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Popcorn with the Pope

Popcorn with the Pope

A Guide to the Vatican Film List

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In 1995—one hundred years after the birth of cinema in Paris—a Vatican-appointed commission compiled a list of forty-five significant films. The entries vary widely, ranging from light-hearted favorites like The Wizard of Oz to challenging arthouse features such as The Seventh Seal.

This list, released under Pope St. John Paul II, was an important milestone in the dialogue between the Church and the wider culture. Yet for many Catholics and cinephiles alike, it remains undiscovered or unclear. What was the list for? And why did the commission choose these particular titles?

In this groundbreaking study, David Paul Baird, Andrew Petiprin, and Michael Ward walk readers through the entire Vatican List, film by film. The authors show that its aim was not to serve as a “best-ever” register, nor as an anthology of approved works; rather, it was to guide people in an appreciation of cinema as an artistic language and a bearer of spiritual and moral messages.

In addition to theologically and historically informed commentary, each chapter includes film stills, quotations, fun facts, and questions for further reflection and discussion. Elevated yet entertaining, Popcorn with the Pope is perfect for anyone interested in delving deeper into a Christian approach to movies.

More Info

Publisher: Word on Fire
ISBN: 978-1-68578-984-8
Binding: Paperback
Page count: 416
Dimensions: 6 x 9
Thickness: 0.73 (in)
Language: English
Release date: Dec 04, 2023
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About the Author

Michael Ward, a Catholic priest, is an associate member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, and Professor of Apologetics at Houston Christian University. An expert on the writings of C.S. Lewis, he has also reviewed films and plays for the Catholic Herald, Oxford’s Daily Information, and BBC Radio. He has been an extra in numerous movies (including Shadowlands, Hamlet, and Entrapment), had a featured cameo in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, and played the part of the parish priest in the C.S. Lewis biopic The Most Reluctant Convert.

What People are Saying

“You know It’s a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz, but what’s Nazarín or The Burmese Harp—and why should you care? That’s where this accessible, informative book comes in. Going film by film, the authors illuminate why the Vatican Film List remains an important landmark in Catholic engagement with the arts in general and cinema in particular, and how movies of all kinds reveal God speaking through beauty as well as truth and goodness.”

Deacon Steven D. Greydanus, creator of DecentFilms.com

“So many movies, so little time! How do we decide what to watch next on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or other movie platforms? What should be on our ‘must-see’ list? Popcorn with the Pope tackles the Vatican’s list of forty-five recommended titles, showing how each contributes to our understanding of religion, values, and art. All the titles on the Vatican’s list date to 1995 or earlier, but movie fans can apply the same principles to find great films from the current era. So start popping the popcorn and grab a seat. The fun’s about to start!”

Kathy Schiffer, blogger, National Catholic Register

“Can feature films be catechetical tools, leading viewers into a deeper appreciation of what’s really important in life? Popcorn with the Pope suggests that the answer to that question is a resounding yes, and that the path to truth and goodness in twenty-first-century culture often begins with an experience of beauty.”

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, Ethics and Public Policy Center


“Like the featured meal in Babette's Feast, this book is a sumptuous dinner for the mind and heart. Easily accessible to seasoned cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike, it is a fantastic introduction to the Vatican’s Film List. Read, reflect, relish, and repeat.”

Nick Olszyk, film critic, Catholic World Report

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