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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Favorite Movies with Religious Themes

Can't have enough of them. Hollyweird et al, often gets a bad rap, and deserves one for the trashy movies they can put out. But there have been gems. Some very religious in a direct way, some touch on religious themes. Some are very serious, others a lot less so, but I love them all:

Passion of the Christ - An absolute tour de force. Although there's a fair amount of metaphor and things which are not strictly speaking "in the bible" I still find it profound. For instance, Mary (Theotokos) seeing Jesus fall while carrying the crossbeam...and then a flashback to her picking Him up as a young child after He was crying. It would be very likely that something like that really happened. What a quick way to illustrate the hypostatic union. I think I remember reading somewhere that Mel gave himself an uncredited cameo as the soldier (in the helmet and plumes) who nails Jesus to the cross.

A Man For All Seasons - Thomas More is my favorite male saint. God willing, after I get to heaven (after probably a long period in purgatory!) after I check in with God and the family - I'm looking up Tom. I don't care how long I have to stand in line to shake his hand.

Song of Bernadette - I don't know if it happened or not, but I loved the priest giving Bernadette the [now] tattered Holy Card the witch of a nun insisted she not get because she was "Stupid and slow." I had thought the priest was a hardass, but it turned out he had "the right stuff." A beautiful movie.

Come to the Stable
- A 1940s movie, about nuns who wanted land to build a hospital on, and managed to convince the owner that that would be the right thing to do. It was the last movie my mother and I saw together on her birthday. She died a few days later. It's been 12 years and two days since she died and I miss her more every day. She hadn't seen it since her youth, and I managed to find it for her. An obscure "Christmas movie" now....but it's like "mom knew." When we were watching it I could hear what I tried to dismiss as her death rattle. I still get misty eyed now, just watching that movie.

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima
- How noble of these children of peasant families to stand up for what they believed they saw [I believe this "private revelation" too] in the face of anti-clericalism rampant in Portugal. And Lucia was having to fight mom, especially, on the home front, who some say never quite believed her.

Au Revoir les Enfants - My favorite foreign movie of all time. About life in occupied France in WWII where the school is hiding Jews. The priest/headmaster is a noble figure. Based on a true story from Louis Malle's own life. [Even if you don't speak French, you would probably enjoy it. The yellow subtitles are awfully good.]

The Cardinal
-- the book is much, much better and more richly detailed, but good all the same. VERY loosely based on the life of, I believe, Cardinal Spellman. The book makes reference to historical figures like Cardinal Merry del Val. I love the scene in the movie where Fermoyle takes on the KKK...and how one of his likely tormentors comes back the next day to see if he's all right.

Jesus Christ Superstar
-- What can I say, I was 16 and in the summer between my junior and senior year in high school when it came out. I still think it's well constructed and very powerful. It was a very big deal - two of my "Jesus freak" friends and I went to the theatre 1st showing of the day... and we stayed all day .... and then we did it the next Saturday. That was "Back in the day" of the huge theatre with the huge screens, and as long as you didn't walk out, they didn't throw you out! We sang the songs all summer.

The Robe - I love the scene where "the robe" is strangling Richard Burton. [I love Richard Burton as an actor!] Sorta kinda hokey. But sorta kinda in a really good way!

ditto Demetrius and the Gladiators - sequel to "The robe" -- Victor Mature rocks.

Friendly Persuasion - Not "Catholic" but how could I not love this film about the gentle Quakers? Papa is a bit of a backslider, with having that very human desire to own the fastest horse in the county and get a little music in the house. Set against the backdrop of US civil war. Jessamyn West, a 2nd cousin of Richard Nixon, wrote the original book it was based on.

The Scarlet and The Black - based on true story of Msgr. Hugh O'Flaherty and his assistance to the Jews and the opposition to the 3rd Reich. Really dug that snazzy ferrouila Msgr. Hugh was stylin' in at the opera. Some people seem of the opinion that that would draw too much focus now. Probably. But still: that's a checkmate on white tie or dinner jacket.

Going My Way - not so much because of der Bingle ... but because of Barry Fitzgerald -- especially him keeping his Whiskey behind a copy of the Life of General Grant. Ditto the scene where he sees his 90whateveryearoldmother at the end of the picture after der Bingle arranged it. Older than the hills...and his too-ra-loor-a-loora lullaby singin' mama shows up at the very end.

Bells of St. Marys - der Bingle and Ingrid Bergman --- Father and Sister butt heads.

Lilies of the Field
-- Aayy--a---aayy---men.......Ay----a-----a----men.....yada, yada... I loved each and every one of those nuns ... reminded me of all those women that spread all across the US and helped spread the Good News and did good works come hell or high water. Sidney Poitier was no slouch either.

It's a Wonderful Life - if you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for. The scene at the end is ripping where Jimmy Stewart's life is being recounted about all the positive effect he had on people. "...and all those people on the troopship died, because you hadn't been there to save Harry, and he wouldn't have been there to save them."

Agony and the Ecstasy - loved it, the pope as a REAL person, instead of some insipid soul in the ether. Strap on that armor and get to it! Don't let that Michelanglo jack you around ... he's probably padding his expenses!!! Let him paint that flunky who hates the nudes with donkey's ears ... that guy always did irritate you anyway!

I Confess -- Hitchcock. Set in Montreal, a Catholic priest can't reveal a killer due to the seal of confession...and the killer frames him for the murder. My favorite Hitchcock.

Millions - slightly imprefect due to one scene, but overall excellent. The saints and one small boy have an intimate working relationship, and he finally comes to grips with his mother's death. His "worldly wise" older brother provides great comic contrasts -- the main character being so innocently naive. Should have won the academy award for best film, IMO.

and finally, my all time favorite FUN movie:
The Trouble with Angels - Roz Russell as a GENIUS of a nun, and her "war" with boarding school inmate Hayley Mills, and her friend "Rachel". Scathingly brilliant.
See here for a 30 second clip of Mother Superior taking on Rachel's former headmaster re: Rachel's "colossal ignorance." She takes no prisoners.


Where Angels go Trouble Follows -- Roz Russell stars, not a sequel strictly speaking, but Roz butts heads with the "new wind blowin' through the church" nun. Stella Stevens is the new nun, and the sisters are all back. This time they take their charges cross country for a "youth rally." Very new in '68. This clip is just under 3 minutes long and has the disco scene where Mother and Father "Kewl" are both concerned about their respective charges getting a little too friendly. Seems Sister Mary Goodfaith of the girl's school staff didn't know the "host" school along the way for an overnight staff was an all boys school. (if you've got slow speed internet, right click the link can copy it. Then paste to and save to your hard disk to watch at your leisure.

Special category -

Brideshead Revisited - not a "movie" in the strict sense, but the best miniseries of all time. All about the Catholic faith, but most people don't realize that at all until they are well into it and hooked. Unforgettable. I'm a "Cordelia" but not such a sobersides as a grownup. But the young Cordelia is "right on."


Three that left me cold:

The recent one about St. Therese of Lisieux - Phooey, supposed to be "factual" but any student of her life picked out zillions of mistakes. I wanted to walk out but my friend Michelle was with me at the time or I would have.

Godspell - Nertz. But if you like it "whatever."

Brother Sun and Sister Moon - Bosh and double Bosh - I like the fact that St. Francis was good with animals and all that, but I always thought he was the original hippy....and that his elevator maybe didn't go to the top floor anymore. I mean, really, taking off all his clothes and declaiming in the public square. I thought that was reserved for nutcases in Colorado or wherever that was the moron priest recently went jogging in the all together before dawn. I'll pet your dog, Francis, but no thanks on the Tofu. Yes, yes....I know the wonderful Fr. Groeschel is a Franciscan, but even a blind groundhog finds an acorn once in a while.

Anyone else have any favs?

Update: (I've been surprised at how popular this thread is over time, it still keeps getting hits - you may also want to check out this additional post.


Anonymous said...

liked your list...did you mention Cheaper by the dozen/

gemoftheocean said...

I love that one and life with Father. Great family movies. The ones I mentioned had specifically religious themes. Hope you saw the Trouble with Angeles clip...just based on the 1st clip alone I think you'd like it. I love that movie. The 2nd isn't as good, but it's still fun -- too bvad there wasn't something online a little more fiery re: the 2nd.

Cathy said...

I LOVE your list, Karen.
Au Revoir, Les Enfants - WHAT A GREAT FILM!

Oh, how about "I Confess" the Hitchcock thriller where the priest gets accused of murder but the MURDERER HAS ALREADY CONFESSED - TO THAT PRIEST! But, but, but...
The priest can't tell the authorities because he can't break the seal of confession!
A great one, with that hottie 50s actor, you know, the gay one?

Cathy said...

Oh, I'm such a dork.
Okay, I officially know of no religious films which you did not mention.

gemoftheocean said...

S'okay, ma beck -- the list was long.......if you click on the link with the name, you'll see that hottie traitor Montgomery Clift!!!!

Father John Boyle said...

This is a great list. Will get round to seeing some of them hopefully. Saw Brideshead revisited, but the book is better. Beautiful story of redemption.

swissmiss said...

Ok, I AM a dork. I don't like movies much since I am a recovering Type A personality and can't sit still that long without doing something. Mea culpa, I haven't seen ANY of the movies you mentioned, not one. I think I need a twelve step program of some sort. Now, the only movies I see are animated kid shows. Guess I'm an illiterate movie hick.

Amy Giglio said...

You are so funny! Didn't see "Becket" on the list starring Richard Burton as St. Thomas a Becket and Peter O'Toole as King Henry (II? defnitely not the 8th. That was More's Henry). That was a goodie. Just saw it last weekend.

gemoftheocean said...

Amy, yes, that's a good one. Richard Burton would be great reading the phone book. What's REALLY annoying is somewhere along the line I've also seen, besides the Schofield version, a different video of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. The way the "everyman" was handled was terrific. He played all the bit parts like the Waterman and the executioner, etc. Brilliant.

"Oh, God" with George Burns is also a fun one.

swissmiss said...

Me thinks I may have redeemed me self a bit. I do have a movie to add. THE MISSION!!

Anonymous said...

Hey! Where's the obvious choices?

Sound of Music
Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Exorcist
Damien Omen
The Feast
The Citadel
The Singer Not the Song
Gone With The Wind
And that Jesuit "Mission" thingee where someone went over the falls ..
How about the one with Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe?
Say, not all are great films, but they are Catholic.

Tony Abbot's new view from the sky said...

Like where you are going with this list. I would add Jimmy Cagney's Angels with Dirty faces as it has a Catholic backdrop and Pat O'Brien is a great priest.
I love the end where Cagney pretends to crack up going to the chair just so a group of young hoodlums will no longer hero worship him.

Anonymous said...

These are good too:

Fr. Brown (with Alec Guinness)
Boys Town (with Spencer Tracey)
Heart of the matter (Graham Greene)
Black Robe (Jesuits, Canadian Indians)

gemoftheocean said...

Many thanks for the additions. I periodically check back to see if anyone's added to the list or the followup post, so feel free!


Sadie Vacantist said...

Although Catholic himself, Hitchcock regretted making "I Confess" claiming only Catholics "would get it". I must admit it, I thought it was very poor and in my view Hitchcock's American movies are overrated. I prefer his early British films.

Anonymous said...

Pan y Vino

The Miracle of Marcilino,a heart warming story of a group of Spanish Franciscan friars who find a baby boy on the doorstep of their monastery. Of the many rules the young boy had to live by,as he grew older, the most important was to stay out of the attic.

LizzieD said...

Thanks for this, we were getting short of films to add to our rental list! (We've only seen half of the ones you mentioned!!)

MaryW said...

My all time favorite: Keys of the Kingdom (A.J. Cronin). I have to watch this DVD at least once a year - a must for me. Yes, it gets a little melodramatic but it's a very cathartic movie. Gregory Peck as the humble missionary priest, Vincent Price as the haughty social-climbing cleric, and Edmund Gwynn as the kindly, understanding bishop - great acting, what's not to like.


Anonymous said...

Check out (not on CD) a picture called "household Saints". Best movie with a Therese theme that I've seen. I bought the Therese picture you mentioned out of loyalty, but I will sy no more.

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