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Films Suggested by Catholics

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Here are responses to the following question we sent to Catholic clergy and representatives:
What general release movie or movies (as in, something one might find in well-stocked video shop) are most representative of Catholic thought, belief, culture and/or history?

I'm not interested in a documentary, but something that those in your religion might uniquely identify with, whether because it's set in particularly important historical period, it features a modern adherent as a character, or even a Disney animated movie that presented a particular philosophy which rings especially true for your group.


Most Frequently Mentioned "Catholic Films"

  • The Mission (1986)
  • A Man For All Seasons (1966)
  • Babette's Feast (1988)
  • Romero

Some of the Other Picks

  • Life is Beautiful (1998)
  • Entertaining Angels
  • Spitfire Grill


From: Joan Sokoll
Date: 15 Mar 1999

Your question is interesting, but not in my area of expertise. My own personal favorite would be Babette's Feast, a Dutch film, I believe.

From: Fr. Charles Irvin
Date: 15 Mar 1999

Try A Man For All Seasons.

Another might be The Mission.

From: ChrisP Cash
Date: 15 Mar 1999

Jesus of Nazereth
(almost any movie depicting the old and new testament of the bible)
Maximillian: Saint of Auschwitz
Miracle of Marcelino
Mother Teresa
Spitfire Grill
St. Maria Goretti: 14 Flowers of Pardon

(any movie about the life of a saint)

-- ChrisP Cash
Inspirational Christian Stories, Poems, and Thoughts
Catholic Gifts and Literature

From: Tom McCloskey
Date: 15 Mar 1999

Thank you for a very good question. There are two movies done in the last five years on rather outstanding Catholic figures which I would see as very representative of the best of our church and our prophetic actions.
Entertaining Angels (Dorothy Day Story)

Another current one representing a kind of a broad Catholic vision of hope is the current Oscar nominee:
Life is Beautiful

This is a pretty subjective question but I know you can't go wrong with the first two.

[Second Response]
My recommendations still stand but when I received your reply I thought of a list that the Vatican drew up a couple of years ago of the 45 best films in the categories of religion, values and art. I went through and knocked out the foreign ones and tried to end up a list of 5 or so in each category. You can go the Web site mentioned here and get the complete list if you like. Just give them credit.

Tom McCloskey's picks from the Vatican Best Films List
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of cinema in 1995, the Vatican compiled this list of "great films." The 45 movies are divided into three categories: "Religion," "Values" and "Art." The USCC classification for each film follows its description

[NOTE: Descriptions below are portions of the movie descriptions on available on the NCCB/USCC Home Page, Film & Broadcasting Home Page (Weekly Movie Reviews)]

Babette's Feast (1988) -- Shows the impact of a French housekeeper (Stephane Audran) on two pious sisters who carry on their late father's work as pastor of a dwindling religious flock.

U.S. Catholic Conference classification: A-II -- adults and adolescents.
MPAA (U.S.) Rating: G -- general audiences

Ben-Hur (1959) -- Director William Wyler's classic Hollywood epic follows the Jewish prince of the title after he's betrayed by his boyhood Roman friend (Stephen Boyd) and subjected to much misery until finally achieving retribution for all his suffering.

U.S. Catholic Conference classification: A-I -- general patronage.
MPAA (U.S.) Rating: G -- general audiences

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1966) -- Straight-forward Italian dramatization of the evangelist's account of the life of Jesus and His message of salvation succeeds exceptionally well in placing the viewer within the Gospel events, avoiding the artificiality of most biblical movie epics.

U.S. Catholic Conference classification: A-I -- general patronage.
MPAA (U.S.) Rating: NONE (probable G)

A Man for All Seasons (1966) -- Engrossing drama of the last seven years in the life of Thomas More, Henry VIII's chancellor, who met a martyr's death rather than compromise his conscience during a period of religious turmoil.

U.S. Catholic Conference classification: A-I -- general patronage.
MPAA (U.S.) Rating: G -- general audiences

The Mission (1986) -- In the 1750s, the large and prosperous Jesuit Indian missions were divided between Spain and Portugal. In dramatizing these events, Robert Bolt's screenplay focuses not on the religious but on the sociopolitical dimension of the colonial era and its injustices. The epic production is visually splendid but Roland Joffe's direction is erratic and bogs down in contrasting a nonviolent priest (Jeremy Irons) and one (Robert De Niro) who leads the Indians against a colonial army. Although dramatically flawed, the work recalls a past that provides a context for current Latin American struggles. Some violence and ethnographic nudity.

U.S. Catholic Conference classification: A-III -- adults.
MPAA (U.S.) Rating: PG -- parental guidance suggested.

Au Revoir les Enfants (1988) -- When the Gestapo discover that a priest has hidden three Jewish youths in a Catholic boys' school, he and the boys are arrested and deported to concentration camps. French writer-producer-director Louis Malle re-creates a painful memory from his own youth in a restrained, humbling, well-acted dramatization of a boy's firsthand experience of the Holocaust. Subtitles. Some rough language.

U.S. Catholic Conference classification: A-II -- adults and adolescents.
MPAA (U.S.) Rating: PG -- parental guidance suggested

Other "Values" Films:
  • The Bicycle Thief (1949)
  • Chariots of Fire (1981)
  • Gandhi (1982)
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • Schindler's List (1993)
  • The Seventh Seal (1956)
  • Wild Strawberries (1958)

  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • 8 1/2 (1963)
  • Fantasia (1940)
  • La Strada (1956)
  • The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
  • Modern Times (1936)
  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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