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Movie Review

Billy: The Early Years of Billy Graham

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material including some disturbing images, brief language and smoking.

Reviewed by: Angela Bowman

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family Adults
Christian Biography Drama
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 10, 2008
DVD: March 16, 2010
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Relevant Issues
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Human pain and suffering

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What about the Psalm 91 promises? (“…no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent…”) Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?
Why is the world the way it is? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) Answer
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Bible’s accuracy

How do we know the Bible is true? Answer

When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, does that imply that it is completely accurate, or does it contain insignificant inaccuracies in details of history and science? Answer

How can the Bible be infallible if it is written by fallible humans? Answer

Answers to supposed Bible “contradictions” and puzzles

Is the Bible truth or tabloid? Answer

INTERNAL HARMONY—Answers to a skeptic’s questions about whether the Bible’s internal harmony is truly evidence of its divine inspiration—Read

Bible and science

Bible archaeology

Biblical prophecies


PRAYER—Tips for new and growing Christians

Why aren’t my prayers answered? Answer

Prayer in the Bible

Effectual prayer


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Sin and the Bible

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Eternal death in the Bible

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Featuring: Armie HammerBilly Graham
Martin Landau … Charles Templeton—older
Dan Beene (Dr. Minder), Cliff Bemis (Dr. Mordecai Ham), Stefanie Butler (Ruth Graham), Cody Carwile (Grady Wilson), Burton Collins (Torrey Johnson), Josh Turner (George Beverly Shea), more »
Director: Robby Benson
Producer: Solex Productions, American Trademark Pictures, 821 Entertainment Group, more »
Distributor: Rocky Mountain Pictures

“Everyone knows who he is. Now, find out how he got there.”

As the title suggests, “Billy: The Early Years” follows the life of Billy Graham from salvation through college and early ministry. It humorously and warmly depicts an awkward young man whose calling seems unlikely or unfitting and carries through to show the outcome of his dedication, determination and heart to reveal the Billy Graham we all know and many love.

The story is told by atheist friend Charles Templeton (played by Kristoffer Polaha and Martin Landau), who once worked in ministry with Billy. As we watch Billy (Armie Hammer) mature and grow in faith, we find quite the opposite in Templeton, to his tragic end. Distressed by the terrible suffering and injustice in the world, he has allowed his doubts and fears to consume him and loses the faith the audience can’t help but question the authenticity of in the first place. While this is important to Billy’s story in that it helped him strengthen and solidify his own faith, it seems that Templeton’s reflection casts a gloomy shadow on the bright and inspirational one that is to be found in Billy Graham and which should have been better focused. Still, the light shines through in the end as we are left with a powerful message of hope and love as only Billy Graham can deliver (and credited to the actor as well).

The PG-rating on this film is due to a scene of smoking, language (one instance of d*m*it) and disturbing images (holocaust news footage which shows mass graves of naked—not sexual), starved, dead bodies, a scene of a boy with bloody wounds and another in which Templeton apparently takes a beating, although violence is not shown. There are also two scenes of kissing, the first is of Templeton in a bar with a woman and the second is of Billy and Ruth (who is portrayed beautifully by Stefanie Butler) but is as we would expect, sweet and modest.

I would caution that Templeton’s arguments against Jesus and the Bible are left mostly unanswered, although they do have answers, so if you are someone who is not strong in faith, I would encourage researching apologetics material, in response.

The only other issue that I found is that the film, at least to me, implies that Templeton’s conversion is false, or at least makes one wonder, yet I find myself uncomfortable “judging” him, as not only is it wrong, but it is something I can’t know, as only God knows the heart of man. And this brings me back to the point that it probably would have been best if less emphasis and attention had been given to his character.

On a positive note, Templeton’s story does give much to discuss afterward. Aside from a wealth of knowledge that can be gained in finding answers to his questions, we see the stark contrast in character between he and Billy. Templeton is not only talented but self-absorbed and ambitious for his own glory, while Billy seems to have more difficulty developing his skills, but is humble and focused on God and God’s glory rather than his own, and Templeton seems to be jealous of Billy’s success. I found it interesting that at one point Templeton speaks of an “ever widening” search for truth, about other paths. The Bible says,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13).

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Good, clean, decent movie with moral values. This movie was an attempt to portray the young life of Billy Graham. Apparently, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association did not endorse the film, because it was not accurate to Billy Graham’s life. If you are looking for a documentary on Billy Graham, this isn’t it. If you just want to watch an enjoyable, lighthearted movie that has good values, then watch it.

I would not recommend it for young children, as there are some disturbing images of the Holocaust, and a brief bloody scene of an emergency room victim, and a swear word used. Overall, as a film, it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s good, clean entertainment.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Elicia, age 40 (USA)