Left Behind is a 2000 Canadian-American religious science fiction thriller film directed by Vic Sarin and starring Kirk Cameron, Brad Johnson, Gordon Currie, and Clarence Gilyard.
The film was based on the best-selling Christian eschatological end-times novel of the same name written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, adapted for the screen by Alan B. McElroy.
The film was released first direct-to-video, followed by a limited theatrical release.
At the time of its release, the film was promoted by its creators as the “biggest and most ambitious Christian film ever made.”
The film received generally negative reviews, holding a 16% score on review-aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Despite this, the film managed to spawn two additional sequels based on the second novel in the series, Tribulation Force and World at War.
GNN television journalist Cameron “Buck” Williams (Kirk Cameron) reports from Israel about a new technology which will allow food to grow in inhospitable environments. He interviews Israeli scientist Chaim Rosenzweig (Colin Fox), and praises him for creating a miracle. Suddenly, Arab Mikoyan MiG-29 and Russian fighter jets fly overhead in a surprise air raid. A missile hits near Buck and Chaim as they retreat to a military bunker. The sun disappears even though it is still mid-day. The Israeli military is unable to counterattack, but the attacking jets start spontaneously exploding and crashing down. Buck runs outside with the news camera and records the drama as some GNN executives and reporters watch back in Chicago. The entire attacking force is destroyed.
The story shifts to pilot Rayford Steele (Brad Johnson), who has been asked to fly from New York City to London at short notice, causing him to miss his son Raymie’s birthday party. Despite his wife’s and his daughter’s protests, he agrees and leaves his family behind. Rayford’s daughter, Chloe Steele (Janaya Stephens), is leaving for her college exams. Buck, having decided to go to London for an investigation of the attack, boards Rayford’s plane.
On the flight, a flight attendant, Hattie Durham (Chelsea Noble), who is having an affair with Rayford, reveals she’s taking a job at the UN and this is her last flight. Later during the flight, some passengers awaken to realise that several of their fellow passengers are missing. Panic sets in, and Buck helps Hattie try to keep the passengers calm. Upon returning to the cockpit, they discover that people (later revealed to be Christians) are mysteriously disappearing worldwide and some planes are down from missing flight crews. He is forced to turn the plane back and land in Chicago. Shortly after landing, Buck locates Rayford and asks him to fly him to New York City. Rayford refuses, saying that he has to be with his family, but says he will find Buck a private pilot, and they both drive to Rayford’s home.
Meanwhile, Chloe is driving home from her college exams when she encounters a large traffic accident. She goes to check on a crashed semi, whose driver vanished. People are reporting abandoned cars and children missing from their seats. While Chloe is inspecting the carnage, her car is stolen by a hurt man and she is stranded on the wrecked highway. She eventually starts walking down the highway. Rayford discovers that his wife and son are missing. He and Buck are forced to stay in the house because of a military-enforced curfew. Rayford starts to read his wife’s Bible.
Chloe returns home, reunites with her father and discovers Buck sleeping on the couch. After conversing about her missing family, Chloe drives Buck to the airport and goes to look for her younger brother. Buck takes a plane to New York with pilot Ken Ritz. Rayford finds Chloe in an elementary school. He suggests they search the church because that is where his wife and son were most happy. Chloe refuses to go to church, saying that her mother was happiest when Ray was home. After Chloe returns home, Rayford goes to New Hope Village Church and finds Pastor Bruce Barnes (Clarence Gilyard). Bruce has also been left behind because he never truly believed in God. A believer at last, he begs for forgiveness and asks God for a second chance to help people. Rayford enters the church and kneels next to Bruce, telling him that God already has used him. They then watch a videotape left by another Reverend Billings dealing with the Rapture, in which all true believers are taken to Heaven, while the rest are left behind to endure the Tribulation – seven years of war and suffering.
When Buck gets to New York City, he finds that his friend Dirk Burton has been killed. While he is there, he takes a computer disc and is almost shot by a sniper. Buck decodes the computer disc and finds out that someone is trying to bankrupt the UN in order to control the world’s food supply. Rayford confronts Hattie, telling her that their “affair” was wrong, and that he wants her forgiveness, and she leaves in a huff. Rayford tells Chloe about God and she says she believes. Meanwhile, Buck flies back to Chicago to meet with an old friend, CIA agent Alan Thompkins. After the meeting, Alan is killed in the process of a car bombing, which Buck narrowly escapes. He goes to Rayford’s house, because they are the only ones Buck knows in Chicago. Taking the wounded Buck to New Hope Church (as a makeshift hospital), Rayford and Bruce show Buck the tape that Reverend Billings made. Buck, however, does not fully believe the claims, and he goes to warn Chaim about the plot against the UN. Rayford and Chloe attempt to stop him, because he does not have God on his side. Buck ignores the Steeles’ advice and goes to the UN anyway.
At the UN, Buck sees the plans for the new Israeli temple, and realises that everything Rayford, Chloe and Bruce told him was true. Before the meeting, Buck finally accepts God and asks him to show him the way. God shows him that UN Secretary-General Nicolae Carpathia (Gordon Currie) is the Antichrist when he reveals his plan for world domination, of which his plan to rebuild the temple of Israel is a logical first step. Carpathia shoots Jonathan Stonagal and Joshua Todd-Cothran, who were behind the plot to bankrupt the UN, and then brainwashes the new “kings and queens” (the 10 UN delegates) into thinking that Stonagal shot Cothran and himself. Everyone, even the press, believes Carpathia, except Buck, who leaves and returns to the church, where he resolves to fight Carpathia with the help of his friends. Narrating, Buck says the “seven years of peace” declared by Nicolae will be the seven worst years mankind has ever seen, and that faith is all they need.
Left Behind Series
You can find a full index of the Left Behind film series here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Vic Sarin.
- Producer(s): Joe Goodman, Paul Lalonde, Peter Lalonde, and Ralph Winter.
- Writer(s): Joe Goodman, Paul Lalonde, and Alan B. McElroy.
- Music: James Covell.
- Cinematography: George Tirl.
- Editor(s): Michael Pacek.
- Production: Namesake Entertainment.
- Producer(s): Cloud Ten Pictures.
- Release Date: 31 October 2000 (video) and 02 February 2001 (theatrical).
- Running Time: 100 minutes.
- Country: Canada.
- Language: English.