In a recent homily, I rattled off a short list of Catholic movies as a way to introduce my discussion of “A Man for All Seasons.” I got a lot of positive feedback (for which I am very humbled and grateful), and a number of requests for that list. So I decided to assemble my particular list of movies I think Catholics who are into movies would enjoy, or at least would benefit from watching. Some of them are fun; some are more serious dialogue than action; some are difficult to watch and deal with more difficult themes, or have some violent content that parents might want to preview before watching with children. There are movies I intentionally left out, either because I didn’t particularly care for the movie, or haven’t seen the movie, or don’t remember enough of it to include. I’m sure there will be comments of recommendations, and you can take them as you will. There’s a moderate chance that I will also update this list as I watch more movies that feel they would improve my list! God bless, and Enjoy!
So…first, the Catholic movies… (in no particular order)
- Going My Way (1944) Bing Crosby, Frank McHugh, Risë Stevens
Bing Crosby plays Fr. O’Malley, a young, joyful priest who replaces a faithful old pastor, and raises up a boy’s choir to help raise funds for the parish
- The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) Ingrid Bergman, Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby reprises his role as Fr. O’Malley, this time to help a Catholic parochial school, run by Mother Superior, played by Ingrid Bergman
- Nunsense (1993) Rue McClanahan
A wonderfully funny and moving stage musical presented by a small cast of sisters to raise funds for their convent, and convey the beauty of religious life
- Sister Act (1992) & Sister Act 2 (1993) Woopie Goldberg, Maggie Smith
Lounge singer gets in trouble with the mob, Witness Protection hides her in a convent, and she can’t resist but to “help” the sisters’ struggling choir
- Pope John Paul II (2005) Cary Elwes, John Voight, Christopher Lee
Cary Elwes plays the young JP2, and John Voight takes over in the second half. A beautiful tribute to a beautifully holy pope.
- Passion of the Christ (2004) Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci (dir. Mel Gibson)
A powerfully graphic presentation of the the Passion of Christ, creatively presented in the original language of Aramaic with subtitles
- Doubt (2008) Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Adapted from the stage play, it explores the distrust borne of the clergy abuse crisis. Very well acted, of course, with such a phenomenal cast.
- I Confess (1953) Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
A murderer confesses his criminal sin to a priest, who then becomes suspected for the murder, and is unable to defend himself.
- The Scarlet and the Black (1983) Gregory Peck, Christopher Plummer
A Jesuit monsignor conspires to protect the people of Rome in a dangerous battle of wits with the Nazis
- Becket (1964) Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole
The story of Saint Thomas Becket, 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed by his friend King Henry II, expecting an easy alliance
- A Man for All Seasons (1966) Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles
The story of St. Thomas More, the 16th century martyr who refused to acquiesce to Henry VIII. Very clever dialogue!
- For Greater Glory (2012) Andy Garcia, Ruben Blades, Peter O’Toole
Movie sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, explores the Cristero movement resisting the anti-Catholic politics of early 20th c. Mexico
- Romero (1989) Raul Julia
The story of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who worked for peace in El Salvador’s violent mid-20th century. He was assassinated while celebrating Mass.
- Calvary (2014) Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly
A priest is told in confession he will be killed for the sins of the priesthood. The priest continues his ministry, trying to identify his would-be attacker.
- Babette’s Feast (1987) Stéphane Audran
In 19th century Denmark, two religious elderly women take in a French refugee, Babette. Pope Francis’ favorite movie.
- The Mission (1986) Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson
Eighteenth-century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal.
- The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Maria Falconetti
French silent film; regarded as a landmark of cinema, especially for Falconetti’s performance, which is listed as one of the finest in cinema history.
- There Be Dragons (2011) Charlie Cox, Wes Bentley, Dougray Scott
A journalist investigating the life of JoseMaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, discovers that his father was a long-time intimate friend of the saintly priest.
Christian movies (inspiring, not specifically Catholic)
- The Chosen (2017)
New series available online, only season one so far, presenting Jesus from the perspective of the Apostles. Beautifully done!
- The Robe (1953)
The Roman centurion who wins Jesus’ cloak at the foot of the cross is haunted by his cooperation in the crucifixion, and seeks the Christians.
- Risen (2016) Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth
A Roman Tribune in Judea is tasked to find the missing body of Jesus Christ to quash the rising tensions in the wake of the crucifixion.
- The Nativity Story (2006) Keisha Castle-Hughes
A beautiful presentation of Joseph and Mary as they grapple with the angel’s message and the events leading up to the birth of Jesus.
- Son of God (2014) Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey
Continuing from Roma Downey’s miniseries “The Bible,” which covers the Old Testament, this is one of my favorite movies of the life of Jesus.
- The Gospel of John (2003) Christopher Plummer
The ENTIRE Gospel of John, in 3 hours. It helps to experience this rich Gospel book in complete continuity.
- Godspell (1973) Victor Garber, Lynne Thigpen (music by Stephen Schwartz)
A classic “passion play” with a hippie visual representation. Beautiful, silly, and poignant, with very memorable presentations of the parables!
- Ben Hur (1959) Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd
Epic classic movie of a 1st century Roman Jew whose adventurous life periodically encounters Jesus. The chariot race scene!
- The Ten Commandments (1956) Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter
The classic epic movie of Moses. The parting of the Red Sea!
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
The latest version of this C. S. Lewis classic fantasy-Christian allegory.
- The Shack (2017) Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw
A powerful and unusual encounter with God, bringing healing from grief and unforgiveness after a child’s abduction and death
- Favorite Evangelical Christian movies (mostly the same people involved):
- Courageous (2011)
Four police officers struggle with their faith and their roles as husbands and fathers; together they make a new commitment.
- Mom’s Night Out (2014)
The moms’ version of Courageous, builds up Christian motherhood and women trying to make it as faithful Christians in the modern world
- War Room (2015)
Made by the same troupe as the previous two, but better, the focus is on the family, and the spiritual battle of prayer
- God’s Not Dead (2014) Kevin Sorbo
This had a lot of the same feel as the above movies, perhaps a bit preachy as well, but feel-good contemporary Christian movie
- Heaven is for Real (2014) Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly
Based on the book of the near-death experience of 4-year-old Colton Burpo, and his childlike revelation of what he experienced
- Unplanned (2019) Ashley Bratcher
About Abby Johnson, who left her prestigious job as a Planned Parenthood director after witnessing an abortion on an ultrasound
- Courageous (2011)
In looking at different lists from different sources to remind me what movies I didn’t want to to forget, I ran across this personal list on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) that has a lot of the same movies and a whole lot more! Truly Catholic Films