Heaven is for Real: The Movie

Well over two years ago, we interviewed Todd Burpo about his book, Heaven is for Real. In March of 2003, this Nebraska pastor and father nearly lost his four-year-old son Colton to a life-threatening infection caused by a burst appendix. For Burpo and his wife Sonja, it was a living nightmare. Emergency surgery was Colton’s only option. He barely survived to share his remarkable journey from unconsciousness to heaven.

The Book

Burpo wrote about Colton’s experiences, including the boy’s meeting with a great grandfather who had died 30 years earlier. Colton also met the sister who was lost through a miscarriage (a revelation that is later shared in the movie)… and Jesus, Himself. Glimpsing into heaven through the eyes of their young son was startling for Colton’s parents. The family didn’t know what to believe, but soon the evidence was clear. 

Published in 2010, the book became a New York Times best-selling Christian book. It topped several domestic best seller lists such as USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, National Public Radio, and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and was also published for foreign audiences. “It has been incredible to watch the contagious enthusiasm of readers drive the success of Heaven is for Real,” said Michael Hyatt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Nelson Publishers. “Colton’s story gives a wonderful glimpse into what lies ahead for believers, and encourages us to embrace our childlike faith.”

By April 2012, over one million ebooks had been sold, and more sales are happening now with the advent of a major motion picture adaptation. 

The Movie

When we asked Burpo, “How has life changed for your family since you went public with Colton’s story?” he answered, “The book took off and suddenly we were in the media. When ABC Nightly news put Colton up against Stephen Hawking, Dianne Sawyer said, ‘Who are you going to believe, the scientist or the child?’ I thought this was a profound question and loved it when she said, ‘We’ll go with the 12 year old.’” That interview occurred in 2011, setting the groundwork for even bigger media exposure — a movie based on Colton’s near death brush with heaven.

Today, Colton is a teenager and unwavering in his belief that he visited heaven. He simply learned things in heaven that he had no knowledge of on earth. The movie includes lines such as:


“Yes, Colton?”

“Did you know I have a sister?”

“You didn’t know that Cassie’s your sister?”

“No, I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?”

“Honey, who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?”

“In heaven, this little girl came up to me. She told me she died in your tummy.”

This Easter weekend, many Katyites will flock to theaters and travel back in time to see Colton as the little boy with the amazing tale, reenacted on the big screen. The movie version is targeted to both skeptics and believers alike. Pastor Burpo notes the outreach opportunities that come with a Christian film, and that although friends may not go with you to church, they will go with you to this movie. “God just knew the world needed a kid to talk about heaven, and it’s only God who could come up with this, and He did,” he adds. 

This is an excellent family-friendly film that is uncompromising, but not preachy. It filled with riveting dialogue and scenes depicting Colton’s astounding story of his trip to heaven and back.

Actors, Writers, Producers and Photographers

Sony Pictures acquired film rights, and producers T.D. Jakes, Joe Roth of  Roth Films, Screen Gems and TriStar Pictures collaborated on the movie. Randall Wallace (the award-winning creative force behind Braveheart, Pearl Harbor and Secretariet) directed the film.     

Starring Greg Kinnear, who is masterful in his role as Todd Burpo, the cast also includes Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo and Connor Corum as Colton Burpo. Margo Martindale and Thomas Haden Church also have roles. 

Watch and Be Blessed

This widely anticipated movie will be in theaters throughout the remainder of the school year and well into summer. Watch for showtimes at the AMC, Cinemark, Santikos Palladium and other local venues. Youth groups, church groups and families will be moved by the innocence of young Colton, the reaction of his parents, and the truth of the statement: “Heaven is for Real.”

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Joseph Menslage
Joseph Menslage

Joseph Menslage is the Publisher of Katy Christian Magazine and Fort Bend Christian Magazine. Contact him at joseph@houstonchristianmagazine.com.