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

Plugged In Movie Awards Best Movies for Kids 2023

If you listened to our most recent episode of The Plugged In Show, you’ve already heard this year’s nominations for our Plugged In Movie Awards. These awards (we call them—at a reader’s suggestion—the “Pluggies”) give us an opportunity to shower some praise on movies, rather than simply counting their profanities. And it’s also your opportunity to weigh in with your own vote.

As you know from the podcast, we don’t hand out awards in the same way that secular outlets might. We don’t just weigh a movie’s artistic quality: We consider what sorts of messages it sends, too. And we select those films for four (admittedly overlapping) categories: best movies for kids, teens, adults and best Christian movies.

Now, one quick caveat: Just because a film gets nominated, that doesn’t mean it’s as clean as the proverbial whistle. All films have an issue or two, so be sure to check out our full review before plopping down to watch one of these flicks with the family.

Once you’ve heard and read our opinions on these nominees, 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].

Then—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 Standard Time) on March 7. (That’d be noon Eastern time, 11 a.m. Central and 9 a.m. Pacific time, by the way.)

With all that out of the way, let’s launch into the nominees, shall we? We will begin today with Plugged In’s Best Movies for Kids, followed by the other three categories over the rest of this week. (Movie summaries are written by Paul Asay, Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Emily Tsiao and Kennedy Unthank.)

The Bad Guys movie

The Bad Guys (PG)

If you’re labeled the “Big Bad Wolf” before you’ve even had a chance to prove yourself, can you do anything but live down to that label? That’s the question The Bad Guys grapples with as its five antihero protagonists discover that the roles that they’ve been dealt by their respective fairy tales aren’t necessarily the roles they have to play. Can five bad guys turn themselves into good guys? Well, spoiler warning, the film offers a bit more credence to the nurture side of the debate. The cards you’ve been dealt aren’t necessarily the ones you have to play. The Bad Guys has some great messages about helping others and rejecting societal stereotypes. There’s some toilet humor and a couple of jokes about a “butt rock.” But for a movie about a group of bad guys, this one makes us feel pretty good.

Queen with wand - Disenchanted

Disenchanted (PG)

This sequel revisits the character of Giselle, who fell into our world from an animated land of magical kingdoms. She’s since followed her dreams to become a real-world wife to her beloved, Robert, and a loving stepmother to his daughter, Morgan. But in a real world full of traffic-jammed commutes and teen angst, happily-ever-afters are tough to come by. So Giselle decides to magically transform this land into something a bit more fairy tale-like. But in fairy tales, stepmothers are usually the bad guys. The original Enchanted was a delightful blend of fantasy and reality in a musical worth smiling over. And Disenchanted, along with star Amy Adams, works hard to duplicate that charm and magic. Disenchanted reminds us that our lives are no fairy tales—but they can be pretty great anyway, especially if we have people we love and who love us right back.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On 2022

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (PG)

Don’t judge a shell by his googly-eyed cover. Marcel, our literally fragile protagonist, lives a pretty full life in his California rental house. He has Alan (a piece of lint he walks like a dog). He has his normal routines. And, most especially, he has his grandmother, Nanna Connie. But shells are social beings, and he dearly misses the other shells that vanished from the house one day without a trace. And it falls to Dean—the documentarian filming Marcel’s quiet life—to help. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is not without its problems. But it’s sweet, funny and poignant, too—a beautifully surreal rumination on love and grief and moving on. Based on a short series of YouTube videos, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On boasts a 99% “freshness” rating. And in our own googly eyes, that rating is well deserved.

a cat in a hat reading a note - Puss in Boots The Last Wish

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (PG)

The fairytale swashbuckler Puss in Boots faces an existential crisis. His most recent bout of heroics ended badly and used up the eighth of his nine cat lives. One mistimed majestic leap or the next bumbled bit of derring-do could be his last. If he hopes to continue being a hero, he’ll need to find a magical wishing star to replace those lives. But that’s easier said than done—especially with a menacing, red-eyed wolf hot on his heels. This animated sequel is even more purr-worthy than the original. Our furry feline hero’s latest animated adventure is funny, boisterous and packed with well-defined fairytale characters. It has some nice messages, too, including what it means to live one life, and live it well. But beware, the red-eyed peril has been pumped up, too. Tiny swashbucklers in your crowd could find this pic a bit scary.

Railway Children 2022

Railway Children (PG)

It’s hard to raise a family during times of war—especially when your hometown might get bombed at any moment. No wonder that in England during World War II, so many mothers sent their children away to quieter, safer areas of the country. But as the three Watts children (Lily, Pattie and Ted) discover, even the beautiful, bucolic village of Oakworth can have its own share of danger. Railway Children (titled The Railway Children Return in Britain) is a sequel to a standout 1905 novel and a very popular 1970 British film (both, confusingly, titled The Railway Children). The setting is beautiful, and the vibe is gentle. But the movie’s kids still learn some important and sometimes hard-earned lessons involving sacrifice, obedience, racism and doing what’s right—even when it’s hard. Kids might find this a delightful diversion to the English countryside. Adults might feel it’s a throwback to the live-action kids’ movies that they grew up with. Despite a bit of bathroom humor and language, this feels like truly a movie that families could watch together.

Plugged In Movie Awards 2023

Best Movies for Teens (2023)

Best Movies for Adults (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 doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “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.

19 Responses

  1. Man, having to choose between The Bad Guys and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is like choosing between caramel and chocolate. Can’t I choose both? In all reality, I think I’ve gotta give my vote to Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. This movie made me cry three times. The last time that happened was Encanto. And although I think both movies are on par with Encanto in terms of story, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is simply the best movie here.

    1. I agree with this. Loved them both but Puss in Boots was epic. I loved the art and it made me cry. Three times.

  2. Disenchanted was the only one that I saw, and it was pretty good. That’s my vote (but I would have picked Sonic 2 if that was an option.)

  3. Thank you so much for this list. Would you consider doing this once a month or every quarter? It’s refreshing talking about good movies

  4. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is undoubtedly the best animated movie in years. And I mean that artistically and convincingly and thematically and dramatically. It was perfection. Straight up.

  5. – The Bad Guys is a favorite in our house. Phenomenal story beautifully crafter with a great message.

  6. – No love for Sonic 2? Really?

    I would probably vote for Marcel the Shell with Shoes On out of all of these, as it’s the only one I’ve seen, though I personally feel like adults would enjoy it more than children, personally.

  7. -I haven’t seen three of these movies, but I think I have to give my vote to The Bad Guys. I really enjoyed the story and I thought it ended well. It was really fun and entertaining. I love the song Good Tonight. (The other one I saw was Disenchanted.)

  8. Marcel is my highest rated movie out of these, but honestly I don’t really think it’s for kids. It may have an animated talking shell, but it deals with a lot more mature issues that I think would appeal more to adults

    So i vote Puss in Boots. Great imaginative adventure story, with multiple surprisingly entertaining villains, including probably the scariest villain in an animated movie in a long time (that’s a good thing ^_^. Every scene with the wolf was extremely suspenseful) and a surprisingly poignant theme of dealing with the inevitability of death.

    Also have to say surprised sonic 2 didn’t get a nomination. It had good family themes too. Too much immature humor for you though??

    1. -Personally I greatly enjoyed both of those Sonic movies but thought their humor, especially the first’s, sometimes strayed out of what I’d want from a children’s film.

    2. -In each category, we had lots of potential films we could potentially nominate. Though we liked Sonic the Hedgehog 2, we didn’t feel like it exemplified some of the deeper themes that other nominees in this category did. Nor did we think it moved much past the themes that, while positive and redemptive, filled the first film. Thanks for letting us know your thoughts on the matter. And you can feel free to vote for Sonic 2 as a “write-in” for the kids category in the Plugged In Movie Awards this year. Thanks so much. Adam Holz, director, Plugged In.

  9. -My family LOVED Puss in Boots, The Last Wish. We bought a digital copy and my oldest son showed it for a movie night in his dorm. One of our kids has special needs and struggles with anxiety. The scene where Puss has a panic attack and Perrito calms him down was very well done!

  10. -Just got around to seeing Puss in Boots 2 yesterday. Excellent film minus the one brief but densely packed scene of censored vulgarity. Otherwise adept storytelling and superb pacing with very few references either to pop culture or to Shrek.