Over the past few years, online streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu have made hundreds of thousands of hours of content available instantly to anybody with an online connection. Older and newer movies come and go, and couch potatoes can catch up on entire seasons of television shows over a weekend if they so choose. Some people are even cutting the cable cord, relying on high speed Internet to provide them with televised entertainment for a couple of bucks a month.
But anybody who's tried searching for something new to watch knows that it can be difficult to find something that strikes you. My wife and I love movies, but we have different tastes, so between that and Netflix's elaborate "recommended" system, finding a film we can agree on can be more difficult than getting a bill passed in Congress.
Fortunately, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' media section has a large section on "Catholic approved" movies, so I spent some time comparing their lists with streaming availability to recommend several films.
"A Man for All Seasons" (1966) - The best retelling of the final years of St. Thomas More, the chancellor of King Henry VIII who faced death rather than compromise his religious conscience. The movie made the Vatican's best film list. "The historical dramatization achieves an authentic human dimension that makes its 16th century events more accessible and its issues more universal," said the USCCB. Rated G, A-I by the USCCB. Available on Amazon Prime.
"Forrest Gump" (1994) - The Oscar-winning Best Picture features an iconic performance by Tom Hanks as a dim-witted kindly man who lives through United States history from the '50s to the '90s. The USCCB says the "big-hearted love story cleverly incorporates gimmicks into the narrative without ever losing focus on the emotional and spiritual development of the title character." Rated PG-13, A-III by USCCB. Available on Amazon Prime and Netflix.
"Prince of Egypt" (1998) - This wonderfully animated Dreamworks picture brings the story of Moses to the screen in a modern way. "Though younger children may find it an overwhelming experience with some harrowing scenes ... the result is an impressive animated spectacle recreating its biblical-era story in compelling fashion," said the USCCB. Rated PG, A-II by the USCCB. Available on Netflix.
"The Kite Runner" (2007) - Based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini, Mark Forster's film details the guilt felt by a native of Afghanistan after he abandons his childhood friend in a traumatic incident. USCCB says the movie has "sensitive direction and beautiful performances add up to a fascinating portrait of pre- and post-Taliban Afghanistan with fine human values, strong affirmation of friendship and family, and redemptive ending that should move even the most stone hearted." Rated PG-13, A-III by USCCB. Available on Amazon Prime.
"The Pursuit of Happyness" (2006) - One of Will Smith's finest performances, as he stars as a single father of his young son (Smith's real-life child Jaden in his debut) battling financial insecurity as he works his way into a new career. The USCCB says, "The protagonist does all he can to nurture his son under trying circumstances and projects admirable decency throughout." Rated PG-13, A-II by the USCCB. Available on Amazon Prime.
"Whale Rider" (2003) - A New Zeland girl attempts to gain the leadership of her tribe despite it not being traditionally allowed for her gender. "Writer-director Niki Caro sensitively weds the ancient culture's rites to hardscabble times, in the process dramatically exploring the role of community, change and father figures in the formation of youngsters," said the USCCB. Rated PG-13, A-II by the USCCB. Available on Hulu Plus.