This past summer, like many of you, I excelled in the art of relaxation in my spare time. As I got the chance to watch movies for the first time and revisit old classics, I became astounded by the level of Catholic teaching that played out in some major blockbuster films. Here’s a list of movies that you can draw from – hopefully to inspire you and help you draw nearer to Christ – when you decide to have a Netflix movie marathon this upcoming school year.
9. Of Gods and Men (2010)
Rated PG-13 for a momentary scene of startling wartime violence, some disturbing images and brief language.
This film brings to the screen the true-life story of a group of French Cistercian Trappist monks who were martyred for their faith in 1990 in Algeria by Radical Islamic Terrorists. It poignantly showcases the raw human emotions of people who are later called to be superhuman, clearly made possible only through their faith in Christ. The movie is a much-needed positive reminder in this age of rising terrorism that, as Dostoyevsky put it, “beauty will save the world.”
8. Bella (2006)
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief disturbing images.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” A realistically frank depiction of poor circumstances in the Big Apple and Mexico and two characters who rise above them, Bella beautifully captures the phrase: adoption is always an option. Not cheesy or overdone in the slightest, this movie is an accolade for not only the Christian community, but more specifically the pro-life community. Well worth the watch.
7. The Sound of Music (1965)
7 children….7 homeschooled children…music…uniforms…and a postulant religious sister who ends up being a whole ton of fun and changes everyone’s hearts for the better. I mean honestly, you can’t get any more cliché Catholic than that. I could not avoid putting Julie Andrew’s absolute must watch on the list. If you’ve never seen it, just ask me, and I’ll let you borrow my copy!
6. An Affair to Remember (1957)
To be honest, when I was younger and a friend from church lent my mother her copy of the score, I was confused as why nice church going ladies could watch a movie about a love affair. I didn’t realize how greatly misunderstood I was until I became older. Hollywood stud Cary Grant and beauty Deborah Kerr give us the story of two people falling in love on a cruise who are presently engaged at the time their budding romance blossoms full scale. Promises are broken and tensions erupt, but towards the end we learn true love transcends defects and human pride. Bonus – the couple prays together in a grandmother’s chapel. Definitely, relationship goals and the Chick-Flick of all Chick-Flicks!
5. Life is Beautiful (1997)
Rated PG-13 for holocaust-related thematic elements.
Italian powerhouse couple Roberto Benigini and Nicolletta Braschi offer us a story of innocence, humor, profound love, and even a date blessed by the Virgin Mary amid anti-Semitism during the Nazi movement. The main character, Guido, in the story is a great example, akin to many saints, of trying to make the best of life with what we are given – even in the worst of circumstances.
4. The Exorcist (1973)
Rated R for strong language and disturbing images.
Certainly not visuals you would want to imprint on your younger siblings. Yet, once you get past the strong visual nature, the film presents a strong reminder of the power of our faith in the backdrop of an area that is not often talked about – exorcisms. One of the movies main takeaways – the Devil and his minions are very much real, but the power of God and His Church is stronger.
3. Les Miserables (1998)
Rated PG-13 for violence, and for some sexual content.
I own the 2012 musical film adaptation, but overall prefer Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman’s rendition of Victor Hugo’s classic. The drama demonstrates how mercy outweighs any man made form of justice. We see how one act of mercy changes a man’s life and the lives of the many others he chooses to help. “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
2. Schindler’s List (1993)
Rated R for language, some sexuality, and actuality violence.
“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” Based on the true-life story of Oskar Schindler, who went from a womanizer and selfish business tycoon to a selfless friend of the Jewish people during the worst of the Holocaust. The man, who just happened to be Catholic, exemplifies the fact that we even as sinners are called to be saints. God calls the most unlikely to be his greatest assets. It is an emotional roller coaster of a journey, even hard to watch at times, but I promise it will forever change you.
1. Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The fact that a children’s cartoon made such a complex movie with references to God, the Church, and mercy. Oh wait, that Disney made a children’s cartoon and accomplished this much is an incredible feat in itself. I never realized how deep the movie was until I revisited it recently. Set within the cathedral of Notre Dame, “God Help The Outcasts” is filled with raw emotion unlike most other Disney songs we have heard. There’s also Judge Claude Frollo’s “Hellfire” solo, in which he grapples with his sin of lust for a gypsy woman, Esmeralda. Yes, it’s a dark number, but it’s an accurate look in the mirror of what it must look like when we blame everything and everyone else but ourselves for our sins. Yet, the movie somehow achieves elements of humor amid its grave themes. Kudos to Disney for subtly evangelizing millions of children and parents, even if it was unintentional.
I hope you enjoyed the list and commentary. If you choose to watch any of the films, let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the classics! What’s better than growing in our faith through art and beauty on the screen?
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vanort/88495876/