Papal movie picks

Papal movie picks

If you get tired of listening to the talking heads on television during the conclave, you can always pop a bowl of popcorn and watch a good movie about the pope. Here’s my list, but I warn you: Have a box of tissue paper ready, because some will make you cry.

Pope Julius II
• “The Agony and the Ecstasy”
Pope: Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II
Notes: An artistic telling of the stormy relationship between Michelangelo, played by Charlton Heston, and Pope Julius II, played by Rex Harrison. Their dynamic relationship led to the creation of such masterpieces as the frescos of the Sistine Chapel, where the cardinals will soon meet in conclave to vote for the successor of Pope Benedict XVI. Based on the Irving Stone novel of the same title.
Original release: 1965

Pope Pius XII:
•“Pio XII”
Pope: James Cromwell as Pope Pius XII
Notes: Another great film that tells the truth about the heroic actions of Pope Pius XII during WWII.
Video release: 2010

• “A Hand of Peace: Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust”
Pope: Pope Pius XII as himself
Note: This documentary explores the difficult choices that Pope Pius XXII faced during the turbulent years of WWII. It addresses in a straightforward manner the question of the pope’s actions regarding the Holocaust, refuting with documentary evidence allegations leveled by his critics.
Video Release: 2009

Pope John XXIII:
• “John XXIII”
Pope: Edward Asner as Pope John XXIII
Note: Ed Asner is a native of Kansas City, Kan.

• “The Good Pope: Pope John XXIII”
Pope: Bob Hoskins as Pope John XXIII
Notes: The story of the young Angelo Roncalli, from humble beginnings to the throne of St. Peter.
Release: Italian television broadcast 2003.

Pope Paul VI:
• “Paul VI: The Pope in the Tempest”
Pope: Fabrizio Gifuni as Pope Paul VI
Notes: In Italian with subtitles.

Pope John Paul I
• “The Smile of God”
Notes: His papacy lasted only 33 days. This nicely done movie gives us a chance to appreciate this good man and wonder about the mystery of the short reign of the patriarch of Venice. So far I’ve only found it on YouTube. Italian with subtitles.
Release date: Unknown

Pope John Paul II
“The Last Days of Pope John Paul II”
Pope: Pope John Paul II as himself
Notes: A CNN documentary about the final days of the late pontiff.
Original broadcast: April 1, 2006; video release 2006

“Karol: A Man Who Became Pope”
Pope: Piotr Adamczyk as the young Father Karol Wojtyla
Notes: A multinational TV miniseries about the future pope’s early years. The success led to a sequel, “Karol: The Pope, The Man,” produced in 2006 that picked up the story and took it to his life as pope.
Original release: 2005

“Pope John Paul II”
Pope: Albert Finney as Pope John Paul II
Notes: This is an American biopic TV movie about Pope John Paul II’s life, from his activist youth to installation as pope. Communist Yugoslav authorities confiscated some of the original footage, which had to be reshot in Italy and Austria.
Original release: 1984

“John Paul II”
Pope: John Voight as Pope John Paul II
Notes: A well-done story of the late pontiff from his childhood to the later days of his papacy.
Video release: 2006

“Testimony: The Untold Story of Pope John Paul II”
Pope: Pope John Paul II as himself
Notes: A documentary based on the book “My Friend Karol,” by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. Now revealed that there were two assassination attempts; he liked to wear a disguise and sneak out of the Vatican to mix with people; he performed an exorcism.
Video Release: 2009

“Witness to Hope: The Life of John Paul II”
Pope: Pope John Paul II as himself
Notes: Documentary based on the George Weigel book of the same title, 117 minutes.
Video release: 2002

Pope fiction
• “Saving Grace”
Pope: Tom Conti as Pope Leo XVI
A frustrated pope who feels cut off from the faithful is accidentally locked out of the Vatican without money, identification and in non-clerical clothes. He finds his way to an impoverished village and regains his vocation as he revitalizes the people’s lives. A comedy with serious themes.
Original release: 1985

• “The Shoes of the Fisherman”
Pope: Anthony Quinn as Pope Kiril I.
Notes: Set in the late 1980s, Soviet political prisoner Archbishop Kiril Lakota is set free and is elected pontiff. It seems that only he can find a way to bring about reconciliation to prevent World War III.
Original release: 1968