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August 16, 2009

Priests share favorite movies about priests

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP


If you haven’t heard, Pope Benedict XVI declared a “Year for Priests” in June. The year will conclude in Rome with an international gathering of priests with the Holy Father on June 19, 2010.

In the spirit of this year celebrated by Catholics the world over, we wanted to know which movies and books about priests or priesthood priests (and seminarians) like best?

Well, we asked them and here’s what we heard. By the way, these movies make for great gift ideas too.

Top 10 movies

  1. “Romero” (1989)
  2. “On the Waterfront” (1954) (Older priests especially inspired by this movie.)
  3. “The Mission” (1986)
  4. “Diary of a Country Priest” (1951)
  5. “Becket” (1964) (Protestant pastors also inspired by this to go into ministry.)
  6. “Blackrobe” (1991) (Canadian film, historical fiction of Jesuit missionaries in 1600s.)
  7. “Scarlet and the Black” (1983)
  8. “Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005) (Based on a true story. Priest is a real hero.)
  9. “Keys of the Kingdom” (1944)
  10. “Keeping the Faith” (2000)

Other favorites

  • “True Confessions” (1981) (Some nudity. Deals with how priests are tempted to get caught up in church politics, the true nature of priesthood and tough choices.)
  • “The Cardinal” (1963) (Some priests said too “cardboard” and “pollyanna,” but it’s a good historical snapshot.)
  • “Ninth Day” (2004) (Priests in Dachau, based on the book “Priestblock 25487.”)
  • “Molokai: The Story of Father Damien” (1999)
  • “Monsieur Vincent” (1948) (French, award-winning film about St. Vincent de Paul.)
  • “Beyond the Gates” (2005) (aka “Shooting Dogs”) (True story of a priest in Rwanda.)
  • “The Prisoner” (1955) (Based upon experience of Hungary’s Cardinal Mindszenty who was tortured by Nazis.)
  • “Father Brown” (1954) (G. K. Chesterton’s mysteries) Documentaries
  • “Fishers of Men” (Inspiring documentary by the amazing “Grassroots Films.”)
  • “With God in Russia” (2005) (True story of Polish-American Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek.)
  • “Road of Hope, the Spiritual Journey of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan” (2009)

Sister Helena recommends

  • “Gospel of John” (2003)
  • “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) (Jesus, our high priest)
  • “Diary of a City Priest” (2001) (Film adaptation different from the book; the unglamorous life of a parish priest in a poor, innercity neighborhood; should be required seminary viewing.)
  • “The Father Clements Story” (1987) (African-American Chicago priest adopts kids to set an example.)
  • “Hoodlum Priest” (1961) (Surprisingly good, gritty drama of ex-con priest, based upon true story.)
  • “Saving Grace” (1985) (Pope gets locked out of Vatican.)
  • “Gospa” (1995) Medjugorje Franciscan played by Martin Sheen
  • “Open City” (1945) (Italian, Rossellini, Nazis torture a priest in WWII occupied Rome.)
  • “Gran Torino” (2008)
  • “Flowers of St. Francis” (1950) (Italian, Rossellini, St. Francis and his first followers.)
  • “Into Great Silence” (2005) (Threehour “silent” movie about Carthusian monks — one of the Catholic Church’s most austere religious orders — who live in silence, except for prayer time.) Burns, who ministers in Chicago, has a philosophy/theology degree from St. John’s University, N.Y., and studied screenwriting at the University of California- Los Angeles.