Mr. Shaun McAfee, O.P. is the author of Reform Yourself! and other books, is the founder and editor of EpicPew.com, and contributes to many online Catholic resources. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Shaun has made his temporary profession as a Lay Dominican and temporarily lives in Italy.
If you’ve not given up movies and entertainment entirely for Lent, you might consider watching one more or more of these movies this Holy Week. Each of them passionately communicates the essence of the Christian message — and in some cases, the paschal mystery. Please add your favorite to the comments. May you be blessed and have a spiritually productive Holy Week.
1. Les Miserables
Victor Hugo’s masterpiece is a personal favorite. It might be my favorite Christian story of all time, and I explain, briefly, why right here. The transformation of Jean Valjean from “Nor forgive them, for what they've done, they are the guilty, everyone” to, “To love another person is to see the face of God” is a powerful message of conversion and mercy. Les Mis is the most successful play ever, really, and I like to think that because of its powerful Christian testimony ever transposed to film, book, or the stage. Such a success in film, you have several choices to watch.
The 2016 film by Martin Scorsese, controversial as it may be, deserves the audience of every one of the faithful. I’ve already written on this movie and how it relates to Lent. It’s a masterpiece, and some might believe it somehow promotes apostasy, but that’s an extremely shallow perspective. The movie exposes the not-so-pretty side of missionary work, and yes, the failure of some of those efforts. For me, it reminds me of the special price that’s been paid for my faith and also the reality that there is still much work to be done to carry the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.
I know, this sounds silly, and I can’t take credit for this idea. Fr. Mike Schmitz tell us why this is his favorite theatrical rendition of the Christian message:
4. Ben Hur
The newest version of Ben Hur is absolutely stunning and make no mistake: it’s a Christian film through and through. Royalty betrayed receives the chance to get revenge—is there anything more compelling? Ben Hur features the crucifixion and constant reference to Christian virtue. See it, now.
5. The Prince of Egypt
For those with children at home, this is your ticket to an excellent Holy Week. An absolutely thrilling musical, get this movie (it’s on Netflix right now) and get your kids some snacks. They. Will. Love. It. And you will as well.
6. Bruce Almighty/Evan Almighty
These are playful favorites. More than likely, you’ve seen them. Bruce Almighty stars Jim Carrey who doubts God and is then given all of God’s powers, realizing God has a huge role in keeping the world together, and perhaps more importantly, that Bruce does not have all the world’s answers. His dependence on God deepens. Evan Almighty is a sequel of sorts, starring Steve Carell who receives a Noah-type mission to build an Arc, which sounds ridiculous—Evan agrees—which makes for a great and humorous story of faith.
7. Honorable Mentions:
8. Passion of the Christ
Not much can be added to this. The score, the makeup, the acting, the cinematography, have created an outstanding work of artistry, and more directly, a truly bitter and jubilant portrayal of the paschal mystery. Just see it. I know, it’s hard. I’ve not dared to see it in a number of years—it hurts—but Holy Week is an appropriate time the resurrect the film once more.