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Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé

Content Caution



In Theaters


Home Release Date




Adam R. Holz

Movie Review

It might seem churlish to begin a review of Beyoncé’s concert documentary with a sideways glance at Taylor Swift. But that comparison is simply unavoidable, right down to the fact that the biggest name at the film’s London debut was Swift herself.

Throughout 2023, Taylor’s ticket sales and her own recent concert film dominated the music headlines. Meanwhile, Beyoncé’s faithful followers—the Beyhive, as they’re known—flocked to that singer’s equally outrageous stadium tour. It might not have made the news like Taylor’s tour did. But Queen Bey likely out-earned Swift, taking in as much as $4 billion according to estimates.

Watching this film, one could be forgiven for thinking it might have cost Beyoncé a couple billion dollars to bring her immense creative vision to life onstage. Unlike Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, this film—written, directed and produced by Beyoncé herself—features documentary-style, behind-the-scenes footage and commentary.

In the film, we glimpse the brainstorming, the planning, the inner workings and the construction of this undeniably remarkable stage production. Ultimately, the film (like the stage show) is a love letter to fans. And more so than Taylor’s film, it’s also about the fans. The camera pictures them frequently. And they’re often weeping in worshipful joy at being in the proximity of their idol. Better than The Era’s Tour film, Renaissance captures the ecstatic experience of attending this show and its riveting performance by a generational powerhouse with very few peers.

Beyoncé is a tour de force here, singing, dancing, planning, plotting and loving everyone around her. That said, despite her artistic prowess, this documentary concert film embraces a surprising amount of problematic content, as we’ll see. 

Positive Elements

Beyoncé talks in multiple clips about what she’s had to overcome as a Black female artist. And you can’t help but admire her passion and her unrelenting drive to succeed. This is a portrait of a woman on top of the world, someone who’s masterminded not only the songs she sings, but everything related to them.

Some of the most interesting clips in the film from my perspective were those showing her behind the scenes, talking through minute details of this massive production: When an elevator lift comes up; to how a particular light achieves the best effect; when her retinue of dancers (or her daughter, 11-year-old Blue Ivy) joins her. In Renaissance, we see a woman in complete control of every aspect of this production.

She works so hard and so long that she falls asleep in the middle of a meeting at one point.

We also see and hear Beyoncé’s fierce dedication to her family. Her three children join her on tour. And despite Beyoncé’s initial hesitation, Blue Ivy works hard enough to convince mom to let her onstage. We watch the youngster work hard enough to match other dancers’ efforts and perfection; Beyoncé praises a close confidant, Amari Marshall, for serving as a coach, mentor and protector of Blue Ivy.

Beyoncé talks about the difficult of balancing her roles as mother, wife, performer, businesswoman and visionary planner, how each requires something different of her. She also praises her parents, Tina Knowles-Lawson and Matthew Knowles, for the way they raised her and tirelessly worked to pave the path for her successful musical career.

Spiritual Elements

Beyoncé thanks God once or twice. And we see a group of performers holding hands in a circle as one of them prays to “the universe, God or whatever name you use.” A song near the end of the show pictures Beyoncé in a colorful, Pope-like outfit and hat, with an image of a huge classical cathedral around her. A very pregnant performer says, “I just trust God’s timing” regarding when her baby will be born.

That said, however, almost everything about this movie has a spiritual feel to it. As mentioned above, virtually every shot of the crowd pictures fans singing, crying, laughing, reaching out in worshipful adoration.

And make no mistake: This is a worship service the likes of which most of us have never seen or experienced. Beyoncé’s famously fierce fans idolize her in every sense of the word. And she seems to know it, talking about her sense of responsibility to make the experience all it can be and recognizing that a concert can be a transformative event for the “faithful.”

It’s not surprising, then, that Beyoncé talks about the literal meaning of the word renaissance: to be born again. In this case, however, that phrase doesn’t signify an encounter with Jesus. Rather, it encompasses the experience of being a part of Beyoncé’s community of fans.

Beyoncé repeatedly talks about the importance of community; of creating a “safe space” to be yourself; of finding love and affirmation and unconditional acceptance. All of that feels quite a lot like how we talk about fellowship in the Christian church.

Building on the film’s spiritual trappings, Beyoncé frequently uses visuals to represent herself as an alien, a robot, and a powerful cosmic being of sorts. All of that—especially when projected onto screens a hundred or more feet tall—reinforces a sense of her being more than just bigger than life. More like a goddess. And her fans treat her accordingly.

At the end of the film, she rides out on a rolling silver horse—hard not to think of the biblical Golden Calf here—which is then hoisted into the air. At the end of that song, Beyoncé herself is lifted into the air without her silver steed, her long dress trailing below her as if she’s an angel.

Sexual Content

There’s much I could say here. Many of Beyoncé’s songs include suggestive—or more-than-suggestive!—lyrics, for starters.

But it’s the sexualized imagery in this show that stands out, especially when Beyoncé intentionally highlights the importance of affirmation, inclusion and celebration of all forms of sexual expression and identity.

Accordingly, we see Beyoncé and her large retinue of male, female and trans dancers in myriad revealing costumes performing very sensual moves, at times pantomiming sexual activity. We see close-ups of women twerking in thong-like outfits, cleavage-revealing wardrobe changes galore, and massive digital images of Beyoncé’s strategically covered nude form. The first of these, at the outset of the show, pictures her basically naked with pasties covering her breasts, for instance. Some of songs we hear include the f-word used vulgarly and forcefully in a sexual context as well.

Crowd shots frequently feature men wearing outfits that seem to  signify their gay sexual identity, such as feminized clothes and leather S&M outfits.

Beyoncé herself talks about the importance of total acceptance of all such expressions of sexuality and identity, and a segment about halfway through the film specifically highlights all of the gay men she’s recruited to be a part of her retinue.

She also tells the story of her gay Uncle Johnny, who was her seamstress for many years at the outset of her career.

Violent Content

We hear a story about Beyoncé being injured when a flying rig smashed her into the stage years ago. We hear that she had to have knee surgery, and we actually see a portion of that surgery as fluid is removed from her knee via a syringe.

Crude or Profane Language

I thought the four f-words in Taylor Swift’s concert movie were a lot. Well. That film feels like a Disney movie compared to this one.

We hear nearly 120 profanities, including almost 50 f-words (many paired with “mother”), as well as a dozen or so s-words, more than 30 uses of “b—h,” and uses of God’s name in vain, the n-word, “d–n,” “a–,” “d–k,” “p–sy,” “balls”  and possibly a use of the c-word.

I’d also add that my tallies here are probably on the conservative side. Rapid-fire utterances of profanity happen in a number of songs, especially when Beyoncé’s joined by rapper Megan Thee Stallion to perform her vulgarity- and sex-filled song “Savage.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

A few songs make reference to drinking or drunkenness. One lyric, in contrast, says that Beyoncé doesn’t do drugs.

Other Negative Elements

Beyoncé herself initially says that the stage of a tour like this is no place for her 11-year-old daughter—which is actually right. But Blue Ivy is a persuasive and determined youngster, and she eventually convinces Beyoncé to let her join her mom for one song on one stop. She is, of course, a hit, becoming a mainstay “guest” performer in the rest of the tour. Blue Ivy’s talent and work ethic are admirable. But given how sexual and profane the show itself is, it’s heartbreaking to see her mimicking the sensual dance moves of grown women.


One of the songs that Beyoncé performs is “Break My Soul (The Queen’s Remix).” In it, we hear, “Got motivation (Motivation)/I done found me a new foundation … /I’m takin’ my new salvation (Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, new salvation)/And I’ma build my own foundation, yeah.”

For Beyoncé’s tear-drenched legion of adoring fans, the idea of a “new salvation” doesn’t feel far off. Seeing Queen Bey perform is represented here as something more than “just” a concert. Instead, it’s depicted as a life-altering experience (albeit a surprisingly profane and sexualized one).

And experience is the key word here. Beyoncé, like Taylor Swift, invites her tribe to get a glimpse of something bigger than life, something that feels transcendent, something that serves as a focal point for their deepest emotions. If their tears of joy are any kind of reference, it feels good.

Beyoncé intuitively understands the powerful role she plays in her fans’ lives as she performs, embracing and channeling that experiential emotion and then amplifying it further.

It’s heady stuff. And it hints at what we were made for: a transcendent experience that gives our lives meaning and purpose and direction.

Ultimately, no experience or emotional catharsis can accomplish that purpose. It’s one that God alone can provide and sustain, no matter how much those who “worship” Queen Bey as a postmodern “goddess” might long for it to be otherwise.

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Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.