The 100 Best Catholic Films for Christmas

Deal W. Hudson
December 5, 2017

In offering this list, I am not following any theological guidelines, rather I am concerned with those films that display the highest level of artistry in exploring how the birth of Jesus Christ impacted the world, its history, and all who have lived before and after.

Thus, I hope that you, the reader, put aside concerns about what constitutes an orthodox Catholic film, and discover on this list some films that will bring you enjoyment. In addition, you may find some films to be inspirational or edifying and, as a result, receive a renewed aspiration toward seeking the source of all beauty.

It’s regrettable that Catholic educators have yet to regard cinema as an important artistic tradition, one that should be studied along with literature, painting, theater, and music. The advantage of studying film is its relative youth, having been born only a little over a century ago. The other, more obvious, the advantage is that students will have spent literally hundreds of hours watching films of various kinds, as opposed to their time spent with books, or much less in a museum with the masterworks of painting and sculpture.

Here’s the good news: It’s still not too late for the diligent and perhaps obsessive student, with a few years of study, to gain a satisfactory overview of film history. The “Catholic film” is actually a good place to start on such a journey, since both Catholic filmmakers and Catholic subjects have been a part of film’s history from the beginning of the “silent” era to the present. (Remember, there were very few silent films since musical soundtracks were used in films since 1920. And, to add a curious side note, the capacity for “talking” films had been available for several years prior to the 1927 Jazz Singer but was considered unnecessary to film as a rapidly developing, and primarily visual, art form.)

You will see below my list of 100 Best Catholic Films in chronological order. The only difference between this list and the book list is that I am not insisting that the author be Catholic. My choices are made on the basis of the film alone, not by any reference to the faith of the producer, director, or writer. A work of art should be experienced in itself, apart from the biography or values of its creator. We all are often visited by angels “unawares” in the course of our lives, especially in act of creating.

Thus, I ask the reader not to take me to task if the director of a particular film is a notorious this-or-that, as is definitely the case with a number of the films listed below. And, after all, how do we know under what inspiration, or whose inspiration, an “unbelieving” director brought a film into being.

I have not added links to all my recommendations. The reader can easily search them out on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, or any of the many film vendors on the Internet. If you don’t wish to buy them, you can find out the basic information on any of the films by making use of the International Movie Database at in bold are my personal top ten…..

1.Cecil B. DeMille, King of Kings, 1927.

2.Carl Theodore von Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928.

3.Frank Capra, Lady for a Day, 1933.

4.John Ford, The Informer, 1935.

5.Leo McCarey, Make Way for Tomorrow, 1937.

6. Frank Borzage, Strange Cargo, 1940

7.Henry King, The Song of Bernadette, 1943.

8.John M. Stahl, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.

9.Leo McCarey, Going My Way, 1944.

10.Leo McCarey, The Bells of St. Mary’s, 1945.

11.Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946.

12.Michael Powell, Black Narcissus, 1947.

13.John Ford, The Fugitive, 1947.

14.John Ford, Three Godfathers, 1948.

15.Vittorio De Sica, The Bicycle Thieves, 1948.

16.Roberto Rossellini, Stromboli, 1950.

17.Roberto Rossellini, The Flowers of St. Francis, 1950.

18.Gordon Douglas, Come Fill the Cup, 1951.

19.Robert Bresson, The Diary of a Country Priest, 1951.

20.Akira Kurosawa, Ikiru, 1952.

21.Vittorio De Sica, Umberto D, 1952.

22.Alfred Hitchcock, I Confess, 1953.

23.Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront, 1954.

24.Charles Laughton, Night of the Hunter, 1955.

25.Carl Theodore von Dreyer, Ordet, 1955.

26.Alfred Hitchcock, The Wrong Man, 1956.

27.Luis Bunuel, Nazarin, 1959.

28.Fred Zinnemann, The Nun’s Story, 1959.

29.William Wyler, Ben Hur, 1959.

30.Robert Bresson, Pickpocket, 1959.

31.Mervyn LeRoy, The Devil of 4 O’Clock, 1961.

32.Richard Fleischer, Barabbas, 1961.

33.Nicholas Ray, King of Kings, 1961.

34.Otto Preminger, The Cardinal, 1963.

35.Peter Glenville, Becket, 1964.

36.Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1964.

37.Carol Reed, The Agony and the Ecstasy, 1965.

38.Luis Bunuel, Simon of the Desert, 1965.

39.Robert Bresson, Au Hasard Balthasar, 1966.

40.Fred Zinnemann, A Man for All Seasons, 1966.

41.Robert Bresson, Mouchette, 1967.

42.Michael Anderson, The Shoes of the Fisherman, 1968.

43.Franco Zeffirelli, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, 1972.

44.William Friedkin, The Exorcist, 1973.

45.Anthony Harvey, The Abdication, 1974.

46.Joseph Hardy, The Lady’s Not for Burning, 1974.

47.Franco Zeffirelli, Jesus of Nazareth, 1977.

48.Robert Bresson, The Devil Probably, 1977.

49.Ermanno Olmi, Tree of the Wooden Clogs, 1978.

50.Autumn Sonata, Ingmar Bergman, 1978.

51.John Huston, Wise Blood, 1979.

52.Francesco Rosi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, 1979.

53.Hugh Hudson, Chariots of Fire, 1981.

54.Charles Sturridge & Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Brideshead Revisited, 1981.

55.Ulu Grosbard, True Confessions, 1981.

56.Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, Night of the Shooting Stars, 1982.

57.Jerry London, The Scarlet and the Black, 1983.

58.Robert Bresson, L’argent, 1983.

59.Norman Stone, Shadowlands, 1985.

60.Alain Cavalier, Therese, 1986.

61.Roland Jaffe, The Mission, 1986.

62.Wim Wenders, Wings of Desire, 1987.

63.Gabriel Axel, Babette’s Feast, 1987.

64.Rodney Bennett, Monsignor Quixote, 1987.

65.Maurice Pialat, Under the Star of Satan, 1987.

66.John Huston, The Dead, 1987.

67.Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Decalogue, 1988.

68.Krzysztof Kieslowski, A Short Film About Love, 1988.

69.Ermanno Olmi, Legend of the Holy Drinker, 1988.

70.John Duigan, Romero, 1989.

71.Denys Arcand, Jesus of Montreal, 1989.

72.Bruce Beresford, Black Robe, 1991.

73.Stijn Coninx, Daens, 1992.

74.Nancy Savoca, Household Saints, 1993.

75.Mel Gibson, Braveheart, 1995.

76.Liv Ullmann, Kristin Lavransdatter, 1995.

77.Lee David Slotoff, Spitfire Grill, 1996.

78.Marta Meszaros, The Seventh Room, 1996.

79.M. Knight Shyamalan, Wide Awake, 1998.

80.Joe Johnston, October Sky, 1999.

81.David Lynch, The Straight Story, 1999.

82.Agnieszka Holland, The Third Miracle, 1999.

83.Jim Sheridan, In America, 2002.

84.Alexander Payne, About Schmidt, 2002.

85.Bruce Beresford, Evelyn, 2002.

86.Denys Arcand, Barbarian Invasions, 2003.

87.Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ, 2004.

88.Tommy Lee Jones, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 2005.

89.Christian Carion, Joyeux Noel, 2005.

90.Pavel Lungin, The Island, 2006

91.Alejandro Monteverde, Bella, 2006.

92.Jean-Pierre Dardenne, L’Enfant, 2006.

93.Alfonso Cuarón, The Children of Men, 2008.

94.Martin Provost, Seraphine, 2008.

95.Mark Pellington, Henry Poole is Here, 2008.

96.Klaus Haro, Letters to Father Jaakob, 2009.

97.Xavier Beauvois, Of Gods and Men, 2010.

98.Philip Groning, Into the Great Silence, 2007.

99.Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life, 2011.

100.Anne Fontaine, The Innocents, 2016.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: