December 5, 2010


A real nun: Sr. Mary Thecla, fsp

1. “The Trouble with Angels” 1966/”Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows” 1968—“Showed different personalities in community, how we’re not perfect, how virtues like patience are needed.” Some liked the sequel better than the original. Others didn’t like the sequel at all. “Rosalind Russell potrayed a mother superior who was a blend of strength and sisterly love." “This movie STILL wants to make me be a nun” (from a Sister in religious life over 40 years). “Realistic enough.” “This movie has endured.” “Rosalind Russell expressed the right emotions at the right times.” “Great nunny, idealistic, can-do, spunky spirit. Nuns aging gracefully.” "Nuns loving and forming a generation of younger women who will not share their lifestyle, but the nuns don't look down on the pop culture, they just give the young ladies values and inspiration."

2. “Sound of Music” 1965—“The mother superior was inspiring.” “Mother superior’s theme song ‘Climb Every Mountain’ is a great summation of religious life.”

3. “Song of Bernadette” 1943 (winner of 4 Oscars!)

4. “Bells of St. Mary’s” 1945—The sisters don’t seem to mind the maudlin movies as opposed to the priests who do not suffer them at all. They somehow find them inspiring before and after entering the convent themselves. The question here also is: Was the Church “acting” like this and was Hollywood “reporting”? Was society a little more actually “like this” at the time? Was there a certain earnestness, high ideals, keeping up of appearances, perhaps some denial mixed in? Was American society as a whole truly more innocent and simple as depicted? Remember, these movies were made on the heels of the Depression (when the cheeriest songs ever written played on the radio to keep people’s spirits up: “Always Look for the Silver Lining,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” etc.) and World War II.

5. “Doubt” 2008—Several sisters agreed this was realistic to the times it portrayed (and of course, this is the overwhelming consensus of anyone who did the Catholic school experience of these times), and several mentioned the “gristle” scene as very true! Sr. Aloysius also rocks the casbah.

6. “Come to the Stable” 1949 

7. “Dead Man Walking” 1995—“The most realistic/authentic, best-developed character of the reality of a particular nun ever.”

8. “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” 1957—“More realistic than most.”

9. “Sr. Act I” 1992—Nuns always mention the freezer-raiding scene for ice cream as very realistic. (Also, the songs about Jesus being our honey are the heart of religious life.)

10. “Painted Veil” 2006—(Diana Riggs as a nun again!) “Wise, down-to-earth mother superior.” One nun liked this line from Mother Superior: “When love and duty are one, grace is within you.”

11. "Entertaining Angels--The Dorothy Day Story" 1996--Sports an intelligent and engaged nun who can match wits with the pre-conversion Dorothy Day.

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  1. Thanks for this list Sister.

    Question...what are your thoughts about 'A Nuns Story'? (SPOILER ALERT)

    I found it to be a fascinating story, yet the ending was downright depressing. I wanted to run and grab Audrey Hepburns character and yell - DON'T DO IT! Forsaking a religious vow is serious stuff and puts one eternal soul at risk.

    As a result, I've always thought the movie to be a subversive work to dissuade young women from a religious life.

    To my surprise, I was recently at a religious goods store (one that is noted for their pious collection of items) and there it was in their DVD rack.


  2. crazylikeknoxes12:37 PM

    Thanks for this list, Sister. Of course, I've always known which nun movies I liked. But by virtue of you being a nun, your opinions have more cred.

    I'm relieved that The Trouble with Angels past muster, as that is a favorite in our family. I've been hesitant about picking up the sequel, however, which appears regularly in the discount dvd bin at the local grocery store.

    I saw the singing branch of your Order in Cleveland this past weekend for a Christmas concert. They were welcomed much more hospitably than that LeBron person. But, for the record, I miss the Daughters more.

  3. Craig--"Nun's Story" still inspired many young women to become nuns! Just by glimpsing the convent life! ha ha. If you're called, a movie ain't gonna deter you. Remember, Maria also leaves in "Sound of Music" which also inspired young women to the nunhood.

  4. Knoxes--thanks for missing us in Cleveland (and going to see us!) I liked both "Trouble" movies, but it has been a while....

  5. Sister: "The Bells of St. Mary's" had a feeling of reality since I was an 8th grader at St. Thomas The Apostle School, Los Angeles, and had the honor of being picked to be the "bully boy" in the important fight scene which highlighted the story's relationship between Bing and Ingrid. Bing Crosby "supported" me while Ingrid Bergman's character supported the supposed "sissy boy" who I tormented on the school ground.
    I felt at home on the set. Little known fact, WWII had a lot to do with our feelings about the times. On the set was a true war hero, Maj. Richard Bong, who shot down 33 Japanese planes. I shook his hand while he was surrounded by Hollywood beauties doing USO volunteer work. I miss the Catholic Church of this era.
    Bob "Tommy Smith," Frasco

  6. Wow! I hope everybody reads your comment! Thanks so much for posting! I will definitely watch the film again and look for you! I think we are so cynical today that we can't believe society was actually somewhat like this. Was Bong in the movie? Thanks again and God bless. My mother loved the sisters who taught her for 12 yrs and never had anything bad to say about them.

  7. Great post Helena. I probably seen all the films the Sisters mentioned. All pretty good characterizations right? I am surprised nobody mentioned “2 Mules for Sister Sara”. Haha , probably too much of a Clint Eastwood/Don Siegal body count. Thanks. Robert J. WOW how cool was it to have met Ingrid Bergman in 1945?

  8. Billy--I have a way long list of nuns films, but "Mules" escaped me! Will def check out. Evidently, in real life, there was some nun that tried to straighten out Billy the Kid in the Wild West.... No kidding.

  9. Great list. I actually haven't seen some of them (and will now check them out). Our family recently watched the Singing Nun and found it funny, touching and quite good. The Trouble with Angels is one of our family favorites. We will have to see the sequel now. Do you remember one about a nun who left the convent to try 'real life', and the Blessed Mother took her place until she returned? I saw it probably 30 or more years ago (it was black and white), but mostly remember how she prayed before the statue of the Blessed Virgin before she left, and the Blessed Mother stepped down from the statue to take her place. When she returned repentant, no one knew she had been gone.

  10. RMJK--the last movie you're talking about it "The Miracle" (not to be confused with the great hockey movie "Miracle") ha ha.

  11. RMJK--Yes, "Singing Nun" is surprisingly good. Hollywood was really striving for authenticity there....

  12. To Readers on "Bells of St. Mary's" I went on line about Major Richard Bong.He was America's most decorated air hero. On the set (during my fight scene)he was accompanied by beautiful Hollywood actresses. They stood nearby and watched the fight scene. This was 1945. Years later, he was killed flying a test plane, Burbank, Ca, and both engines blew out as he took off. A street witness could see him trying to open the cockpit but being so low he took it down to miss houses. I did not realize it then but I lived within miles of the accident, in LA. He was born in 1920 so was no more than 32, and married. His story is on line under Major Richard I. Bong, Air Museum Washington, D.C. Ingrid Bergman, unfortunately, left her husband shortly after the film and was in a love affair with Roberto Rosselini (Isabella, daughter) America was so conservative then - a House member demanded Congress remove her citizenship! (It was not done) On the set was a priest from the (if you can believe it) the Office for Film Decency. When Bing and Ingrid goofed around and hugged, the Priest told them not to for fear of magazine photo ops. Bob Frasco. I like your questions. Send more!

  13. Anonymous4:07 PM

    I'm kind of astonished that Dead Man Walking came so low on the list, actually.

    But I'm not a nun.

    I did hear Sister Helen talking about how Susan Sarandon had contacted her, asking to make a movie out of her story. She had no idea who Susan Sarandon was, rented Thelma and Louise, and was focusing on Geena Davis thinking "I just don't possibly see how this is going to work ..." and then when she met Susan Sarandon in person was quite relieved to realize that she's the other one.

  14. Anonymous--ha ha ha! Geena Davis! Actually, we had a sister that looked just like her who died very young (42). Some people used to call her "Sr. Geena Davis." I probably needed to separate the question:
    "What's your favorite nun movie?"
    "What's the most realistic portrayal of a nun in movie?"

  15. Lilies of the Field (1963 film)
    An African-American handyman and a Baptist thinks he's just passing through a little town in New Mexico, but ends up staying awhile to build a chapel for German-speaking nuns. These nuns had escaped from Eastern Europe. The nuns are convinced that he was sent by God to help them

  16. Thanks, John! I have a much longer list (I did a paper for my Masters on "The Changing Image of Priests and Nuns in Film." I maintain that Hollywood is watching us and, for the most part, is getting us right!

  17. Anonymous8:55 PM

    I am looking for the name of a movie about some nuns taking in an orphan boy named Dominique (1960's?). There was a song in the movie by the same name. This was my mom's favorite and would like to try to find it for her. Thanks for any help

  18. "The Singing Nun" with Debbie Reynolds!

  19. Anonymous6:01 PM

    I was educated in RC schools (have a grandma named Burns actually and one of my now decreased Burns' aunts was a nun) I SO loved The Troule with Angels that I bought the VHS and now have the DVD! I am not American tho adored Hayley Mills and was not evcen aware of a sequel which I now own. I actually found it AFTER I read how terrible it was was and the fact Hayley is not in it did not deter me. I do think it is my all time fav "nun" movie so was surprised to see you select it too but also very pleased!

    Like most girls who attended a RC girls' school, I pondered becoming a nun but this was the 70s and it just did not happen. I did get as far as Fromation House though, lol (and a talk with a senior nun) I do now still have many friends who are nuns and certainly I found Sister Act to be not that realistic. Not many nuns were habits (at least in North America post Vatican II) Even when nuns have roles that are secondary, they often have babits and while yes, there may be some congregations that do this, I doubt it is the norm.

    I did think Doubt was realistic though I attended a Roman Catholic mixed elementary school where my mom was also a teacher and so came to know the nuns very well and while it was an order that began in France and somewhqat more conservative than the Irish Catholic convent school I later attended, I adored my grade six teacher, a nun an the nuns were superb people.

    At least two of my major role models have been nuns and even if I never entered a convent, I think nuns have done more for the Church and society than much of the rest of the Church combined!

    Thanks fror your list!

  20. Sister, I found your blog while I was searching for the title of a nun movie from the sixties hopefully you or one of your readers can help me. Don't know who starred in the movie but remember the story line.

    The sister left the convent to try out secular life because she doubted her vocation and she became involved with successive suitors and each died tragically. Finally she met a military man who she obviously had fallen in love with and decided to flee back to the convent to fulfill her vows and save his life. At least as a young girl that's how I interpreted it.

    What I know of God today is that He would not be openly that vindictive and the moral battle would be in his bride's heart. Can you help with the title of this movie?

    None of the ones listed seem to fit the bill.
    As a product of twelve years of a Catholic school, I remember this movie well and having been inspired in the sixties by two amazing, wonderful, feminine women who later left the convent, this movie affected me deeply. Hope someone here has the answer.

    Like one of your other fans who has written here, I too believe that nuns have done more for society in general than most other groups in the church. Continued prosperity and blessings to you and your SISTERS.

  21. Joanne--"The Miracle"!!! I hate that movie! ha ha. That's NOT why you become a nun! ha ha ha.
    Sorry about your Steelers.

  22. Sister, you are not just the bride of Christ, you are an earthly princess. I have been tormented over that title for so long. Thanks so much, really enjoy your blog, it's earthy yet Godly and very informative without being didactic.

    And I spent two weeks in "orientation" in a convent, I guess you might call it, don't remember any more (forty years ago) because I thought that's what God wanted me to do and for no other reason. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't I just figured out early on with no disrespect that it was not for me.

    Continued prosperity and blessings, sister.


  23. Thanks, Joanne! (I always knew I was a princess!) ha ha

  24. Anonymous7:41 AM


    There is one movie that most definitely should be on your list - Conspiracy of Hearts. Its a beautiful film with a very true story: if you read your books! haha. It will make you smile, up lift the mind and most importantly, make you cry! Human beings at their best and Nuns even more-so!


  25. I'll check it out! Thank you! Blessed 2012!

  26. I just published my Ten Best Catholic Nun Movies at Factoidz. Personally, I'm a huge The Trouble with Angels fan. It's a "scathingly brilliant" film.

  27. Thanks! Will check out straightaway!

  28. Sister...can you remember a black and white movie with a scene of a Middle aged Nun in a black and white habit having a vision of Our Lady on a Rock. When I was around 7 I remember seeing this scene and its quite clear in my mind. Im sure its not the Song of Bernadette as she was not a nun.

  29. I just found this blog, so I'm commenting a few years late. This list is great! Include the "Nun's Story" with Audrey Hepburn and it would have been a very completed list of favorites. This comment is coming from a Lutheran church secretary who is secretly attending a Baptist church, so take it from what it's worth. LOL