With the Oscars just around the corner many critics are making their lists of the “best films of the year.” Many critically-lauded films, however, are not ones that one would consider to be uplifting or even remotely family-friendly. Thankfully, the past year also gave us much cinema that was inspiring and worthwhile. Here are ten such films.
42 – Powerhouse biopic portrays the adversity endured (and overcome) by Jackie Robinson as he crossed racial barriers as the first African-American man to play major league baseball. Sobering, encouraging, and romantic. Harrison Ford gives one of his best-ever performances as manager Branch Rickey. Rated PG-13 (appropriate for teens and up). Buy it here. Read my review.
Book Thief, The – Beautiful story about an adopted girl in Nazi Germany who steals books to prevent them from burning and, with her adopted parents, shelters a Jew underneath the stairs of their home. Stunning performances by Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and newcomer Sophie Nelisse. Rated PG-13 (appropriate for older children and up). Buy it here. Read my review.
Croods, The – Hilarious, clever, and ultimately heartwarming animated adventure finds a family of cave-people searching for a new home. The animation dazzles, the screenplay pops with both meaning and laughs, and the vocal cast (including Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, and Nicolas Cage) are excellent. Rated PG (appropriate for all ages). Buy it here. Read my review.
Ephraim’s Rescue – Director T.C. Christensen’s follow-up to 17 Miracles serves as both a companion piece and as a standalone film. Though it starts a little shaky, Ephraim’s Rescue finds its footing to deliver a powerful account of stranded Mormon pioneers freezing and starving on the plains while rescuers led by the titular Ephraim Hanks try to reach them in time. Gorgeous cinematography is bolstered by fine performances, heartbreak, and humor. This is a fascinating piece of Utah history. Rated PG (appropriate for older children and up). Buy it here. Read my review.
Frozen – Latest blockbuster from Disney features jaw-dropping animation and songs that have become instant classics, but it’s the decision to focus on sibling devotion as much as romantic love that sets it apart. Rated PG (appropriate for all ages). Buy it here. Read my review.
Gravity – The year’s most groundbreaking technical achievement is also a powerful tale of determination and hope. Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) carries the film on her capable shoulders as a new astronaut stranded in deep space, desperate to get home. Rated PG-13 (teens and up). Buy it here. Read my review.
Ordinary Hero, An: The True Story of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland –
Unforgettable documentary about a white woman who stood for racial equality with her black friends in the 1960’s South, causing her to be branded “a traitor” and placed on the KKK’s “must-kill” list. This is a riveting story of doing what’s right, no matter the cost. Not rated, but appropriate for older children and up. Buy it here. Read my review.
Saratov Approach, The – Although it’s about LDS missionaries kidnapped and held for ransom in Russia, this true story transcends religious differences with a universal tale about survival, courage, and compassion. Rated PG-13 (appropriate for teens and up). Buy the soundtrack here. Read my review.
Saving Mr. Banks – Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks star in this true story of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and the back-and-forth that led her to finally sign the rights over to Walt Disney. A marvelous look into the creative process and how it can help us make peace with the sorrows of our pasts. Rated PG-13 (appropriate for older children and up). Buy it here. Read my review.
Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The – Remake of an old Danny Kaye film finds Ben Stiller’s daydreamer engaging on a journey of self-discovery in Patagonia that’s grander than anything he could have imagined. This has terrific visuals and plenty of heart. Rated PG (appropriate for older children and up). Buy it here. Read my review.
Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in couples’ therapy, singles’ guidance, and working with adolescents (visit his <a href="https://www.
<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ /><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />jdeckertherapy.com”>web site). His passion for cinema has led to his co-hosting The KJZZ Movie Show and reviewing Hollywood films from a Latter-day Saint perspective at mormonmovieguy.com. Jonathan’s book, 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families, is now available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook. Deseret News called it “a one-stop resource…a useful guide for finding values-based movies.”