Journal of
Media and Communication Studies

  • Abbreviation: J. Media Commun. Stud.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2545
  • DOI: 10.5897/JMCS
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 225

Full Length Research Paper

The tree of life and courageous: Comparative analysis on faith-based filmmaking

Sean O' Connor, M. A.
  • Sean O' Connor, M. A.
  • Asbury University, United States.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 13 April 2016
  •  Accepted: 19 September 2016
  •  Published: 31 October 2016


This thesis analyzes the story structure of two films, The Tree of Life (2011) and Courageous (2011), and their similarities and differences in storytelling and Christian themes. Using screenwriting scholar Robert McKee’s theories on story structure, this comparative analysis highlights the plot elements, conflicts, dialogue, and overall execution of the two films in order to identify their agreement or disagreement with established screenwriting theory. Results from this analysis indicate how both films align with and diverge from McKee’s theories, finding in conclusion that these motion pictures not only provide insight on differences in portraying Christian faith in film but also the importance of dramatizing conflict in filmmaking. This insight bridges a divide in the faith-based film industry between mainstream and evangelical filmmakers seeking to ask spiritual questions in their work.

Key words: Alex Kendrick, Christian film, courageous, Robert McKee, story structure, Terrence Malick, the tree of life.