Monday, May 31, 2010

Top 50 "Catholic-Themed" Movies

Because the Top 20 "Catholic" Novels post generated a large response, I will now post the Top 50 movies with a Catholic world-view. Once again, I have this disclaimer.

The criteria I used to make this list are not that the movie is explicitly "Catholic", but rather in these movies I find a Catholic world-view and/or theme amongst great artistry of movie-making. I have also emphasized newer films. Not because they are necessarily better films, but rather because I think good modern film-making needs to be given its due. Lastly, I have moved away from many of the explicitly "Catholic" films, though I still have several.

The list is not in order.
  • The Passion of the Christ - I can't watch it without diving into the beauty of the Incarnation even deeper. I try to watch this piece of artwork at least once a year.
  • The Mission - A Jesuit missionary goes to South America and finds God amidst suffering. A haunting and wonderful film. A must-see. The soundtrack is also one of the best ever.
  • It's A Wonderful Life - The true spirit of Christmas.
  • The Sound of Music - "Edelweiss. Edelweiss. Every morning you greet me."
  • The Human Experience - Still not released widely. If you get a chance, see it.
  • A Man For All Seasons - One word - courage.
  • Braveheart - Freedom + fighting for love.
  • Schindler's List - Not easy to watch, but the horror of evil should not be easy to stomach.
  • The Bell's of St. Mary's - A fun movie. Some characters don't have enough depth, but the story stands the test of time.
  • Babette’s Feast - a very slow movie, but the Catholic imagery is impossible to miss.
  • The Pianist - There was beauty even amidst the holocaust.
  • The Rookie - A good family movie.
  • The Truman Show - Searching for truth and the real world.
  • Babe - Who knew pigs could act?
  • The Exorcist - Not a family movie.
  • Dead Man Walking - Behind crime.
  • The Wizard of Oz - Uncommon heroes.
  • Jesus of Nazareth - Long, but a classic.
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy - Great adaptations of the books.
  • Romero - Searching for justice, to the point of death.
  • Blind Side - One of the best movies of the last few years.
  • Cinderella Man - Great acting and a great story of faith and family.
  • The Incredibles - One of the best animated movies of all-time.
  • Chariots of Fire - "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast."
  • I Am Legend - A Christ-like figure in a zombie flick.
  • Ben Hur - Long, but worth it.
  • Return To Me - Anybody like romantic comedies?
  • The Ten Commandments - This is THE image of Moses for most of us.
  • Groundhog Day - Who are you? What ought you to do?
  • Citizen Kane - A masterpiece. Pride, wealth and power.
  • Juno - Jaded and crass? Yes. But, we all need love.
  • Hotel Rwanda - Another kind of holocaust.
  • Gandhi - Ben Kingsley is masterful in the lead role.
  • The Apostle - Faith and sin wrapped up into one.
  • UP - True friendship.
  • Life is Beautiful - Protecting innocence from evil.
  • The Shawshank Redemption - Not as good as what some make it out to be (flawed in parts), it does have great themes in it.
  • Cheaper By The Dozen - Big Family fun.
  • Wall-E - Storytelling without much speaking + a great tale of the desire to be loved and to love.
  • Slumdog Millionaire - The human spirit is strong.
  • The Song of Bernadette - Won 4 Academy Awards.
  • Therese (1986) - not the new version, which was not good. 
  • Iron Man - A great hero movie, with redemption to boot.
  • On The Waterfront - One of the best depictions of a priest ever put to film.
  • Spartacus - A classic.
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose - Based on a real story.
  • The Dark Knight - I know there will be a number of people who disagree with this one, but I believe this is one of the most Christian modern movies. Light amidst the darkness.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - Another classic movie from a classic book.
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - Not a perfect adaptation of the book, but a very nice one.
  • E.T. - Children of a broken home and an alien.
Of course, this list reflects my own tastes. So, please add any additions or comments about the list in the combox.

You might also be interested in reading the list of movies recommended by the Vatican from 1995 and Decent Films' movie reviews.

Pope Paul VI tells us:
The production and showing of films that have value as decent entertainment, humane culture or art, especially when they are designed for young people, ought to be encouraged and assured by every effective means. This can be done particularly by supporting and joining in projects and enterprises for the production and distribution of decent films, by encouraging worthwhile films through critical approval and awards, by patronizing or jointly sponsoring theaters operated by Catholic and responsible managers. - Inter Mirifica, 14


Ed said...

The Bell's of St. Mary's is actually a sequel to the movie "Going My Way"
check it out if you get a chance. The only time an actor has been nominated for Oscar awards for playing the same character if memory serves me right.

tour86rocker said...

Marcel, have you seen "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien"?

Equus nom Veritas said...

I like the list, and can't think of many to add to this one (I guess I'm more of a bookworm than a moviegoer). I will suggest Alfred Hitchock's "Rope": a refutation of moral relativism by portraying its logical ends.

scrambledmegzntoast said...

I love Juno. I have had so many people claim that it's a "pro-abortion" movie, I can only assume they are thinking of another movie.

Liam Ronan said...

At the risk of being hooted down, I would suggest Rocky (1976); The Secret of Roan Innish (1995 Irish setting); Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982 Ricardo Montalban; All Quiet on the Western Front (1979 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV Series Richard Thomas & Ernest Borgnine); and...A Christmas Story (1983 Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley). I think there are echoes of a Catholic ethic in all of those films.

martin the sinner said...

The Scarlet and the Black - The story of an Irish Catholic priest working to save Jews in Rome during WWII.

Mazza said...

Thank you for the list. This is the first time I've seen your blog, and I would like to offer a few friendly editorial suggestions: "criteria" is a plural noun and uses a plural verb. "It's" is a contraction for "it is." The word you meant to use there is "its," with no apostrophe. When you quote from "Edelweiss," write "every morning you greet me," not "great me." Thanks again for the list.

Casey Truelove said...

The Mission? Really? It's so anti-obediential . . . so anti-hierarchical, especially to be listed at #2! I don't know . . . Although I agree with those movies I have seen on the rest of the list, I would re-think The Mission.

Marcel said...

Thanks for the recommendations.

I have not seen Molokai.

Casey - The Vatican and I agree, it is a great movie.

Becky said...

As a high school religion teacher I show "WIde Awake" and "Henry Poole Is Here" - good movies re: our faith and why we believe.

DanLally said...

Daniel Lally said...

I agree with you about many of these movies (with not objections to any of the ones listed) although I am far from completely agreeing with your ratings. I, myself, like the Jesus Film the best, which may not necessarily qualify as a movie. While we do not know what Jesus actually looked like, both Robert Powell and Brian Deacon seemed rather inspiring.

Susan said...

Two additions: Hitchcock's "I Confess"in which a priest who learns the identity of a murderer through confession himself becomes a suspect ; and "The Trouble with Angels" extremely mischievous freshman at Catholic girls' boarding school experiences conversion and chooses religious vocation due to the inspiring devotion and sacrifice of the teaching nuns and mother superior.

Marcel said...

Dan - they are not in order of a ranking.

Rouxfus said...

Jean de Florette & Manon des Sources -- two movies; greedy land grabber finds redemption; Lourdes-like miracle

Toy Story I & II -- characters find redemption, meaning and enlightenment (freedom from delusions) in picaresque adventure, quest, and self-sacrifice for one's friends, redeem others from bondage to cruel masters.

Patton -- the power of prayer

mforster1uk said...

Any serious list would have to include Visconti's 1963 movie "The Leopard", starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon. The book it is based on - "Il Gattopardo" by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa would be a strong contender for your Catholic books list too (though not as strong as Manzoni's "I Promessi Sposi")

Marcel said...

FYI - you would probably get more flies with some honey rather than the vinegar of "Any serious list..."

guardianangelsofeducation said...

What about the movie about Pope John Paul II with Jon Voight?

Unwobbling Pivot said...

Very strong list!

I am curious about your comment about the flawed parts of Shawshank. Please explain.

Are you familiar with Saint Ralph? Not for small children, but otherwise a good one. I also thought Doubt was a worthy movie.

Marcel said...

I believe it to be flawed in some aspects of understanding human dignity. They get some things correct, including the desire for beauty, freedom, etc. But, they get some things wrong, including our ultimate destiny.

Unwobbling Pivot said...

Ultimate destiny is a very broad concept. Could you specify where the correlation is, for you? Is the issue that Andy starts his new life with ill-gotten gain? If so, I could agree with you there. But other than that, I'm having a hard time seeing it. Thanks for the reply, and thanks in advance for another if you would.

Paula said...


An excellent movie, and definately Catholic in nature.
Except for one part which should be passed over if children are watching, it is a very good family movie.

Marcel said...

Pivot - In SR there is hope, but hope in what? Implicitly, it can be argued, the hope is in a higher power, but it can also be interpreted as something very different. Hope could be seen as living outside the prison.

The same can be said for other themes in the movie. Freedom is defined as being in control of your own decisions, which is certainly a better definition than what most movies have, but incomplete.

There are other problems as well, but no major ones. This is why I believe it is one of the best films ever made, but still flawed.

Fr. Eric said...

we must include Hitchcock classics: Rope, and I Confess. John Wayne in Stagecoach; Little Flowers of St. Francis by Rossellini in 1950; recent production called St. Anthony of Padua; Groundhog Day which I used to teach in morality class.

Marcel said...

Fr. Eric - Groundhog Day is on the list.

Marcel said...

From a reader email.
Sorry, not a question.... BUT I had to recommend a few "redeeming" movies. You won't let me leave a comment. :( (I don't have a "profile?")

"Magnolia" "The Claim" "About a Boy"

Contain obscene language/situations, but not gratuitous.

Hope you like them,

Patrick said...

Amazing Grace?

twofreebirds said...

I'm glad you included "Juno" --- the first time I saw it, I was struck by the yearning for a civilization of love in an explicitly non-Christian world (there's a quick shot of her locker in which there's a sticker that has the Cross x-ed out, like "no Christianity here").

In that same vein, I would submit that "Children of Men" deserves attention from the Catholic viewing public: while the movie decidedly avoids authentic Christianity (there's mention of a few cult-ish sects), the portrayal of a world without babies is terrifying and utterly meaningless. Without trying, it forces the viewer to consider what many would say would be just punishment by God for the selfishness of contraception, abortion, and a life centered on pursuit of the pleasures of the Self.

Jenni said...

Jesus of Nazareth is heretical (he changes the word's of institution and other issues).

Would add Becket, Bella, Brideshead Revisted (not the remake) and Rudy.

poohbear said...

the dark knight???? how on earth is that a good catholic movie??? gimme a break. the main theme runs counter to everything Jesus preached, no forgiveness, having to be merciless at times, it espouses a lot of the American Neo-Conservative principles, which are anything BUT Christ-like.

Marcel said...

Pooh - the Dark Knight is an allegory of good vs. evil. The joker is portrayed as fully corrupt and is a figure of the devil. Most others in the film are still good, though fallen, broken, and imperfect. There is hope throughout that good will win the day. Wayne even understands that the city needs a real hero, not just batman.

Twofreebirds - Children of Men should have made the list. I forgot about it.

Jim said...

Monsters, Inc.--the story of how kindness, love, and laughter are many times more powerful then meanness and evil

tour86rocker said...

Yes, I highly recommend Molokai! A funny thing happened when I watched it with my parents. I was amazed and very touched and my parents saw it as good, but nothing special. St. Damien's passion for saving these souls produces a strong reaction in me now just thinking about it.

When he "suffered the children to come to him" even though they were infected, it was beautiful...he cared for those people's souls more than his own physical well-being.

A similar thing happened when I watched the recent "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" with my brother. I was agog at the beauty of the Catholic symbolism and he didn't know what the Christian hype was about, didn't see it in the film.

C.S. Lewis said, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." I think when you view these films while possessing a Catholic sensibility, you SEE so much more.

tour86rocker said...

I agree with twofreebirds about "Children of Men". I think it's a very important movie for Catholics or anyone in the culture of life to watch. There is a culture where fertility has been lost eighteen years prior and there is no hope in the world. The government is trying to cajole the elderly to commit suicide by shipping them unasked for home suicide kits.

CoM is one of a few, good, unintentionally-prolife movies I've seen, including Gattaca and The Island.

Bobby J said...

I'm glad to see the dark knight made it. It may have been violent but that's because of the joker, who is there breaking every rule while batman upholds the rules, including "thou shalt not kill/murder". Pushed to the extreme, batman's virtues and ideals are put to the test and he comes out ahead. To me, that was the real power of the movie (even though, admittedly, the special effects were good).

jeffwalker said...

I love it. So many great movies in your list and those listed in the comments. May I add one more?

The Quiet Man, with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

Wait, make it two: I Am David (2003) with Jim Caviezel and Ben Tibber. Terrific film!

Mike Boyd and Mike Romeu said...

I would add "The Way" (2010) Starring Martin Sheen and directed by Emilio Estevez. A beautiful and inspiring film about a Father carrying his sons ashes on the road to Santiago de Compostella.