From The Rapture to Left Behind: The Movie and Beyond:
Evangelical Christian End Times Films from 1941 to The Present

by John Walliss


1. Source:

2. Howe, D. (2001) ‘“Left Behind”: Heaven Help Us’, Washington Post, Feb 2nd, [available online for subscribers]. Left Behind box office source:

3. For an in-depth discussion of these themes, see Walliss, John ‘Celling the End Times: The Contours of Contemporary Rapture Films’, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, forthcoming

4. It is also, of course, equally plausible that earlier films, such as A Thief in the Night, inspired the writers of the Left Behind series. This is a reasonable hypothesis considering the former film’s almost cult-like status within the US evangelical community (see Balmer, R. 2006. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America. Fourth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press)

5. Hess, B. (n.d.) “A Brief History of Christian Films, 1918-2002”, The Rapture is available to view and download at

6. Balmer, ibid., Hendershot, H. (2004) Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

7. Balmer, ibid., 64.

8. See, for example, Mason, C. (2002) Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-Life Politics.  Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press; Marsden, G.M. (1991) Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Marsden, G.M. (2006) Fundamentalism and American Culture (New Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press. See also the excellent HBO documentary Soldiers in the Army of God (dirs. Marc Levin & Daphne Pinkerson, 2005)

9. Similar themes are also explored in Tribulation, where two characters are shown becoming unsuspecting conduits for malignant forces by ‘meddling’ with the occult (specifically, in the case of one, by using a Ouija Board and, in the other, by running an evening course in ‘psychic phenomena’). For evangelical critiques of New Age spiritualities, see Lindsey, H. with Carlson, CC. (1971) The Late Great Planet Earth. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, chapter 10; Cumbey, C.E. (1985) The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow: The New Age Movement and our Coming Age of Barbarism. Lafeyette, LA: Huntington House; Groothuis, D. (1988) Confronting the New Age. Downers Grove, Il.: InverVarsity; Baer, R. (1989) Inside the New Age Nightmare. Lafeyette, LA: Huntington House; Noonan, M. (2005) Ransomed from Darkness: The New Age, Christian Faith, and the Battle for Souls. El Sobrante, CA: North Bay Books.

10. York subsequently published his diaries of making The Omega Code and its sequel, Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001). See York, M. (2001) Dispatches from Armageddon: …A Devilish Diary. Hanover, NH: Smith and Kraus.

11. Indeed, it was the top grossing film per screen on its opening weekend in the US, earning an average of $7,745 per screen. See Stack, P. (1999, November 6) ‘Decoding Success of Christian Thriller: “Omega Code” a Hit, But it wont Play Here’, San Francisco Chronicle, (accessed 28th May 2008).

12. Hendershot, ibid.

13. See, for example, Hoover, S.M. (1988) Mass Media Religion: The Social Significance of the Electronic Church. London: Sage Publications; Bruce, S. (1990) Pray TV: Televangelism in America. London; Routledge; Schultze, Q.J. (1990) American Evangelicals and the Mass Media. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academie Books; Peck. J. (1993) The Gods of Televangelism: The Crisis of Meaning and the Appeal of Religious Television. Cresskill, NY: Hampton Press Inc.; Kintz, L. & Lesage, J. (eds. 1998) Media Culture & the Religious Right. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

14. In Left Behind: The Movie, for example, the character Bruce Barnes bluntly tells the other members of the Tribulation Force that “admitting you’re a Christian during the Tribulation is just like marking yourself for death”. Later in the third film he reflects in a prayer how:
Father, if we do nothing but admit to knowing you and loving you they send us for re-education. If we lift a finger to spread your word they sentence us as terrorists. Even if we make it to court, it’s a dark and fearful world…

15. It is interesting to note that this plot development is not found in the novels but is, instead, a Cloud Ten addition (possibly inspired by the murder device in the semiotic murder-mystery novel [and subsequent film], The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco).

16. See Smith, M.R. (2001) “Left Behind: Author LaHaye Sues Left Behind Film Producers”, Christianity Today,

17. Hendershot, ibid., Guyatt, N. (2007) Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Waiting for the End of the World. London: Ebury Press.

18. Hendrix, G. (2005) ‘The “Left Behind” Films: How to End the World on a Budget’, Slate Magazine, (December 1), available online

19. Howe, D. (2001) ‘“Left Behind”: Heaven Help Us’, Washington Post, Feb 2nd, [available online for subscribers]

20. Leyden, J. (2001) ‘Left Behind’, Variety, Feb 5th, available online (accessed  24th May 2007).

21. Two-thirds of the funding for the latter film came from TBN (email correspondence from CEO, Bobby Downes, 22nd May 2008).

22. ‘Church Theatrical Releases’, where a church pays for a licence from the production company to show a particular film for a certain period of time (typically its ‘opening month’). For an overview of how this process works, see the webpage for The Moment After and its sequel:

23. (accessed 21st May 2008). Similarly, Doug Phillips, the founder of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, speaks of his ambition “to build a replacement industry”, and to see Christians “break[ing] up the monopoly of Hollywood” (quoted in Wayne, R. (2008) ‘San Antonio Film Festival Richly Rewards Movies with Biblical Worldviews’, Crosswalk.Com,

24. Whether this represents an evolution in the evangelical film industry or an acceptance of market forces and audience demand is an interesting question. Bobby Downes acknowledged both as salient factors to me, claiming that, although he would not rule out releasing a Moment After III at some point in the future, he felt that “there are so many other stories we are wanting to tell through film and now have the opportunity to do so and are equally important to share”. He also added
Where in the past, films about the End Times would be sure to be accepted by the church and would (on the business level) get investors their money back. Investors (although believers) do really care about getting their investment back. They will not  invest in future films without getting their original investment back (email correspondence, May 22nd 2008).

25. ‘Mockbusters’ are low-budget films with titles and often plotlines derivative of a successful film in the same genre. The Asylum, for example, has released I am Omega, Transmorphers, The Da Vinci Treasure, and Pirates of Treasure Island. See Potts, R. (2007, October 7) ‘The New B Movie’, The New York Times,

26. For a discussion of these prophecies, see, for example, Sitler, R.K (2006) ‘The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar’, Nova Religio, 9 (3), pp. 24-38.

27. This scene is reminiscent of the finale of Deep Impact, however in the Hollywood version although the father and daughter die, humanity is saved the apocalyptic consequences of a direct hit.

28. (accessed 27th May 2008)

29. Interestingly, The Asylum has also released two films drawing on antichrist motifs: 666: The Child (2006) and 666: The Beast (2007). These, however, are devoid of evangelical content and are, instead, a derivative version of the Omen trilogy (1976, 1978, 1981)

30. Quoted in Potts, ibid. This lack of evangelical belief is also manifested in the audio commentaries on each film where, in contrast to those found on evangelical releases, both director and actors typically ignore or gloss over scenes with evangelical content.

31. See, for example, the reviews of 2012:

32. Again, the site is arguably the best evidence of this.

33. Op. Cit., pp. 208-9.


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