Steve & Janet Ray’s Favorite Movies
Christian Videos/DVDs can be bought from Ignatius Press, others from Amazon.com. We have been using Amazon Prime which is a service for watching movies on-line. Their website also has reviews and much information. Also see my Favorite Links for good sites for finding and reviewing wholesome entertainment. Another good list for Catholic families is Summer Family Movie List with recommendations on projectors too.
Steve’s Catholic Family Series: (all on DVD with Bloopers, Behind the Scenes Interviews and complete Study Guides)
The completed series will have 10 documentaries. We currently have the first 9 completed. To purchase the set with a discount, click here.
Abraham: Father of Faith & Works
Moses: Signs, Sacraments, and Salvation
David & Solomon: Expanding the Kingdom
Elijah & Elisha: Conscience of the Kingdom
Mary: Mother of God
Jesus: the Word Became Flesh
Peter: Keeper of the Keys
Paul: Contending for the Faith
Apostolic Fathers: Handing on the Faith
These can be purchased here on my On-Line Bookstore.
The Ray Family’s Favorite Movies (in no particular order)
- Boy in Striped Pajamas is a look at Nazi Prison camps through the eyes of two boys, one in and one out. Nicely done with a surprise ending.
- Unplanned Planned Parenthood worker becomes vocally pro-life. Must watch movie about the abortion industry.
- The Hidden Life Austrian Catholic refuses to swear allegiance to Hitler and pays the price. Amazing Catholic movie with stunning cinematography, music, and acting.
- Peanut Butter Falcon Lots of swearing but endearingly redemptive story of a young man with Down’s Syndrome who has drive to succeed. Romping fun movie.
- Lion Fantastic movie about adoption, family love and redemption. Filmed in India. We loved it.
- Henry Poole is Here is an offbeat but delightful story of God’s existence and faith; of Catholic devotion and terminal illness. We enjoyed it very much. Good for skeptics.
- Woman in Gold The true story of artwork stolen from a Jewish family in WW II and their fight to have it returned. Have a box of kleenex nearby.
- Secret Life of Bees uses the metaphor of beehives to demonstrate the joy of the family and caring for others. Redemption brought about by Catholic spirituality and care for the person.
- The Ultimate Gift in which an heir-apparent learns many lessons about life as his inheritance. Much like Bucket List but in some ways more endearing.
- 84 Charing Cross Road starring Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. A brash New York writer orders books from a proper Englishmen in London.
- The Cardinal A young man becomes a priest, struggles with many things and ends up a Cardinal.
- The Bucket List Dying of cancer, two men discover the important things in life
- Ratatouille A rat helps young chefs create the finest cuisine. Great family movie, full of fun.
- Ushpizin Childless Jewish couple wrestles with God during Succoth in Jerusalem. Very interesting.
- Everything is Illuminated (Elijah Wood plays young Jewish boy discovers his roots in the old country)
- The Hundred-foot Journey Persistent Indian cook-turned-chef sets up a restaurant in France across the street (the hundred foot distance) from an elegant French restaurant. Exceptional redemptive and fun movie. We watch it again frequently with friends.
- Tunnel, The (3-hour German movie, tense and heroic; we enjoyed it)
- Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (heroic young woman in Nazi Germany)
- Cinderella Man
- I am David Boy escapes from concentration camp
- Babette’s Feast An elegant Catholic allegory
- Chariots of Fire
- Passion of the Christ, The by Mel Gibson; tremendous portrayal of Christ’s Passion
- Mission, The
- Jean de Florette
- Manon of the Springs
- Secondhand Lions
- Love Among the Ruins
- Scarlet and the Black, The (Catholic)
- Schindler’s List
- Upside not made for kids but a redeeming movie of a poor black man becoming the caretaker of a millionaire white man.
- Fiddler on the Roof
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding
- Lord of the Rings 1: Fellowship of the Ring
- Lord of the Rings 2: Two Towers
- Lord of the Rings: 3 Return of the King
- Life is Beautiful
- Evelyn (great family movie of a father fighting for his children in Ireland)
- Man for All Seasons
- Jesus of Nazareth
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Henry V
- Dead Man Walking
- Return to Me
- Anne of Green Gables Been watching this with our kids since they were young
- Anne of Green Gables: the Sequel
- Pride and Prejudice Mom and Ray girls watch this almost yearly together
- Gods Must be Crazy, The We have probably watched this 25 times.
- While You Were Sleeping
- Tender Mercies Redemptive and endearing with Robert Duvall
- Miracle Worker, The
- Quiet Man, The An all-time favorite!
- Yearling, The Faithful to the book
- Black Robe (Catholic)
- Assissi Underground (Catholic)
- Trip to Bountiful (1986) triumphant tale of an elderly woman’s journey homeFunny, adventurous, suspenseful…but ultimately uplifting as a demonstration of the human spirit”
- Englishman Who Walked up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain
- Waking Ned Divine
- War of the Buttons Hillarious Irish movie with competing town boys warring
- I Confess (Catholic)
- In the Shoes of the Fisherman (Catholic)
- My Dinner with Andre
- Mr. Hulo’s Holiday
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Spitfire Grill
- Strictly Ballroom
- Cardinal, The (Catholic)
- Shawshank Redemption
- African Queen
- Princess Bride
- In America
- Crimes and Misdemeaners
- Notebook, The
- Saving Private Ryan
- Supersize Me
- Station Agent, The
- Straight Story, The
- Faustina (1995)
- Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
- Babe (DVD 2004)
- Terminal, The (2004)
- What about Bob? (1991)
- Ladies in Lavender (2005)
- Follow Me Boys (1966) Fred McMurray. Great story of Boy Scouts and Integrity
- Rabbit-proof Fence (DVD release 2005) Heroic story of young aborigine girls in Australia.
- Mr. Holland’s Opus (1996) Great movie about a teacher who reaches the kids, changes lives, resists temptation, finds redemption with his son. Tear jerker in places.
- Zookeeper’s Wife A true story of many people and animals saved in Warsaw during the German invasion in WW II.
- Silas Marner, Weaver of Raveloe
- The Green Book
- The Ninth Day A marvelous Catholic movie about a priest released from Dachau for nine days who has to decide to return or not. Gripping, makes one proud to be Catholic.
- The Third Miracle is recommended though I have not seen it. About miracles, crying statues and the canonization of a laywoman.
Faith and Family Magazines Top 100 Catholic Movies
- Passion of the Christ 2004 v
- Sound of Music 1985
- A Man for All Seasons 1966
- Song of Bernadette 1943
- It’s a Wonderful Life 1946
- Ten Commandments 1956
- Scarlet and the Black 1983
- Jesus of Nazareth 1977
- Schindler’s List 1993 v, n, s
- Bell’s of St. Mary’s 1945
- Therese 2004
- Braveheart 1995 v, s
- Miracle of our Lady of Fatima 1952
- Mission 1986 v, n
- Lilies of the Field 1963
- Les Miserables 1998 n, p
- Miracle of Marcelino 1998 n, p
- Quiet Man 1952
- Ben Hur 1959
- Rudy 1993 p
- Robe 1953
- Return to Me 2000 p
- We Were Soldiers 2002 v, p
- Becket 1964 v, p, s
- Going My Way 1944
- Romero 1989
- Sister Act 1992 p, s
- Pope John Paul II 1984
- Jonah: Veggie Tales Movie 2002
- Shoes of the Fisherman 1986
- Brideshead Revisited 1981 p, n, s
- Keys of the Kingdom 1944
- On the Waterfront 1954
- I Confess 1953
- Boy’s Town 1938
- Molokai: Story of Fr. Damien 1999 p
- Qua Vadis 1951
- Trouble with Angels 1956
- Babette’s Feast 1987
- Rookie 2002 s
- Reluctant Saint 1962
- One Man’s Hero 1999
- Brother Sun, Sister Moon 1972
- Exorcist 1973 v, p, s
- Dead Men Walking 1995 v,s
- Joan of Arc 1948
- Agony and the Ecstasy 1965
- Passion of Joan of Arc 1928 n, v
- Angels in the Outfield 1951
- Moonstruck 1987 p, s
- Miracle Maker: Story of Jesus 2000
- Henry V 1989 p, v
- Heaven Knows Mr. Allison 1957
- Entertaining Angels: Dorothy Day 1996
- Knute Rockne: All American 1940
- Greatest Story ever Told 1965
- Singing Nun 1966
- Marty 1955
- Monsieur Vincent 1948
- Assisi Underground 1985
- Au Revoir Infants 1987 p, s
- Come to the Stable 1949
- Diary of a Country Priest 1951
- In this House of Brede 1975
- Jeweller’s Shop 1988
- Miracle of the Bells 1948
- Fighting Sullivans 1944
- Fourth Wisemen 1985
- Juggler of Notre Dame 1970
- Barabbas 1962
- King of Kings 1961
- Francis of Assisi 1961
- Adventures of Robin Hood 1937
- Decalogue 1987 v, s
- Gospel according to Saint Matthew 1966
- Angels with Dirty Faces 1938
- Fugitive 1947
- Longest Day 1962
- Therese 1986
- Gospel of John 2003
- A.D. 1985
- Faustyna 1995
- The Son 2002
- Francesco 1989 n
- Flowers of St. Francis 1950
- Brother Orchid 1940
- Demetrius and the Gladiators 1954
- Nazarin 1958
- Silver Chalice 1954
- When in Rome 1952
- Not of this World 1999
- Open City 1945 v, s
- 3 Godfathers 1948
- Don Bosco 1988
- Abraham 1994
- Detective 1954
- Hoodlum Saint 1946
- Sign of the Cross 1932
- Wrong Man 1956
- Padre on Horseback 1977
Shot in the Dark
To Kill a Mockingbird
Remains of the Day
A list of quality films that will inspire you as well as entertain you.
Here’s a list of quality films that are perfect to engage Catholics in thoughtful reflection. To delve more deeply into each movie, click on the titles for helpful study guides prepared by the Knights of Columbus.
St. Thomas More was awesome, in the truest sense of the word. He held to his faith and conscience and refused to declare Henry VIII as head of the Church of England, even though he knew he would be executed for it.
This film won several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Plus, it has an all-star cast with Orson Welles, Robert Shaw (or Quint from Jaws) and John Hurt (who holds the record for most on-screen deaths).
This Best Picture-nominated film centers on a fictional military tribunal and offers a glimpse at what happened to Nazis after World War II and their role in the Holocaust. Spencer Tracy leads an all-star cast including Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland and William Shatner.
The movie is also the first time Nazi concentration camp footage was used in a commercial film. Judgment at Nuremberg explores why we must value every single human life.
If Marlon Brando’s stunning performance doesn’t sell you, this Best-Picture winner tells the story of an uneducated former boxer who stands up against corrupt union bosses who have unmitigated power. Is it anti-Communist? Yes. Does it include pro-Catholic teachings? Yes.
Plus it features one of the greatest lines in movie history. You’ll know it when you get to it.
This film adaptation of the Shakespeare play deals with themes of war and peace, brotherhood and leadership, manipulation and trust. But it’s also an underdog story, as the British troops were outnumbered 5 to 1 against the French at the real, historic battle.
And here is a future trivia answer for you: HBO’s Band of Brothers gets its name from the Henry V line “We few, we happy few. We band of brothers.”
Robert De Niro stars in this movie about a Jesuit missionary evangelizing the native people of 18th-century South America. It was nominated for seven Oscars and won the Palm d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Although violent, the battle scenes are accurate portrayals of the events that changed the course of the Vietnam War. The movie, starring by Mel Gibson, shows the men who dedicated and sacrificed their lives for God, country and their brothers.
St. John Paul II’s trip to Poland in 1978 brought hope to a continent split by the Soviet Union’s “Iron Curtain.” It’s a story of real people, real lives, real consequences and the real power of prayer.
In the 1920s, Mexican Catholics were persecuted by their government, forcing them to fight for their lives and the right to practice their faith. Many were martyred during the conflict — including six Knights who were later canonized.
The film’s theme of religious liberty remains powerful, as Christians are still persecuted throughout the world today.
Dealing with themes of heroism, redemption and justice, the film centers on a former gunslinger who tries to help a family of farmers harassed by cattle ranchers who have hired their own gunfighter. Shane is a classic film, listed number 45 on AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies list.
First he played Holocaust hero Oskar Schindler. Then he played Irish hero Michael Collins. Liam Neeson stars in this biopic about the Irish revolutionary, soldier and politician who struggled for Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom in the early 20th century.
It was nominated for two Academy Awards (cinematography and score), and Neeson and the film won top prizes at the Venice Film Festival.
If you’re looking for a foreign film, put Katy? at the top of your list. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 80th Academy Awards, it tells the story of Soviet atrocities against the Polish during the Second World War — including a mass execution and its cover-up. Although the characters are fictional, the Soviet actions are not.
Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton star in this classic film about the disintegrating relationship between King Henry II and St. Thomas Becket due to the latter’s commitment to the Catholic Church.
Becket received 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and two Best Actor nominations. (Although O’Toole and Burton didn’t win, making it a combined 14 times they were nominated for acting but never won.)
GOOD IRISH MOVIES
t. Patrick’s Day is almost upon us and that means many of us will be watching “The Quiet Man” again. While it’s a fine film, it’s not the only Irish-themed picture available ─ by John Ford and others. A few suggestions for those who might be looking for something in addition to ─ or a little different ─ this holiday. In no particular order:
The Long Gray Line. (1955) Another John Ford classic. Tyrone Power stars as the real-life Martin Maher, an Irish immigrant who starts out as a waiter at West Point, joins the Army, gets assigned to the academy as an athletic instructor, and ends up staying at the Point for over 50 years. Naturally, he sees them all: Ike, Patton, Bradley, etc. Ford “company” members Maureen O’Hara and Ward Bond co-star, as well as Harry Carey Jr. as a dead ringer for the young Eisenhower. Watch for a young Peter Graves (of Mission: Impossible fame) in a cameo role.
The Informer(1935): Based on Liam O’Flaherty’s novel, it won Ford the first of his four Best Director Oscars. Victor McLaglen turns in the performance of a career as the disgraced Irish revolutionary Gypo Nolan, who sells his best friend to the British for 20 pounds and whose life falls apart as his treachery is discovered and guilt gnaws away at his soul.
The Plough and the Stars(1937): Another John Ford effort set in revolutionary Ireland, based on Sean O’Casey’s stage play. Barbara Stanwyck (unusual role for her) runs a rooming house in 1916 Dublin and wants nothing more than to stay out of the political ferment happening around her. But her husband (Preston Foster, also in The Informer), has other ideas. Ford regulars Barry Fitzgerald and Arthur Shields are there in support, as are Una O’Connor and Cyril McLaglen, Victor’s younger brother. The film’s climax, of course, is the 1916 Easter Rising.
Little Nellie Kelly(1940): Not John Ford, but Hollywood’s take on George M. Cohan’s hit 1922 stage musical-comedy. Judy Garland is always a delight, especially when she belts out “It’s a Great Day for the Irish” in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade number. Ronald Reagan’s old friend George Murphy is there, as well as Arthur Shields in a rare performance without his brother, Barry Fitzgerald.
The Irish in Us (1940): One of nine (!) pairings of Jimmy Cagney and Pat O’Brien, who star as two (of three) Irish-American brothers seeking success in America.
The Fighting 69th (1940): The year 1940 was a banner one for Irish-themed films and The Fighting 69th was made with a specific purpose in mind. As World War II was breaking out in Europe, many Irish-Americans were still seething over what they saw as being asked to fight for Britain in World War I while British troops were repressing Irish nationalists in Ireland. As a result, they were among the most isolationist of voters. The Fighting 69th was one of Hollywood’s many films in this period that were intended to build public support for eventual US intervention.
The film centers on the exploits of the famed New York National Guard regiment in the trenches of World War I. Fan favorite Jimmy Cagney as tough guy Irish street kid Jerry Plunkett enlists and causes mayhem for his superiors and comrades before finding nobility at the end. While Plunkett is a fictional character, Chaplain Father Francis Duffy (Pat O’Brien again), 69th commander William “Wild Bill” Donovan (George Brent), and poet Joyce Kilmer (author of “Trees,” played by Jeffrey Lynn), were real people. William Hopper (Paul Drake on Perry Mason) and George Reeves (Superman) appear in small roles.
My Wild Irish Rose (1947) This fictionalized biopic of tenor Chauncey Olcott features the seriously underrated Dennis Morgan (who also appeared in The Fighting 69th and has a beautiful voice.) If you are simply a fan of musical biopics chockablock with nostalgic song and dance, you are in for a Technicolor treat.
As the Irish assimilated into American society in the 1950s and 1960s, the number of “Irish” films coming out of Hollywood fell off, but not entirely. And other outlets picked up the slack. More worth considering:
The Molly Maguires (1970): Who can resist Sean Connery and Richard Harris? Filmed in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania where the actual events took place, the action follows a detective (Harris) sent to investigate the rumored existence of a secret society among the Irish coal miners dedicated to resisting their exploitation by the mine owners. Connery is the target. The Irish-themed score by Henry Mancini is especially notable.
The Brylcreen Boys (1998):A rom-com that focuses on a little-known aspect of World War II: The Allied and German airmen who crash-landed in neutral Ireland and were interned ─ in the same camp! Directed by Terence Ryan, it stars Billy Campbell, Angus Macfadyen, Jean Butler and Gabriel Byrne. Campbell and Macfayden play rival Canadian and German pilots who fall for the same local Irish girl (Butler), while camp commandant Byrne tries to keep things from getting out of hand.
There are many more, of course: Neil Jordan’s 1996 epic biopic Michael Collins, starring Liam Neeson, 2006’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley, both set in revolutionary Ireland, 1997’s The Boxer, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, just released this year.
I’m sure there are ones I’ve missed. So, by all means watch The Quiet Man, but don’t forget that there’s plenty more green on the screen to enjoy.
Here my picks for the ten best films of 2021.
1. Coda: It’s not easy to make a film about disabilities without seeming condescending or patronizing. Coda not only succeeds in this regard but emerges as one of the most pro-family films in years.
2. Mass: A a cinematic hurricane in a bottle. Despite being shot with only four actors in a single room, it was the most emotional film of the year.
3. Luca: This was a gorgeous film that gently yet intelligently documents the trials of early boyhood. It also ironically features Jim Gaffigan as his least favorite food, a fish.
4. Summer of Soul: The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was often referred to as “black Woodstock” in the press. It would have been better to call Woodstock “the unenlightened, cheap Harlem Cultural Festival.”
5. Dune: This was a stellar adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel under the keen eye of Dennis Villeneuve.
6. Nine Days: If you get a chance, see this film just for the novelty. It imagines an application process for new souls to enter Earth and plays with lots of fun philosophical ideas.
7. Paw Patrol: The Movie: Need a fun kids film full of positive values and free of post-modern nonsense? Just yelp for help!
8. Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Greed, and Betrayal: Bob Ross was famous for his afro, soothing voice, and beautiful landscapes. Unfortunately, there were some real corporate shenanigans before his artistic empire.
9. Of Animals and Men: A Polish couple go from a keeper of animals to a keeper of men hiding from the Nazis. A fascinating tale of bravery, faith, and cute otters.
10. Fatherhood: Kevin Hart celebrates the ups and downs of being a dad with humor and grace.
Honorable Mention: Black Widow, Resurrection, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Space Sweepers, and The Woman in the Window
Watch Tree of Life that Dave recommended and Fredrick Douglas- From Slave to Abolitionist; greyhound; Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Reservoir Dogs, A good documentary movie made in early 60s follows a group of traveling door to door bible salesmen. The pressures they are under and ethical dilemmas between making a living and selling very expensive Bibles to, mostly, people who can’t afford them.
Make sure you get “Salesman” by the Maysles brothers, not “Salesmen”, or “The Salesman”.
Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Reservoir Dogs