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The first ever in-depth analysis of Pope John Paul II’s list of 45 significant films

With a complete breakdown of each film, movie stills, notable quotes, fun facts, and discussion questions for each film, Popcorn with the Pope is a literary feast for any movie lover.

Popcorn with the Pope:
A Guide to the Vatican Film List
By David Paul Baird, Michael Ward, and Andrew Petiprin
Word on Fire | December 4, 2023
Paperback | 416 Pages | 6” x 9”
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Questions? Need help placing your order?
Mark Galli was the editor in chief of Christianity Today for seven years, a Presbyterian pastor for ten years, and a passionate evangelical Protestant since first responding to an altar call in 1965 at thirteen years old. But in 2020, Galli formally returned to the faith in which he was baptized as an infant: the Roman Catholic Church. 

With All the Saints: My Journey to the Roman Catholic Church is the compelling memoir of one man’s search for the fullness of truth. Through honest and engaging storytelling, Galli recounts the various spiritual, theological, mystical, and ecclesial tributaries that led him to “cross the Tiber” back to Catholicism. Each tradition he passed through—Evangelical, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox—he embraced without satisfaction and left without bitterness, drawing him finally to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church: a Church of saints and sinners, all striving together in the great company of heaven; a Church that he could finally call home.

Honest, insightful, and entertaining, With All the Saints is a memorable love letter to Christ and his Church.

About Popcorn with the Pope

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.





The Vatican Film List

Alcuni film importanti
MARCH 17, 1995

Andrei Rublev (1966, USSR, Andrei Tarkowsky)

Babette’s Feast (1987, Denmark, Gabriel Axel)

Ben-Hur (1959, USA, William Wyler)

The Flowers of St. Francis (1950, Italy, Roberto Rossellini)

Francesco (1989, Italy/Germany, Liliana Cavani)

La Vie et Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (Life and Passion of Christ) (1903, France, Ferdinand Zecca and Lucien Nonguet)

A Man for All Seasons (1966, UK, Fred Zinnemann)

The Mission (1986, UK, Roland Joffé)

Monsieur Vincent (1947, France, Maurice Cloche)

Nazarín (1958, Mexico, Luis Buñuel)

Ordet (1955, Denmark, Carl T. Dreyer )

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, France, Carl T. Dreyer)

The Sacrifice (1986, Sweden/UK/France, Andrei Tarkowsky)

Thérèse (1986, France, Alain Cavalier)

Au Revoir les Enfants (Goodbye, Children) (1987, France, Louis Malle)

Bicycle Thieves (1948, Italy, Vittorio de Sica)

The Burmese Harp (1956, Japan, Kon Ichikawa)

Chariots of Fire (1981, UK, Hugh Hudson)

Dekalog (1987, Poland, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Dersu Uzala (1974, Japan, Akira Kurosawa)

Gandhi (1982, UK/USA/India, Richard Attenborough)

Intolerance (1916, USA, D. W. Griffith)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, USA, Frank Capra)

On the Waterfront (1954, USA, Elia Kazan)

Rome, Open City (1946, Italy, Roberto Rossellini)

Schindler’s List (1993, USA, Steven Spielberg)

The Seventh Seal (1957, Sweden, Ingmar Bergman)

The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978, Italy/France, Ermanno Olmi) 

Wild Strawberries (1957, Sweden, Ingmar Bergman)

8 1⁄2 (1963, Italy, Federico Fellini)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, UK/USA, Stanley Kubrick)

Citizen Kane (1941, USA, Orson Welles)

Fantasia (1940, USA, The Disney Company)

The Grand Illusion (1937, France, Jean Renoir)

La Strada (1954, Italy, Federico Fellini)

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951, UK, Charles Crichton)

The Leopard (1963, Italy/France, Luchino Visconti)

Little Women (1933, USA, George Cukor)

Metropolis (1927, Germany, Fritz Lang)

Modern Times (1936, USA, Charlie Chaplin)

Napoléon (1927, Italy, Abel Gance)

Nosferatu (1922, Germany, F. W. Murnau)

Stagecoach (1939, USA, John Ford)

The Wizard of Oz (1939, USA, Victor Fleming)









“‘Art needs the Church,’ John Paul II stresses in ‘Letter to Artists,’ but the Church also needs art. Far from being opposed to each other, the two enjoy ‘a relationship offered in friendship, openness, and dialogue.’”

— from the Introduction  

About the Authors



David Paul Baird

David Paul Baird is an award-winning film critic and Visiting Professor of Theology at Catholic Pacific College. His PhD, in Divinity, examined the theology of postapocalyptic narratives in both literature and film. He also has degrees in English, philosophy, and theology from Wheaton College, the University of Oxford, and the University of St. Andrews’ Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts.


Andrew Petiprin

Andrew Petiprin was a British Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, and also has degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Yale University. He is the author of the book Truth Matters: Knowing God and Yourself, and is the creator of the YouTube series Watch With Me: Commentaries on Faith, Culture, and Film. He has published articles and reviews at the Catholic Herald, The American Conservative, The Lamp, Catholic World Report, The European Conservative, and National Catholic Register. He lives in North Texas with his family.




Michael Ward

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.





Here’s 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

“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