Why does the Church love Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey?

I understand it is on the Vatican’s thumbs up list, I was curious why it would be. I can barely remember anything about the movie but I don’t remember it being anything but a well shot sci-fi film. Was there a hidden meaning that I missed?

I didn’t even know the Vat had a thumbs up list, enlighten me

Yeah, did you ever see on the cover of many movies about saints there will sometimes be a “Recommended by the Vatican” sticker? I’ve seen it on “Therese” and on “Joan of Arc” I think.

The Vatican has a list of 45 movies that it…feels are good I guess?

There are Three categories with 15 films each:
Here is the link from the USCCB website

The only thing I saw in the description of “2001” on the USCCB’s site is a reference to the monolith which is supposed to symbolize a “superhuman existence.” Other than that I’m stumped for an answer. Perhaps it was a list made up by a movie fan at the Vatican. The rest of movies in that particular category don’t seem to have any overt religous messages or themes.


Funny…the first time I saw 2001 was for a film class one summer; I had read St John of the Cross’s “Dark Night of the Soul” the previous day and noticed some parallels. St John talks about the overburdened intellect’s sense of lostness and loneliness and directionlessness…the more he learns the more he feels unworthy next to the immensity of God…but then St John describes this hypothetical person going through a purifying bath of God’s love and finally “leaving the world and works of man behind” and falling down “as in a stupor” before God Himself, where he still feels small compared to God but not insignificant or unloved.

The film, meanwhile, concerns modern man’s existential journey into the loneliness of space, summoned by a mysterious extraterrestrial message he doesn’t understand but which he wants to follow anyway…when the astronaut attains the planet he is destined for, he first has to go through the psychedelic star gate that pulls him out of his senses…and at the end leaves him in some mysterious chamber far away from the technological trappings of his space ship, lying down “as in a stupor” before the Monolith thing. And then he is apparently transformed into a baby…given new life drifting among the Heavens…I think it’s a sort of cool Catholic-ish image.

Ok, it’s a stretch! Personally, I just like to think that Kubrick used the science fiction genre to tell an allegory for the quest for meaning…an allegory that ends with man’s confrontation with something beyond him, rather than with a glorification of human technology or with the discovery of an alien species that is his sociological equal.

Sorry to ramble…former film student, here. :slight_smile: I think it’s nice to see the Vatican’s list, which recognizes great films even if they don’t have explicit religious themes. As long as it’s not explicitly heterodox, I think any work of art (music, painting, film, literature) that awakens in man a sense of beauty can be spiritually uplifting…the Pope listens to Mozart every day, for instance, and not too many of Mozart’s music was explicitly religious.

LOL, former film student here too.

I didn’t care for that film at all when I watched it in class. I can’t really say much though…I fell asleep. My buddy said he should’ve brought beer to make the experience less painful, hahaha.

After seeing “A Clockwork Orange”, I am definitely not a Kubrick fan. Postmodern cinema is generally atheistic in nature.

Actually, I was re-researching the “Vatican List” a few weeks ago, after I showed my in-laws The Mission.

It was actually a sample list of “noteworthy” films, compiled by a bunch of scholars for a conference on film hosted at the Vatican.

It was not so much a “Vatican top films” list as a “list of films highly regarded by scholars the Vatican considers top film scholars.”

They were categorized by exceptional Catholic films (e.g., The Mission), exceptional moral films (e.g., Schindler’s List) and exceptional art films (e.g., 2001).

That said, I’ve almost never liked anything “great” when I’ve actually seen it, mostly because the “great” films are so cliched that, when you see them, you already know them.

I found Citizen Kane mostly boring and confusing–and I already knew the punchline, so the mystery was taken out of it.

I’ve watched 2001 a couple times, I think, and I’ll never understand it.
I’ve never been able to really get into Gone with the Wind.
I have never seen Casablanca, and I’m frankly afraid to.

It’s an expectations game: if you’re expecting it to be life-changing, your bound to be dissapointed.

I didn’t go into ‘Casablanca’ expecting much, and was pleasantly surprised. Similar with Citizen Cane: was expecting a purely scholasitic experience, and found myself far more emotionally involved than I expected.

But 2001 isn’t really about narrative, it’s more an experience, and one I found ultimately life affirming. Course, I was a huge fan of Clarke’s before I saw it, so I was pre-disposed for a positive experience.

But GWTW? An epic in every sense. Left me cold.

Now that I’m [sigh] middle aged, I find I enjoy Wizard of Oz far more than I did as a kid: it’s just a good time, cheese and all.

The Church does not love movies.
The Church promotes love for God.

The Church used to give moral guidance on movies and categorize them in regard to temptations which may be encountered whilst watching movies.

This has moved considerably towards guidance on values and choices made in respect of movies, and further comment is often about movies which contain redemptive thematics or imagery.

Yeah, that’s why recent USCCB movie reviews have been favorable toward the likes of Brokeback Mountain and The Golden Compass. Ironically, the USCCB gave them better reviews than The Passion of the Christ, haha.

The USCCB people should stick to what they know and stop pretending to be art critics. Honestly, I think I’ve seen Protestant movie review websites giving more useful write-ups of movies relating to morals and values.

Yes, because The Passion of the Christ was too violent and invasive.

Given the way American Catholics responded to* Faithful Conscience *in the recent presidential election, I’d say they best stick to **helping people to turn to God with love for God, turn to the love of God, live with the love of God, ** than tell people about politics.

Be that as it may, the USCCB still gave glowing reviews of Brokeback Mountain, which featured scenes of sodomy and The Golden Compass, based on a children’s book with malicious anti-Catholic intentions.

Harry Forbes of the USCCB has a more secular background in film review. The Bishops gave him the job to gain a more mainstream audience, I suppose.

When reading recent USCCB film reviews, all I see is an author concerned more with the artistic side who is forced to tack on a “morals and values” paragraph at the end.


Take this recent review of Quarantine:

Quarantine – “Quarantine” (Screen Gems) is a frenzied, intense, and thoroughly silly horror film about an L.A. reality TV reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter from “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and TV’s “Dexter”) and her (largely unseen) cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) who are filming a routine profile of the night shift of the local firehouse, Jake (Jay Hernandez) and George (Johnathon* Schaech), the principal subjects.

In short order, the alarm sounds, and the boys respond take off to investigate reports of an old woman, Mrs. Espinosa, locked in her apartment emitting blood-curdling screams, with Angela in the backseat in a state of eager anticipation.

When they break down her door, they find the woman in a catatonic state, but when they try to persuade her ever so gently to come with them, she turns into a wild biting creature.

Before long, firemen and crew soon find themselves sealed in an apartment building with all external communication blocked. Police and trucks from the Center for Disease Control surround the building, but will not give any explanation.

Before long, other tenants begin to act to show the same rabid symptoms as Mrs. Espinosa, and it becomes clear voracious bites can kill.

Director and co-writer (with brother Drew Dowdle) John Erick Dowdle works up an increasing lather as the infection and body count spreads, and all the action is viewed through the jerky lens of Scott’s camera, echoing the device used in “Cloverfield,” which opened early this year. But the film is, in fact, a remake of an award-winning 2007 Spanish film called “REC.”

Carpenter’s plucky bravery eventually gives way to mounting hysteria, in the time-honored tradition of damsels-in-distress, and it must be said she - like her colleagues here – does this convincingly.

It’s a shame that the premise is so highly illogical – even for this sort of genre film - that requisite suspension of disbelief is hard to muster.

The film contains considerable violence and gore, though shown in quick shots, killings, sporadic rough language and profanity, some crude expressions, mad dogs, rats, children and old ladies. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


The bold portion is the only thing that would be of use to a Catholic seeking moral guidance. The rest is something I could find elsewhere. If I wanted to read a film review, I could find better places for it. Plus, he pretty much gave away the whole plot.

LOL, since when did “children and old ladies” become things to look out for in a movie?

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