This category always generates a lot of discussion amongst we Plugged In reviewers. We know that sometimes difficult, content-laden movies can still contain some pretty good messages, but weighing the two can be difficult. Movies such as Herself and Made in Italy earned some strong consideration in our discussions (both dealt with serious issues and had some strong messages in them), but they both had some fairly significant content issues, too. And given the strength of some of the other movies we were considering, they didn’t quite make the cut. (Take a look at our reviews to see these films’ plusses and minuses.)
Granted, none of movies we nominate in this or any other category is perfect—no movie is—so be sure to check out our full reviews before you decide to watch. But if you have watched, we invite you to participate, too! Vote on Facebook or Instagram, or in the comments section right here. Let us know which of these movies struck a chord with you.
Then, while we’re counting your votes, Plugged In will be doing its own awards deliberations—right on our very own Plugged In Show! You can listen to us argue over the nominees, and announce our own winners, on March 19. (Movie blurbs were written by Paul Asay, Emily Clark, Adam Holz, Bob Hoose and Kristin Smith.)
The Father (PG-13): When your body breaks down, you know it. When your mind does, you might not. So it is with Anthony, a man used to being in control suffering from the ever-worsening impact of dementia. He wonders why his daughter, Anne, is freeloading in his apartment. Or why she moves furniture or paintings or even whole rooms. Or why she insists on hiring people to watch him when all they do is steal his stuff. Meanwhile, Anne struggles to do what’s right for her dad while trying to find space to live her own life, as well. The Father has some profanity concerns to watch for, but this painful story of love and loss has a hint of beauty around its edges, too. And the journey that Anne finds herself on will look familiar to many.
Greyhound (PG-13): Tom Hanks stars as Ernest Krause, the captain of a Navy destroyer in World War II, who’s been given the task of escorting supply ships across the Atlantic to protect them from the ever-lurking presence of Germany U-boats. The stakes in this gripping war story are sky high for both sides: Every ship that makes the journey safely means more men and armaments for the desperate Allies in Europe. But every boat that the Nazis sink moves the Germans one step closer to Continental domination. This well-made pic keeps viewers on the edge of their seats while showing the peril and personal sacrifice of those fighting in World War II. Captain Krause shoulders the heavy burden of his responsibilities and protects his convoy with chess-like moves. He’s a man of character whose life is marked by faith and prayer. The captain walks the bridge of his ship until his feet literally bleed. Speaking of blood, we don’t see too much of that in this intense-yet-restrained PG-13 war movie. Ships sink, but we don’t see the carnage. A lone harsh profanity is the worst of it here.
Hamilton (PG-13): In 2015, actor/singer/composer/playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historical tour de force, Hamilton, took Broadway—and popular culture—by storm. But unless you had a fair bit of luck and a lot of money to buy tickets in New York City, you were likely left on the outside looking in. But last year, Disney+ aired this movie version, which captured the stage production on film at its zenith in 2016. And so another wave of Hamilton hysteria rolled like cannon fire over the cultural hills as many folks saw it for very first time. The story, of course, revolves around the brilliant-but-tragic story of founding father Alexander Hamilton. It’s a musical narrative set to rap and hip-hop and portrayed by an ethnically diverse cast. Miranda’s story hews fairly close to historical details. But it also includes some harsh profanity (though Disney+ trimmed two of the Broadway production’s three f-words out), as well as a handful of suggestive lyrics and a violent end. Still, it’s a fun, educational and moving ride for adults. And for families with older or mature children, Hamilton might well kindle an interest in history in a way history textbooks sometimes fail to do.
Minari (PG-13): Jacob Yi and his family move from bustling, cosmopolitan San Francisco to rural Arkansas so Jacob can follow his dream of becoming a farmer. His wife, Monica, isn’t sure it’s the right move, given son David’s heart issues. But she agrees—as long as she can fly her own mother from Korea to help with the children. Grandma—and Minari itself—can sometimes get a little crass. But you don’t need to dig too deep into this rich, cinematic earth to find a nuanced exploration of how cultures sometimes clash and blend, along with a beautiful story about family—and the commitment, sacrifices and subtle joys that come with it. There’s a bit of spiritual content in here, too. While the movie is mostly subtitled, the film is so rich that you’ll barely even notice.
News of the World (PG-13): Captain Jefferson Kidd was once a confederate soldier, but since the end of the American Civil War he now travels the highways and byways of rural Texas, publicly reading newspapers and bringing the latest news of 1870 to people hungry for information. One day, Kidd comes across a 10-year-old girl named Johanna who had been kidnapped by Kiowa years before and speaks no English. The Federal agent assigned to escort the girl back to living relatives, however, was killed by local hooligans. And Kidd comes to realize that if this wild little orphan is ever going to find her way back to some semblance of family, he’ll have to take her. This PG-13 Western features Tom Hanks as a man of convictions and past failings. His journey with Johanna involves violence, some profanity and suggestive material. But it also wonderfully emphasizes Captain Kidd’s strength of character and the rewards of building loving relationships in the face of great difficulty.