There was a time when you could count on Hollywood to pick up on what was good and holy in the priesthood and religious life. These picks give a strong showing for some great films.
"The Song of Bernadette" (1943): With Jennifer Jones as the shepherdess of Lourdes. Who can forget the scene of Father Peyramale (Charles Pickford) confronting the Prosecutor Vital Dutour (Vincent Price) with the words: "Now call the police. ... Load well your guns, for your path lies over my dead body."
"Monsieur Vincent" (1948): Recently released on DVD, perhaps one of the greatest depictions of a saint's life ever filmed. Pierre Fresnay is flawless in his portrayal of St. Vincent DePaul. French with English subtitles.
"Boys Town" (1938): Father Flanagan's (Spencer Tracy) depiction of a Catholic priest serves as the prototype for what a priest should be.
"The Keys of the Kingdom" (1944): Father Francis Chisholm (Gregory Peck) is sent to China to establish a mission. He shows heroic courage and perseverance in his attempt to convert the native Chinese.
"Come to the Stable" (1949): An absolutely charming film that reveals a faith so fresh and pure. Sisters Margaret (Loretta Young) and Scholastica (Celeste Holm) vow to build a children's hospital, and nothing (not even mobster Luigi Rossi) can stop them.
"The Sound of Music" (1965): One of the best-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals reveals Religious who are joyful, funny, and, boy, they can sing.
"The Scarlet and the Black" (1983): A-made-for-TV movie that reveals the heroic efforts of Msgr. Hugh O'Flaherty (Gregory Peck) in saving the Jews and prisoners of war from Nazi occupiers.
"The Reluctant Saint" (1962): A superb presentation by Maximilian Schell in which he plays a mentally challenged young man who is forced by his dominant mother to become a priest. His love for our Blessed Mother is especially touching.
"Diary of a Country Priest" (1951): A French film with English subtitles. This sometimes-bleak picture depicts the life of a young priest sent to a small town, in which he offers up his rejection in a holy, self-giving way. Definitely not for children.
"The Mission" (1986): Former mercenary turned priest Mendoza (Robert Di Nero) and Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) display contrasting styles as they minister to the Indian natives of South America. The scenery is breathtaking, and the music superb.
The Bottom 10 Movies
Hollywood gets a 15-yard penalty for "piling on" as its portrayal of the priesthood and religious life continue to hit new lows.
"The Da Vinci Code" (2006): Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, this movie distorts, twists and mangles the Catholic faith, with just enough fact to be dangerous. The murderous albino monk makes this our No. 1 pick.
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (2007): This sequel takes the next step in its anti-Catholicism, and everything bad somehow is the fault of the Church. The clergy are portrayed in an extremely bad light, and hits bottom with its depiction of a Jesuit hitman.
"Priest" (1994): This warped drama follows the lives of four priests -- one is a homosexual, the second is an alcoholic, another has a mistress and the last is insane. (What, did they run out of dysfunctions?)
"The Magdalene Sisters" (2002): This film portrays depraved nuns taking care of, and abusing, wayward girls and women in the Irish penitential asylums.
"Elizabeth" (1998): A slightly more tame portrayal than its sequel…but not by much.
"Sister Mary Explains it All" (2001): A poorly played out film depicting a caricature of religious life that is absurd and outlandish. The nun even murders two of her former students.
"Stigmata" (1999): A film that mixes and muddles the sacred and profane. Once again the clergy are portrayed as repressive and villainous.
"Agnes of God" (1985): A badly confused movie that shows religion and religious as repressed and cruel.
"Dogma" (1999): Kevin Smith's extremely irreverent spoof on Catholicism. George Carlin plays a cardinal, while Alanis Morissette is God.
"The Order" (2003): Heath Ledger plays a disillusioned priest who is asked to investigate a suspicious death. Battles with demons and sin eaters eventually lead him from the priesthood.