In the last few weeks, articles about movies to stream while quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic have proliferated across the internet almost as fast as the virus has spread around the world.
What makes this article different? Five principles went into the picks below:
- To begin with, I wanted to avoid titles that were obvious and especially those most often listed elsewhere. There are lots of lists to tell you where you can watch the latest Mission: Impossible, the best Disney or Pixar animated features, your favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, etc. You don’t need another one.
- Since this crisis has struck in the heart of the liturgical year, the seasons of Lent and Easter, I wanted to focus on movies with notable religious and moral themes, especially those with a Passion element.
- At the same time, the need for sheer escapism is particularly pressing right now, so I added a second list of just-for-fun picks.
- Since money may be tighter than usual, I included no rental movies — just those you can watch with a U.S. Amazon Prime, Netflix or Disney+ membership. One caveat: I did include a few movies you can watch with a free trial to an Amazon channel.
- Finally, since many of us are cooped up in our homes with our kids, I included a variety of family-friendly options along with challenging mature fare.
The Face: Jesus in Art (2001) The riches of Christian art, above all the art of Christ, are a spiritual treasure trove, and Craig McGowan’s documentary, funded in part by the Catholic Communication Campaign, is a treasure map. With narration by Ricardo Montalban and Mel Gibson, among others, The Face explores both the religious and the artistic significance of the portrayal of Jesus from the earliest Christian images in the catacombs to the Sistine Chapel and beyond. (Amazon Prime with a 30-day free trial for UP Faith & Family. Kids and up.)
The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) Cast with unknowns and filmed in southern Italy in stunning black and white, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s neorealist-influenced adaptation of the First Gospel is unique in its approach: word for word as regards the dialogue, but with narration replaced by visual storytelling. Dedicated to Pope St. John XXIII, whose 1962 visit to Assisi to meet with artists inspired the film, it’s richly deserving of its place among the 15 films in the “Religion” category of the 1995 Vatican film list. (Amazon Prime. Italian with subtitles. Not for kids, but nothing problematic.)
Into Great Silence (2005) My ultimate into-the-desert Lenten film is Philip Gröning’s transcendent documentary pilgrimage to the Grand Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps, the motherhouse of the Carthusian Order. So many spiritually aware films are about God’s silence or seeming absence; this one is about the presence of a God who is found by those who seek him with their whole hearts. You may never have a better opportunity to set aside two and a half hours to spend (in one sitting, ideally) in prayerful silence with the monks. (Amazon Prime with a seven-day free trial for MUBI. Subtitled Latin and French. Not for kids, but nothing problematic.)
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