Can I watch imperfect movies?

I have a question regarding movies. My parents have always taught me that movies with the Lord’s name in vain, sex-related situations, and profanity is wrong to watch. period. I have struggled with this very much because my personal opinion is that if a movie has a good story line to it and you get something good out of the movie, that doesnt’t matter as much. I think that even if they have some of this in them, it’s not going to change my beliefs or what I do. I consider it entertainment.

My parents practice what they preach and don’t watch anything they wouldn’t let me watch. They often use to decide. When we were listening to Relevant Radio, there was a program naming the top 10 Catholic movies of all time (I can’t remember the name of the show for sure, it may have been Morning Air). One of the hosts of the program noted that the 2000 movie “Return to Me” was one of the greatest movies she’d ever seen. (not on the top 10, but a great movie). My parents looked it up (with and said no way, based on the use of the Lord’s name in vain.

Also, I like the ratings we just recently heard about on Relevant Radio. I’ve heard for example that “Black Hawk Down” is a great movie, it was given an “A” rating at, and yet there was significant profanity in it. I’m going to be 18 very soon and will be able to decide for myself. I feel guilty about not going by how my parents taught me. Will it count against me on Judgment Day if I don’t follow what my parents taught me? How can I make a good moral decision when I’m being told two different things from two great but different sources?

I am aware of the terrible movies out there that have pornography and no morals in them whatsoever and I have no interest in seeing those or justifying them. I’m just trying to make a good moral decision and want to still enjoy some of the movies without feeling guilty or constantly questioning was that okay.

Thanks for your time and help. I greatly appreciate it!


While you are under your parents’ authority, you are bound in conscience to obey them in all things they require of you that are not objectively sinful. Requiring you not to watch movies that include instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain is not a sinful command and therefore well within their authority. So, until you are an adult, you must obey them in this even if you disagree. (Disagreement and disobedience are two different issues. One can disagree with legitimate authority so long as obedience is given when obedience is legitimately required.)

Once you are an adult and solely responsible for your own moral choices, you are responsible to inform your conscience on what the Church requires. The Church does not require a person to avoid all movies that contain instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain, although individual Catholics may choose to do so out of respect for the holy name of Christ. (In other words, your parents have chosen that for themselves and for you while you are under their authority they will go above and beyond what is required and that is a legitimate choice.)

But when you are an adult and responsible to choose which movies you will see, here are some considerations:

[list]Movies, like other works of art, are rarely perfect. Even an otherwise charming and wholesome movie like Babe contains an instance where a character uses the Lord’s name in vain. But just because something is imperfect does not mean that it must be shunned. Christ scandalized his contemporaries by enjoying the company of sinners and tax collectors. In the same manner, so long as a movie is not so problematic as to be beyond artistic redemption, the Church does not require us to shun the imperfect works of our fellow sinners.[/list]

[list]Sometimes elements that seem to be problematic are not problematic within the context of the movie. For example, Schindler’s List and The Mission, both movies honored by the Vatican for their artistic achievements, contain nudity. In Schindler’s List the nudity is primarily that of concentration camp inmates, and thus non-sexual (although there is also some sexual nudity as well). In The Mission the nudity is culturally-based (the natives of South America have a different standard of modesty than we do) and is necessary to accurately depict that culture.[/list]

[list]Sometimes problematic elements serve characterization. In a movie like Black Hawk Down, which depicts soldiers in a war situation, it would be strange if the soldiers minced their profanity (e.g., using “Shucks!” instead of something stronger). In order to portray, as realistically as possible, ordinary soldiers in desperate situations, the movie chose to include real profanity. One can disagree with the idea that all soldiers cuss in battle, but it is realistic to imagine that some do.[/list]

For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions section of Steven Greydanus’s

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