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Ten Movies Recommended by Pope John Paul II

Top Ten Movies

Before his death, Pope John Paul II released a list of the top ten movies he recommended. With over 900 million followers, the Pope’s recommendations carry a bit more weight than either Ebert or Roeper.

Just in case you’re wondering, none of the Police Academy movies made the Pope’s top ten, but due to its content, the Pope’s number one movie may surprise you.

10. The Leopard (1963) — Directed by: Luchino Visconti

This tale of Sicilian nobility losing ground to the changing times of the unification of Italy stars Burt Lancaster in what he considers to be his finest role. With it’s lush production and a 45-minute banquet scene that’s considered by many film critics to be one of the finest set pieces ever put on film, The Leopard seems like a shoe-in to make the Pope’s top ten movie list.

9. 8-1/2 (1963) – Directed by: Frederico Fellini

The year 1963 must have been a good year for movies the Pope liked. Another Italian film, and one of the all-time classic movies, Fellini’s reflexive masterpiece. 8-1/2 is a movie about moviemaking – a seemingly odd choice for the Pope. Perhaps he chose it for the self-reflective aspects.

8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

It almost seems heretical for the Pope to have chosen this movie – and yet there it is. Featuring cavemen, evolution, and mysterious monoliths, 2001 seems an unlikely movie for the Pope’s top ten on the surface. However, beneath the sci-fi gadgetry is a story about the dangers of technology and its power over man. That in itself may have been enough to receive the papal seal of approval.

7. A Man for All Seasons (1966) – Directed by: Fred Zinneman

This movie features the story of Henry VIII, who wants to divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn. Naturally the Pope refuses to grant such a divorce, so Henry VIII breaks with the church and forms his own – the Church of England. The chancellor of England refuses to go along with the king and is killed for upholding the Vatican’s values.

With an all-star cast and strong story, this movie seems like another unlikely choice, but with a character willing to die to uphold the values of the church, it seems like a more logical choice for the Pope.

6. Ben-Hur (1959) – Directed by: William Wyler

Epic in every sense, Ben-Hur is a powerful story, powerfully told. Although the chariot race is probably what’s best remembered today, the rest of the story is just as spectacular. I would say this seems like an obvious choice to make the Pope’s top ten movie list.

5. Jesus of Nazareth (1977) – Directed by: Franco Zeffirelli

This movie was originally a British miniseries of the life of Jesus. Zeffirelli was approached by Pope Paul VI to make a movie about Jesus, so this movie seems to hold a logical place on the Pope’s top ten.

4. Modern Times (1936) – Directed by: Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin’s statement against the dehumanization of automated society is certainly in line with the Pope’s desire to extol human values and the dignity of the individual in an increasingly faceless society. Not to mention, the film has some genuinely funny moments too.

3. Life is Beautiful (1998) – Directed by: Roberto Benigni

This Academy Award-winning comedy set during the Holocaust is the bittersweet tale of Guido (Benigni) trying to shield his son from the horrors of life in a concentration camp. This film represents a triumph of the human spirit in the gravest of circumstances, which certainly plays a part in the Pope including this in his top ten movies. The fact that it’s by yet another Italian filmmaker may have played a small part as well.

2. The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964) – Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini

One of the most faithful movie adaptations of a book of the Bible, this film featured a cast of amateurs and is noted for its authenticity and emphasis on the society teachings of Jesus rather than the spiritual. Yet another Italian film makes the Pope’s top ten movie list…

1. Schindler’s List (1993) – Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Considered by many to be the most powerful movie about the Holocaust in cinematic history, this film is still a surprising choice as the Pope’s number one movie. Featuring graphic violence, full frontal nudity, and more profanity than all of Spielberg’s other movies combined, the film is still a cinematic triumph. One can only speculate that the Pope chose this film because of its message – that one person can make a difference.

There you have it – Pope John Paul II’s top ten movies. How does it compare with your top ten?

Source: The Holllywood Book of Lists