The Pope Must Die (U.S. alternate title: The Pope Must Die(t)) is a 1991 comedy film directed by Peter Richardson and released by Palace Pictures with the backing of Channel 4 Films. The script was written by Richardson with Pete Richens, derived from elements of an earlier screenplay for a three-part mini-series satirising the Catholic Church, which was rejected by Channel 4. The Pope Must Die stars Robbie Coltrane as a low ranking priest who is mistakenly elected Pope, then has to avoid being assassinated by the Mafia. The film co-stars Adrian Edmondson, Annette Crosbie, Herbert Lom, Alex Rocco and Richardson.
The film was originally planned as a part of a three-part mini series for Channel 4, which was cancelled by the station after press outcry. This led Richardson to sever his long relationship with Channel 4 and move his future productions to the BBC. The budget for the film was later approved by Palace Pictures with the backing of Channel 4 Films.
The production was filmed in 1990 in the former Yugoslavia on a budget of £2.5 million.
The film's subject matter was controversial, which caused the distributors serious difficulties with its promotion, London Transport refusing to carry advertising for it until the film's posters were censored. In the USA the Big Three television networks refused to show commercials for the film, which they said was sacrilegious and offensive. Many newspapers in the US also censored or refused to carry advertising for the film.
The film was released to mixed reviews, and struggled at the box office, failing to make back its budget at the cinema.
The film was released on VHS but it is not currently available on DVD or Blu-ray. It is however on YouTube.
The plot is predicated on the Vatican being controlled by the Mafia boss Vittorio Corelli (Herbert Lom). The movie opens with the death of the previous Pope followed by a twenty-five day conclave where the Mob's tame Cardinal Cardinal Rocco (Alex Rocco) successfully persuades the College of Cardinals to elect in absentia the Mafia's favoured candidate to the papacy, Albini (Janez Vajevec), a priest in the service of the Mafia, whom Rocco passes off as an absent "Cardinal Albini".