Plugged In Movie Awards 2020: Best Movies for Teens

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Plugged In began its annual unveiling of what it considers to be the year’s best movies yesterday. We continue today with another set of five nominees—this one for the Best Movies for Teens.

This is always an interesting category, because by default, many of the year’s biggest blockbusters fall into this category. Last year, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse battled Black Panther in this category. The year before, Wonder Woman and Star Wars: The Last Jedi grappled with The Greatest Showman and Dunkirk. The movies that land on this category don’t need to be made exclusively for teens. But do teens make up a good chunk of the audience? You bet.

But this year looks a little different. Some of the year’s biggest money-makers were blocked by unheralded gems. Oh, and a nominee for a boatload of Oscars, too. Read on and see.

And, as always, let us know what you think, too. Vote for your favorite nominee (right here on the blog, or on Facebook and/or Instagram), and we’ll unveil your selections, along with our own, during our Feb. 6 podcast, The Plugged In Show! (We’ll follow that up with a blog as well.) If you feel passionately that (spoiler alert) Spider-Man: Far From Home should’ve made this list, let us know. (Movie synopses written by Emily Clark, Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Kristin Smith and me, Paul Asay.)

Avengers: Endgame (PG-13): Beginning with 2008’s Iron Man, 22 movies have now rolled out under the auspices of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe. But even though the MCU will go on, Avengers: Endgame marks a definite finale of sorts. It closes the book on one of moviedom’s most remarkable success stories. And a fitting finale it is. Listen, this movie’s not perfect—not by a Thor-swinging hammer throw. In terms of family viewing … well, it’s got all the violence we’ve come to expect from MCU properties, along with more language problems. But if you laughed through Thor: Ragnarok and cried through Infinity War and occasionally shouted “Wakanda forever!” be assured that Endgame is eminently satisfying. And the heroes here are heroic—sometimes displaying qualities that perhaps we could all stand to embody more: Courage. Sacrifice. Humility. Redemption.

Blinded by the Light (PG-13): When his dad is laid off and England’s economy starts sinking, Javed Khan (a Pakistani teenager growing up in 1980s England) is expected to be a dutiful son by finding a job and contributing to the family’s basic needs. But Javed has other goals in life: Make lots of money, kiss a girl and get out of this town to become a writer. Guided by the stories of determination and broken dreams conveyed in the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed decides to follow The Boss’ words and make his own dream a reality. Blinded by the Light is based on a true story, one that gives us a picture of the racial prejudice that the Khan family experienced. But Javed’s family admirably responds with grace and restraint, even when they struggle to make sense of their son’s interest in Bruce Springsteen and his seeming rejection of the Pakistani values. Moviegoers are occasionally exposed to profanity and some mildly suggestive moments. Mostly, though, this dramedy focuses on a struggling teen’s dreams, and how the music he loves helps him overcome the obstacles he encounters.

Harriet (PG-13): Unruly and untamed. That’s what they called Araminty, “Minty” Ross, otherwise known as Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery, Harriet refused to remain captive. And instead of submitting to abuse, she journeyed more than 100 miles to freedom and found her true self. But as she began to taste the fruit of deliverance, she knew she couldn’t keep it to herself. Soon, Harriet became a conductor for the Underground Railroad, helping to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom and boldly proclaiming her life’s motto: I’ma be free or die. Based on the life of Harriet Tubman, Harriet is a deeply spiritual film that highlights Harriet’s connection with God and her perseverance through unimaginable circumstances. There’s some light sexual content here, along with some violence and language, but the heart of the film is one that shows what sacrifice, heroism and faith truly look like.

Little Women (PG): Since Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel was first published in 1868, there have been multiple film adaptations of Little Women. And while there are stalwart opinions regarding which of those is “the best,” director Greta Gerwig’s version of this classic faithfully gives fans more of what they adore from the beloved March sisters. Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy have their share of flaws. Yes, they bicker and tease and overreact and hurt one another. But they also forgive and support and trust and love one another, too. Jo states that if she was a character in a book, this would all be so easy (a bit ironic, of course, since she is a character in a book). But the story of Little Women doesn’t offer a formulaic path to love and success and wisdom and happiness. It shows the pain that must be experienced, the losses that must be endured, the struggles that must be faced. And in the end, the March sisters and their friends find true joy through the kindness that they show to others.

Togo (PG): In 1925 there was a deadly outbreak of diphtheria that threatened to kill the children of Nome, Alaska. A small, secluded town near the Arctic Circle, Nome was a hard place to get to, especially in the dead of winter. The only hope of getting critical medication to the town was by dogsled. But as a deadly, ominous storm approached, the chances of receiving help seemed implausible. That is, until Leonhard Seppala became the first man, later joined by other mushers, to trek the Alaskan tundra with his pack of dogs and lead champion, Togo. Eyeing a 640-mile round trip at 60 degrees below zero, Seppala ventured out into inconceivable conditions to attempt what no man had before. And what he encountered and achieved was only made possible by his sheer willpower and, of course, man’s best friend. This Disney+ live-action original turns the story of Balto on its head. Togo is an epic film with perilous scenes and two mild profanities that might be too much for littles, but it’s one that focuses on the importance of bravery, love and selflessness.

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