Friday Night Mandatory Lent Film Party, 2023 edition!

The tradition continues! In Lent, our whole family goes screen-free from 7:00-9:00 PM most days. It’s the same idea as Advent, except we’re a bit more stickerlish about it. We’ve been listening to the Bible In a Year Podcasts with Fr. Mike Schmitz, and we have fallen behind (we just started Exodus), so we’re hoping to get back on the wagon during Lent. I’ve been sketching while I listen, and so have many of the kids. 

The other thing we’ve been doing for a few years is a mandatory family film viewing on Friday nights. Damien and I choose something edifying, well-made movie, preferably with some spiritual theme. We try to choose some  that are overtly religious and some that are not; some that are more uplifting and/or lighthearted, and some that are heavier or more intense. If they are religious, they do not necessarily have to be Christian. And they are mandatory! So penitential, much gulag. 

Here are the quickie reviews of the movies we’ve watched in past years. I have tried to provide links in the reviews to where the movies can be viewed.


The Secret of Kells; I Prefer Heaven (about Philip Neri); AND The Miracle Maker

The Jeweller’s Shop

Fiddler On the Roof AND The Scarlet and the Black



The Song of Bernadette


Calvary (This one is a podcast and it’s currently only open to Patreon patrons. The podcast is currently on hiatus, but of course archives are still open to patrons.)

and 2020:

I Confess

The Robe

The Trouble With Angels

Babette’s Feast

Lilies of the Field

Bonus review:

The Passion of the Christ

This year, a couple of my kids have already been watching The Chosen at their Catholic high school, so we’ll let that be, although I haven’t seen any of it yet myself. Our tentative list so far is:

The second half of I Prefer Heaven, which we never got around to watching

Tree of Life

Of Gods and Men

A Man For All Seasons, which most of our kids have never seen, somehow

And that’s all I have so far. Our kids are getting older (the youngest will be 8 in a few days!) and the others still at home are 11, 14, 15, 17, 19, 22, and 24, so it’s easier to find movies for the whole family. In our family, we take movies pretty seriously, and the kids will sit around debating the themes and subtexts and allusions in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) if no one makes them stop, so I like to occasionally sit them down in front of movies that have something on their mind, not to mention movies that counteract the constant cultural message that christians = vicious, hypocritical, fascist clowns. 

Any suggestions? We don’t usually manage to watch a movie every single Friday, but I would like to add a couple more possibilities to the list. 


Liked it? Take a second to support simchajfisher on Patreon!

22 thoughts on “Friday Night Mandatory Lent Film Party, 2023 edition!”

  1. Would you watch a movie that requires subtitles? A Fortunate Man is the movie version of a classic of Danish literature, about a very smart man born to a recalcitrant country pastor. He eventually moves to the theme big city to study engineering and meets a Jewish woman, but that’s just the beginning.

  2. I love The Gleaners and I, a documentary by Agnes Varda. It might be too slow-paced for some kids (or adults) but the ecological and social themes are appropriate for Lent, plus there’s food and musing about the creative process. And heart-shaped potatoes.

  3. “Ordet”, a 1955 Scandinavian movie about faith, is one of the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen, although it’s a bit unusual for many people’s taste. My philosophy professor showed it to us and I thought it was amazing, but when I showed my family they seemed somewhat perturbed and confused. Anyway, it IS an amazing film, and I thought you might like it!

  4. A few years ago on Good Friday, we watched the full, uncut version of the original BenHur……it was sooo long, but I really love how the story intertwines with biblical events. Plus my teens enjoyed the amazing visual scenes, especially when I reminded them there was no cgi at that time.

  5. My thoughtful, devout son loved Tree of Life so much he bought it on blueray, but I haven’t watched it with him yet. We recently saw Arrival, which I had not managed to see when it came out. That film may be too slow for under-18 or so, but it rewards careful watching. After I had gone to bed I had to jump up and go knock on my son’s door–“It ends with Fiat! The last line is Fiat!” Plenty of substance for meditation.

  6. I don’t know anything about movies, and this one certainly pushes the envelope, but I just saw “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and it was spectacular and I’ve thought about it every day since. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

  7. Maybe 12 Angry Men? And/or, if you have any access to StratFest@Home, some of their filmed Shakespeare productions might work (though they may take two viewing nights if you don’t feel like doing the whole threeish hours at once).

  8. The Scarlet and the Black — Christopher Plummer and Gregory Peck star in a beautiful made for TV movie (I know! But it’s good) about Father Flaherty. It’s based on a true story about a priest who helped run an underground system to help Jews in Rome flee the Nazis.

  9. For Greater Glory, which is about the Cristeros. (Spell check does not know that word, so I hope I have it right.) it was very impactful for our youth group kids.

  10. I recommend Sabina and Tortured for Christ, 2 part true story,both available for free on youtube. WW2 era, hedonistic Jewish couple find Christ, He becomes a Lutheran pastor, they refuse to kowtow to either the German or Russian regimes, they convert many German and Russian soldiers. After he spends 14 yrs in prison, they found Voice of the Martyrs. Really thought provoking, themes of giving your whole self to Christ, forgiving your enemies, and the joy found in serving the Lord. Torture scenes might not be appropriate for an 11 yr old, watch it first and use judgement.

  11. Since Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life is already on your list, you should also consider his film A Hidden Life about Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector during WWII.

    It has great performances from the actors playing Franz & his wife & beautiful scenery as well.

  12. How about The Island (Ostrov) if you’re feeling like something Eastern? It engages with the holy fool tradition and monastic asceticism in a way that I’m not sure what I think of, but I’m definitely still thinking about it.

  13. We have a tradition of watching Groundhog Day every, well, Groundhog Day. It is surprising how much discussion we get out of that movie–I’m sure only watching it once a year has something to do with it. Every year, though, I notice something new about it and the kids cannot stop me from sharing my insights. So much about self-sacrifice, despair, ego, and whatnot.

    We were pondering what movie to watch on Thanksgiving Day–we like to have a movie for a holiday, as seen above–but while we had our Christmas movie (and Halloween and New Year’s Eve), we didn’t have one that was a good Thanksgiving movie, and by “good” I don’t mean some angsty dysfunctional family saga that would bore my kids to tears. I hit upon Star Trek: Generations, which fit nicely in my opinion. Kirk and Picard both learn to be grateful for the life they have built, rather than long for paths not taken and lives not lived.

  14. A couple of years ago, one of my kids had to watch a movie about St. Ignatius for religion class. The movie was surprisingly not terrible. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which St. Ignatius movie it was.

    The same kid was recently assigned Rainman for a psych class. An excellent movie. D-d-d-definitely an excellent movie.

    A few of us recently watched My Cousin Vinnie. Always fun to watch with the utes.

    I haven’t seen the Elvis movie yet, but I want to. It seems it would have some appeal to a wide age range.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *