The Eight Beatitudes at the Movies

At the start of his Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 5) Jesus lists qualities which describe the blessed in his Kingdom. These eight Beatitudes are models for living our lives. On the silver screen, the fictional characters in these eight classic films manifest the Beatitudes:

Phil Connors in Groundhog Day: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The arrogant self-sufficiency of Bill Murray’s character must be humbled before he can turn the corner towards living the perfect life by loving truly.

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Most characters in The Sixth Sense: Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. In this film, both the living and the dead suffer great losses, but they ultimately receive their peace.

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George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life:Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” Jimmy Stewart’s character repeatedly sacrifices his big dreams (of college, of riches & fame, of an around-the-world honeymoon) to save the little Building & Loan of Bedford Falls. By the end of the story, George realizes that he is truly “the richest man in town.”

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“Juror 8” in 12 Angry Men: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. The eighth juror (played by Henry Fonda) shows how a principled advocacy for the truth can change minds and bring about true justice.

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Jean Valjean in Les Misérables: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Having received mercy, the former criminal Jean Valjean practices mercy, and so is saved.

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Forrest in Forrest Gump: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Forrest is “not a smart man, but [he] knows what love is.” His simple virtue and true devotion toward his friends blesses their lives together.

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Mary & Bert in Mary Poppins: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Julie Andrews’ Mary (with assistance from Dick Van Dyke’s Bert) delights in serious play to help heal the Banks Family.

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Terry Malloy & Fr. Barry in On the Waterfront:  “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”  The courageous actions of Marlon Brando and Karl Malden’s characters prevail against the mob and manifest that ‘Jesus Christ is here on this waterfront.’

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3 Responses to “The Eight Beatitudes at the Movies”

  1. Josee Turner Says:

    Great list. You captured it.Thanks and God bless you.

  2. johnnyc Says:

    Father according to this Bible study…..

    http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/BEATITUDES/Lesson_4.htm

    ‘Blessed are they who mourn’ refers to mourning for our (and the world’s) sins and ‘for they will be comforted’ refers to the Sacrament of Confession.

    So maybe the film I Confess would be a better suggestion? :)

    • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

      A good insight and a good movie, too. Mourning sins unto conversion is a blessed thing. But I think Jesus is speaking more broadly, for “Blessed are they who mourn [sins]” would have been easy enough to say.

      Those who mourn have loved and lost; they have dared to love and neither numbed themselves nor denied their loss. Whenever what is lost is worthy, this longing leads to blessed restoration in Christ, on earth or in heaven.

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