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Faith-Based Drama ‘Jesus Revolution’ Surpasses $50 Million Mark

By Josh Shepherd
jesus revolution
Faith-based drama 'Jesus Revolution' depicts the Jesus People movement in southern California. (Photo: Lionsgate / Kingdom Story Company)

The Christian movie Jesus Revolution, which has surpassed the $50 million mark in theaters, premieres today on digital and soon on Blu-ray.

Released by Lionsgate, the movie telling the story of the 1970s Jesus People movement earned more than $51 million in box office receipts. That makes it the ninth highest-grossing faith-based film of all time. 

“It’s just an unbelievable landmark for any movie,” said Jon Erwin, who co-directed the film, on a March 31 live video update. He added that Christian viewers have “once again . . . shocked the industry and proven that we are an enormous underserved and hungry audience for content.”

Beginning today, the film—which stars Kelsey Grammer (Frasier), Jonathan Roumie (The Chosen), and Joel Courtney (Super 8)—can be purchased for at-home viewing via digital outlets. A Blu-ray version with special features hits retailers on April 25. 

Despite the movie’s success, some observers familiar with the events depicted say the movie sanitizes complex events. 

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Historian Leah Payne, Ph.D., called the film “an origin story of sorts for conservative American revivalists” in a statement to The Roys Report (TRR). “—And it paints a very rosy, very glossy view of the early days of the Jesus Movement.” 

Payne, associate professor of American religious history at Portland Seminary in Oregon, has written about Jesus Revolution at length. Her review stated it “(glosses) over notable controversy and conflict in favor of feel-good evangelical Christian themes.” 

Similarly, Christian film critic Peter Chattaway called the drama  “a safe, crowd-pleasing film that ignores and obscures the messiness of the Christian hippie movement.” 

Still, audiences responded positively to Jesus Revolution, giving it an A+ CinemaScore and strong word-of-mouth that kept it in the box office Top 10 for five weeks straight. 

It even garnered significant mainstream praise, with a 61% positive aggregate rating from film critics. Variety hailed it as “one of the most appealing faith-based big-screen entertainments in a while, polished and persuasive without getting too preachy.”

Film brings megachurch pastor to forefront

The film constitutes a watershed moment for Kingdom Story Company, a production studio that launched with 2018’s I Can Only Imagine which revealed the story behind the hit song.

Filmmaker brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin parlayed the success of that movie into a deal with Hollywood studio Lionsgate, which agreed to wide distribution of their films. 

Results for the Christian company’s next productions—I Still Believe, about Christian music star Jeremy Camp, and 2021’s American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story—were dampened by the COVID pandemic. 

In contrast, Jon Erwin noted several recent events helped boost Jesus Revolution. “When you think about the Asbury revivals and The Chosen and Super Bowl commercials and all these things, (it’s) the providence of God’s timing,” he said, referring in part to the He Gets Us campaign. 

The film’s marketing has played off an iconic TIME Magazine cover from 1971, with an image of Jesus depicted in psychedelic colors under the headline “The Jesus Revolution.”

greg laurie harvest
Pastor Greg Laurie (Courtesy Photo)

However, the movie itself is based on a 2018 memoir by pastor-evangelist Greg Laurie, whose ministry began during the Jesus People movement. 

Documentarian David Di Sabatino, who produced the Emmy nominated film Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher, noted in a recent TRR podcast that the new dramatic movie has several inaccuracies. 

But the emphasis on Laurie concerned him most. “This was a Greg Laurie selfie movie,” he told TRR. “He is driving the narrative. It was his life and love story imposed onto a larger story.” 

Historian Payne agreed that viewers should think critically about the artistic choices made in the film and how it portrays Christian revival. 

“Laurie’s story puts his own conversion and ministry trajectory in the foreground, and the voices of others in the background,” she said. “That frames the entire Jesus Movement through who he has become: a powerful, conservative Southern Baptist pastor who has been very publicly supportive of Donald Trump.” 

Complex life and ministry of Frisbee 

Some observers have also criticized the depiction of hippie preacher Lonnie Frisbee and his then-girlfriend Connie, who play a significant part in the film. 

Frisbee famously became a Christian while reading the Gospels on an LSD-induced experience. And his sexual behavior violated biblical constraints, as he had extra-marital relations with women and men. 

lonnie frisbee
Lonnie Frisbee (Photo via social media)

In the film, Frisbee preaches at one point that “We did everything and everyone.” But the movie stops short of acknowledging his tragic death from HIV/AIDS. 

According to multiple sources, the screenwriters never contacted Connie Frisbee during the making of this major motion picture.

She said in a recent interview: “I can tell you that 90% of the movie isn’t true. The truth is that dealing with people is very messy. And they want to make it very tidy . . . That’s not how it was.”

Filmmaker Di Sabatino, who is also involved in an upcoming drama about Frisbee, praised aspects of Jesus Revolution. He said the portrayal of hippie worship band Love Song and scenes of mass beach baptisms reflect the “transformative power of the Holy Spirit.” 

“Instead of asking a movie to be a more complex version of the story, I think we can applaud the good,” he said. “Then await other movies or documentaries that show a more intense, messy, and perhaps truer story.”

Click below to listen to a recent TRR podcast featuring filmmaker David Di Sabatino:

Jesus Revolution


Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.



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9 thoughts on “Faith-Based Drama ‘Jesus Revolution’ Surpasses $50 Million Mark”

  1. Why does everything/everyone rise and fall based on Donald Trump? Why is TRR always quoting liberals (this time from Portland, OR –what else is there in Portland besides liberals?). Try quoting a conservative! I’m sure you can find a conservative who is critical of this movie. If Greg Laurie is bad for supporting Trump, would he be ‘good’ if he had supported Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden? Definitely not reasonable choices. Like one recent commenter implied, it’s time to watch TRR a bit more closely for motives and biases.

    1. Scott –
      You say “Why does everything/everyone rise and fall based on Donald Trump?” I’ve been asking this very question for the last 7 years…of Christians. I’ve watched Christians cast out, tear down, and tear anyone apart for daring to criticize Trump as if he’s the messiah. We’ve got to get that out of our midst.
      “What else is there in Portland besides liberals?” Nike. White nationalist groups (growing at an alarming rate, BTW). Gorgeous scenery. And what’s wrong with liberals? There are people on both sides of the aisle who follow Christ.
      “If Greg Laurie is bad for supporting Trump, would he be ‘good’ if he had supported Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?” No. It’s not all about politics. It’s about if supporting Trump was consistent with Greg’s faith and values, especially given how Greg blares and boasts about them on every platform possible. Having read some of Greg’s musings on social media, his support of Trump is outright hypocrisy.

      And I think this film missed the mark because of wrong expectations – it was marketed as a Jesus film when it’s really more of a biography about Greg.

      1. There are many things wrong with liberals, Marin. It’s liberals who think abortion is fine, gay marriage is fine, changing from one gender to another is fine. When the Bible tells us the God knits us together in our mother’s womb, and the Bible is clear about homosexuality, and that God made us male and female. Yes, liberals can be saved and some are but it’s the liberal wing of the Dem party in this country who wants to shut down religious speak and to make this country free from religion. If someone is a pro-life activist, watch out, Biden’s DOJ is coming for you. Biden’s FBI right now wants to ‘monitor’ conservative Catholics because they may be domestic terrorists. I didn’t bring up politics, the author did by mentioning that Laurie supports Trump. Glad he did not support Clinton or Biden. As a matter of fact, let’s find out which evangelical leaders supported Obama, Clinton, and Biden. And this Portland Payne person is quoted in the very next article by TRR about worship music! Is there anything she can’t speak to? Which worship leaders supported Trump? I’m sure she knows.

        1. Scott –
          I grew up in conservative Texas, went to a university in liberal Cali, and now live in the Midwest; I have friends and family members across the full political spectrum, and fall on the middle left. And it’s VERY alarming the exaggerated steretypes and accusations you make of liberals. (And for the record, there are plenty of things wrong with conservatives too).
          Interesting how conservatives will be angry about exaggerated stereotypes and labels thrown at them (racist, fascist, etc), but respond by DOING THE SAME THING to liberals (want to “shut down” religious speak, etc).
          In addition to being hypocritical, that behavior does nothing but shut down conversations and inhibit the ability to reach out to those who need it. (You think liberals are “wrong” and lost? How does labeling and accusing win them over to Christ? Isn’t that the goal?) You also lose sight of what you have in common (you’ll be amazed that you aren’t as different from the liberals as you think).
          I’m more than happy to discuss some of the nuances to the positions you stated above in hope you’d at least be willing to have productive conversation. Even if you never agree, it can at least enhance your understanding beyond oversimplified accusations.

  2. I have no idea why this movie was made. No mention of who Jesus is, why he came, why the cross or the resurrection. The is no Gospel in the movie without those elements. Frisbee was a fraud married to a woman,he was a serial adulterer with men and died of aids.

    1. Hi Mark, Lonnie was a deeply flawed individual, a lot like many of us. From what I have read he seemed to be a follower of Christ with many struggles ( only God know the true heart). King David was an adulterer and killed an innocent man who was loyal to him and his fellow soldiers. Lonnie definitely struggled and he paid the price of his sin by dying of AIDS. I am not justifying his later actions but if you look at his early years he preached the gospel as good as I have heard.
      I hope to see him in heaven.

  3. The movie depicted very flawed individuals. I don’t see it being sugar coated in any way. Should we have footage of people using the bathroom? No one wants to see negative in every light. The article makes an issue of Greg Laurie’s political views and pinpoints it as if it’s his crowning glory. Watching the film, while Laurie’s experience was at the forefront, it managed to encapsulate many other stories and characters views and tie them together in an unexpected way. The acting was good, and this film was above average, imo.

  4. When I heard about this movie being made I didn’t know much about Greg Laurie, though I did remember that he wrote/drew the Living Water tract that we used to hand out on the street in the mid 70s. I knew about Chuck Smith and the original Calvary Chapel and the bands. So I read the Jesus Revolution book; I think the movie turned out better than the book–more on the events and less editorializing. Sure it was simplified and cleaned up and centered on GL’s story; my own accounts of the Jesus movement probably do the same. But God did something in and through a lot of people, as screwed up as they (and we) were. For all of their broken humanity, God did something through Chuck and Lonnie. That story is worth remembering. If you were there you know it wasn’t all roses; it was people (who are like that)…and God (who is like that).

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