Plugged In Movie Awards 2021: Best Movies for Teens

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We’re on the second day of announcing nominees for our annual Plugged In Movie Awards—the Best Movies for Teens. Normally, this category is chock full of big sci-fi blockbusters and superhero movies. But as we know, this year was a little different, and that encouraged us to go in some different directions.

The movies we nominate may not be 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.)

Come Play (PG-13): A young autistic boy named Oliver has a hard time communicating with others, outside of using a verbal app on his phone to talk for him. Then a mysterious picture book pops up on his cellphone one morning. It tells of someone named Larry who’s in need of a friend. But Larry isn’t just some lonely little boy like Oliver. He’s something bony, hunched and creepy. This is one of those “horror” pics that digs into the shivering parts of our subconscious. It allegorically talks about the daily challenges of loving parents and warns against kid’s investing in too much screen time. In that light it’s a bit more compelling than your average creep show. Viewers should still be prepared, though, for a tale of a scary netherworld thingy that can’t be stopped when the lights go out.

Enola Holmes (PG-13): If you’ve ever lain awake and night and thought to yourself, “I sure wish Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things would play Sherlock Holmes’ little sister in a story where she investigates the mystery of her mother who’s disappeared,” well, Netflix is one step ahead of you. Enola Holmes is that movie. In it, Brown embodies a spirited, independent and plucky young woman on a mission. Oh, and Sherlock and his older brother, Mycroft, show up too—can’t forget to mention that! There’s some peril, innocent romance and a few wince-worthy violent moments (such as a grown man who attacks Enola) along the way. And a surprise twist at the end (which we’ve addressed in our review) left me scratching my head just a bit, too. A smattering of mild profanity turns up, but it never gets too harsh in this otherwise delightful and rollicking mystery adventure.

Mulan (PG-13): This live-action, Disney remake features Mulan, a fearless girl with a proclivity for martial arts and great energy. Her father, Hua Zhou, praised her skills but those skills would not bring her a husband, the only real way to honor her family as a young woman in that age. Years later, messengers from the Empire come with a decree that one man from each family must enter a war. Mulan’s father is too old to do so, so Mulan disguises herself and takes his place. A brave, necessary act indeed, but one that would bring dishonor to her family if ever revealed. This flick features a bit of violence and some dark spirituality, but also offers us a strong heroine who breaks the mold and, in the process, becomes a national hero.

Personal History of David Copperfield (PG): Technically, David Copperfield is 170 years old—the product of novelist Charles Dickens’ ever-fertile imagination. But don’t turn away from this film, thinking it’s a stodgy product of Victorian England that has little relevance to the 21st Century teen. First, David Copperfield’s story is about growing up, overcoming adversity and doing the right thing (after a few fits and starts). Second, this film is an absolute delight. Anchored by the talents of Peter Capaldi (of Doctor Who fame), Hugh Laurie (House) Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton and Dev Patel as David Copperfield, Personal History is charming, touching and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, in one sense, David Copperfield is a product of a time long ago. But the story, its themes and its humor are timeless. 

Safety (PG): When Ray McElrathbey goes to Clemson University, he expects to be two things: A college student and a football player. A father? Yeah, not on the list. But when his mom’s busted for drug possession (again) and he learns that his little brother, Fahmarr, is on his own, Ray Ray decides to smuggle the kid into the dorms with him—caring for his little brother until he can find a better solution. But what if he can’t find a better one? And what if his coaches find out? This is one of those Disney stories that feels too good to be true … until you find out that it is true. It’s a heartwarming tale of brotherly love, dedication and sacrifice—and one that reminds us how important family is, even if some families don’t look quite the same.

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.

6 Responses

  1. -The only one I’ve seen is Mulan, so I’m voting for that one. That movie also just got me on a personal level, so I’d probably vote for it even if I have seen the other ones.

  2. -Really interested in David Copperfield.:) Heard is really good and faithful adaption to David Copperfield himself. Plus thankfully has no if little modern agenda and sticks to telling an engrossing and compelling story true to the time and period. Mulan although seems fairly family friendly to me can’t replace the classic and honestly except for maybe jungle book and cinderella didn’t care for any of their live actions- takes away the essence of the original…

  3. -The only one I’ve seen is Enola Holmes, and I was actually kind of disappointed in it, although I’m not sure why. In theory, it was everything I want from a movie, but something about the execution fell flat.

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