Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
MOVIE REVIEW

The Pilgrim's Progress

Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Good
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Teens • Young-Adults • Adults
Genre:
Christian Animation Family Drama Adaptation
Length:
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
April 18 and 20, 2019 (wide exclusive showings)
DVD: October 1, 2019
Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events

Christian allegory

Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events

John Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography is titled Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (off-site)

About John Bunyan (1628-1688) (off-site)

How do we know the Bible is TRUE? Answer

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

The Interpreter—The Holy Spirit

What is The Trinity?

Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events

What advice do you have for new and growing Christians? Answer

Christian

Evangelist

Shining Ones—Holy Angels

Apollyon

Hopeful

Faith

Valley of Humiliation (about the prime importance of HUMILITY)

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? 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

About the fall of mankind to worldwide depravity

What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer

Do Not Enter

Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer

How good is good enough? Answer

The Gospel and The Way

God’s Story Online home
Do you understand God’s Story? Take a multimedia journey through the Bible, from Creation to eternity. Hear and read an exciting summary of the Bible’s most important records, in chronological order.

Will all mankind eventually be saved? Answer

judgment to come

Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events

Beelzebub

Who is SATAN, the enemy of God and all people? Answer

Is Satan A REAL PERSON that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer

SATAN’S STRATEGY—What is one of Satan’s most successful strategies in dealing with followers of Christ? Answer

PERSECUTION—Why and how should we pray for suffering Christians? Answer

SUICIDE—What does the Bible say? Answer

Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events

What are DEVILS and DEMONS in the Bible

Copyright, Revelation Media and Fathom Events

Hypocrisy

Atheist

Learn how to be more effective in evangelism
Stumped about how to share your faith in Christ with others? ChristianAnswers’ Effective Evangelism section assists believers in effectively reaching out to others with love and truth. Learn about the worldview of the people you meet, ways to share the gospel, read stories submitted by site users, and more.
Featuring: David Thorpe (voice) … Christian Pilgrim
John Rhys-Davies (voice) … Evangelist
Kristyn Getty (voice) … The Interpreter
Ben Price (voice) … Christian Pilgrim
Director: Robert Fernandez
Producer: Steve Cleary—“The Animated Bible,” “Tortured for Christ”
Revelation Media [Costa Rica]
Tim Wildmon
William Curtis
See all »
Distributor: Vision Video
Fathom Events

“The Journey of Every Believer”

This is a rather special Christian movie which I hope the church’s teens and young adults will view thoughtfully, and that older adults will be spurred on by. The title novel was written more than 300 years ago by John Bunyan, a man harassed and imprisoned for his faith in Christ. In it, the author uses word-pictures and ‘similitudes’ to landmark key aspects of the life course of a humble soldier of the King.

This ‘most interesting of journeys’ is embodied by a man named Christian Pilgrim. The ordinary city worker with a wife and two children struggles with slavery to the endless struggle to merely exist. Then one day he comes upon artworks by a missing man who has clearly been dreaming of a better life far beyond the city borders. Christian steals the man’s book so he too can learn about the ‘mad’ hope of a great King of love and His ‘streets paved with gold’ in the Celestial City. Like many of us, he hungrily reads about the King’s explanation of life and the judgment to come. Christian is so struck and burdened by the sin all around him, that he leaves his wife and children, to travel alone towards the King he has met in the pages of the book.

Thankfully, Christian soon finds that he needn’t carry the great burden alone, or all the way, but can release it to his King. The road is still narrow and difficult though, and full of obstacles and distractions. Christian must respond—often rather suddenly—to a swamp filled with the mud of doubts and fears, a glimmering path presented by a Willy Wonka type called Worldly Wiseman and a mountain of morality with a condemning rock man atop it.

In each place, he learns at least one valuable lesson. These prepare him for the valley of humiliation; temptations of the Vanity Fair township and several final battles or barriers before reaching his destination.

Along the way, Christian also receives assistance from Evangelist, The Interpreter, Watchful and his 4 daughters (named Discretion, Piety, Charity and Prudence), plus other saints who have already completed their journey in The Way of the King.

Is it made for children?

Are all animated films made for children? No. This one has no main characters who are children. It totals an epic 2 hours. It mainly discusses adult topics. It contains frightening representations of demons (depicted as huge shrieking hairless bats) and Satan (a powerful dragon with rams’ horns, who is certainly intent on murder). There is frequent peril and a lot of cruel violence, including an implied burning at the stake.

Furthermore, young children are highly unlikely to be able to grasp its deep joys and encouragements, seeing instead only frightening imagery, because they are generally inexperienced in distinguishing between allegory and reality until the second half of their school years. As such, it could confuse a child’s faith. They may leave the cinema with a flurry of worried questions.

Nevertheless, in the Foreword, well-known hymn-maker Kristyn Getty teaches and prepares viewers about the importance of this generation equipping our children to face hardships bravely. I agree with her that wise use of stories and healthy imagination can build a picture of the inner workings of our faith. In this way, even children can be armed to travel the difficult road of life well. In my estimation, however, as an educator and children’s worker, it would be best to wait until the teen years to watch this movie with your children—and please talk through it with them, for it does not fully explain itself. The target audience appers to be teens and young adults with an established knowledge and understanding of basic spiritual truths.

A quality production

No previous cartoons or films of The Pilgrim’s Progress strongly impressed me, so I did not have high hopes. Then this one smashed my cynical expectations! Not only does it feature a great leap forward in moviemaking achievement within the Christian film industry, it also remains firmly focused on the message. Though there will always be critics, undeniably a great deal of careful preparation has been put into this first CGI version, which is designed to be translated into 20 languages and distributed worldwide. Despite a modest budget, by secular standards, and a hardship-filled storyline, the story flows smoothly and is likely to enthrall and intrigue its audience.

The soundtrack is well-suited—tough and sweet—including some much-loved hymns such as “Be Thou My Vision” and “Blessed Assurance.” Voices are noticeably genuine, full of heart and clear wording is chosen, so few gems of good advice are missed. Some of the Olde English titles have been altered so they can be easily grasped, which ultimately serves to get the Good News across more helpfully. An atmosphere is built in which the viewer can share in the thoughts and feelings of Christian Pilgrim, so they can practice use of discretion to quickly work out whether each stranger can be trusted… because characters who are in the employ of Satan often initially seem normal, kind and fun.

Scenery is generally beautiful and meaningful. Clever lighting and special effects illustrate aspects that our technologies have rarely been able to communicate before now, though some scenes feel like they are copied from “…Narnia” or “The Lord Of The Rings.” The joy of journeying in The Way is depicted through the beauty of nature, warm smiles, heartfelt voices, tasteful decoration of clothes and homes, and the humanity of tears and touch.

Furthermore, the lessons and encouragements themselves successfully brighten every stage of Christian’s dangerous journey. The lessons are usually simply worded and kindly spoken. Teens are likely to connect with certain role models, such as 5 beautiful princess-types, and the heroic pilgrims. A few tame and funny moments for younger viewers also add to the appeal.

Hardships

If you’re looking for a tame, safe, politically correct or perfectly-true-to-the-book film, you’ll have to go elsewhere, because “The Pilgrim’s Progress” unapologetically faces life’s crises head-on. It pursues its goal of using today’s language and technology to warn and prepare Believers for our lifelong Journey with Christ. It is a grounded depiction which leaves the rose-colored religious glasses behind.

Similarly, in the Bible, followers of Christ the King are promised many difficulties (“In this world you will have many troubles. But take heart! I have overcome the world” —Jesus in John 16:33; see also 1 John 5:4-5). Many of our most challenging obstacles involve vices, violence and verbal battles. Consequently, there is some of that potentially upsetting content in this film—but it is wisely handled, most of the time.

You will find our standard list of concerning content below this review. Please note that family abandonment, tempting but sinful pleasures, addictions and even suicide are touched upon. A few sentences of Scripture or Bunyan’s wisdom are brought to bear on each situation.

Despite all the heavy content, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” remains essentially a morally sound, helpful and uplifting film.

Messages and discussion topics

As a message-based film, spiritual content is paramount, and entertainment is secondary. I pray this will result in great discussions that help travelers to better grasp what to expect in the walk of faith, and how to react to whatever may come. If you would like to feature “The Pilgrim’s Progress” at a youth group or adult ministry, you may like to consider the following issues, and perhaps also take advantage of the Christian Answers links at the side of this page.

The most repeated lessons are, “Life’s tumbles can lead you to the most interesting of places,” and “The King shall give me strength.”

The other main messages forming the backbone of the story appear to be…

  • The Book of the King opens a person’s eyes to what is wrong and right.

  • We must go to Him to lose our burden, keeping on His straight path all the way.

  • Many things may divert us from our course, resulting in danger and sorrow for us and others.

  • Though we sometimes don’t follow our King’s instructions, if we repent, He immediately forgives and makes us clean.

  • We will face hardships, but are also provided with all the help we need to overcome them in Jesus.

  • We grow as we learn to trust His help and say no to fakes.

  • We must be content to wait for the things the King has promised

  • The final barrier is death, but as the King has always proved trustworthy, so also He can be trusted to pull us safely through it to the Celestial City beyond.

There are other more complex issues that can be discussed, such as how the film depicts saints who have died, and each member of The Trinity, and whether it is okay to defy local authorities sometimes. But, of course, no earthly text or film can perfectly explain the wondrous plans of a God whose mind and ways are so much higher and greater than ours.

One could also easily become caught up in comparisons to the original text of The Pilgrim’s Progress, and on personal preferences, or dissection of analogies and how each element is positioned and balanced… but instead, let us begin by humbly acknowledging that both the film and our faith point back to the Scriptures, the Holy Bible, as the final word on matters of faith.

Summary

“The Pilgrim’s Progress” is a movie for most of the family to watch together—though be warned: it is too mature and scary a story for children to properly enjoy or benefit from. Nevertheless, this is one of the most wonderful Christian films I have ever encountered. It matches well what I have experienced of the Christian journey. It reminds the King’s people of the spiritual realities that are difficult to see in troubled times. It feels very personal and real. Several moments are incredibly moving and healing, especially for those in the church who are in great suffering. It provides great encouragement to battle onward with unswerving faith, keeping in mind the King’s guidance through His ‘map’ (The Bible).

Truly awful attacks occur, so keep this in mind as you decide about whether to view it. I remember that, as children, our father read aloud to us the illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress storybook, which was dark, colorless and confusing. It scared and discouraged my childish thinking. As a result, I expected the first CGI version of The Pilgrim’s Progress to be dark, sensationalist, too clunky for the big screen, and bogged down in big words from the olden days. Instead, I have found it to be a bright, thoughtfully presented and rich delight that will prompt valuable conversations and sober anticipation of the journey of faith. Yet, I remain convinced that this story is not necessarily safe or appropriate for children to view.

Is it a re-telling of the Bible story? No. Should it be taken as a perfect picture of the Christian’s pilgrimage to our home on Heaven? No. It is merely seeking to illustrate some great theological realities in a story format.

Though, to those who aren’t themselves followers of Jesus Christ, it is likely to look like weak foolishness, to Believers who’ve already started along the road, it will probably make great sense and be a deep encouragement. Thus, I consider this a great Christian film and of high value for established Christians, especially young adults.

Blessed are those whose strength is in You (Lord God Almighty), whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” —Psalm 84:5

“The journey of every believer begins and ends with our willingness to trust in the King.”

NOTE: The story continues beyond the start of the end credits.

  • Violence/Scariness: Moderately Heavy— • slaps • shoves • unfair arrests • court and judge • verbal attacks • stoning • spitting • hits with sticks • kicks • shouting in faces • implied burning at the stake • stabs • lion attacks • creatures thrown around by an invisible force • hard falls • bruising and minor cuts to face • temptation to suicide • whips • lassos • Black oozing blood (once) • red blood in water (once)
  • Occult: Moderate— • Satan (dragon) • demons (fiery-eyed dark angels, large bats, ‘the legion’) • wizard “Flatterer” who is a demon in disguise • Hell is shown as a throne room with pillars made featuring spikes and human skulls. • Another place, like a ‘haunted’ castle in the hills, has chains, cages, skull faces and skeletons. • A threat: “I’ll wring your neck.”
  • Potential triggers for some: Moderate— • burden of sin • guilt and judgment • demonic attacks • spiritual doubts • questioning of sanity • chaining/cages • cruel and unjust persecution • loneliness • despair/suicidal temptation • fear of danger and death • separation from family • grief at loss of loved ones
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Minor— • Putchy-poo • whisker-pants • you blithering fool • you stubborn-headed man • you fools • you wretched man • you good-for-nothing oaf • the pretty one—pretty smelly • Dr*ts • Enemies call Christianity a disease and a madness.
  • Nudity: Minor— • Bare-chested ogre • Woman wears a shapely but fully covered breastplate • Spotty undershorts seen through a small burned patch on a character’s rear • Can-can dancing wooden puppets
  • Alcohol/Drugs: Minor (both): • multiple filled glasses (‘Try our spirits’) are offered to travelers • oriental tobacco pipes offered
  • Sex: None
  • Profane language: None (though villains oppose The King and His pilgrims with lies such as, “I am your prince” and “Did He really say…”)
Link to official Web siteOfficial site for more information

Additional information is available from the producer: Revelation Media (Dallas TX). They intend to translate this film into dozens of languages to assist missions worldwide, starting with Farsi (the language of Iran/Persia), Mandarin and Spanish.

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


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I am over the moon that Pilgrim’s Progress is coming out as a feature length CGI animated film. …The quality is breathtaking. It is so timely and so needed..
Ray Comfort, President, Way of the Master Ministries —a Christian Answers Team Member (USA)
Positive—I absolutely loved this movie, and I can't wait to buy it, watch it again and share it with others! I was so moved to tears many times, as it spoke to me about my spiritual walk with Jesus. I believe it will speak to others, as well. It was so very well done. Congratulations on an excellent movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
Susan Puckett, age 67 (USA)
Positive—This animated 2019 version of this classic story is based on John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The story has been updated using modern phrases, yet seems to be faithful to the original author’s intent.

Since the original book was based on a dream John Bunyan had, while imprisoned for his faith in the 1600s, this movie truly keeps much of the original story details, yet adds enhancements to the story in areas such as the depiction of demonic involvement, that was mentioned in the book, but not as fully described as was shown in this movie version of the story.

If you or your children are afraid of the devil or demons, then this movie might be offensive to you. The depiction in The Pilgrim’s Progress movie of the demonic attacks against the pilgrim named Christian, seem accurate and justified, for dramatic emphasis of what is going on behind the scenes in the spiritual realm.

The filmmaking quality is quite high compared with other Christian films. The animation appears to be thoughtfully done with vivid colors and details.

I highly recommend that you watch this Pilgrim’s Progress movie. It appears to be a highly accurate view into the spiritual battle over souls that is going on in the spiritual realm and also on the earth today.

If nothing else, it should help open the eyes of all people as to the great and precious reward that is waiting for them in God’s Kingdom, if they will just endure in faith in Jesus Christ, and ask for God’s Help in overcoming all the obstacles that this world and the devil will try to throw towards them in this life.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Robert Woeger, age 54 (USA)
Positive—This called a family film, but as a retired professor of early childhood education and a Christian, I recommend this film for middle school students and adults. For children below middle school, the monsters can be scary and young children will not understand their purposes in the story. For middle-schoolers and adults, this is a very fine movie.
Robert, age 90 (USA)
Positive—I really was looking forward to this animated adaption of The Pilgrim’s Progress. I have read the book and the story, and message has never left me. I was excited to see it and mostly enjoyed it. The animation fluctuated in quality and did detract from the overall presentation of the characters. But, regardless, I enjoyed it and so did the people who attended with me. Two of us have read the book and one had not, and we all got something out of the plight of Christian getting to the celestial city. There are some demons, that are animated with more detail, that might frighten some children, although the child behind me was not affected by their scariness. I think most people would enjoy the movie, although the book is so much better and a must read for all Christians.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Sharon M Ulstad, age 59 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—Watched tonight at church for family night. All ages were present. It was very intense and frightening for young children, with images of demons—disturbing for me and others. True to the children’s version of the book, though I wish the cross was more visible when he loses his burden, as this is a poignant message in the book. 12 year old daughter is concerned about the missional intent of the movie, as she says it could be very scary for people in other countries who are actively aware of spiritual warfare, although the message of victory is clear.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Sarah, age 48 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Neutral—I have not seen it but read reviews before taking my grandchildren and feel it is for teens and older. Some of my grandchildren are not yet teens, and I believe they are too young, even though it is animated. I am going to see it and suggest my teens see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: / Moviemaking quality:
Susan Quigley, age 70 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.