Movie Night: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

decvibes15German philosopher Immanuel Kant rightly observed that a human being cannot learn to practice perfect justice during this lifetime (Jesus is the exception, of course).1 For example, Christians may understand the logical structure of the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) and know that the Golden Rule is true, and yet all Christians spend their entire lives learning how to apply the Golden Rule in concrete situations.

This is where fiction comes in to help us. In morality “plays” (whether on stage, in books, or on screen), we often are blessed by clear examples of what to do or what not to do. We see ourselves or others in characters. The best fiction, from Greek tragedies to comic books, is so well-written that it causes us to authentically sympathize with characters because of their righteous attributes and feel antipathy toward characters insofar as they have unrighteous attributes. We learn to rejoice in the truth rather than in iniquity (1 Corinthians 13:6).

From time to time I will write articles here to discuss movies that promote Christian ideals in one way or another. Books are important too, but good movies are usually shorter than good books and thus easier to discuss in this forum. And, readers are probably more likely to watch a recommended movie than to read a recommended book).

Recently I saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, Warner Bros.) again. I had not watched it since I was a kid, when I also read Roald Dahl’s book. I was impressed with the songs and the acting, but most of all with the message. The movie is a parable illustrating Jesus’ statement that the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Matthew 20:16). Charlie is, among all the children who tours Wonka’s magical factory, the least concerned to get every little thing his heart desires. In the end, Charlie is the only one who gets exactly what he wants, whereas the other youngsters are thrown out.

In addition to highlighting Charlie’s virtue, the film shows the devastating effects of bad attitudes in children, and even more starkly portrays indulgent parenting that lead to such attitudes. The consequences are depicted in ways to which children and parents can relate, and which are directly precipitated by the vices. There is a little boy who watches too much television and can think of little else, a gluttonous boy, a child who wants everything she sees, and another who is rude to her mother. Each oversteps bounds and gets exactly what is deserved. Perhaps this is the ideal movie for preparing kids to read their Dante later on. Charlie—with his faithful grandpa in tow, wins. I won’t spoil everything by explaining what is involved in Charlie’s winning, but consider that Charlie’s prize is a suitable metaphor for heaven.

Every family should watch Willy Wonka as soon as possible, and discuss its lessons thoroughly. Spend $5.00 on the DVD or rent/buy digitally today.


  1. “The Dialectic of Pure Reason in Defining the Summum Bonum,” The Critique of Practical Reason. 

- 2017