Twenty Favorite Movies

by | Nov 20, 2012 | Movies | 43 comments

I frequently receive emails asking for movie suggestions for both adults and children.   We have never had TV reception, but we do enjoy watching movies!  Last night I asked my husband if he would be interested in sharing his favorites with you all.  Before he left for work this morning he gave me the following list of 20 favorites, just in time for the long Thanksgiving weekend. He even included a little about each movie, who it’s appropriate for, and even some of his favorite quotes!  (Though we do have some favorites in common, my own list would look a little differently and definitely wouldn’t include that quote he shared from Becket! Hmpfh… Maybe I should just let him make Thanksgiving dinner this year! lol)  Be sure to leave him a comment and perhaps I can talk him into writing another post about his favorite resources for training our Altar Boys. 🙂

20. Valkyrie (2008)
Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language
True story of the assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler where Catholic Army officer of the Third Reich, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg masterminds a plan to save Germany from Hitler. Powerful and suspenseful. Another one of those movies that you can’t hold your breath on – unfortunately, we all know how this one ends. Great story of courage, love of country, and defiance against tyranny.

19. The Great Escape (1963)
Not Rated (Violence)
The true story of the largest and most daring P.O.W. escape from what was supposed to be the most contemporary escape-proof stalag of the Third Reich.

18. The Enemy Below (1957)
Not Rated
A WWII naval cat and mouse between a U.S. destroyer and the German U-Boat it is tracking. The honor and code of chivalry in combat is displayed here even in modern warfare.

17. The Miracle of Marcelino (1955)
Fictional story of an abandoned baby left at the doorstep of an Italian monastery. When nobody will adopt the child, the monks raise him themselves and are transformed by the love and affection between him and a mystical visitor. Longing for a mother to see and love, Marcelino is granted his wish.

16. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Not Rated (Violent) – Adults and adolescents 
 Gang of drifters, mostly at odds with life, get hired by a Mexican village to rid them of El Guapo – I mean Calvera. Star studded cast with Charles Bronson, Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn. Inspired by the foreign film The Seven Samurai and inspired the modern movie The Three Amigos.

Calvera: If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.

Village Boy 2: We’re ashamed to live here. Our fathers are cowards.
O’Reilly: Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage.

15. Come to the Stable (1949)
Not Rated
Heartwarming fiction for all audiences. This amusing film follows two nuns who come to America to establish a hospital to fulfill a promise. Good message of faith and hope.

14. I Confess (1953)
Not Rated (Adult theme)
Recommended for dads and moms and other adults in the house – not really for adolescents. 
Alfred Hitchcock fiction about Father Michael Logan, a priest who is confronted by the local government authorities to break the seal of confession. The only fault in the film is the murky interior struggle the priest has with a former girlfriend. Probably inspired the heinous movie, Priest. Filmed in beautiful Quebec.

13. The Endurance – Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition (2000)
Rated G – Adults and adolescents
Gripping documentary narrated by Liam Neeson. True story of men who conquered despair. Just when you think they’ve had enough, new and more daunting challenges befall the ill-fated Antarctic voyagers. Incredible adventure story.

Famous Quotes: “Until our food ran out, we each had one meal a day: a biscuit which we looked at for breakfast, sucked on for lunch, and ate for dinner.”

12. Going My Way (1944)
Not Rated
Bing Crosby plays his usual role of the suave and debonair priest . . . enough said.

Watch for this quote: “A golf course is nothing but a poolroom moved outdoors.”

11. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Rated G
Story of man’s pride and fall when King Henry VIII rejected the Church to obtain a divorce and remarriage. To quell his conscience, the King tried to force Sir Thomas More to submit . . .

Sir Thomas More: When a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his own hands like water, and if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.

10. Becket (1964)
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and violence
Do not watch this with your kids. Emotionally dramatic movie throughout. It captures the tension between former friends King Henry II and the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Thomas a Becket. Thomas a Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

The quote of the film: In that Lord Gilbert has rendered no act of contrition or repentance, and is at the moment, at liberty in the land, we do, here and now, separate him from the precious body and blood of Christ, and from the society of all Christians. We exclude him from our Holy Mother Church and all her sacraments, in heaven, or on Earth. We declare him excommunicate and anathema . . . [slams candle to the ground] Monks: [response] So be it.

And we can’t forget this classic: King Henry II: “I can do nothing. I’m as useless as a woman.”

9. Michael Collins (1997)
Rated R for violence and language
The daring and bold true story of the establishment of the Irish Free State in the 1920’s. Great historical drama, but don’t get your hopes up watching this film – we all know how it ends.

Great quotes to watch for:
Michael Collins: “We have a weapon more powerful than any in the whole arsenal of the British Empire! That weapon is our refusal!”

Michael Collins: “We won’t play by their rules, Harry. We’ll invent our own.”

8. The Day the Sun Danced: The True Story of Fatima (2005)
Not Rated
The inspiring animated for children true story of Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, whose great faith and courage brought the message of Our Lady of Fatima to the entire world. The earnest message of Fatima is repeated here to help inspire children in praying the rosary with devotion.

7. The Reluctant Saint (1962)
Not Rated
Based on the true story of Saint Joseph of Cupertino, patron saint of aviators – for obvious reasons as depicted in the movie. Great message that “I can do all things through God who strengthens me.” The other lesson here is how God lifts up the lowly and humble; whereas, the proud, He casts down in the conceit of their heart.

6. Padre Pio: Between Heaven and Earth (2009)
Not Rated (Adult Drama)
One of several recent films on the newly ordained Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. This 2009 film with Michele Placido playing the Capuchin monk from his stigmata through his adult life contains several real events and quotes of the man as it journeys through his life in San Giovanni Rotundo. The most authentic of the film versions will make you chuckle at his sense of humor and stand in awe at his marvels.

5. For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada (2012)
Rated R for war violence and some disturbing images, including child torture
A chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-1929); a war by the people of Mexico against the atheistic Mexican government. Fitting for our time when government intrusion into religion is escalating. We are to ask ourselves: ‘how far would you go for your faith?’ Having been falsely accused of bombing, Blessed Miguel Pro was arrested and shot by a firing squad. Before the order to fire was given, he spread his arms in the form of a cross. His execution is depicted in the closing credits.

Favorite quote: “Men will shoot bullets but God decides were they land.”

4. Nicholas: The Boy Who Became Santa (2005)
Not Rated
Animated for children. Based on historical facts and tradition here is the true story of the boy whose love and care for others make him one of the most popular figures of all times. Today, more than sixteen centuries later, the entire world celebrates the kindness and generosity of the man we call Santa Claus. Great message of courage and steadfast hope for our current age institutional hostility towards religion.

3. The Song of Bernadette (1943)
Touching depiction of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous. The pompous government officials think she is nuts, and do their best to suppress the girl and her followers, and the church wants nothing to do with the whole matter until the miracle at the grotto transforms the village – and the world.

2. Rudy (1993)
Rated PG for profane language (many instances using God’s name in vain)
Played by Catholic actor Sean Astin, this is the real life story of Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, a walk-on hopeful to overcome great odds to star in Notre Dame’s collegiate football team. Great inspiring message of perseverance and long-suffering.

1. Saint Teresa of the Andes (2009)
Not Rated (subtitled) 450 minutes on 3 discs.
The story of a Carmelite who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1993. Keep your handkerchiefs handy, her story will make even a grown man cry.


  1. Krista

    What I love about this list is that most of them are pre-code (pre-1966). Some really wonderful films on this list! I'm a classic movie buff and just love the black and whites, the silents and the "Golden Era" of film!

    A great post for THIS time of year might be some of the classics like "It's a Wonderful Life", "The Bishop's Wife", "Miracle on 34th Street", "A Christmas Carol" (1951), etc, etc….

    I have enjoyed many of the films on your list and should screen the ones I haven't seen!

    Thanks for your list!

  2. Amy

    OOOOO….ones I have never heard of! And as a WWII history buff, I am loving this list! Thank you!

    I would whole-heartedly recommend "I am David" and "Bella", both in my top ten. Have you seen "St. Rita" by Ignatius Press? It is, so far, my fav of the Saint movies they have produced.

  3. fadfd

    Nicely done! Several of these are true favorites. Though one quote wasn't such a fav…LOL.

    BTW, St. Joseph's communications has a video out based on our parish's training and group of altar serving, called The Guardians of the Altar. It's a gem here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

    Our little parish has already seen several of the boys discerning the priesthood. Fruits from the labor of devotion from our Pastor and the directors. Perhaps you can check it out.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Erin

    The Great Escape and the Magnificent Seven are on my husband's favourite list too, he loves quoting from those movies. I'll be sure to show him your list.

  5. Allison

    Please thank your dear husband for this great list. I added many of these to our Netflix queue, except for #1, which they didn't have. 🙁

  6. Michele Chronister

    Have you watched The Bells of St. Mary's? That's my favorite!

  7. Cheryl

    Great list–many are our favorites, too!

  8. Mary

    "Ride on?" 🙂

    Looks like our family's movie rack! You might also enjoy: The Long Gray Line. Very good family movie about Irish Catholics at West Point. It's a close tie to being the favorite, next to Magnificent Seven,in our house.

  9. Anonymous

    Great list! Helpful, as we haven't seen all of these. If "the Husband" could take a moment to compile a list of resources for training Altar Boys to serve the Latin Mass, I'm sure I would not be the only grateful one! -Genevieve

  10. Anonymous

    The road into church began with Becket, as this was when I first learn about a saint. Next came Man for all Seasons . I became Catholic soon after I saw Brother Sun Sister Moon . I say that God used movies to show me a differnt way to live your life. I love movies we found it was great tool in teaching our children. Going to kept this list.

  11. Megan @ The Ipps

    Agree, great list. I can't wait to look-up the movies I have not seen. I am seeing some fun movie date nights with my husband (and Baby.
    Here are my top 20 movies (in no particular order)
    1. Papillon
    2. Harvey
    3. Life with Father
    4. It’s a Wonderful Life
    5. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
    6. The Last of the Mohicans
    7. The Song of Bernadette
    8. A Man for All Seasons
    9. Saint Rita
    10. The Bells of St. Mary
    11. Juan Diego Messenger of Guadalupe (CCC of America)
    12. High Noon
    13. How Green Was My Valley
    14. Miracle on 34th Street
    15. Citizen Kane
    16. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
    17. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    18. The Reluctant Saint
    19. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (“The Dollars Trilogy) (The Soundtrack for this movie is fantastic)
    20. The Agony and the Ecstasy

  12. Sean

    You might be able to catch it on EWTN. It plays there from time to time.

  13. Anonymous

    Please thank your husband for the list of movies. He did a very thorough job. We have several on the list and totally agree with his number one pick, Teresa of the Andes. Might I suggest St. Teresa of Avila as well. We have a daughter at the Carmel of Jesus Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, NE, and these were her favorites for sure. (Actually, 2 of your brothers-in-law were at her reception of the habit and her first profession). The Miracle of St. Therese is also good as well as the Passion of Bernadette.
    Thanks again for your blog.
    L.B., Arkansas

  14. Sean

    That was on the list, but I took it off. It's a classic and probably would have stayed on the list had I thought there was a Catholic out there who hadn't seen it before. Worth watching just for the O Sanctissima.

  15. T

    We borrowed Valkyrie from the library to watch this weekend. I didn't realize the main character was catholic. I love A Man For All Seasons, it was one of my earliest introduction to the church (I am a convert). Our middle son is named after St. Thomas More (I was also baptized, confirmed and married in a church names after him.) and Aquanis.

  16. Sean

    There are several WWII movies that I considered, but didn't find them appropriate enough to recommend for this list.

    One movie I considered was the Longest Day, but I recall my brothers jokingly calling it The Longest Day in Film. It is long and you get battle fatigue by the end.

    Saving Private Ryan had some disturbing scenes. It depicts those of faith in a good light and it gives a good appreciation of our WWII Veterans. However, it falls short of delivering an overall inspiring message. Special effects are so good, one could end up having PTSD after watching it.

    Do not watch Band of Brothers. If you've never seen it, read the book instead. Read the book instead. Read the book instead. The book is relatively clean. Remember the book is written by Stephen Ambrose and the movie is made by HBO. Big difference. If you already own the movie throw out the last 2 parts, don't even think twice about the money you spent. Just do it.

  17. Julie

    Have you seem Into Great Silence? It is a documentary about a monastery in France. I think you would like it. Now we need your list! God Bless!

  18. Shelley

    Have been enjoying your blog! Please thank your husband for this movie list with his wonderful reviews and quotes (except for that one quote, I agree, lol). We are also film buffs. Here are some movies we've loved from the Vatican's Top 45 List of Films: (

    1. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950, Italian subtitles)
    2. Monsieur Vincent (1947, French subtitles – about St. Vincent de Paul)
    3. Therese (1986, French subtitles – about St. Therese of Lisieux)
    4. Babette's Feast (1988, Danish subtitles)
    5. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
    6. Ben-Hur (1959)
    7. Chariots of Fire (1981)
    8. Modern Times (1936) – Charlie Chaplin
    9. Schindler's List (1993)
    10. The Mission (1986)
    11. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
    12. On the Waterfront (1954) – a favorite of Hubby's.
    13. The Bicycle Thief (1949, Italian subtitles) – Hubby enjoyed this more than I did.

    The Catholic News Service Media Review Office is also a good site to check for film reviews and ratings:

    God bless and Happy Thanksgiving!

  19. Sean

    Also stay away from the WWII series The Pacific. It's another HBO attempt at history and it is atrocious. They take real veterans' stories from WWII and rewrite them into a soap opera. If you want a relatively clean first hand account of the Pacific Theatre read the books by the men depicted in HBO's trashy movie. The books With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge and Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie are both honorable men who have written their stories with pride. I'm still not sure what HBO's motivation was, but it did not adequately honor the memories of these good men.

  20. Sean

    The quote from King Henry II is just to show the absurdity of his character. Sorry if it offended. Just remember, he is the villain.

  21. Sweetums5

    Oh, and before the new "Les Miserables" film comes out next month, just wanted to mention the 1934 French film, "Les Misérables" by Raymond Bernard — in our opinion, it is the best and most faithful adaptation ever made of Victor Hugo's masterpiece. (Unfortunately, IMHO, all the others have taken too much liberty in their interpretations of the story.) It's truly worth watching the 4+ hours of this outstanding film, spread over a few days. How Jean Valjean is transformed by the Bishop's great act of charity is truly inspirational. Plus, there is no immodest dress in the film, unlike what was shown in the trailer of the new "Les Mis." =(

    Here's a quick review from Criterion Collection:

    Hailed by film critics around the world as the greatest screen adapation of Victor Hugo’s mammoth nineteenth-century novel, Raymond Bernard’s dazzling, nearly five-hour Les misérables is a breathtaking tour de force, unfolding with the depth and detail of its source.

    Last of all, to the commenter, who mentioned that movie #1 was not on Netflix, they have it on, a Catholic DVD Rental club – We haven't watched it ourselves, so we can't wait. Thanks for the recommendation!

  22. Shelley

    No offense taken, Sean — I was just responding to Jessica's reaction to the quote — how she joked that maybe she should let you do Thanksgiving dinner this year, lol. Thought it was cute.

    BTW, I tried to look for "Come to the Stable" on Netflix, Pius Media and our library, but couldn't find it. Would love for my family to watch it. We all enjoyed the "Song of Bernadette" and the "Miracle of San Marcelino." Our now 12 yo son, who was 6, when he first watched "San Marcelino" was so inspired by the film that for months after, he kept leaving pieces of bread or crackers, arranged beautifully on a little plate, at the foot of our statue of Jesus, for him to eat. =) Wish they could make more films like this.

  23. Anonymous

    I would love to have more info. for altar training. My 2 sons have served the Novus Ordo Mass for 3 years, but have just started learning to serve the Latin Mass. We can only get to the Latin Mass parish 2 times a month, so it is slow going.
    Thanks! ~C.

  24. Anonymous

    About that Becket quote…

    I hear that's how hippies think about women.



  25. Shelley

    Oops — that's what I get for typing late at night — on our fav films above from the Vatican list, I meant to write: (Italian WITH ENGLISH subtitles). Same with the French & Danish films. Sorry 'bout that.

  26. Mary

    Here, here! The War of the Vendee by Navis Pictures is a classic. Your kids would LOVE it!

  27. JMJ

    Thank your hubby for me Jessica! My husband was asking me to put movies in the Netflix queue, but I was fresh out of ideas. Perfect timing!
    Wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!

  28. Anonymous

    Does your husband have any suggestions for the (reformation) revolutionary period? The history books leave out anything Catholic.

  29. Cathy

    Oh, love this list – Thanks to hubby! And, Thanksgiving blessings to all 🙂

  30. Katie V.

    The War of the Vendee was filmed with children from our homeschooling group!! A wonderful film indeed!

  31. Jessica Gordon

    I keep meaning to order than movie! It looks great!! I need to add it to my Christmas shopping list. Thank you for the reminder!

  32. Sean

    Thanks! We'll check it out.

  33. Sean

    There are several books available that may help.

    You may want to pick yourself up a copy of Hilaire Belloc's, The Great Heresies that contains a chapter about this. Good if you want a brief lowdown.

    Fr. John Laux has a book flamboyantly entitled Church History that covers this topic.

    Then there's Hilaire Belloc's other book How the Reformation Happened, much bigger and exhaustive along with Characters of the Reformation by the same author.

    Also check out Dr. Carroll's The Cleaving of Christendom: The History of Christendom Volume 4.

    Lastly, I've heard that the book, Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church is also decent:

  34. Anonymous

    Here, here, three! It is sweet! – Genevieve

  35. Anonymous

    Thank you for the wonderful list of revolution resources. I appreciate the time taken to pile the list together.

  36. Anonymous

    Two that I always found heartwarming (and have Catholic characters) are the Miracle of the Bells, (with Frank Sinatra playing a priest) and Little Boy Lost (with Bing Crosby, who is trying to find his son after his wife disappeared during WWII, and visits a French orphanage.) They may be somewhat obscure; filmed in the 1940s. I'm not sure whether they're even available on DVD, since I last saw them on VHS.
    Colby Storck

  37. Tracy

    Thank you for sharing this. Some my husband has seen ( big WWII buff),or has heard of and hasn't seen yet. Many he hasn't seen yet either. We'll have to check them out. Great list. Makes me want to ask my husband what his top 20 are.

  38. JMJ

    Our family watched Endurance this evening. What a powerful movie.
    I am glad we watched it and will now reflect on it.

  39. Momma Holmes

    RUDY, RUDY, RUDY, RUDY! That is an all time favorite in this house of men from 50 years -8 years and teens and twenties. We LOVE it!

  40. Anonymous

    I, too, would be so grateful if your husband could give us any tips or resources on serving the Mass. My two boys have been serving the Latin High Mass for three weeks now for the Institute of Christ the King. I know there are resources out there, but its hard to know which would be the best. Thanks so much!


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