These films represent what we consider to be the best of what got released in 2014, and not just artistically speaking, but morally and content-wise, too. Our selection isn’t a stamp of approval, of course, so link to our full reviews and read them carefully before deciding to see anything we’ve listed here.
In February we’ll pick our winners. But you can do it right now! To voice your thoughts and vote for your favorite nominee for the Reader’s Choice award in each category, post a comment on this blog or on our Facebook page.
BEST MOVIE FOR ADULTS (NOMINEES)
Unbroken (PG-13): Based on the best-selling 2010 book by Laura Hillenbrand, this Angelina Jolie-directed war movie tells the remarkable—and brutal—true story of WWII airman Louis Zamperini. Surviving 47 days in a life raft in the Pacific after his B-24 Liberator went down would have been a stoically heroic tale in its own right. But when Zamperini and one other survivor are “rescued” by Japanese soldiers, it’s the beginning of another season of ever greater degradation and torture. But Zamperini—still years away from finding God—is determined to survive. And that makes for an inspiring if sometimes excruciating cinematic journey.
Selma (PG-13): Great art. Great performances. Great messages. Selma is saturated with all three. It focuses on the 1965 Civil Rights marches in Selma, Ala., led by Martin Luther King Jr., showcasing a critical moment in the American journey toward peace and equality between races. Foul language and scenes of historical violence feel pretty visceral at times, and the film doesn’t overlook King’s flaws (some of them sexual). But neither does it disregard his Christian faith or the sacrifices he and others were willing to make in their long, dangerous drive toward becoming free at last.
Interstellar (PG-13):Forget saving the world. It’s already dying. But there’s still a chance to save some of the folks in it, and it’s up to a space cowboy named Cooper and a band of intrepid scientists to do it. Fifth-dimensional musings in the movie’s third act are a bit extraterrestrial, but Christopher Nolan’s geeked-out space adventure is a titanic visual—and surprisingly spiritual—achievement. Though it strives to rigorously adhere to the bizarre world of quantum physics, it also posits that love is the most powerful force in the universe—something that the Apostle Paul made a point of once upon a time as well.
The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG): A family of immigrants opens up a boisterous Indian eatery in France—right across the street from Madame Mallory’s prim and prestigious fine-dining restaurant. Time for a food fight? You bet. But when a gifted Indian cook from one side of the street longs to cross the divide and learn from the other, he helps bridge the gourmet gap, leading to healing, reconciliation and even love. The Hundred-Foot Journey is a rare PG movie made for adults—a sweet and savory rumination on the cultural differences that can keep us apart … or draw us together.
Into the Woods (PG):In Stephen Sondheim’s musical (originating way back in 1987), all roads lead into the woods. Jack, Red, Grandma, the Wolf, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Prince Charming are all there. As is a curious cow and that Other Prince, along with the Baker and his Wife. They all have hidden dreams and wishes that, it seems, only the Witch and those quirky—sometimes dark and tangled—woods can make come true. But will they? Lots of fractured fairy tale fun to be found here, but also some pretty amazing messages about how much children learn from what their parents do (more than what they say), and the very Grimm fact that wishes aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. The real-life choices we make, the movie mutters, matter more in our happily ever after than we might at first think.
A Movie Nights discussion guide is available for Interstellar.
Movie summaries written by Plugged In reviewers Paul Asay, Bob Hoose and Adam Holz.