Five Films Every Catholic Should See

St. Thomas More… methinks you may have heard of him? Seriously though, he was so many things to so many people… husband, father, friend, mentor and judge. The film A Man for All Seasons, starring Paul Scofield, Orson Welles, Vanessa Redgrave, John Hurt, and Robert Shaw, is a compelling account of the events leading to the split of the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church in 1534, when the pope refused to grant King Henry VIII an annulment. With beautiful sets and natural scenery, and acting fit for a king (or pope, if you like…), this film is an example of some of the best historical non-fiction that has graced the big screen.

So many times in the modern era, science has outpaced ethical questions… not only should we strive to make things possible, but before doing so, we should strive to make sure they are indeed *good*. GATTACA postulates a society of lab engineered children and the discrimination doled out for those with more… traditional beginnings. Instead of college education or work experience being deciding factors in whether you are hirable, your DNA speaks for itself and—supposedly—your potential.

Dealing with the central most mysteries of our faith, The Passion brings to life the humanity of Christ in a way never seen before. Anne Katherine Emmerich’s visions informed Mel Gibson’s direction and Jim Caviezel’s acting. The Mass was said every day during the film, in the hopes that Christ’s presence would truly inform the essence of the film. Writes Caviezel, “The biggest challenge in the movie was not, as I originally thought, to memorize all the texts in Latin, Aramaic, or Hebrew, but all the physical efforts I needed to overcome… My lungs were full of fluid, and I had pneumonia. Chronic sleep deprivation should be added to that, since for months, I had to get up at 3:00 in the morning, because make-up would take almost eight hours.” Christ was also held by a priest in the monstrance, as he stood next to the camera man, so that Caviezel could truly reflect Christ in his acting. This happened both in the scenes of the Crucifixion and The Last Supper.

Roman Holiday is easily one of my favorite films of all time. Full of opposites, it blends the modern with the ancient, the proper with the common, and the humorous with the solemn. Every time I watch it, half of me wishes for a different ending, but the rest of me remembers that the ending is a good one, and it would not be a good movie without the ending as it is. I’m earnestly trying not to spoil anything, but if you have not, please go watch this movie as soon as you can get your hands on a copy. Virtue and vice are balanced with happiness and duty in the best of ways. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I hate Roman Holiday!” I’m sure it’s possible that someone does. It’s also likely that that person is a monster.

While meandering through the diapers and toys strewn all over my life, and in a rare moment when all of my three (at the time) small children were asleep, I chanced upon Molokai, starring David Wenham (Faramir, anyone?). I remembered my college priest giving a homily about Fr. Damien, who was sent to an island of lepers and being astonished at the cruelty of his circumstances. Despite this, God’s grace was sufficient. Exiled without even a proper way for him to go to confession, Fr. Damien learned to trust in God’s providence and invent ways around his all too present valley of tears (like publicly giving his confession to a visiting priest in another language so that the sacrament was valid and the others present would not be privy to that delicate information.) He was truly an inspiration, and a hero… truly an example of herculean virtue often necessary to even live in modern times.

Does your list differ from mine? I’d love to hear yours!