Two memorable Pontiffs on film

Numerous movies deal with the new saints

Many interesting films have been made with Pope John Paul II as their subject. Two of them are simply called Pope John Paul II so they’re easy to confuse.

The first, made in 1984, stars Albert Finney as the Pontiff. It deals with him from his time as an adversary of Nazism and Communism in Poland to his installation as Pope in 1978.

A similarly-titled film made in 2005 has Jon Voight as the Pope in question and covers similar terrain, charting Karol Wojtyla’s path from bright student to priest as Poland reels under the iron grip of Soviet totalitarianism in the aftermath of World War II.

Voight enjoyed playing ‘the most recorded man in history’ and was delighted to be able to capture his humour as well as his mental toughness. (“When I say toughness I mean strength”).

Karol: A Man Who Became Pope (2006) is a Polish/Italian co-production with Piotr Adamczyk in the lead. We get a vivid treatment of the Pope’s life from his time as athlete-cum-writer-cum-actor in war-torn Poland to his election as Pope at the age of 58.

Witness to Hope: The Life of Karol Wojtyla (2002) is a documentary which features interviews with the Pope’s friends and associates as well as biographical material. Two other documentaries, Pope John Paul’s Vatican and Pope John Paul II: Builder of Bridges, were also made (in 2004 and 2005 respectively).

One of the most popular films about Blessed John XXIII is The Good Pope (2003) starring Bob Hoskins. It documents the life of Angelo Roncalli – the name he was born with – from student of theology to priest and finally Pope in October 1958 after the death of Pope Pius XII.

Main role

Pope John XXIII: The Pope of Peace (2008) has Ed Asner in the main role. It starts with the death of Pope Pius XII and leads into Angelo’s call to Rome for the conclave. There are flashbacks to his early years before he attains the papacy and breathes new life into the Vatican.

I Would Be Called John, finally, is another film about ‘the ecumenical Pope, the peasant Pope’. This features Charles Durning wearing ‘the shoes of the fisherman’. It dates back to 1987.

Durning relished the part, saying, “I got the script and I loved it. The man’s generosity and his humility. His love of mankind. His fairness.”

There was only one downside to landing the role, i.e. the nine million people who were going to say, “Why didn’t they get an Italian to do it!”

All these films are available to order on or at reasonable prices. Zoverstocks is an outlet that usually provides the keenest sales and delivery rates to Ireland.