The Two Popes parents guide

The Two Popes Parent Guide

Streaming on Netflix: A profound character study, "The Two Popes" also comes with inspiring messages of forgiveness, hope, and appreciating people with different perspectives.

Overall A-

Weary of the burdens of his office, Pope Benedict XVI meets with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, a man with whom he disagrees profoundly, but who he believes might be just what the Catholic Church needs as pontiff.

Release date December 20, 2019

Violence C+
Sexual Content B
Profanity B+
Substance Use B-

Why is The Two Popes rated PG-13? The MPAA rated The Two Popes PG-13 for thematic content and some disturbing violent images

Run Time: 125 minutes

Parent Movie Review

“Any journey, no matter how glorious, can start with a mistake.” These words of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) neatly sum up his life. Haunted by his misguided attempt to protect Argentina’s Jesuit Order during the country’s Dirty War in the 1970s, Bergoglio has devoted his ministry to caring for the poor and marginalized. Frustrated by what he sees as a Catholic hierarchy that prioritizes condemning sexual behavior over denouncing oppressive political and economic systems, Bergoglio flies to Rome to request Pope Benedict XVI’s (Anthony Hopkins) approval for his resignation.

The Pope has struggles of his own. After lobbying for his election in 2005, the aging pontiff is struggling with the burdens of his office. Nicknamed “God’s rottweiler” for his determination to protect the institutional church and the purity of its doctrine, Benedict no longer feels the presence of his Lord. Desiring to retire from the papacy, Benedict feels the need to discuss the challenges facing the church and relieve himself of the burdens of the past.

The Two Popes is a brilliant character study of two wildly different men – the affable, gregarious Argentinian and the self-contained, literal-minded German. Jonathan Pryce dazzles with a deeply emotional performance, ably portraying Bergoglio’s humility, dedication, simplicity, and warm humor. And Anthony Hopkins becomes the aging Benedict, struggling with the physical realities of age, his guilt over the clerical abuse scandal, his spiritual drought, and his continued desire to maintain what he sees as the non-negotiable doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

Moviegoers who enjoy character dramas will be enthralled by this production. Anyone looking for action should remember that both men are senior citizens and the only excitement here is the occasional raised voice. The real conflict driving the story is the tension between different world views and conceptions of God, mercy, and faith. Viewers who enjoy diving into deeper issues will find much to think about here.

The film contains mild content issues, mainly sanitized violence relating to human rights abuses perpetrated by Argentina’s military dictatorship. The minor negative content is far overshadowed by the positive messages that permeate the movie. The account of Bergoglio’s spiritual journey is one of forgiveness (of self and others), repentance, redemption, service, hope, and compassion. This movie also reminds us that even people who hold strongly opposing views can come to respect and appreciate one another, even working together as Benedict XVI cedes his place to Francis. And that’s a message that needs to move beyond the Vatican and into the larger world.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce. Running time: 125 minutes. Theatrical release December 20, 2019. Updated

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The Two Popes
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Two Popes rated PG-13? The Two Popes is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic content and some disturbing violent images

Violence: There are violent scenes from Argentina’s Dirty War. Soldiers round up and shoot priests. There is mention of people disappearing after being apprehended by soldiers or police. Priests are dragged into police cars. There is mention of torture, specifically, breaking prisoners’ hands. People are shown contorted in cells. Live prisoners are bound and thrown out of airplanes and into the ocean.
Sexual Content:   Characters mention the sexual abuse of children by clergy; no detail.
Profanity: This movie contains one term of deity, one mild profanity, and one crude term.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters drink small amounts of alcohol, usually with meals.

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The Two Popes Parents' Guide

What do you know about the two popes in this movie?

Encyclopedia Britannica: Benedict XVI Why Did Pope Benedict XVI Resign?

Wikipedia: Pope Francis

The New York Times: Pope Francis May Not Change the World. But He Is Reshaping the Church.

The Week: The fledgling legacy of the great Pope Francis

The Washington Post: Pope Benedict, in retired seclusion, looms in the opposition to Pope Francis

Vanity Fair: Pope Vs. Pope, How Francis and Benedict’s Simmering Conflict Could Split the Catholic Church

The Economist: A Tale of Two Popes

Do you know how a new pope is chosen?

BBC News: Conclave: How cardinals elect a Pope

The papacy has an interesting and sometimes wild history. For more about the men who have led the Roman Catholic Church, click on the following articles.

CNN: POPE: The Most Powerful Man in History

The Guardian: Every Pope ever: the full list The History of Popes History of the Papacy

Whoever sits in St. Peter’s seat, he faces great challenges in steering the Catholic Church. What do you think the Pope should do to resolve the issues outlined in the following articles?

Sexual Abuse Scandal

The Atlantic: Faced With an Ongoing Sexual-Abuse Crisis, What Are Catholic Parents to Do?

Vox: The decades-long Catholic priest child sex abuse crisis, explained

NPR: Pope Issues New Edict Requiring Vatican Officials to Report Sex Abuse Allegations

Priest Shortage

NBC News: The Catholic Church is looking for (more than) a few good men

Future Church: Priest Shortage at a Glance Should priests be allowed to marry?

The Guardian: Roman Catholic church could allow married men to become priests


Loved this movie? Try these books…

For Pope Benedict’s perspective on faith, read The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His Central Writings and Speeches edited by John F Thornton and Susan B Varenne.

Paul Badde’s Benedict Up Close: The Inside Story of Eight Dramatic Years tells the story of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. For a more extensive biography, check out Elio Guerriero’s Benedict XVI: His Life and Thought.

Insightful biographies on Pope Francis include Austen Ivereigh’s The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, Paul Vallely’s Pope Francis: The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism and John Allen’s The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church.

To read Pope Francis’ own words, try The Name of God is Mercy. Another of the pontiff’s many books is The Joy of Discipleship: Reflections from Pope Francis on Walking with Christ.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

For another look at religious vocation, families can watch Mother Teresa. Starring Olivia Hussey, this story tells the story of her call to serve the poorest of the poor in India.

If you want to learn more about where the popes live and work, you an check out the documentary, Inside the Vatican.

In A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More remains loyal to the Pope at the cost of his life. A Hidden Life tells the story of Franz Jagerstatter, who insists that obeying the church’s command to be loyal to Austria and its Nazi overlords is a betrayal of his Christian beliefs. In Luther, a 16th century monk is so incensed by papal corruption that he posts his argument on the door of a local church, igniting a string of events that tear the Catholic Church apart.