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Vatican Best Films List

To mark the 100th anniversary of cinema in 1995, the Vatican compiled this list of "great films." The 45 movies are divided into three categories: "Religion," "Values" and "Art."

Full reviews of each movie including the U.S. Catholic Conference and Motion Picture Association classifications are available at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops web site.

Religion

  1. Andrei Rublev (1969) Russian production about a 15th-century monk (Anatoli Solonitzine) who perseveres in painting icons and other religious art despite the civil disruptions and cruel turmoil of his times. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  2. Babette's Feast (1988) Set in a rugged fishing village in 1871 Denmark, a French housekeeper for two pious sisters who carry on their late father's work as pastor of a dwindling religious flock prepares an exquisite Gallic meal, a sensuous labor of love which has a healing effect on the austere sect and the Frenchwoman who prepared it. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.
  3. Ben-Hur (1959) Follows the Jewish prince of the title after he's betrayed by his boyhood Roman friend and subjected to much misery until finally achieving retribution for all his suffering. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.
  4. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) Remarkable Italian production about the beginnings of the Franciscan Order as its founder sets the example of humility, simplicity and obedience for his first followers at Portiuncula, a little chapel near Assisi, from which they depart into the world to preach peace. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America
  5. Francesco (1989) Overwrought Italian production portrays St. Francis of Assisi as a spiritual agitator challenging the accepted values of his 13th-century contemporaries by embracing a life of utter poverty and simplicity. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents are strongly cautioned that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
  6. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1966) Italian dramatization of the evangelist's account of the life of Jesus and His message of salvation succeeds exceptionally well in placing the viewer within the Gospel events, avoiding the artificiality of most biblical movie epics. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America
  7. La Passion de Notre Seigneur Jesus-Christ (1905) (Not available on video)
  8. A Man for All Seasons (1966) Drama of the last seven years in the life of Thomas More, Henry VIII's chancellor, who met a martyr's death rather than compromise his conscience during a period of religious turmoil. The historical dramatization achieves an authentic human dimension that makes its 16th-century events more accessible and its issues more universal. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences
  9. The Mission (1986) In the 1750s, the large and prosperous Jesuit Indian missions were divided between Spain and Portugal. In dramatizing these events, the work recalls a past that provides a context for current Latin American struggles. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.
  10. Monsieur Vincent (1947) Lucid, moving account of St. Vincent de Paul's work among the poor and the oppressed in 17th-century France, from his first labors in a plague-ravaged village and his appeals to the conscience of the aristocracy to the founding of an order devoted to charitable works and his death in 1660. High on the list of great religious movies. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America
  11. Nazarin (1958) Mexican story set in 1905 when a young priest comes into disfavor with his inflexible religious superiors, the civil authorities and even the poor among whom he tries to live a life of simplicity, poverty and charity. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  12. Ordet (1954) Challenging Danish production about different kinds of faith and various sorts of miracles, one of which restores a dead woman to life. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  13. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Silent screen masterpiece portraying the heresy trial, confession, recantation and execution of the Maid of Orleans (Maria Falconetti) in a performance of such emotional power that it still stands as the most convincing portrayal of spirituality on celluloid. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  14. The Sacrifice (1986) Swedish production in which a group of adults and a child pass through a night of confusion and fear, including portents of a nuclear-devastated landscape. A very personal film about love and compassion, the effect is strangely cold and distant. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.
  15. Therese (1986) French dramatization of the life of St. Therese de Lisieux from age 15 when she joined a cloistered convent of Carmelite nuns to her death there 9 years later of tuberculosis. The young may find its picture of 19th-century religious life more confusing than inspiring. Dubbed in English. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Values

  1. Au Revoir les Enfants (1988) When the Gestapo discover that a priest has hidden three Jewish youths in a Catholic boys' school, he and the boys are arrested and deported to concentration camps.The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.
  2. The Bicycle Thief (1949) Simple yet compelling study in desperation as a worker must find his stolen bicycle or lose his new job. Ignored by the police and others, the man and his young son search the streets for it until, in despair, he himself tries to steal a bicycle. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  3. The Burmese Harp (1956) Badly wounded in Burma at the end of World War II, a Japanese soldier is nursed back to health by a Buddhist monk, then devotes himself to searching the jungle battlefields for the abandoned remains of dead soldiers to give them a decent burial. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  4. Chariots of Fire (1981) Two young Englishmen overcome quite different obstacles to win gold medals at the Paris Olympics of 1924. One is a Jew determined to beat the anti-Semitic establishment at its own game and the other is a devout Scot who runs for the glory of God. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.
  5. Decalogue (1988) Produced for Polish television, this series of ten hour-long programs explores the contemporary meaning of the Ten Commandments as seen in the lives of various residents of a drab Warsaw apartment complex. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  6. Dersu Uzala (1978) Russian production about the friendship that grows between a turn-of-the-century explorer in Siberia and his guide, an aging Tungus hunter whose name gives the film its title. Finely acted, beautifully photographed, it is an admiring portrait of a man living in harmony with nature and with his fellow hunters. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.
  7. Gandhi (1982) Epic-scale production re-creates Gandhi's life and times, especially his use of non-violence and hunger strikes to bring together the diverse peoples of India and unify them as a nation. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.
  8. Intolerance (1916) This masterpiece intercuts four stories of injustice -- the fall of Babylon, the Crucifixion, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre and a contemporary American story of an innocent man sentenced to death. The movie develops parallel action in each of the stories, connected to the others by the simple image of a woman rocking a cradle. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  9. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Seasonal favorite about the joys and trials of a good man who, facing financial ruin on the eve of Christmas, contemplates suicide until his guardian angel shows him how meaningful his life has been to those around him. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  10. On the Waterfront (1954) Classic labor film about a punched-out boxer who, despite the machinations of his shifty brother and with some encouragement from the woman he loves as well as a waterfront priest, decides to stand up to the criminal boss of a corrupt union of dock workers. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  11. Open City (1945) Composite picture of the resistance movement in German-occupied Rome focusing on an underground leader hidden by a widow until he's betrayed to the Gestapo, then tortured and executed along with a partisan priest. Filmed while German troops were still in the city, the movie has a documentary quality The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  12. Schindler's List (1993) Sobering account of an opportunistic German businesssman out to make his fortune by exploiting Jewish labor in occupied Poland. The increasing barbarism of Nazi racial policies and the sadistic perversions of the local commandant cause him to risk his life trying to save the Jews in his employ. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted.
  13. The Seventh Seal (1956) Intense medieval morality tale about a disillusioned knight returning from the Crusades to a plague-ravaged land where he forestalls Death by wagering his life on a game of chess during the course of which he saves a traveling player named Joseph , his wife Mary and their infant son. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  14. The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978) Quiet, richly textured Italian drama about the lives of four peasant families who work as tenant farmers on a Lombardy estate at the end of the last century. Beginning with the fall harvest and ending with the spring planting, the movie depicts the everyday life of rural people who endure with human dignity in spite of the oppressive system which exploits their labor. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  15. Wild Strawberries (1958) During the day on which he is to be awarded an honorary degree from a nearby university, a 78-year-old retired scholar is visited with dreams and reveries about his past life, especially his failures and disappointments in personal relationships. One of the great films about aging that touches universal chords in mature viewers. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Art

  1. Citizen Kane (1941) When a Hearst-like newspaper tycoon dies, a reporter interviews the man's former associates and wives in an effort to pin down the essence of the contradictory, larger-than-life millionaire by discovering the meaning of his dying word, "Rosebud."The movie is a landmark in American cinema, notable both for its superb use of film technique and its intriguing story of a man who came from nothing, acquired fame and fortune but died without the love he sought. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  2. 8 1/2 (1963) An Italian movie director protects his overgrown ego by retreating into surreal memories of the past and wild fantasies about the present. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-IV -- adults, with reservations. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  3. Fantasia (1940) Walt Disney's only excursion into the world of the fine arts, this imaginative work was not only Disney's most ambitious undertaking but it remains an enjoyably creative introduction to fine music, especially for youngsters. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.
  4. Grand Illusion (1937) Shot down during World War I, a French aristocrat then makes use of his special status to distract attention while two fellow prisoners make good their escape to Switzerland. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  5. La Strada (1956) Two-bit circus strongman adds a simple-minded peasant to his act, treating her badly until a tragic encounter with a bantering acrobat who tries to help her. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  6. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) British comedy classic in which a timid bank employee concocts a scheme to hijack a shipment of gold bullion with the aid of professional crooks, then melt it down in the foundry of an accomodating sculptor and recast it as Eifel Tower souvenirs for export to Paris. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  7. The Leopard (1963) (Not available on video) Historical drama set against the background of Garibaldi's 1860 invasion of Sicily where the prince of an old aristocratic family refuses to adapt to revolutionary times despite the marriage of his more egalitarian nephew to the daughter of a wealthy ex-peasant. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  8. Little Women (1933) Lovingly sentimental but firmly crafted adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's story of four New England girls cared for by their mother while their father is soldiering in the Civil War. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  9. Metropolis (1926) Silent classic of a future society ruled by an aristocracy living in luxury above ground while the workers suffer miserably underground, comforted only by the religious faith of a young woman in whose likeness a sinister scientist fashions a robot inciting the workers to rebel but all ends in reconciliation. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  10. Modern Times (1936) Charlie Chaplin's insightful fable of man versus machine centers in the artificiality of industrialized society and the anxieties caused by the Depression as Charlie dances his way through the hazards of an assembly line job. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.
  11. Napoleon (1927) Epic silent chronicle of Napoleon Bonaparte from his student days at a military academy through his rise as an officer during the Revolution and Reign of Terror ending in 1796 when the Directory puts him in command of the army invading Italy. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  12. Nosferatu (1922) Silent horror classic loosely based on Bram Stoker's novel, "Dracula," centers on the vampire count who leaves his sinister castle in the Carpathian mountains to sail on a doomed ship bringing him to 1838 Bremen where his dark deeds are undone by a brave young woman and the first light of dawn. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  13. Stagecoach (1939) In this Western classic, a cowboy wanted by the law on trumped-up charges joins an odd assortment of passengers on the stage to Lordsburg in the midst of an Apache uprising. The characters are a microcosm of frontier types, each of whom has a different reason for the journey. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
  14. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Both science fiction and metaphysical poetry using an unconventional mixture of visuals and music to bridge humanity's reconstructed past, identifiable present and projected future, all tied together by the recurring image of a monolith as symbol of a superhuman existence. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.
  15. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Dorothy rides her cyclone to the magic land over the rainbow. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.

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