What makes a great film?

Yesterday, I trekked downtown in the downpour to the Salt & Light TV studio to be on the panel for tonight’s show Perspectives. Host Pedro Guevara Mann and co-guest Christopher Giardino and I shared the beginnings of a great conversation about films. We started off with the question: what are your favorite films? From there we casually covered our passions and pet peeves about filmmaking and movies today.

If you’d like to watch the show tonight, tune in at 7 PM or 11 PM to Salt & Light, or visit their live online feed. If you would like to catch it later, you can find it on Perspective’s show page (airdate June 4th).

To me, the show seemed to flow well but was all too short (and I’m interested in your feedback–please feel free to comment below!). There was so much more I wanted to talk about. For one thing, we never really answered the question: what makes a great Catholic film? It’s a question with a lot of layers–because film has a lot of layers. Is a Catholic film made by Catholics, or about Catholics, or with a Catholic worldview, or in a Catholic setting? Is it a film that offers a Gospel perspective on challenging human issues? Is a Catholic film theology in narrative? Or dramatizing the principles of Catholic social teaching? Are Catholic films simply films about grace–God’s presence in the world?

On some level, we can say yes to many of these.

But upon further reflection, I’m not sure that’s the question I most wanted to talk about. Instead, I find myself wanting to ask: what are the films that made a difference in my life? or in yours? Because great films touch us on many levels, and if they “work” in us in that subtle way that only art can, then they have the potential to transform us…or at least offer us the opportunity for personal transformation. Perhaps this is a more important characteristic for a film than whether or not it is set in a Catholic setting.

Personally, the film that has probably inspired me most is the Paulist Production Romero. This film was my first encounter with this amazing and courageous martyr. Since I first saw the film, I’ve read almost everything available in English about or by him. Archbishop Romero has and continues to be a huge inspiration for my spiritual and apostolic life. His growing and faithful commitment to his people has helped me to understand spiritual motherhood and how I am to care for the people God has entrusted to me. (Yes, that includes you out there reading this blog…I’m praying for you!) But secondly, the film itself–in great part through Raul Julia’s amazing performance–showed the inner spiritual struggle of an intellectual who was a bit disengaged with the world and his transformation into a courageous pastor who would lay down his life for his people. The film itself made such a powerful impression on me that I started to think about writing for film. (Even though I acknowledge that the film itself has some artistic flaws.)

Other films that have touched me deeply:

Schindler’s List


Lord of the Rings (all three films)

Man for All Seasons

The Mission

Perhaps you would like to share some of your favorite films–and even why they are your favorites. Feel free to do so here below in the comments, or join in Salt & Light’s facebook discussion.

2 thoughts on “What makes a great film?

    • Hope you enjoyed the blog as well. Pedro really helped us cover a lot of different perspectives on film. I’m glad you enjoyed it–thanks for watching!


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