We review one of the biggest films from 2015, Woodlawn, a powerful football movie that focuses on racial tension in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1970s.

View or purchase Woodlawn on FishFlix.com


Woodlawn was released in 2015 and stars Sean Astin, Nic Bishop, Caleb Castille and Jon Voight. It was created by Pureflix Entertainment and the Erwin Brothers and enjoyed a popular run in theaters late last year. If you’re interested in ordering this film after our review, you can find it on our website at www.fishflix.com.

In 1973, a spiritual awakening captured the heart of nearly every player of the Woodlawn High School Football team.  A gifted player must learn to embrace his ability and his faith as he battles racial tensions on and off the field in Woodlawn, a moving and inspirational new film based on the true story of how love and unity overcame hate and division in early 1970s Birmingham, Alabama.

Tony Nathan lands in a powder keg of anger and violence when he joins fellow African-American students at Woodlawn High School after its government mandated desegregation in 1973. The Woodlawn Colonels football team is a microcosm of the problems at the school and in the city, which erupts in cross burnings and riots, and Coach Tandy is at a loss to solve these unprecedented challenges with his disciplinarian ways.

When this film first came out, I remember a lot of hype surrounding it. I knew several people that went to go see it, and I was excited when I finally had the opportunity to watch it. Many of the things people had told me was that it stood out from other Christian movies and delivered a strong message along with a strong production value.

I will readily admit that the production quality of this movie far exceeds the majority of Christian movies. The scenes that take place on the field in particular stand out for their incredible cinematography and beautiful lens-flare-ridden shots. The acting was solid and I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces like Sean Astin and Jon Voight.

Woodlawn also does a wonderful job at not just being a sports film. This isn’t your typical small football team takes on a Goliath team and wins story. The movie is not even about the team winning games. It focuses rather on the racial segregation and tension that was going on in Birmingham, Alabama at that time. The football team is merely the setting for the film, and it doesn’t steal away from the things that truly matter. Another intriguing aspect is how the players’ faith becomes a vital aspect of the team dynamics. While before they would argue with each other and quarrel over racial issues, when they were brought together through Jesus, they were able to stand up and fight together.

Woodlawn attempts to tell a true story as this is all a retelling of events that truly happened in 1973. I appreciated the fact that they were telling a true story, because it gave more realism to the scenarios and events that transpired. Watching the entire team accept Jesus in one scene became truly meaningful and powerful because it was understood that this happened in true life. I often remark that films that tell a true story carry more weight, because we can understand that it’s not being fictionally dramatized. When we read about our watch movies that tell true stories, we can understand that this was truly God working in these peoples’ lives.

The Erwin brothers have done a fantastic job bringing Woodlawn together and I appreciate their willingness to unabashedly proclaim the name of Jesus in their films. This isn’t merely a faith-based film that conforms to anyone of any particular faith. This movie proudly and boldly proclaims the name of Jesus Christ several times throughout the film.

Everything feels very fitting to the time period as well, I didn’t notice anything that seemed outright anachronistic. You can tell that a lot of detail and planning went into the production of this film and in the end it really paid off. Woodlawn is an impressive football film worthy of classics like Remember the Titans and far exceeds the level of cinematography we’ve come to expect from other Christian football movies.

I appreciate Woodlawn for breaking new ground and setting new standards for other Christian movies to live up to. It presents some real issues that were facing Alabama in the 1970s and even has impressive callbacks to historical events. The beginning of the film in particular stood out to me for its unique blending of real footage from historical events. Woodlawn is an impressive film, both technically and spiritually. Its story will certainly touch you and give you a deeper insight into the racial tension that Alabama was experiencing in the 70s.

On the subject of family friendliness, parents need to understand that the whole purpose of this movie is to show racial tension and some of the things that were going on at this time. While the language is clean and there are only very mild sexual elements, there is a faira mount of violence and difficult issues relating to racism. We recommend as always that you watch this film first and decide if it’s okay for your particular family. And we also like to follow the Dove Foundation which approves this movie for ages 12 and up.

If you would like to find out more about Woodlawn, or would be interested in purchasing it, you can visit our website at www.fishflix.com. On our website, we have a vast assortment of Christian films you can learn about or purchase. We have a large collection, containing both classics and brand new movies that are just releasing, all at incredibly low prices.  Thank you for joining us, and as always, please be sure to stay tuned as we bring you more reviews every week on the FishFlix.com Christian movie podcast.

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