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Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movies for Adults (2023)

Plugged In Movie Awards Best Movies for Adults 2023

As the nominee blogs/ballots for our Plugged In Movie Awards continue on, we’ve hit upon the category that tends to be the most hotly debated in our palatial Plugged In offices: the best movies for adults.

There’s always an element of subjectivity in all these categories, of course—that’s part of the fun—but no more so than here. Weighing heavy-hitting messages with heavy content can lead to plenty of discussion. But this year, most of the films that landed on our list are … relatively clean?

All of our nominees come with a PG or PG-13 MPA rating. And I’d imagine that some of you took the whole family to see, say, Top Gun: Maverick or streamed Thirteen Lives on Prime Video. So why did these movies land in our adult category? Often, it’s because the messages are a little more geared toward older viewers. But sometimes it’s just because adults might be more interested in them. Not many teens would probably get that excited to see a middle-age cleaning lady shop for a dress (even though perhaps they should).  

And now, a little bit of a reminder for you: The fact that these movies landed on this list doesn’t make them perfect for you or your family. As always, read the full review.

And once you’ve read (and heard on last week’s podcast) what we have to say, we invite you to vote for your own choices. You can log a vote in the comments section below. You can vote on Facebook and Instagram posts that link to these blogs. You can even send us an email at [email protected].

And remember—for the first time ever—Plugged In will livestream our final deliberations and selections on a very special video edition of The Plugged In Show. We’ll tell you who you, the Plugged In  reader/listener/viewer, voted for as well. And all that will happen at 10 a.m. (Mountain Time) on March 7. (That’d be noon Eastern time, 11 a.m. Central and 9 a.m. Pacific time, by the way.)

And now, on to the Best Movies for Adults nominees. (Movie summaries are written by Paul Asay, Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Emily Tsiao and Kennedy Unthank.) 

The Batman movie

The Batman (PG-13)

Typically, superhero movies flap on over to our teens category. But this isn’t your typical superhero movie. More of a film noir detective tale than a traditional, colorful superhero flick, The Batman gives us a darker Dark Knight. In the movie’s opening moments, our titular vigilante tells the bad guys, “I am vengeance,” a character is driven by rage and guilt. But turns out, that’s the point. And before the credits roll, our bleak Batman understands that to be the protector Gotham City needs, he needs to be better. Brighter. Not just a cudgel of vengeance, but a beacon of hope. Starring a surprisingly effective Robert Pattinson as the Dark Knight, The Batman is an atmospheric, haunting, and often disturbingly violent film. But while Batman spends much of his time in the shadows (both figuratively and literally), dawn eventually breaks—even on Gotham’s darkness.

Cyrano movie

Cyrano (PG-13)

This is the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, the gifted French Guardsman whose physical shortcomings keep him from seeking the love of a woman he adores. But since he loves the lady Roxanne so, he’ll strive to make her happy—even if it means helping out a handsome-but-dimwitted rival whom Roxanne is smitten with. Traditionally, Cyrano’s social standing is hampered by an obnoxiously big nose. But in this case, actor Peter Dinklage (best known from Game of Thrones) taps in as a character of short stature. But whether Cyrano’s struggle is with too much nose or too little height, the poignancy of the story still rings true. And the tale is incredibly beautiful, well-crafted and emotional to boot. A few mild profanities, some deceitful actions and Cyrano’s sensual missives are the biggest things to blush over.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris 2022

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (PG)

Of all the compliments she’s gotten as a cleaning lady, nothing makes Mrs. Ada Harris feel worse than when she’s praised on how the only indication of her presence is the polish left on the doorknobs. Sure, that may be a sign of a good cleaning lady, but it also makes Ada feel invisible. So Ada decides to fly to Paris to buy a fancy Christian Dior dress—and when she finally gets that dress, she’ll finally feel visible. Or so she thinks. But ultimately, Ada learns that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. We don’t always get to choose the circumstances in which we live, and we don’t get to choose our social visibility, but neither of those determine our worth as people. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris doesn’t join our adult category because of its content. Indeed, compared to the other films in this and even our “teens” category, Mrs. Harris is quite the tame, feel-good flick. Ultimately, it joins the category for its subject matter, which will likely appeal more to adult viewers.

Thirteen Lives 2022

Thirteen Lives (PG-13)

In 2018, the world turned its attention to Thailand, where a dozen young soccer players and their coach were trapped in a flooded cave. Rescue seemed impossible—and indeed, it would’ve been, had it not been for the bravery and creativity of a team of rescuers. Thirteen Lives chronicles that real-life rescue mission in gripping, cinematic detail. Bolstered by Hollywood heavyweights Colin Firth and Viggo Mortensen, this Ron Howard-directed flick gives viewers a thrilling story that emphasizes how important working together can be—and how, when we put our minds to it, even the impossible can come within reach. While viewers will need to navigate some profanity and plenty of peril, Thirteen Lives is an inspirational film. And even though it’s on our list of Best Movies for Adults, might just work for some teens in your family as well.

Top Gun - Maverick 2022

Top Gun: Maverick (PG-13)

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has avoided promotion for nearly 30 years so he can keep flying instead of manning a desk. But now the bigwigs, who don’t particularly like the obstinate jet-jockey, want him grounded. He has one option: He must head back to Top Gun flight school and teach brash young pilots to succeed in an impossible mission. (One of those pilots happens to be the son of his former co-pilot Goose.) Maverick isn’t happy about the ultimatum, but hey, it could allow him to take his shirt off on the beach one last time. This nearly perfect sequel delivers lots of callbacks to the original action classic along with tons of afterburner-ignited, incredibly filmed dogfights, and a dash of lightly sensual romance. The only real hard-deck issue with this pic is the occasional salty language coming from its new crop of pilots. And it comes with high-flying themes of bravery and sacrifice.

Plugged In Movie Awards 2023

Best Movies for Kids (2023)

Best Movies for Teens (2023)

Best Christian Movies (2023)

Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He thinks the ending of Lost “wasn’t that bad.”

Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

14 Responses

  1. Top Gun: Maverick is my vote. First nonwoke film I’ve seen in ages. Refreshing, patriotic, and exciting!

  2. Top Gun: Maverick has my vote. The training the actors had to go through, the storyline, the picture, the references to the original, the lack of political agenda, all made for an excellent movie.

  3. -Maverick is my movie of the year (especially in 4DX, which was incredible), followed closely by Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. Maverick’s plot felt ‘arcadey’ at times (there’s no real enemy and no real narrative; they’re just super-competent pilots who happen to be in the way), which did sometimes feel cheesy when trying to hype up “fifth-generation pilots!!” as though that’s supposed to mean anything, but the lack of an overt anti-Russian or anti-Middle Eastern plotline will help the film age well.

  4. -I enjoyed a different take on the story of Cyrano and love musicals! My husband, who is not a musical fan, actually liked it!