The Bells of St. Mary's

Movie review by
Scott G. Mignola, Common Sense Media
The Bells of St. Mary's Movie Poster Image
A classic of faith and values.
  • NR
  • 1945
  • 126 minutes

Parents say

age 2+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Father O'Malley teaches by example that faith is all well and good, but you still have to take initiative to get things done. The film asks the question, "Is it ever right to lie, even to protect someone's feelings?"

Violence & Scariness

Undramatic fisticuffs between two boys.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that nostalgic guardians will enjoy sharing this one with their children. But parents should be on hand to field a few delicate questions, such as whether it's ever okay to lie to protect someone, and vague allusions to a single mother's fall from respectability. This is a great film for the whole family to curl up to on a rainy day. Teens who are fans of old classics or light musicals will be happy to have this one in their collection.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRockybalboa211 February 26, 2011

Just perfect!

A beautiful movie, with a beautiful message. If you have to watch a movie with the family, this is perfect!
I don't think it was melodramatic lol... Henry... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byDeetz December 28, 2020


I usually only see it once or twice a year, but it’s great!!! As usual, Bing Crosby was an amazing actor for this movie!!! Henry Travers who played Clarence the... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bywho3697cares January 28, 2009
I saw this on Turner Classic Movies a few weeks ago. Well-acted and entertaining, if a tad melodramatic.

What's the story?

In this moving classic, run-down, overcrowded St. Mary's has a new pastor, Father Chuck O'Malley (Bing Crosby), whose views on how to run a parochial school give Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) a thing or two to think about. The two of them put their differing methods to the same task: saving the school. That salvation comes in the improbable shape of Horace P. Bogardus, a building owner who needs but a few suggestive nudges to awaken the joy of giving in his ailing heart.

Is it any good?

The rapport between Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman is enough to overcome the tired plot, and got the two stars Oscar nominations for their performances. Bearing that in mind, THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S isn't so much about a pair of Catholic do-gooders trying to save their beloved parochial school as it's about that wonderful pairing -- but it is undeniably engaging.

This time around Crosby plays Father O'Malley a bit softer, more quietly subversive, than he did in Going My Way. Why, 40 minutes of movie time pass before he sidles up to a piano and starts crooning. The repentant way he glances heavenward after telling a fib is priceless. That Bergman can look angelic even while coaching a boy on how to box is a testament not only to her screen presence, but to the talents of George Barnes, whose black-and-white camera work also did wonders for her in Hitchcock's Spellbound that same year. You believe she's a sister superior just by the way he makes light fall across her.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether it's okay to lie to protect someone, or whether it's every okay to pester an old man into donating to a worthy cause.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love classics

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate