsibility to honour and obey him even though he has taken them to a very dark place.
The film reminded Giese of this passage from the Large Catechism where Rev. Dr. Luther writes, "We must, therefore, impress this truth upon the young [Deuteronomy 6:7] that they should think of their parents as standing in God's place. They should remember that however lowly, poor, frail, and strange their parents may be, nevertheless they are the father and mother given to them by God. Parents are not to be deprived of their honour because of their conduct or their failings. Therefore, we are not to consider who they are or how they may be, but the will of God, who has created and ordained parenthood."
4) Nebraska (2013) Rated R for some language
Giese's number two film is the Alexander Payne film Nebraska. Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant a man who is convinced he's won a publisher clearinghouse style lottery for a million dollars. Woody wants to go from Montana to Nebraska to collect his winnings. However he's getting on in years and no longer drives. Will Forte plays his son David Grant who goes on a road trip with his father to satisfy his father's need to collect his winnings even though he knows his father hasn't won the money.
The central story of the film is Woody and David's relationship as David struggles to figure out how best to honour his father. The clip is from a conversation where Woody and David talk about life choices. June Squibb plays Woody's wife Kate who David also has a challenging relationship with, by the end of the film while things between mother and son don't get resolved things do get resolved in the father son relationship in this Academy Award nominated film.
3) True Grit (2010) Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images
Giese's third pick, The Coen Brother's remake of the old 1969 John Wayne film True Grit, is the story of a 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) who sets out with the help of U.S. marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down the hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) who killed her father. The whole film revolves around Mattie Ross desire to honour her father by taking care of her family and finding the man who murdered her father and bringing him to justice one way or another. Overall this is a fine film and a serviceable adaptation of Charles Portis 1968 novel true grit.
2) TRON Legacy (2010) Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language
In Giese's fourth pick is another movie starring Jeff Bridges, TRON Legacy, here Bridges reprises his role of the computer programmer Kevin Flynn from the 80's Sci-Fi cult classic film TRON (1982). Presumed dead, after being missing for years, Flynn's grown son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) finds his father who'd actually been trapped inside a virtual computer world of his own creation. What might be an antagonistic relationship between father and son full of resentment over lost time together in Sam's childhood is anything but, the father and son show great forgiveness and love for each other while working together to over through Clu (Jeff Bridges) a sort of digital AI surrogate "son" made by Flynn who rules the virtual world that Flynn had created.
Thinking of the 4th Commandment while watching TRON Legacy will provide fertile ground, especially wile comparing and contrasting Sam and Clu's relationship to Kevin Flynn. The question is which one honours their father best, the biological son or the digital son?
1) Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Rated PG for sci-fi action violence
Fifth for Giese is Irvin Kershner's The Empire Strikes Back. The big spoiler is that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) the central hero of the original Star Wars films is the son of Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). Once the viewer knows this the film takes on a dark tone when their father son relationship is closely considered. Skywalker's Dad, Darth Vader, basically hunts down and kidnaps Skywalker's friends and tortures them in order to lure his son into a confrontation where he hopes to turn Skywalker to the dark side of "the force," in the ensuing lightsabre battle Vader cuts off his son's hand and when Vader reveals Skywalker secrete paternity Vader tries to tempt Skywalker into join him to rule the galaxy as "father and son." Darth Vader is not a good father and as an authority figure within the story Vader's also not using his authority well.
If The Empire Strikes Back provides any sort of example, it's the kind of negative example where people are left saying, "yup that's exactly what not to do in a father son relationship." Star Wars Episode V: Return of The Jedi does expand this story and shows Luke's desire to redeem his father. The third film in the original Star Wars Trilogy is an example of providing honour to a father even when the father doesn't by his actions deserve it.
Donofrio' List Of 5 Picks
5) Throw Momma From The Train (1987) Rated 'PG-13' for Sexuality, Language, and Some Comic Violence
First up for Donofrio's is the Danny DeVito film Throw Momma From The Train starring Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal and Anne Ramsey. Larry Donner (Billy Crystal) gets entangled in a plot hatched by the miserable momma's boy Owen Lift (Danny DeVito) to murder Owens over barring mother (Anne Ramsey) in this dark comedic re-imagining of the 1944 Film Noir classic Double Indemnity and Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951). Owen has a hard time honouring his Mother in his heart and grows to resent her while dotting on her in the end through the odd-ball set of circumstances he discovers that he does truly love his mother.
This will clearly not be a film for everyone and even though it's a comedy there are parts that will get under peoples skin. Plotting to kill mother is not in keeping the 4th Commandment. Anne Ramsey, as Momma in Throw Momma from the Train, however is great. She also had a memorable role in the Richard Donner comedy Goonies (1985) where she plays the mom of an over the top Italian crime family.
4) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) Rated PG-13
Second up for Donofrio is the John Hughes film Ferris Bueller's Day Off. A film about a happy-go-lucky teenager Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) who skips school and entices his girlfriend (Mia Sara) and best friend (Alan Ruck) to skips school along with him all the while his High School Principle, Mr. Roony (Jeffrey Jones), tries to track Bueller down in order to expose him as a cheat.
The film is obviously a comedy and yet as Donofrio says, "It's one of the most rebellious you could ever see in your life! It's not dark ... but it's a movie that says you can do what you want and there are no consequences." Giese comments that the film is like, "the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) only without the pig sty moment where he sits there and says 'I spent all my money and everything is terrible,' ... [Bueller's] sister (Jennifer Grey) is like the older brother in the parable," who hates the fact that everyone finds Bueller so likeable. Donofrio says Bueller is, "really a nice guy but he's still a con-artist." So while the film is seen as a fun romp when viewed with the Commandments in mind it's really 103 min of the 4th Commandment being broken to the sound of Yello's "Oh Yeah," chicka chicka!
3) Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements
Donofrio's number three film is Rebel Without a Cause. James Dean plays Jim Stark the seventeen year old son of Frank Stark (Jim Backus) a man who Donofrio says is "run" by his wife and mother-in-law. Jim wants to honour his father but his father is hard to admire. This disappointment drives Jim Stark into increasingly dangerous choices in life mixing him up with a local gang in the new area to which the Stark family has moved. By the end of the film Jim's dad Frank has promised to do better as a father.
The film highlights the difficulties inherent in following the 4th Commandment when things are not going well in a family. The viewer looking at the film with the 4th Commandment in mind will want to consider how there will be times in life where feelings need to be set aside and the hard work of following this commandment must be embraced in the midst of complex and challenging relationships.
2) The Breakfast Club (1985) Rated R
Fourth up for Donofrio is another John Hughes film The Breakfast Club, viewed through the lens of the 4th Commandment this is a film about a group of young people thrown together in detention for various reasons and their very poor attitude towards the various authority figures in their lives. As was the case in Ferris Bueller's Day Off here again the explanation of the 4th Commandment comes into play where it says, "We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honour them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them." Again not a lot of honouring, serving, obeying, loving and cherishing of the "other authorities" in this film. The main antagonist of the film is the "Brat Pack's" principal, Mr. Vernon (Paul Gleason).
1) In The Name of the Father (1993) Rated R for language and politically-generated violence
Donofrio's number five is the Jim Sheridan film In The Name of the Father. Based on a true story, the film details a tragic series of events where because of a coerced confession to an IRA bombing, which he did not commit, Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his father Giuseppe Conlon (Pete Postlethwaite) are sent to prison and spend 15 years together behind bars. Sadly Gerry's father Giuseppe dies while in prison. Donofrio chose this film because, on the one hand, it shows an abuse of authority as the government coerces a confession out of the small time crook, Gerry Conlon; while on the other hand it shows a deep and loving relationship between father and son even in the hardships of prison.
For current movie reviews of films in the theatre right now by Pastor Ted Giese check out IssuesEtc.org, Where Christianity Meets Culture IssuesEtc!
 Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, A Reader's Edition of The Book of Concord, Concordia Publishing House 2006, pg 511.