Movie Priests

National Catholic Register has a top ten movie priest list here.    They have some great films on that list, and I would like to suggest a few more:

1.    The Fugitive-1947-John Ford film with Henry Fonda as a fugitive priest in a Central American nation where the Church is under attack.

2.    The Fighting 69th-1940-Pat O’Brien in the title role of the heroic Father Francis P. Duffy.

3.    Seven Cities of Gold-1955-Michael Rennie gives a stunningly good portrayal of Blessed Junipero Serra.

4.    Left Hand of God-1955-Humphrey Bogart is a fugitive mercenary masquerading as a priest in China.

5.    The Assisi Underground-1985-True story of the efforts of a priest and his flock to hide Jews in World War 2 Italy.  Ben Cross gives a great performance as the priest.

6.    Fighting Father Dunne-1948-Pat O’Brien stars in this film tribute to the work of Father Peter J. Dunne for homeless newsboys in Saint Louis at the beginning of the last century.

7.    The Devil at 4 O’Clock-1961-Spencer Tracy is a cantakerous priest determined to save the kids at a leper colony before a volcano erupts.

8.    San Francisco-1936-Spencer Tracy again as a priest in San Francisco before the 1905 earthquake.

9.    Miracle of the Bells-1948-Listed only for the shock effect of Frank Sinatra as a priest!  Actually a rather good film with Fred MacMurray giving a fine performance as a cynical, at first, Hollywood press agent carrying out the last request of a dead actress.  An overlooked gem.

10.  Francis of Assisi-1961-Braford Dillman is very good as Saint Francis, but Dolores Hart, who went on to become a cloistered nun, steals every scene she is in as Saint Clare.

21 Responses to Movie Priests

  1. i. says:

    With one exception, your list is trash – made up almost exclusively of americanist propaganda. I’ll grudgingly concede that #10 on your list, although full of the syrupy sentimentalism that plagued the pre-conciliar Church, at least has some redeeming qualities (for example, although the time period depicted was oppressive and patriarchal, at least it was a period in history in which the united states had not yet desecrated the world with its existence). Interesting that you placed that movie LAST on your list, almost as if you threw it in as an afterthought so as not to completely give away your ideological predelictions.

    How about setting aside your fervor for the americanist heresy for once and coming up with a list of films that reflects the full range of Catholic Social Teaching? The film reviewer for the USCCB doesn’t seem to have any problems identifying movies that move beyond your preconceived (and inherently americanist) notions of what makes a movie “Catholic”, as this review ably illustrates:

    (or at least the version of the review that existed before the reviewer was ambushed by the heterosexist rethuglican “catholic” mob and forced against his will to change his rating to “morally offensive”)

    Of course, you were probably among the dissidents who mercilessly attacked the bishops by dissenting from this particular exercise of their authority under the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

  2. m & m says:

    Exactly, i.

    This list is more reflective of the Calvinist/dualist mindset that afflicts most American Catholics (or at least those who are likely to read Neuhaus, Novak, or Weigel) than it is reflective of the mindset of the Church. In European countries, for example, you would never see these movies appear on anyone’s “top 10” list.

  3. John Henry says:


    I must say I’m puzzled by this line of comments. They confuse people who don’t know it’s a parody, and aren’t terribly constructive for those who do (at least, that’s my personal opinion). One of the goals of TAC is civil discourse. True, the individual you are parodying is often an impediment to that goal, but, then, so is uncharitable (if not entirely undeserved) mockery.

  4. Rick Lugari says:

    What should be on that list – and certainly in the top 30 or better – is the Hounds of Notre Dame. A Canadian film about a great Canadian priest, Athol Murray. Think of an extremely rugged, hard-drinking and smoking version of Fr. Flanagan. Not the flashiest of productions, but I really enjoyed it.

  5. Phillip says:

    I don’t know, but several of the films seem to be about non-Americans. That may be Americanist propaganda but I don’t know how that will work.

    Also compiling a list of top movies might not be European, but it certainly is Catholic. Take a look at the Vatican’s top 45 list of movies:

    But I guess since such list making is Catholic, it really isn’t European.

  6. TomSVDP says:

    “Keys of the Kingdom” I nominate, this may well not be on the list because it is Gregory Peck’s 1943 effort, coming a bit on the heels of “Song of Bernadette” a big success.

    Also not that well known and a movie that could possibly have some “not so sacred moments” is “We’re no angels” with Sean Penn and Robert DeNiro. This movie really does effect me deeply and watching it the first few dozen times, I always saw as spiritually renewing and it still is. It seems so spot on in what it says and since it takes place sometime I’d say in the ’20s/’30s, it Pre-Vatican II with lots of Latin and other facets of Catholic Traditionalism.

    I would also give an honorable mention to the one man play, “Maximilian, St. of Auschwitz” which is definitely out of the scope of Hollywood movies but very well done with Leonardo DeFillipis.

    I am sure there are other movies, I enjoyed the Catholic Theater presentation with Father Pro.

    Now, that I see a Pat O’Brien movie mentioned above, though mainly a gangster movie, “Angels with dirty faces” is certainly one of the best movies ever with O’Brien playing the Priest to his boyhood friend James Cagney’s gangster. It’s just not a movie that is centralized on the Priest.

  7. TomSVDP says:

    I did not visit National Catholic Register before writing my post.

    Everyone should see “Monsieur Vincent” and in fact, SVDP are his initials. Monsieur Vincent is easily one of the best.

  8. largebill says:

    Did you consider Cesar Romero as Father Dugan in The Runaway? An underrated movie which showed how a caring priest can help a kid heading for trouble. Then again, some of the posters here may feel that would be too much of an Americanist choice since the actor who played the little runaway boy, Felipe, grew up to be a Green Beret in Vietnam.

  9. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Rick, I will have to put down Hounds of Notre Dame on my to see list.

    Tom, Monsieur Vincent is a magnificent movie. I will have to see Maximilian Saint of Aushwitz. I have a personal devote to Saint Maximilian because of the way he brought Christian charity and love into the abyss of human cruelty at Aushwitz. As for Angels With Dirty Faces, what Catholic can ever forget this film clip which states powerfully our belief that as long as there is life there is hope for any sinner.

  10. Phillip says:

    Sophie Scholl. One of the best movies ever.

  11. Donald R. McClarey says:

    largebill, I have always been an admirer of the late Cesar Romero’s work since I saw him when I was a child play Hernando Cortez in Captain from Castile. I will put the film The Runaway down on my to see list. I hope other commenters will also indicate their suggestions as to other good priest portrayals in films.

  12. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Philip, I haven’t seen Sophie Scholl yet, but judging from the trailer below it looks like a magnificent tribute to the White Rose resistance group against Hitler.

  13. Suz says:

    There are a few on that list I still need to catch.

    Perhaps cheating a bit, here are two nun movies featuring wonderful priests: Faustyna (1994) with soon-to-be-beatified Fr. Michael Sopocko (I’m sorry, I do not know the actor’s name), and Hildegard of Bingen (also 1994) with Fr. Volmar, played by Michael Byrne.

    These are both short films, hardly movie-length, but with fine performances and beautiful scores. Household favorites.

    As an aside, Padre on Horseback (the Father Kino story) is also popular with my family, in a sort of good-hearted Mystery Science Theater 3000 fashion…

  14. […] More:  bMovie/b Priests « The American Catholic […]

  15. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Thank you Suz! Two more films to add to my growing “to be seen” list!

  16. Phillip says:


    I know its not about priests but it is an inspiring movie. (Spoiler alert!!!!!!!!!) From what I’ve heard both Sophie and her brother wished to convert to Catholicism but were executed before they could.

    Its one of the few movies I think I could buy (remember, I told you I was cheap.)

  17. viona walsch says:

    I can’t make it through Christmas without seeing “The Bishop’s Wife” at least once.

  18. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Cary Grant was superb as an angel, and David Niven made a surprisingly good bishop!

  19. e. says:

    Hands down, actor Piotr Adamczyk who demonstrated a remarkable (almost to the letter) portrayal of Karol Wojtyla in the film “Karol: A Man Who Became Pope” and the following sequel “Karol: The Pope, The Man”.

    Too bad these films have gone under the radar by both the general public and, regrettably, the Catholic community.

  20. TomSVDP says:

    As much as I like how “Miracle of Marcellino” involves a bunch of Monks… the ending doesn’t quite seem Christian to my interpretation of the faith. It’s quite a unique movie and it being in black and white and showing the Spanish countryside and in fact, desert makes it appealing to me.

    I’ll say that even as a secondary player, “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima” works for me.

%d bloggers like this: