St. Augustine Prep Blog

Faithful Films: Summertime Movies For the Family

Posted August 17th, 2023

By: Brendan D. Towell, Director of Engagement at St. Augustine Prep

In the spring of 1999, Pope St. John Paul II composed a letter to a particularly important, yet often taken-for-granted audience; he wrote a letter to artists. In that letter, John Paul II, who himself was an accomplished poet, actor, and playwright, praised the arts for their invaluable contribution to humanity and the immeasurable ways they have brought joy and beauty to the human experience. Furthermore, the pope added that the arts (and here he really did mean all various forms of artistic expression including literary, film, music, etc.) are able to make deep spiritual and religious truths tangible, “making perceptible…the world of the spirit, of the invisible God.” Here he was echoing the Catholic Tradition up and down the ages which has always placed a positive emphasis on beauty (along with truth and goodness). Pope Benedict XVI met with artists in the Sistine Chapel in 2009 to reinforce his predecessor’s wish to see the arts return to promoting a life of grace, and recently (in 2020) Pope Francis continued the tradition. Clearly, the arts have a special place in the life of the Catholic Church, however, I would like to reflect during the summer on one form in particular: movies.

A good movie has the potential to touch hearts, provoke new ways of thinking, and even inspire change. A good film can stir us emotionally and force us to address questions of morality and truth in ways that other mediums cannot. This is especially true for today’s young people who are often caught up in the “summer blockbuster” craze and who are far more inclined to watch a movie than read a book (unfortunate but true). With that in mind, I thought I would suggest just a few favorite films of my own that might make for good summertime viewing (and even conversation) for an average family with teenagers today. This list does not include specifically “Catholic” films but includes movies that have positive motifs consistent with the gospel. Of course, you should review the film first before sitting down to watch, as your tastes might differ from my own. In this way, we can honor Pope St. John Paul II’s desire to see the arts make God alive and perceptible in the world, while we utilize film as a vehicle for His presence.

  1. “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy are fantastic summertime movies, offering epic adventures in enchanting worlds, all inspired by the great Catholic author, J.R.R. Tolkien With their captivating storytelling, stunning visuals, and memorable characters, these films transport viewers to thrilling quests of bravery, friendship, and self-discovery. As teens immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Middle-earth, they will be inspired by themes of courage, perseverance, and the triumph of good over evil, making these timeless classics perfect choices for summertime entertainment and spiritual reflection.

  2. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy offers an engaging and thought-provoking summer movie experience. These films explore themes of justice, sacrifice, and the battle between light and darkness, resonating with Christian values. Amidst thrilling action sequences and complex character development, teens can reflect on the moral dilemmas faced by the Dark Knight, finding inspiration in the triumph of virtue and the hope for redemption, making them ideal movies for both entertainment and spiritual contemplation.

  3. “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen, is a heartwarming and uplifting summer movie choice for families. The film follows the transformative journey of a father who embarks on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage after the tragic death of his son. It beautifully portrays themes of grief, forgiveness, and spiritual awakening, inviting families to reflect on the importance of faith, community, and the power of self-discovery. “The Way” offers a poignant and inspiring experience that fosters meaningful discussions and strengthens family bonds during the summertime. Perhaps best for older teens more prepared to grapple with tough questions of life and death.

  4. “Wreck-It Ralph” is a delightful animated movie that follows the adventures of Ralph, a video game villain, who seeks to find his true identity and purpose. Through its engaging storyline and vibrant animation, the movie imparts valuable messages about self-acceptance, friendship, and the importance of embracing one’s unique gifts. Families can enjoy a fun-filled movie night while exploring themes of redemption, empathy, and the power of love, making “Wreck-It Ralph” a perfect choice for summer entertainment with positive values for all ages.

  5. “The Peanut Butter Falcon” tells the story of a young man with Down syndrome who embarks on a life-changing adventure with a runaway, forging an unlikely friendship. Through themes of acceptance, compassion, and the pursuit of dreams, the movie celebrates the inherent dignity of every person and emphasizes the value of helping one another along life’s journey (one that is often both silly and serious). Families can enjoy this feel-good film that teaches important life lessons while fostering discussions about love, inclusion, and the true meaning of family.

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