During Lent this year, we’re going to watch an edifying, well-made family movie every week, possibly on Friday nights. That means everyone has to watch it. That means you can’t be on Instagram or drawing BTS fan art while you’re watching it! My stars, how penitential can you get?
We haven’t watched many of the typical Catholic movies that Catholic families watch, so this is probably a pretty basic list. There are seven Fridays in Lent this year, but I guess we’ll skip Good Friday. Here’s my list so far. Suggestions welcome!
“With the brand of Alfred Hitchcock burned into every scene!” Sold! I could go for a “priest as hero” movie.
Song of Bernadette. I have never seen this movie, but we are way, way behind on our apparition education. The kids know about Our Lady of Guadalupe and I think that may be it, oops. People tell me this movie holds up, if you can put up with some dated acting, and it has Vincent Price in it. Good enough for me.
The Miracle Maker (1999)
A stop motion animated life of Christ I saw several years ago, and was impressed by. It does have some scenes that would be alarming for little guys. I remember it as being not perfect but pretty gripping.
Mehh, maybe not. I think the older kids have actually seen this one, so this is not high on my list. The one thing I learned from watching it is that excommunication is extremely dramatic and noisy, and it turns out it’s actually not, so I may have an unreasonable grudge against this movie. Gosh, I love Richard Burton’s face, though. I always want to bring him some hot milk and give him the day off.
Well, this looks really good. I somehow missed hearing about it when it came out.
Looks like it would be for teenagers only. I am always drawn to movies that portray characters as fully human, but with great dignity. Looking forward to it.
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Again, I think the kids have seen it, and I’ve seen it a few times. I’m not excited about watching it, but I’m not ruling it out.
The Trouble with Angels (1966)
In my head, this is mushed in with The Bells of Saint Mary’s and other goofy, disposable Catholic kitsch, but Damien says there’s something more to it. So let’s find out!
Babette’s Feast (1987)
It turns out Damien hasn’t seen this! It’s very hard to find a movie he hasn’t seen.
I haven’t seen this movie since college. I remember it as weird, funny, beautiful, moving, and nice and dark so the subtitles actually show up. Also, it’s not about priests or sisters, which makes it a standout on this list.
The Mission (1986)
I haven’t seen this since college but a few scenes have stayed with me. Probably just for the older kids, right? It’s not actually high on my list, but I could be persuaded.
The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)
Here’s one I know nothing about. Looks interesting. Anybody?
Damien and I have both neither seen this. (I know that sentence has some problems, but I’m on vacation. You know what I mean.) I guess I’ll sit and watch Victor Mature and Richard Burton try to out-act each other; twist my arm. I gather The Robe is essentially the movie they were making in Hail, Caesar (which I LOVED, by the way. We can watch that one after Easter, I guess.) I looked up a review and the first one makes scathing reference to “leftist Hollyweird,” and the second one is a complaint that it’s revisionist Christianity because it doesn’t make the Jews look bloodthirsty enough. Yeah, you know what, we’re watching it.
Lilies of the Field
Another movie I know nothing about. I have never actually seen a Sidney Poitier movie, and that ain’t right. I gather this is about a Baptist trying to out-Bible a Mother Superior, and failing. I’m in.
I know this isn’t unusual or anything, but I will always give Martin Scorsese movies a chance.
Probably another one for teens and up.
Passion of the Christ is out this year, although I think it’s great. I’ve seen it often enough that I can call it up in my memory, and the older kids are mad at us for making them watch it at one point, so we’re taking a pass; may revisit in future years. I did review it here, and defend it against accusations that it’s gratuitously violent and inherently anti-Semitic.
There Be Dragons.
Just kitten. I watched this once and I’m still mad. .
Okay, what do you think? Have you seen these movies? Are there any egregious gaps on my list? The kids insist we watch The Ten Commandments during Holy Week most years, thereby getting our Vitamin Heston infusion for the year.
34 thoughts on “Ain’t no party like a Lent film party, ’cause a Lent film party is MANDATORY. ”
Love Babette’s Feast, Lilies of the Field, and Song of Bernadette! Just don’t watch BF without snacks. 😉
Also, have not verified this, but apparently there are two versions of Beckett, and one is WAY more explicit about the king’s immorality–not ok for littles.
Jesus of Nazareth!! It’s three movies retelling his whole life story but really really well done!
The Robe is a typical kind-of-stiff 1950s Hollywood product. I enjoyed the book. (Although it was the first place I encountered the Miracle of Sharing, which is strange since in both The Robe and the prequel The Big Fisherman there are real miracles as well.)
I found Calvary overrated at the time, but I cannot really say why without spoilers.
I only saw “The Mission” once. I remember it was written by Robert Bolt (“A Man for All Seasons”) and it played pretty loose with Church history. It was okay, but nothing I need to watch again. “Lilies of the Field”: excellent. “Scarlet and the Black” — meh. “The Robe”: If you like heavy, stilted dialogue, you’ll love it. Definitely “Song of Bernadette”. I only saw Leelee Sobieski’s “Joan of Arc” once, but it was pretty good. Every now and again, for nostalgia’s sake, “Jesus of Nazareth”, especially Michael York as John the Baptist and Olivia Hussey as the BVM.
My husband and I similarly try to watch more edifying films during Lent—our kids are all pretty little so we haven’t found many we can really watch as a family. Other titles we have seen are, “Diary of a Country Priest,” “The Innocents,” “Ida,” and “Au Revoir Les Enfants.” The latter three are definitely older kids only, they all have heavy themes from WWII/the Holocaust.
On the Waterfront. Priest hero. Conscience. Injustice. Sooooo Catholic.
FYI – Archbishop Chaput wrote this review about “Calvary” shortly after it came out. I read it and wanted to watch it but never got around to it…
We have always enjoyed watching “Ben Hur” usually during the Easter season, and the Ten Commandments as well, usually preceding Ben Hur. Moses before Jesus and all.
I liked the Scarlet and the Black I think better than the Keys of the Kingdom, but they are both solid. I also might recommend “Quo Vadis?”
Someone mentioned “The Chosen” – we just watched the first episode last night. We will keep watching it – definitely well-made.
This is a great idea by the way!
I’d ardently recommend “Embezzled Heaven” from 1958 (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052358/) – like “The Song of Bernadette”, it’s based on a novel by Franz Werfel, the story is heartbreakingly great, and it contains original footage from one of the last general audiences with Pope Pius XII!
And one of my all time favourite Christian movies (not especially catholic, though) is the Danish comedy “Adam’s Apples” from 2005, a sometimes quite dark, but very funny take on the Book of Job.
Oh, and we saw “Miracle of Marcelino” (1955) recently, which was also great and would be suitable for pre-teens, too, I think… The ending is rather sad, but just watching the little guy grow up among the monks makes this film worth your while…
Greetings from Germany and a blessed Lent to all of you! 🙂
I forgot about “The Miracle of Marcelino” – you’re right, that one is good!
“Embezzled Heaven” looks interesting; I’ll have to check it out. That’s my one problem with “The Scarlet and the Black”: it makes Pius XII out to be entirely unwilling to help the Jews himself, though he “graciously” agrees to look the other way while Gregory Peck helps. So I’m glad there’s a film where he’s shown positively!
Yes, second Adam’s Apples, it’s one of my favorite movies!!! You can’t go wrong with Thomas Anders Jensen, but this one is most explicitly christian.
Second vote for the Scarlet and the Black. I grew up on that movie.
My favorite Catholic movie in high school, and maybe ever, is “Joan of Arc” with Leelee Sobieski.
Just seeing the robe on the list makes me want to rewatch it!
Calvary is *so* good, but it absolutely gutted me.
Risen, with Joseph Fiennes? Full disclosure: I haven’t seen it but I thought it sounded interesting. Fiennes is a Roman army officer who is tasked with finding the body of Jesus after the Resurrection. The Romans assume His followers have stolen the body and want it found to put an end to the rumors of resurrection. Needless to say, Fiennes gradually realizes that there is more to the event than meets the eye.
Not a movie, but there’s a streaming tv show on the life of Christ called “The Chosen” I really enjoyed (to my pleasant surprise). Jesus has an active relationship with his mom as an adult (!!!) (Seriously, they did great with the wedding feast at Cana, I was floored), and the creators go out of their way to embed a lot of Jewish religious culture in (we see Jesus kissing his fingers and touching a mezuzia going out the door, there’s lots of flashbacks to the Old Testament to put stuff in context, etc). And, wonder of wonders, the guy who plays Jesus doesn’t come across as a hippie cult leader, but as someone putting together a person to person ministry who has a sense of humor (but not in a disrespectful or corny way).
It’s free to stream (through an app the creators put together). The first episode is kinda slow because they set a lot up, but it picks up after that. Not perfect, but worth watching.
Ok, parts are a little corny. But in an endearing way, not a “oh please, please, please make it stop” way.
Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us!
Song of Bernadette is excellent, albeit with a 50s otherworldy gorgeous vibe for Bernadette, who was by all accounts a sensible, no-nonsense peasant. But Vincent Price is worth the price of admission, and there’s a brief scene with Bernadette’s hassled mother that wrung my heart last time I watched it.
Second for the surprising enjoyability of Ignatius of Loyola! It has real Princess Bride vibes!
Is A Hidden Life out on DVD yet?
P.S. One of the eighty millions Dorothy Day biopics?
I liked the Ignatius movie a lot too. A bit of it was confusing as far as timeline, and I gather if you know a lot about Ignatius’ actual life the movie doesn’t always fit, but I don’t know enough to be unhappy about whatever was fudged for story purposes and it really is a great intro to his Rules of Discernment and his contemplative ways of reading Scripture.
Oooh! I -never- see anyone mention Babette’s Feast! It was one of the movies we reviewed in my Christianity and Film class 16 years ago and I’m still stuck by it.
Where on earth are you finding it to watch?
If you have Amazon Prime, you can stream it for $3.99. It is DVD-only only Netflix.
Was also coming to say Scarlet and the Black! It’s been one of my favorites since I first saw it as a young teen.
I’ve read the book, Lilies of the Field, many times. It is very, very good. So the fact that I also love the movie is probably the highest commendation I can make. Miracle Maker is stunning, but there is one little moment at the last supper, when Judas leaves, that disturbs me. Judas looks uncertain, like maybe he doesn’t want to do this after all. And Jesus seem to be urging him on to the betrayal. Maybe it was just me. I love, love, love Babbette’s Feast for what it has to say about being an artist and for what it has to say about the sacramentality of Catholicism as opposed to the arid non-sacramentality of the pastor’s sect. (At least, that’s the way I took it.) The Trouble With Angels was funny and very much of its time. There’s a little bit more to it than that, but don’t expect it to be huge. Another vote for The Scarlett and the Black.
Calvary is such an amazing film. It really grapples with the reality of being a person of faith in a very fallen and nuanced world. Please write your thoughts on it once you’ve seen it. Or just give Monday morning movie reviews from your family!!
Jesus of Montreal is also one that I love.
Are there still people who think “Hollyweird” is a clever dig?
Song of Bernadette, Keys of the Kingdom, Lilies of the Field most excellent. Originating books for first two also tops. Fun trivia – Norman Rockwell painted the iconic film portrait of Bernadette, shown here: https://fineart.ha.com/itm/paintings/norman-rockwell-american-1894-1978-the-song-of-bernadette-1944oil-on-canvas53-x-28-insigned-lower/a/5145-78138.s
I’d say “The Scarlett and the Black” as another essential Gregory Peck as Hero Priest film. I enjoyed Keys to the Kingdom.
We watched the Ignatius of Loyola movie on Cecilia’s confirmation retreat, and it was actually pretty gripping!
Ditto “The Scarlett and the Black”! Christopher Plummer is also great in that.
Romero is incredible. (And it’s free on Amazon Prime) Priest-hero, a clear message that the Church cannot be used as a political tool by any Party. Plus, through this role, Raul Julia returned to the Catholic Faith!
Definitely older kids. I saw it when I was 10 and it went above my head. My 12 year caught some of it. (Aside from the violence, there’s discussion of torture, and one scene where you see – from a distance – the body of a woman who has been raped and beaten to death.)