As for Kirk Cameron, he hasn’t had a very fruitful film career, as the vast majority of his work has been restricted to television. During his Growing Pains heyday in the ’80s, Cameron was seen in only a handful of mainstream releases, all but one box-office bombs — e.g., Douglas Day Stewart‘s romantic drama Listen to Me (1989), opposite Jami Gertz, and the Robin Williams-Kurt Russell comedy The Best of Times (1986). The second phase of Cameron’s film career is comprised of a few movies geared to Evangelical Christian audiences in the United States.
In Vic Sarin‘s Armaggedon-themed Left Behind (2001), Cameron plays television journalist Buck Williams, described by the New York Times‘ Stephen Holden as “the most golly gee-whiz young journalist to appear since Jimmy Olsen stalked Superman.” For all his naiveté, Williams uncovers a world domination plot led by the Antichrist himself: the United Nations Secretary General. Brad Johnson and Cameron’s real-life wife, Chelsea Noble co-star.
“The movie’s catalytic event is the Christian Rapture: 142 million people around the world are abruptly transported directly to heaven, leaving behind their clothes and personal belongings,” explains Holden. “… It doesn’t dawn on most of those left behind until late in the movie that the disappearances are biblical prophecy coming true. The moment they grasp the truth, they tend to fall to their knees in prayer as helpful clerical friends, citing chapter and verse, provide biblical confirmation.”
Left Behind‘s paltry $4 million box-office grosses didn’t prevent Cameron from returning as Buck Williams in two sequels: Bill Corcoran‘s Tribulation Force (2002) and Craig R. Baxley‘s Left Behind: World at War (2005), both also bringing back Brad Johnson and Chelsea Noble. Additionally, 1982 Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr (An Officer and a Gentleman) plays a president in the latter film.
Cameron’s biggest Christian box-office hit, however, was Alex Kendrick‘s Fireproof (2008), in which he plays a firefighter struggling to save his marriage. Although overseas grosses were nil, Fireproof took in $33.45 million in North America. Obviously, the religious-romantic drama was no blockbuster, but if it did indeed cost $500,000 as reported it was an undeniable hit — depending, of course, on how much was spent marketing / distributing the film.
Overall, Cameron’s most successful movie by far remains Rod Daniel‘s Like Father, Like Son (1987), in which the 17-year-old Cameron co-starred opposite Dudley Moore. In the US/Canada, the identity-switch comedy brought in $34.37 million, or about $70 million today.