With the recent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the upcoming conclave to elect a new pontiff in the news, I thought it would be appropriate to blog about movies that feature popes. Two of the most prominent films with popes as main characters are “The Agony and the Ecstasy” (1965), the biographical story of Michelangelo’s troubles while painting the Sistine Chapel at the urging of Pope Julius II, and “The Shoes of the Fisherman” (1968), a story about a Ukrainian archbishop who becomes pope after being a political prisoner for two decades. While neither film garnered Best Picture or Best Actor Oscar nominations, “The Agony and the Ecstasy” was in the running for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration (color), Best Cinematography (color), Best Costume Design (color), Best Music – Score (substantially original) and Best Sound awards and “The Shoes of the Fisherman” got nods for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration and Best Music – Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a musical).
Other movies with popes as characters include “We Have a Pope” (2011), “Pope Joan” (2009), “The Godfather Part III” (1990), “Saving Grace” (1986), “The Pope Must Diet” (1991), “The Order” (2003), and “The Pink Panther 2” (2009).
Then there is Polo Pope, a character in the movie “A Hatful of Rain” (1957). The brother of a Korean War veteran who is addicted to morphine, Pope was played by Anthony Franciosa, who was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award.
MOVIE: “The Godfather Part III” (1990)
ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Andy Garcia), Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola), Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Music – Original Song.
STORYLINE: In the midst of trying to legitimize his business dealings in 1979 New York and Italy, aging mafia don Michael Corleone seeks to vow for his sins while taking a young protégé under his wing.
NOTES: Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I, who both died in 1978, figure in a subplot involving the Vatican banking scandal in the film. John Paul dies after drinking poisoned tea.
TRIVIA: The film is partly based on the findings of David Yallop’s book “In God’s name” first published 1984. The book is about the “30-day pope” Pope John Paul I, who is also depicted in the film … Every “Godfather” movie begins with a lavish celebration of some kind, a wedding in the first film, a first communion in the second and an award from the pope in the third. – IMDb