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Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movies for Adults (2024)

We continue to reveal our nominees for the Plugged In Movie Awards, and we’ve reached my personal favorite category: Best Movies for Adults.

Why do I like this category so much? As much as I love and appreciate clean family movies with great messages, I also like to be challenged a bit. I like gritty stories that might come with a bit more texture and ambiguity. Sometimes, the most rewarding films I see are the ones that are most difficult to write reviews for—and the ones I find myself thinking about days afterward.

And even though Plugged In is especially geared toward families, we know our site is used by more than just parents looking to find a suitable movie for their 8-year-old. Some adults use Plugged In for themselves, and we want to honor that.

Naturally, we give these movies more leeway in terms of content issues. While this year’s crop of nominees all qualified for a PG-13 MPA rating, many still come with content issues to consider. One is a flat-out horror film. Another deals with the Holocaust. And while many of these films might be navigable for older teens, none of them come with “don’t-worry-about-it” green lights. Check out our reviews before sitting down to watch.

And a reminder: We’ll be debating all of these categories and their nominees on the March 7 episode of The Plugged In Show and picking our own winners. It always makes for a fun, robust conversation. And, of course, we want you to tell us your picks as well—even if they’re not one of our nominees!

You can cast your votes (or submit your write-ins) in the comments section of this blog below. Or comment on the appropriate posts on Facebook and Instagram, too. You can vote for anything and everything straight through February, and we’ll let you know in our March 7 episode of The Plugged In Show not only what we selected, but what you did, too. (And if you can’t listen in, we’ll be posting all the winners on the blog as well.)

And now, with all that out of the way, here are the Plugged In Movie Awards nominees for adults, in alphabetical order. (Movie synopses written by Paul Asay, Bob Hoose and Kennedy Unthank.)

The Boys in the Boat (PG-13)

Work is hard to come by in 1936 America. And Joe Rantz desperately needs to find some work if he wants to stay in college. His best last hope? Earning a spot on the University of Washington’s junior varsity rowing team—a spot that comes with room, board and a job. But dozens of other students are gunning for a seat on the boat. Does he have a chance? Spoiler warning: Yes, he does. In fact, Joe becomes a part of one of America’s most inspiring real-life underdog stories—one that ultimately leads to the Olympics in Berlin. While many sports sagas focus on individual achievement, The Boys in the Boat is all about teamwork—where eight rowers (and a directions-shouting coxswain) must work together as one. Though the film has some strong profanity here and there, Director George Clooney gives us an old-fashioned tale with an old-fashioned sense of propriety. It reminds us of the importance of both hard work and teamwork, but you won’t have to work to enjoy this film: That comes naturally.

Godzilla Minus One (PG-13)

It takes a lot of positive messages for a film about a kamikaze pilot to make the Plugged In cut, but Godzilla Minus One does it. In the movie, we follow Koichi Shikishima, a kamikaze pilot who backed out of his sacrificial mission in World War II, returning to his country in shame and guilt. Raised in a culture focused on dying with honor, Koichi yearns to know whether his honor is truly gone forever. But when the massive and radioactively charged Godzilla begins destroying Japan a couple years later, Koichi wrestles once again with whether it would be better to sacrifice himself or live on in shame. And as Godzilla Minus One stomps its way through theaters, it brings with it wonderful messages about sacrifice and how to live with honor by fighting for a future worth living in.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (PG-13)

True to its name, this ragtag team has indeed guarded the galaxy more than once. But this time around, they need to save one of their own: Rocket Raccoon, the onetime experiment of a being called the High Evolutionary. That Evolutionary values perfection, and he’s quite happy to destroy the creations that don’t live up to it. And while he’s a formidable adversary, the Guardians have some elements that even the playing field: love; family; the willingness to sacrifice for their friends—all elements that the Evolutionary cannot even conceive of. While we normally put superhero movies in the teens category, Guardians Vol. 3 contains an unusual number of issues to navigate—namely disturbing flashbacks to Rocket’s childhood. But it also comes with a thrilling number of positives, too, including some nods toward the mystery of creation, the power of love and hints of how the foolishness of God can be far wiser than the wisdom of Evolutionaries.

M3GAN (PG-13)

OK, this might not be the first film that you would expect Plugged In to point to as a “best of” movie candidate. It’s a horror flick, after all. But this movie about an AI-infused robot that will do anything to protect its child owner has some very interesting elements in its favor. This creative story draws viewers in while its unexpected humor softens the tale’s edgy violence. And while being equally cute and creepy, M3GAN also presents a distinct sci-fi cautionary tale: A declaration that technology, the internet and social media are no substitutes for parental time and love. Furthermore, it suggests that adults who lean too heavily on those things usher their family members into dangerous territory. Of course, in this case, that dangerous territory also comes with PG-13 levels of deadly encounters and just-off-screen bloodiness.

The Zone of Interest (PG-13)

Sometimes in the history of atrocity, the sheer numbers hide the humanity therein. Experts say that more than 1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz during World War II. But every one of those victims had a name, a family, a life unique. And guess what? We could say the same thing of the murderers, too. The Zone of Interest introduces us to Rudolf and Hedwig Höss: Rudolf was Auschwitz’s commandant and responsible for everything that happened there. Hedwig, his wife, built an idyllic home right next door—showing off her garden as the smoke rose from the chimneys beyond the walls. The Zone of Interest, a German-language tour de force, is not an easy film to watch. But it is an important one, and it’s surprisingly sparse on content issues given its subject matter. It reminds us that evil is real, but it doesn’t always look like a matinee monster or hooded serial killer. Sometimes it can look surprisingly innocuous—and thus hide the worst evils of all.

Special Mention:

Freud’s Last Session (PG-13)

What if two of the 1900’s most formidable intellectuals came together and argued over the existence of God? Well, imagine no more. In Freud’s Last Session, we’re taken into the study of eminent psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud as he discusses theology with an up-and-coming author named C.S. Lewis. Based on a play of the same name, Freud’s Last Session is a fictional meeting rooted in fact. The men’s arguments are, more often than not, taken straight from their own writings. The movie has a few content issues, but it ultimately missed our top five because of its ambiguity: This is no irrefutable triumph of Lewis’ Christianity, and Freud is no straw man. He draws his share of intellectual blood. But for those who love apologetics—and for those who don’t mind being challenged a little—Freud’s Last Session is a fascinating, ultimately encouraging example of how we can stand up for our beliefs and still show kindness, compassion and grace to those who don’t share them.

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.”

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.

10 Responses

  1. Given Guardians, M3GAN, and Minus One were in my top 5 of the year, I approve of this list. Still need to check out the other two yet.

  2. The only one I saw was Guardians 3, and while I enjoyed it, my vote is a write-in for Mission: Impossible— Dead Reckoning Part One.

  3. I’m sorry to all entries, but Godzilla Minus One is the best FILM I have seen in a good long while. (Although how did M3GAN end up here? XD)

  4. My top 5 (in descending order) are Poor Things, Oppenheimer, Anatomy of a Fall, Killers of the Flower Moon, and Maestro. Honorable mention: May December, which I wish had gotten more love from the Oscars.

    However, of the movies I haven’t seen, I’m most intrigued by American Fiction and The Zone of Interest. So of the movies PI picked, I vote for The Zone of Interest.

  5. no post for this on facebook yet?

    I vote guardians, it’s not just the best of these movies, but was the best movie of the year period. So many feels!

  6. Boys in the Boat is tops for me.

    Guardians was good (the best MCU film
    in years), but Boys in the Boat is uniquely classic. Hollywood needs to make more movies like The Boys in the Boat. Freud’s Last Session was a movie that lacked substance. It was the most disappointing movie of the year by far. I really wish I could vote for Freud’s, but it was just bad. I really don’t get the praise by critics for the performances because those weren’t that great either. Finally, it’s strange to me that PI nominated what is essentially a violent comedy horror in M3GAN, but whatever.

    1. I was exposed to the likes of Asimov and Clarke ever since I was very young, and M3GAN had me thinking about Asimov’s Laws of Robotics the whole time, with the modifier of the First Law being that the “M3GAN” has to protect the customer it was bought for, along with the corollary of “this can induce unhealthy technological dependence if the customer is too young to differentiate between the real and the artificial.” Plugged In, if you ever decide to start reviewing older video games the same way you did for movies, you might want to check out the first “Deus Ex” game, a sci-fi yarn that acutely predicted our modern data-mining / constructed-identity age so long ago that high-speed internet still had yet to roll out in most of the U.S., never mind the existence of the smartphone.

  7. How you can include a movie with f-bombs (M3gan), in it, especially spoken by a child, is atrocious. No matter how supposedly good the rest of the movie, some things just cross the line and a movie containing graphic language is a no-watch on my list. It’s not just children who need to be guarded from movies with graphic language; it’s mature adults as well. We don’t need that junk entering in our minds. I may not be able to to control such words I hear out in the public, but allowing it in my home as “entertainment” is a very different matter. As believers, we are to strive be consecrated and set apart.

    1. “Foul language” is as culturally subjective as dress codes, especially when it delves into a discussion of which words are stronger or weaker than others (e.g., if the child had said the word “screw” instead, also considered inappropriate in children’s or professional contexts), and some words that are considered vulgar nowadays were also used in some versions of the Bible (see 2 Kings 9:8 in the King James Bible). That doesn’t mean I would want my hypothetical children using such words, but that’s more because of it being culturally dishonorable than because of it being an absolute, immutable wrong.

      Even “The Passion of the Christ” had profanity in it — Matthew 26:72’s use of the word “oath,” Horkos in the Greek, literally means “that which has been pledged or promised with an oath” [Strong’s Greek 3727], not the meaning of “oath” as in “curse word,” and Plugged In, to its credit, had the movie’s use of “d–” listed correctly as a profanity instead of making unsupported “but it was in Scripture” excuses for it like I saw some other outlets do.

  8. Based on the movies I saw and what I know about these movies I haven’t seen, I can appreciate each one’s presence on the list, except M3GAN (horror doesn’t sit well with me). The Zone of Interest is probably the highest quality film on this list (and the only film to receive a best picture nomination). Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 3 is a worth-while watch for those who like superhero films (of which I am one). I’ve heard Godzilla Minus One is one of the best films of 2023 (and the only Godzilla movie I remember having a serious and persistent desire to watch). And, finally, The Boys in the Boat is one of the best conservative films of 2023. Overall, a solid list!

    My Plugged In Christian movie award predictions:
    Locks: Jesus Revolution, Sound of Freedom
    Other Predictions: The Blind, Journey to Bethlehem, Big George Foreman
    Honorable Mentions: The Hill, The Shift