Monsignor (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Perry
Screenplay by
Based onMonsignor
by Jack-Alain Léger
Produced byDavid Niven Jr.
Frank Yablans
CinematographyBilly Williams
Edited byPeter E. Berger
Music byJohn Williams
Frank Yablans Presentations
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • October 22, 1982 (1982-10-22) (United States)
  • February 10, 1983 (1983-02-10) (United Kingdom)
  • February 18, 1983 (1983-02-18) (Ireland)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$12.4 million[2]

Monsignor is a 1982 American drama film directed by Frank Perry about a Roman Catholic priest's rise through the ranks of the Vatican, during and after World War II. Along the way, he involves the Vatican in the black marketeering operations of a Mafia don, and has an affair with a woman in the postulant stage of becoming a nun. He eventually repents and returns to his faith, attempting to make right the things he has done wrong. The cast includes Christopher Reeve, Geneviève Bujold, Fernando Rey, Jason Miller, Joseph Cortese, Adolfo Celi, and Leonardo Cimino.

The film was not well received by critics and performed poorly at the box office; Reeve later blamed this on poor editing. Supporting actors Miller and Rey were singled out for their strong performances. The film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Musical Score,[3] the only Razzie nomination John Williams ever received in his career to date.

The filming location was entirely in Rome, Italy.


With the Vatican having financial difficulties during World War II, a young priest from America is sent for, recommended because of his accounting skill. He has already broken the rules, for his first assignment after ordination, is a military chaplain. There he ministers to a dying soldier and then takes the dead soldier's position as a machine gunner and destroys a squadron of advancing German troops. This action of a priest killing in combat gets him removed from that position, and he is then sent to the Vatican, with his knowledge of business and accounting.

Father John Flaherty does indeed have a good head for figures, but also believes in any means to an end. To raise money for the church, he is willing to enter into a black market operation with the Mafia, selling cartons of cigarettes by the tens of thousands for a percentage of the take.

The priest's morals are strained further when he develops a romantic interest in Clara, a young nun who is having a crisis of faith. They begin an affair, but Flaherty does not confess to her his true identity. One day during a papal ceremony, Clara catches sight of Flaherty in his clerical robes. Her love and trust are shattered.

Flaherty's methods may be overlooked, but his success at raising funds is appreciated by some of his superiors as he rises to become a monsignor, then a cardinal. When an ill-advised stock investment costs the Vatican millions, however, Flaherty must pay the price for his deeds.



The score of the film is composed and conducted by John Williams and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The soundtrack was released in 1982.

In 2007, Intrada released a limited edition of Williams' score of the film and an expanded version was released on June 4, 2019.


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 0% based on 7 reviews, with an average rating of 2.4/10.[4]

In 1983, Christopher Reeve said Monsignor "was a horrible picture and deserved to be lambasted" and a "very bad movie." He complained that the film "makes serious allegations about a religious figure and fails to prove it." Reeve lamented that "we had the material and it was misused," blaming the result on "corporate decision-making."[5]


On November 29, 1982, the film was banned from showing in the Republic of Ireland; the Irish Film Censor Board cited its conflation of religion and adultery, as it features an affair between a priest and a postulant nun. The decision was overturned by the Film Appeals Board on December 17;[6] this caused controversy among members of Fianna Fáil – chairman Ned Brennan believed the majority of the Irish public did not want it to be released and said "standards must be maintained", wanting it banned on "moral grounds".[7][8]


  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p260
  2. ^ "Monsignor (1982)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  3. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
  4. ^ "Monsignor". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2021-09-05.
  5. ^ Christopher Reeve for "Superman III" 1983 - Bobbie Wygant Archive. June 1, 2020. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22. Retrieved September 5, 2021 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ "Films banned in Ireland". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Ex-TD criticises film about priest". The Irish Times. 6 January 1983.
  8. ^ Comiskey, Ray (15 January 1983). "'Monsignor' fails to excite". The Irish Times.

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