Thursday, August 22, 2013

For the readers: What movies are acceptable to watch?

So, about two and a half months ago, I mused about what sort of music it's appropriate to listen to for fun and I asked for your feedback. I'm back today with the same question--except instead of music, I want to know what kind of movies you think it's appropriate to watch in a Catholic home.

I think it's actually more difficult to find appropriate movies--or at least appropriate movies that aren't terrible. Almost any comedy is riddled with sex jokes. F-bombs are dropped liberally in both comedies and action films, and nudity and sexual content run rampant across genres. If that weren't enough, even many of the most otherwise benign movies feature gratuitous use of the Lord's Name in vain.

When it comes to entertainment, I've generally tried to base my choices on St. Paul's advice in Philippians 4:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
As I became convicted that I needed to get rid of filth in my home I threw away Wedding Crashers and a number of other movies I thought were hilarious--but absolutely antithetical to my values and beliefs. I've got a handful of movies that I haven't yet tossed--but haven't watched for awhile and am probably on the verge of throwing out.

While many movies are clearly trash, there are a lot of movies that are somewhat more difficult to evaluate. For example, Matt and I are both big fans of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. It's a goofy movie that isn't bluntly offensive the way a film like Wedding Crashers is. But there is plenty of crude language, and the Lord's Name is taken in vain at least a couple times. (I'm not sure how many because I turned it off last time I watched it for this exact reason.)

In many cases, I look to the USCCB website to find the Catholic News Service's ratings. But while I don't want to be overly scrupulous, I sometimes think the ratings--which include five categories from A-I (any audience) to O (morally offensive)--occasionally go too easy on films that should not be watched by anybody. Consider an excerpt from the review for Al Pacino's Any Given Sunday:
Much stylized violence, brutality, sexual situations, locker-room frontal nudity, drug abuse, recurring rough language and occasional profanity. (A-IV) Author's Note: A-IV has been changed to L-Limited Audience: "limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling."
It's interesting to me that the moral objectivity of watching a film seems to be assessed by the subjective standard of whether the viewer would find it "troubling." If I don't find frontal nudity, brutality, drug abuse, etc. troubling, these things are still wrong, right? I should still avoid bringing them into my home, correct?

Ultimately, I think it's very difficult to create an objective standard for movies. Many Catholics have criticized Les Miserables for featuring a prostitution theme and immodest dress. The theme--as awful as it is--is one that shouldn't be overlooked because its portrayal offers artistic insight into very real conditions that human beings face. Similarly, I am a huge fan of The Fighter, which is littered with F-bombs and perhaps some brief nudity (I'm not sure--I averted my eyes). But it NEEDS to do so to explore some of the darker realities of our world.

How do YOU determine what sort of movies to watch? Let us know in the comment box.


  1. Does it have John Wayne in it? Yes:watch. No:maybe some other time. Star Wars (the originals) and LOTR make up the rest of my collection. Along with Back to the Future. Shawshank Redemption may be one of the best films ever made and boondock saints provide some moral issues, but I feel that they are too good to not see at least once.

    Its hard to say, because how a movie presents itself is one of the main factors in whether I'll like it or not. But I agree, its a very tricky subject. Band of Brothers has far too much violence in it to be a family film (its a series, I know), but my grandpa was so excited to show it to us and tell us about how that's what it was really like, and how he did that because he believed it was the right thing to do.

  2. I use the website to review the content of movies and TV shows. It is quite specific episode by episode. Use the Search Box to locate your show or movie. Then look under "Storyline", "Parents Guide."

    I have also been throwing some of my dvd's into the trash lately. I do not donate them or resell them any more because I believe they may lead others into sinful behaviors. So I trash them!

  3. If it is suitable for my kids and my priest, then it is probably OK. Our family enjoys all the movies by Navis pictures.

  4. Steve, I really like your contributions to "The Badger Catholic". Keep up the good work! As for movie reviews - I don't much care for the USCCB reviews either. I rely on "". I think that he gives solid reasoning as well as a "morals" rating. Only problem is he doesn't necessarily see and rate everything.

  5. Hey Steve I dont know how many takers you will get here but here is my quick take on how I decide on movies. First if a movie is knowingly blasphomous I just avoid it in general, now some like the life of brian are on the edge of blasphamy, but there are some redeeming qualities that make it tolerable. Having said that If a movie uses curse words sparingly I tolerate it if the story line has something to it. But for instance I sat down in my hotel room the other day turned on HBO and started watching neighborhood watch. It seemed like every other word was an F bomb. I was completly turned off and just walked out of the room frustated for the viciousness the movie supported. I have heard it sadi by some that if the Lords name is used in vain just once its not worth seeing anymore of. I can see this, however like in the movie "Children of Men" which I highly recommend our Lords name is used at very select moments in the film in reference to the Christ like character, but in an indirect way (so its not said in vain). I still from time to time watch Adam Sandler films (which are less then good) for a moment of stupid humor which suffices, though I have cut them down to a great extent and might just not watch again eventually the more I grow.

  6. Generally, I can't go wrong by recording an interesting sounding movie on the TCM channel. (pre-1960) The other pay movie channels only replay the same junk over and over. By labeling these movies "junk" is being charitable. I dumped these channels years ago.
    Regarding going to the movie theater and seeing something that is "popular": I reject 99 out of 100 of these movies. IMO and simply put, they are trash with, not only, no redeeming value, they have no entertainment value. The most popular line in the scripts of movies these days seems to be: "HOLY S---"
    I can't imagine that it takes a scriptwriter a long time to come up with that line.
    I just stick with the older movies, but then, I am an older person. :)

    Good luck.

  7. Go by the actors you can always trust John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Alec Guiness, Richard Burton, Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Orson Wells,

    you can usually trust Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Sam Neil, Russel Crowe, Mel Gibson, Peter O'Toole, Bob Newhart, Martin Sheen, Carey Elwes, and Anthony Hopkins.

    You can sometimes trust Steve Carrel, Mark Wahlberg, Jon Voight, Donald Sutherland

  8. Anything produced by Showtime or HBO should be avoided! Nudity and graphic, explicit sex scenes are often shown. Even some cable networks like AMC are becoming risque. TCM seems to remain relatively wholesome.

    One cannot trust the PG-13 rating anymore either.

    Although Fr. Robert Barron praises the "Sopranos" as art, I do not! I disagree with him on his laudatory comments for the "Sopranos" and, frankly, my favorable opinion of Fr. Barron has degraded as a result. I think I turned the "Sopranos" on twice because everyone at work was raving about it. Each of the two times I decided to watch, there was oral sex occurring. I turned it off immediately and never returned.

    As an adult, violence and language are not temptations for me to sin but nudity and sex scenes are. I avoid those movies. Consequently, I probably see one movie per year in a theater. I use for guidance on content before viewing TV or movies as I said above.

    I, also, do not think much of the USCCB's movie reviews.

    I recommend movies from the 30s to 50s decades. I have dozens of Alfred Hitchcock movies on dvd and John Wayne. Watch them. You can't beat "The Quiet Man."

  9. Oh man, I LOOOOVE Mark Wahlberg. My brother said that he consults with his priest before he agrees to star in a film. I'm not sure how he wound up in Ted.

    In all honesty, the fact that I would love to see Ted--and know I would laugh my butt off watching it--is probably a good indicator that at this point in my faith journey I'm probably looking at--at best--a painful stay in purgatory.

  10. We all know the kind of unorthodox advice some unorthodox priests give. You know. . ." follow your conscience" nonsense.

  11. Hm. . .well, keep in mind that I don't have kids, and so my perspective is limited, but I do think you're approaching the topic from an overly scrupulous angle.

    Take this: "If I don't find frontal nudity, brutality, drug abuse, etc. troubling, these things are still wrong, right? I should still avoid bringing them into my home, correct?"

    Merely portraying these things, using them as elements in a story, is not even on the same map as lauding them or portraying them as part of a complete breakfast. Obviously, I know incest is wrong, and I certainly wouldn't want to bring incest into my home, but that doesn't have any bearing one whether I would attend a performance of Oedipus Rex.

    1. Well, yes, these themes can be incorporated appropriately--as I mentioned with Les Mis.

      But full frontal nudity doesn't belong in any Christian home.

    2. I'm not so sure I'd even go so far as to make a blanket statement with regards to nudity, even full-frontal nudity depending on the context. The first thing that comes to mind is Schindler's List. While I certainly would not let me toddlers watch Schindler's List for a long list of reasons, I do believe the depiction was necessary to express the complete dehumanization of the Jews by the Nazis.

      There are many contexts where nudity in any form should certainly not be present, but I'm no so sure we can make a blanket statement against it.

  12. I don't think the USCCB's assessments are all that bad. If you're of a sensitive conscience, don't watch the ones that are "L" for a limited audience. The USCCB, of which I am no fan, does pretty much lay bare all the obectionable items in a movie.

    The MPAA, which issues the G, PG, and so on is worthless.

    I am on 100% disability for general panic disorder, major depressive diagnosis, PTSD, and social phobia. In a nutshell, I'm a head case from too much war, too many reserve mobilizations, too much Iraq. My shrink currently has me watching all manner of "O" (i.e. morally offensive) movies with my wife to help with the PTSD. I think they're helping my wife "get" the hell through which I've been through after three mobilizations' worth of memories...though I have no desire for anyone's pity. I'm just saying if you're a social worker or a war vet or what-have-you, "morally disgusting" movies may provide insight into others' pain, others' sometimes skewed value systems, the lost sheep and prodigal sons you're reaching out to for the Kingdom of Christ, et cetera.

    I take it you're confirmed like I am. We're not Protestants but let the Holy Ghost guide you. Laughing is no sin as far as I am aware. Find a couple people who are holy, whom you really wish to emulate...I bet they have no TV, rarely watch movies, and so on. They just pour out their lives for the Gospel and spend each free moment in the Lord, with the Lord in them. O the joy!

    -- In Christ Jesus Through Mary,

    Scott Thomas Ramsay

    Saint Thomas, Apostle and Martyr, pray for us.

  13. I don't like most movies made after 1965, just too much filth for me. But I've also started to see (thanks to the grace of God), that older movies were not much better. There are a lot of subtle themes pushed repeatedly, such as adultery and divorce, that after watching them long enough you begin to believe these things are normal and acceptable behaviors. They are presented in a way that makes you feel that the character must persue his or her passions - that it wouldn't be fair otherwise. It conditions you to accept and tolerate sin.

    I still watch an occasional DVD, but it's no longer the routine part of my life that it used to be.

  14. You only need to ask yourself one question when deciding whether or not to watch a movie: Would you invite our Holy Mother and Her Son to watch with you?

  15. an important conversation to have! thank you.
    i too have wondered how fr barron (who i admire greatly) recommends some of the movies that he does: he does an amazing job of finding the redeeming quality of a film that in many ways is a horror in my opinion. our family has had to do the purge thing with movies, books, and now even cable tv, over time. Since forgoing 95% of television I find that my threshold of acceptance has greatly changed - we have watched movies we watched years ago and now I am troubled by things that I did not even see before....


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