Hands down for me the best film portrayal of a pope is Rex Harrison of Julius II in The Agony and the Ecstacy. A sympathetic portrayal of the soldier pope, Harrison portrays him as strong, cunning, a biting wit, a true lover of the arts, and a man of deep faith who fears his service to God has been a failure. Michelangelo was the master artist of his time, perhaps of all time, but he required a rough hewn pope to hold him to his task.
In the film we have the great Pope and the great Artist discussing art and faith in one of the more profound discussions to be found in a popular film. The death bed revival of the Pope is also one of the more hilarious sequences to be found in a non-comedy! I think both Michelangelo and the Pope would have been pleased by their portrayals in this film. It does justice to both of them, and no subject of any work of art can ask for better.
As with all fallen humans there was much to criticize about Pope Julius. He had a daughter as a Cardinal, and often his temper was violent and abrupt. However, there was also much in him to praise. He began the process of raising up the Papacy from the sewer left by the Borgias, he preserved the independence of the Papal States and rescued future Popes from being mere chaplains to whichever monarchy was the most powerful, and with his calling of the Fifth Lateran Council he set in motion the process of reform that would culminate in the Council of Trent. His faith in God was absolute and he was a steadfast guardian of the teachings of the Church. Perhaps the dreadful Alexander VI was given by God to be the Pope that Catholics deserved, and then God, in His mercy, after the 26 day reign of Pius III, sent us Julius II as the Pope we needed. May God in our time give us a similar completely unmerited act of His mercy.