First off, I am no movie critic. But I am a movie fan. When I started thinking about my favorite LDS-themed films to watch during the summer, I decided to create a top 5 list. But the more I thought about it, I realized I could expand that to a top 10 list. I’m sure not everyone will agree with me, but these are my favorites.
1. “The Best Two Years” (2003)
Based off a hilarious play written by Scott Anderson, the “The Best Two Years” is the best LDS movie I’ve ever seen. It’s equal parts comedy and drama and provides a glimpse into what it’s like to be an LDS missionary. Directed by Anderson, the movie includes great chemistry between the four American missionaries played by K.C. Clyde, Kirby Heyborne, David Nibley and Cameron Hopkin. If there’s one LDS movie I would show to help my non-LDS friends understand what it’s like to be a missionary, this one would be it.
2. “Meet the Mormons” (2014)
If there’s one movie I would show to help my non-LDS friends understand what it’s like to be a member of the Church, this one would be it.
Produced by the LDS Church, filmmaker Blair Treu documents the lives of devout members whose experiences vary widely. It features an African-American bishop from Atlanta; a female MMA fighter from Costa Rica; a humanitarian from Nepal; the head football coach at the Naval Academy; a World War 2 veteran known as the “Candy Bomber”; and the missionary mom from Utah. David Archuleta’s performance of the song “Glorious” provides a nice touch at the end.
3. “The Saratov Approach” (2013)
Based on the true story about two missionaries who were kidnapped in Russia in 1998, this movie is a dramatic thriller. Even if you know how the story ends, this is definitely worth watching. Corbin Allred and Maclain Nelson turn in outstanding performances in their portrayal of the missionaries. Warning: if you have a son or daughter in the mission field, or about to go into the mission field, maybe you shouldn’t watch this one.
Have you already seen “The Saratov Approach”? Find out what happened to the two real-life elders following the end of the movie here.
4. “Saints and Soldiers” (2003)
Another gritty, dramatic movie, “Saints and Soldiers” examines the inner-conflicts of soldiers fighting in World War II. Though this isn’t an LDS movie, faith is at the heart of the story, which reminds us of the perils and ugliness of war and how a belief in God can sustain through even the worst atrocities. The soldiers struggle to return into Allied territory after a Nazi ambush during the Battle of the Bulge. “Saints and Soldiers” originally received an “R” rating by the MPAA for war violence. Producers edited the film and it was rated “PG-13.”
5. “The Other Side of Heaven” (2001)
Based on the book “In the Eye of the Storm” by Elder John H. Groberg and his experiences serving a mission in the South Pacific, “The Other Side of Heaven,” starring Christopher Gorham and Anne Hathaway, doesn’t delve much into doctrine but focuses on the missionary experiences of a boy from Idaho in Tonga. It’s a Disney movie but the producer, director and much of the crew are LDS. The producer, Gerald R. Molen, won an Academy Award for his contributions to “Schindler’s List.” The director, Mitch Davis, is also LDS.
6. “The Singles Ward” (2002)
This one is a guilty-pleasure favorite. To truly appreciate it, of course, you have to have had the experience of being a member of a singles ward. There are plenty of inside jokes that only singles-ward members would understand. And there are some cameo appearances by a few famous locals.
7. “The Work and the Glory” (2004)
Based on the fiction books written by Elder Gerald Lund, “The Work and the Glory” chronicles the beginnings of the Church and the portrays the personality of the young prophet Joseph Smith, blending fictional and actual events.
8. “The R.M.” (2003)
Kirby Heyborne, who stars in this outlandish comedy, portrays a returning missionary trying to figure out his post-mission life. He finds himself in several humorous circumstances that returned missionaries, and those who know them, can relate. Also, there are some cameo appearances by several famous Utah residents.
9. “Errand of Angels” (2008)
In this coming-of-age film about a sister missionary, “The Errand of Angels,” starring Erin Chambers, provides a glimpse of what it’s like to serve in Europe and deal with problems many missionaries go through as they adjust to a new language and a new culture.
10. “17 Miracles” (2011)
This film by T.C. Christensen is based on the experiences of members of the Willie Handcart Company. This group of pioneers got a late-season start and suffered many privations as they journeyed to Salt Lake City during the winter of 1856. It’s an inspiring movie that pays homage to the Church’s pioneer legacy.