Religion. The film industry have certainly never shied away from the subject. From Angels and Demons and Doubt, to lighter films like Sister Act, cinema is no stranger to well-loved and even feared religious figures who have cropped up on our screens over the years.
One such movie is To The Wonder starring Javier Bardem as Father Quintana. Written and directed by Terrence Malick the film follows Marina and Neil. After visiting Mont Saint-Michel, the pair settle in Oklahoma where they run into problems with their relationship. Marina finds solace in the company of a priest, Bardem, who is struggling with a crisis of faith, while Neil sees fit to renew ties with a childhood friend.
To celebrate the release of To The Wonder on DVD & Blu-ray on the 17 June, we figured why not take a look at cinema’s best portrayals of priests in film? Starting with Javier Bardem as Father Quintana in Terrence Malick’s poetic meditation on love, doubt and conflict.
Read our review of To The Wonder here.
Javier Bardem in To the Wonder In To the Wonder, Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) is battling a crisis of faith and provides solace to Marina (Olga Kurylenko), whose relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck) has become strained. Quintana’s self doubt and internal conflict also provides a parallel to Neil’s turmoil. Bardem provides a touching performance that creates a deeply reflective mood.
Anthony Perkins in Catch-22 With a fantastic cast (Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, Alan Arkin, and Anthony Perkins as Chaplain Captain A.T. Tappman) and funny plot, this war time comedy, Catch 22, follows the story of a set of men entangled in the Second World War. It fast becomes more about the hilarious shenanigans, such as a captain trying to escape the war by feigning insanity, while others have actually descended into madness, and the troops’ supplies are sold for profit! Chaplain Tappman attempts to make sense of things amongst all the absurdity.
Pat O’Brien in Angels with Dirty Faces Angels with Dirty Faces presents the tale of two childhood friends growing up in a tough neighbourhood – one becomes a gangster, Rocky (James Cagney), the other, Jerry (Pat O’Brien), becomes a priest. Father Jerry helps guide kids who must endure a hard life in a crime-ridden neighbourhood and choose between crime and living straight – much like the decision he and Rocky had to make.
Max von Sydow in The Exorcist In William Friedkin's classic chilling horror, The Exorcist (1973), Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) performs the ultimate act by evicting Satan from little Regan’s (Linda Blair) soul with courage and conviction. Despite the terrifying prospect of battling Satan, Father Merrin, remains resolute in his battle with the devil and dies in his attempt to purify her soul, then his fellow priest Karras also sacrifices his life to rid the demon. The purging scene is perhaps one of film’s most memorable and famous scenes of all time.
Robert de Niro in Sleepers The legendary Robert de Niro takes on the role of priest in Sleepers, and delivers a superb performance as a protective, truly fatherly character to several local boys who look upon him for emotional support and guidance. Amongst a phenomenal cast, from Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Bacon, to Brad Pitt, De Niro leads the pack in this crime thriller providing a strong role throughout.
Robbie Coltrane in The Pope Must Die This 1991 British comedy starred Robbie Coltrane as a less-than-qualified priest who is named the new pope by mistake. This would be a happy occasion if it weren't for the fact corruption is everywhere in the Vatican, and when the new pontiff tries to clean up some of the dodgier goings-on behind the scenes, he ends up with a target on his back. Interestingly Roman Catholics were so offended by the title that the US changed it to “The Pope Must Diet”.
Mel Gibson in Signs Taking a turn into alien territory, Mel Gibson played Reverend Graham Hess in 2002. Having lost faith in God when his wife died in a car crash, this frightening SciFi sees Graham defending his young family against cornfield-vandalizing aliens who have an aversion to water. He has to decide whether the last words of his wife were coincidental nonsense, or signs of warning.