Are some movies a sin to watch?

First off, I’d like to say hi to the fellow forumers. And before I get into the actual dilemma/questions, I want to warn you that I have scrupulosity so I don’t know if I’m over-reacting a little bit. I apologize for the length in advance.

But now that that’s out of the way, here’s the dilemma.

I’ve enjoyed watching action movies pretty much all my life and recently (within the last year or two) got into watching more zombie/horror movies and stuff like that.

About a week ago, I saw the movie Dead Alive (from Peter Jackson before he was famous with LOTR) and I was laughing at the ridiculous over the top gore for the entire movie in which case, it was probably the goriest movie I’ve ever seen.

It wasn’t until after that I felt really guilty about it. I felt as though I was doing God a disservice by enjoying the movie. I did a little research and realized that it wasn’t healthy spiritually to enjoy those types of movies. So over the past couple days, my mind as been flooded with analysis about what movies are acceptable to watch and which ones aren’t. I’ve read tons of articles and also tons of reviews from Christian movie review sites. It was also interesting to find out that our beloved Pope John Paul II commented on movies in general, which can be found:

I’ve come to the conclusion that gratuitous gore and pervasive language,etc. are no types of things that should be in our thoughts. Also, it’s important to avoid the “occasion to sin” when watching movies.

Basically, the article above gives a lot of good insight of what to form our conscience around however, I’m having trouble figuring things out.

  1. When it comes to gratuitous gore, pervasive swearing, excessive nudity, etc. that’s completely understandable and actually makes sense, however, the article also says that if the movie has a point or moral concept that it’s talking about, it may be justified in terms of the movie. What does that actually mean? One could arguably say that Pulp Fiction, underneath all the language and graphic violence, is a story of redemption. (In which case, the Pope was quoted as saying: “Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption”.

  2. What is an occasion to sin when it comes to movies and film? How do I judge what is an acceptable movie to watch since I want to value my Catholic beliefs?

  3. Is it a sin to watch movies that have violence, etc. even if they may have a purpose to the story?

I’m having a tough time sorting all this out. I’ve searched this forum and read the different threads about this but its very difficult to discern what is acceptable to watch. I’m finding it hard to never watch some of my more recent favorite movies ever again (Dawn of the Dead remake, 28 Days/Weeks Later, etc) but it’s SO important to keep close tabs on my faith. What do you guys recommend? Part of me thinks that I’m doing the right thing by getting rid of a bunch of these movies that aren’t good, but I’m also not sure about some. And the other part of me is also saying that my heart is in the right place, but that I’m over-reacting a little bit.

Any help is appreciated. Hopefully this can cause discussion.

Personally, I wouldn’t analyze it too much. I don’t see how gore can lead one away from the faith. I don’t like horror, it just makes me feel ill. Sex might be a problem though, because it can be downright pornographic at times in some movies.

I guess you’d just have to rate the movie as a whole. Some movies might be entertaining and/or funny but are just morally apalling. Some movies are just dumb light enterainment, and unless they have too many bad elements, then its fine- for example, Snakes on a Plane, hilarious film with some swearing but I wouldn’t worry about it.

I know some people say, would you watch it with Jesus in the room, but then on the other hand, who knows what Jesus would have liked? I can’t really imagine Jesus salsa dancing, but that’s not to say there is something wrong with Salsa dancing if you see what I’m saying.

Another thing to ask yourself is, are watching these movies producing good fruit, or are they getting in the way of whats important? Is some actress’s chest popping into my head when I’m saying the Rosary? Do I become more likely to curse under my breath after I watch a film with cursing?

It’s all about your reactions to these films.

To Answer your question let me quote the pope.

The rest bellow is what the pope said and should answer all questions

Any trend to produce programmes and products - including animated films and video games - which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray anti-social behaviour or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programmes are directed at children and adolescents. How could one explain this ‘entertainment’ to the countless innocent young people who actually suffer violence, exploitation and abuse? In this regard, all would do well to reflect on the contrast between Christ who “put his arms around [the children] laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing” (Mk 10:16) and the one who “leads astray … these little ones” for whom “it would be better … if a millstone were hung round his neck” (Lk 17:2). Again I appeal to the leaders of the media industry to educate and encourage producers to safeguard the common good, to uphold the truth, to protect individual human dignity and promote respect for the needs of the family

bump :confused:

What about the message of the movie itself? If the movie has an ultimate positive message, does that make it allowable?

I’m not talking about the common zombie/horror movies and stuff like that because all they do is promote gory violence (so that part makes sense), however, what is the balance between violence/profanity/nudity sometimes if a movie actually has a legitimate plot?

Example: American History X is a difficult movie to sit through because of these different negative aspects, however, the movie’s message is purely anti-hate and anti-racism. Where do I draw this line?

Also, what is the occasion to sin when watching a movie. I’m thinking about other movies that I haven’t quite seen just yet and may not even go see them now. (Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, Rambo, etc.) How can I avoid the occasion to sin?

FYI: Since you noted you have a problem with scrupulosity, bumping the thread because you still aren’t satisfied with the answer won’t necessarily get you more or better answers :slight_smile:

Bottom line: Sin is an action we take. We make a choice. In this case we choose to view a particular film or not. Our intent in choosing that film makes all the difference in the world.

If you choose a particular film **because **of the immoral behavior it portrays in a positive light, viewing such material pleases you, you find yourself motivated afterwards to behave immorally (or imitate that which you just viewed), and you know full well that the contents of the film and imitating the actions in real life go against Church teachings then watching those films would be an occasion of sin for you.

Note that the film itself is not the sin. Other people could view the same film and it would not be an occasion of sin for them. So it’s not a matter of a checklist: this film and all like it are always sinful to watch, etc.

Because you have the issue with scrupulosity I suggest you speak to a spiritual advisor about whether or not particular entertainment choices would be an occasion of sin - for you. I don’t think you’ll find the general answers provided on an open forum to your satisfaction.

Good luck, though. :thumbsup:

Thanks, I think you just got to the big confusion part I was talking about. As a matter of principle, I think I am going to change my ways and steer clear of gratuitously violent movies (violence for the sake of violence). The more I go over some of the films I have, I feel as though they don’t have any value whatsoever for things that I watch. This would mean that I’m going to throw out several in my collection but I’m perfectly fine with that.

With that said, I never quite understood the “occasion to sin” part until what you said. I’m starting to understand it a little better now. Though I’m going to take your advise and talk to a Priest about the occasion to sin aspect, I scanned over the possibilities:

  1. I’m not a violent person so that wouldn’t be it.
  2. I know that I don’t struggle with lust or anything.
  3. I rarely swear and certainly don’t use the Lord’s name in vein.

Maybe a part is Scruples related and maybe not. I think I’m starting to get on the right track though.

thanks :slight_smile:

I watch some movies and own a few that some here might consider sinful, but I don’t consider them such. It’s up to the individual to decide whether a movie is sinful for him or her to watch.

Everything we do in life, everything that we expose ourselves to either draws us closer to God or away.

I’ve been thinking alot about my horror movie penchant recently and this thread is a great read! Personally, I enjoy horror movies because of the suspense, and because they are unrealistic. We all know well and good that zombies, vampires, werewolves aren’t real nor never will be, and in world with so many REAL things to be afraid it’s fun to be caught up in a good scare over something that will never happen for awhile. In fact, when I really started watching alot of horror films was after 9/11. Odd reaction, I know.

So…any thoughts? Personally I find romantic comedies and most romance movies more nauseating then most of the stuff out there. They put up false standards of perfection in relationships that no man can ever compete with and it’s just a bunch of people traspising around buck naked without caring about true intimacy.

But I’m not going to kill someone because I see it in a movie. I’m not going to sleep with someone immorally because I see it in a movie. And I’m not going to pick up any other antisocial behaviors because I saw them in movies. So do I still have to watch what I watch?

And even if it doesn’t lead ME to sin or occasion of sin, what about people that it will? Am I contributing to their problem by buying/renting/going to see movies like that?

Wow…I’m even more confused then I was at the beginning of this post! :stuck_out_tongue:

Porn films and snuff films, of course. I’d also add movies like “SAW”, which are loathesome beyond belief–the technical name for those films is “torture porn,” thought you’d be interested.

I’m a fan of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and even I find those movies despicable. I’d like to use whoever made that series to keep the wall wet…

But I think the portrayal of sex in most mainstream movies is utterly lacking a moral dimension other than “self-actualization.” Only, it sounds vaguely, if twistedly, noble the way Nietzsche and Heidegger say it; why does it sound whiny and contemptible the way Nora Ephron says it?

Are movies in general morally or spiritually edifying? Is watching most movies something that draws souls closer to God, or further away? Is it a pursuit that many people spend a lot of time and money in that makes them holier? Is there something more spiritually profitable they could spend their time or money on, like spiritual reading, studying the lives of the saints, for example? Where your treasure is is where your heart lies. Are you frawn to holy things or trash? Are the ideas and ideals found in most movies good food for the soul? Why do people watch movies? Is it to be entertained? When we absorb and store the scenes and ideas of the movie makers into our consciences where to they go and how do they affect us? Most of what is portrayed in movies is garbage. For the sake of entertainment we feed our souls garbage. What would happen to your body if you ate garbage for a diet? You would get sick. There are some things that make us sick without our immediate knowing, like smoking cigarettes. We smoke everyday and 25 years later die of cancer. It is a slow poisoning. Which cigarettte out of thousands caused the cancer? The smoker enjoys each one, each coffin nail. So it is with movies. Yes, by supporting an industry that in general has no redeeming qualities you contribute to the corruption it creates. What happens to the personal lives of the celebrities this industry creates and the entertainment industry in general? Most recently a great star died at 28 and movie fans are in mourning. He was famous for making a movie about perversion. What did his fame do for his soul? What spiritual effect did his famous movie have on the public that he will be held accountable for by God? He had no peace. Is it any wonder? His room was filled with prescription drugs for anxiety disorder and now his friends say he was addicted to heroin. Why are the lives of these “stars” so bizarre? Why do they have so many demons? Why is the public addicted to consuming the ideas of sick movie makers? He who sins is a slave (addict) to sin. The OP seems to have gotten a clue from his conscience that there just might be something wrong with enjoying evil protrayed on the screen. Listen to your conscience and pray to God for the grace to break the habit, the slavery.

You bring up a lot of good points. After the past couple weeks of trying to figure out what I should do about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that movies that glorify obscene amounts of gore CAN have an affect on you that you wouldn’t really understand otherwise until your conscience starts knocking and telling you that something’s wrong.

This has caused me to get rid of about 8 of the more inappropriate movies. (SAW 1-3, Hostel 1 and 2, Dawn of the Dead remake, Sin City, and Dead Alive (the one that basically started it all)

I’d have to admit that snapping them was pretty satisfying even though I thought it would have been harder. :smiley:

I’m going to be more mindful about movies now. Sure, its ok to watch a mindless action movie once in a while but I want to steer clear of the common “buckets of gore” horror movie. (What ever happened to a good ol’ Hitchcock thriller, those used to be terrifying)

I’m still struggling with the last few that I originally thought I would be able to snap. (Pulp Fiction, both Kill Bill movies, 28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later, American Psycho, both Grindhouse movies)

I feel guilty about keeping them but apart from Grindhouse and Kill Bill, all these movies have an actual point about what the filmmaker is trying to say.

I should probably exercise some moral restraint when watching further movies though. Though I don’t think there is any occasion to sin with them, watching a bunch of movies (especially violent ones) aren’t good for anyone.

<<<I don’t get it. What is it that makes you want to be terrified? Is your life that boring that you need fantasy? Watching movies is like masterbating. You are not engaged in life watchinga movie. You passively sit back in a semi coma or stupor that the movie puts you in and your mind is led away into a fantasy created by some sick soul our sick society calls an artist. What good does this do? How does this help you spiritually, to live for God, to love God or your neighbor, to be a better person? It is meaningless entertainment at best, a way to occupy your mind while the clock of your life ticks by. >>>

So are you against movies across the board? And do you consider reading books a “need for fantasy?” I feel like God has called me as an artist, and words are my medium. I prefer to write fiction and show people the points I’m trying to make by having them feel them through fictional characters. It’s my opinion that fiction, whether in novel or movie form, can often touch us deeper then a nonfiction book or a documentary. Who didn’t hurt after seeing “Schindler’s List?” One book I recently read, “The Book Thief”, had me in tears for the last half dozen pages as I came to realize the horrors World War II held for the Germans that were caught under Hitler’s rule. I never thought what it must be like for them before, and because of fiction now I see it in a different light.


<<<Porn films and snuff films, of course. I’d also add movies like “SAW”, which are loathesome beyond belief–the technical name for those films is “torture porn,” thought you’d be interested.>>>

I haven’t seen the sequels, but the original Saw was no where near as gory as some of the other films out there, like Hostel. And I don’t see it as a straight torture flick, because there’s also a crime story involved. I’m a little hesitant to admit it here, but I thought it was an excellent movie.


So…are those thoughts something I need to start worrying about? I gave myself to Jesus watching Midnight Mass this Christmas Eve, but I still struggle alot. Especially with my love for the arts.

<<<So…are those thoughts something I need to start worrying about? I gave myself to Jesus watching Midnight Mass this Christmas Eve, but I still struggle alot. Especially with my love for the arts. >>>

I wanted to add, I don’t struggle with my belief in or Faith in Jesus. What I struggle with is all these questions that sometimes come to me, like if I’m feeding a bigger problem by enjoying horror movies. Outside of the Romero zombie flicks, I don’t really go for the gory ones. I mean, it doesn’t BOTHER me if there’s alot of gore, but I don’t purposely rent something to see it.

So…as I said earlier…thoughts? I can’t believe I’m even asking this question, though I have noticed that I haven’t been as involved with the two horror yahoo groups I belong to since the holidays.

Ack…I’m rambling.

Well put and I’ll second that. I also love to write short stories/scripts that I hope to film someday. Mostly I like to write about good, uplifting things.

As for Grandfather’s comments, I feel like that was kind of harsh. I’m doing the best I can to try to make good decisions in life for God’s purpose that He has for me.

Not every movie that comes out of Hollywood is morally lacking. There are excellent movies that make excellent points. I have always loved movies of all kinds; the structure and filmmaking process has always interested me. I enjoy movies from the religious epic like Ben Hur or Jesus of Nazareth to comedies all the way to the James Bond movies and almost everything in between including several documentaries.

Grandfather, do you watch any movies at all?

I know exactly what you mean. To me, I try to look for an important message that is prevalent in the movie. If there’s something morally sound there, it’s generally acceptable to watch.

So are you against movies across the board? And do you consider reading books a “need for fantasy?” I feel like God has called me as an artist, and words are my medium. I prefer to write fiction and show people the points I’m trying to make by having them feel them through fictional characters. It’s my opinion that fiction, whether in novel or movie form, can often touch us deeper then a nonfiction book or a documentary. Who didn’t hurt after seeing “Schindler’s List?” One book I recently read, “The Book Thief”, had me in tears for the last half dozen pages as I came to realize the horrors World War II held for the Germans that were caught under Hitler’s rule. I never thought what it must be like for them before, and because of fiction now I see it in a different light.


People’s emotions can be manipulated. Movies or fiction can make people angry, sad, happy, whatever. Fictional characters and situations in fantasy can do this in powerful ways. Characters who are villians, bank robbers, drug addicts, hookers, felons, convicts, crooked politicians, can be portrayed as sympathetic. Characters whose real life counterparts are desparate, miserable, depressed, due to their immoral lifestyles can be made into heroes. It is all clever manipulation. The opposite is true also. The decent hardworking family man is a boring jerk. There usually is a motive driven by the social political perspective of the movie maker or fiction author. The consumers soak it all up. The motive is to change society to conform to the views of the “artist”.

The fact that a novel makes you laugh or cry says nothng about whether its content is good for your soul. The fact that a comedian makes someone laugh is meaningless. People will laugh at dirty jokes that degrade women, or nationalities or hancicapped. I don’t read novels, ever, because they do not appeal to me. I don’t need to be entertained by someone’s fantasy. I don’t watch movies for the same reason. What goes on behind my eyeballs is much more interesting than what comes out of a screenwriter’s imagination. I am not interested. It is like taking an aboriginal reindeer herder to a baseball game. It makes no sense. No compute. I realize I am different, but I also don’t understand why anyone would be interested in this. Hollywood serves up 99% garbage, people being senslessly killed, raped, twisted, tortured, sinister ploting and otherwise victimized. If that is what someone wants to spend their time wallowing in that is what is inside their souls. They wonder if it is sinful, objectively evil. Why not ask if it is objectively good? Does it help your soul? If it makes you laugh or cry or angry does not answer the question. There are lots better, productive, positive, good things to do.

You make some very good points, Grandfather. Nevertheless, let us look at it from a different perspective.

You say that movies can portray sympathy towards criminals. What’s wrong with that? I think your statement fails to separate sympathy towards an act and sympathy towards people. (Perhaps you didn’t mean to imply this.) Obviously, these are two entirely different circumstances, which I intend to describe in detail.

I don’t find anything wrong if a story tries to add sympathy to a character. We are all sinners; thus, we are all imperfect in the Eyes of God. Some are more imperfect than others, but that doesn’t mean we should be less sympathetic to the greater sinners. In fact, they are the people we need to reach out to.

For instance, if a movie portrays a homosexual being treated with great disrespect–perhaps even with violence–by others for his choice to be a homosexual, shouldn’t we feel sorry for him? Sure, he might have brought such victimization upon himself by being a homosexual, but he his still a human being. No one deserves such cruel treatment.

Instead, out of sympathy, we can reach out to these people and try to help them; guide them down the right path towards salvation. Movies, book, and TV shows can be a good medium for people to connect with the “personhood” of sinners. This way, we get closer to whom the person really is, instead of what he does or has done.

To be utmost succinct, I am not trying to condone sinful behavior. I, in no way, support forms of the media with the agenda to add sympathy to sinful lifestyles or decisions. I’m merely stating that the many forms of entertainment aren’t entirely devoid of usefulness, as what you are leaning towards.

As a writer, I know that fiction is a powerful and affective way to express a message. If people can connect with the characters and the ordeals that they’re put in, they can learn great morals, even if what the character does is immoral. You see, we can learn through immoral actions the consequences that result from committing them.

Is it wrong, for example, to produce a movie that showcases the effects of drug use, even if it displays such graphic material as sex and violence in the process? It’s more affective to show someone the consequences of an action than to tell them. By seeing the effects of drug use, and the consequences it curtails, we can better prevent its use, don’t you think?

So, in other words, fiction can help the soul if you choose to learn from other people’s mistakes. That isn’t to say all fiction can be justified on these grounds; though, all fiction shouldn’t be condemned as a waste of time either.

  • Jerry
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit