Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movie For Adults

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Those Oscar voters have it made. To choose the best of the best based on sheer aesthetics—the writing, the acting, the cinematography—feels easy compared to the task set before us. In this category, we have to factor in ethics, morality and worldview, too. Sure, maybe a given film looks amazing. But what does it actually say? And how, exactly, does it say it? How do you balance a fantastic message with troubling content? No wonder this category is often our most controversial. And this year, even though all five of our picks were also on the Academy Awards short list for Best Picture, promises to be no different. Be sure to check out our full reviews before seeing any of these films.

Because this category inherently fosters plenty of discussion, we’re eager to know what you think. Vote for your favorites, or tell us what you think we missed. We’ll tally up your votes. And on Feb. 24, we’ll let you know what you chose, as well was what our official top pick is.

arrivalArrival: The aliens have touched down. In 12 gigantic ships they hover just above the ground at strategic points around the globe. And every 18 hours, a doorway opens at each craft’s bottommost point to let curious government officials and scientists in for a face-to-face meeting. But what do these mysterious creatures want, as they glide in a hazy mist behind a transparent wall? Where do they come from? And how do they even communicate? If you’re looking for Independence Day-like bim-bam-boom, you won’t find it here. This is a more thoughtful alien “invasion” pic. It’s well written and compelling, and it prompts viewers to think less about the faraway stars and more about the things we value deep within. This is smart sci-fi, with a few moments of peril and one unfortunate f-bomb to mar its puzzle-it-out impact.

hacksaw ridgeHacksaw Ridge: What? An R-rated movie on a Plugged In list? Indeed, Hacksaw Ridge is one of the year’s most graphically violent movies. But the violence underlines just how heroic Desmond Doss actually is. Doss signs up to “fight” in World War II despite the fact that he refuses to carry a gun. Deeply devout and scarred by violent moments from his past, he’s vowed to never hurt another human if he can help it—even when he’s an active participant in one of the war’s bloodiest conflicts. Hacksaw Ridge marks director Mel Gibson’s return to relevance, and it packs in as many overtly spiritual themes as some of the Christian films we’ll be talking about tomorrow. Hacksaw Ridge blends both outlandish courage and amazing piety in an unbelievable true-to-life story. It’s not a film for everyone, of course. But for those who watch, it has something powerful to say. 

hidden figures_Hidden Figures: There’s a reason why Star Trek called space the “final frontier”: It’s really, really hard to get there. And no one would’ve made it into space if it hadn’t been for a lot of really smart, dedicated men and women whose feet never left the ground. Hidden Figures chronicles the stories of three of them—African-American women who had their own special obstacles to overcome. Working for NASA in the still segregated state of Virginia, Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson must deal with blacks-only bathrooms, whites-only coffee pots and a thousand other forms of constant, corruptive prejudice. But instead of taking to the streets, these women engage in a gentler but no-less-effective fight for equality—one in which equality is earned one gracious step at a time. Language is the biggest drawback in this PG movie, but the message it offers is an important one. “There’s more than one way to achieve something,” Mary tells her husband, and it’s true. This story reminds us all that change—real, viable, important change—can sometimes be achieved just like our parents always said it could: Through hard work, patience and a tireless pursuit of justice.

la la landLa La Land: Ah, Tinseltown. A mythic place of big dreams … and bigger disappointments. Mia and Sebastian know about both. She’s an aspiring actress. He’s an aspiring jazz pianist. Both harbor huge hopes. Both have known little but artistic frustration. So what happens when they find each other? And what happens when they get a taste of the success that’s been so elusive? Can they have it all—their career dreams and romance? This lovely, old-fashioned musical (nominated for a record-tying 14 Oscars) hits a few content bumps along its Hollywood freeway, namely a smattering of profanity (including a lone f-word) and some mild sensuality. But for the most part, it steers clear of severe, film-wrecking gratuity, and it’s hard not to kind of fall in love with Mia and Sebastian as they fall in love with each other.

lionLion: When Saroo was just 5 years old, he was accidentally swept away from everything he knew and loved. He fell asleep on a deserted train. And, when he woke up, he was more than a thousand miles from home. In the midst of that tragedy, the boy was lucky: Adopted (eventually) by loving Australian parents Sue and John Brierley, Saroo found a new home. Twenty years later, Saroo—now a young, thoughtful man—finds his thoughts returning back home, his first home, and the mother and brother whom he left behind. Lion is a gripping, ultimately heartwarming story of a man who goes in search of family and finds more than he ever expected. The film comes with its share of cautions: Saroo and his girlfriend have a sexual relationship (though we don’t see anything explicit), and as a young child, Saroo narrowly escapes a human trafficking ring. But it’s a beautiful movie nevertheless. It tackles adoption in a complex, realistic and affirming way and speaks to the longing we all have: the desire to be loved and to have a place that we can call home.

Movie synopses by Paul Asay, Adam Holz and Bob Hoose.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 6 months ago
This is quite hard! Vote: Arrival

Lion: Have not yet seen it, but it looks excellent.

La La Land: Was adorable, beautiful, and breathtaking, but never seemed sure what it was trying to say. It was a great antidote to endless action movies (I love superheroes, but not ONLY superheroes) and a nice, fun movie. But not the BEST movie.

Hidden Figures: Have not seen it yet, but it looks promising.

Hacksaw Ridge: Almost gets my vote, as it is not only one of the best movies of the year but one of the best movies I've seen in my life. I hope Andrew Garfield gets best actor. A lot of people have been saying he killed it this year and though he never touched a gun he sure can act! Add to this that it's such an amazing story, the supporting cast was very good, and the cinematography was gorgeous (frequently gore-geous to boot). It doesn't get my vote only because I think that there is another movie that deserves it more. 

Arrival: Gets my vote. The story is compelling, the acting incredible, and the effects flawlessly serve the storyline without getting carried away. Add to that the strongest pro-life message I have ever seen on film, one that I cannot state without spoiling key plot points: suffice to say Arrival affirms that even the shortest, most heart-breaking of tiny lives have value. And it's relatively content-clean aside from a lone f-word that parents could easily mute out if they watched first. Though most likely anyone younger than twelve would be completely lost watching the movie . . . 


Stacey Wade Hartman 6 months ago
Hidden Figures
Jackie Lancaster 6 months ago
Hacksaw Ridge
Sam B 6 months ago
I unfortunately haven't seen it yet, but still have to vote for Hacksaw Ridge.
SJamison 7 months ago
I was disappointed to learn one of the scenes a lot of reviewers liked in "Hidden Figures" (the white supervisor desegregating the restrooms) was fictional and put in to make sure there was a "good white guy" at that point in the movie.  (In reality, the black woman just started ignoring the signs so she could get her work done.)
ezra_guerra 7 months ago
Hard to choose between Hacksaw Ridge and La La Land...I'll let you decide!

library_girl 7 months ago
Star Trek Beyond was my favourite movie of the year, with Doctor Strange a close second. Hail, Caesar was also very entertaining. I haven't seen any of the movies on your list, although I would like to see Hidden Figures.
sacrificepage 7 months ago
Loved 'La La Land' so that one gets my vote.
I'd give my Honorable to 'Arrival' the way that story wrapped up and the journey there was fantastic. 
'Hacksaw Ridge' just didn't do it for me, and I love WWII movies, but this one just didn't hit me like the other ones. I think it was the first battle when the man picked up the dead torso of the other soldier and used it as a shield. That moment sticks in my brain, and it just left a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the film. Andrew Garfield killed it though. 
gogo 7 months ago
hacksaw ridge for sure, a great movie
Anonymous 7 months ago
Hidden Figures absolutely gets my vote. It is inspiring and triumphant and the three women in it are incredible - I'm so glad that their story is being told! It's a fantastic movie!
Airship Prodigy 7 months ago
Also, could we get one of these for music too?
gogo 7 months ago
  • they do have one its right here http://pluggedin.focusonthefamily.com/musical-musings-2016-adam-holzs-year-end-picks/
Airship Prodigy 7 months ago
I saw that, but I was specifically referring to how we could vote.
bobed 7 months ago
Hacksaw Ridge was fantastic. I wouldn't bring anyone under 18 - or perhaps, anyone who wasn't already exposed to such things - to see the movie, but it was still a moving, riveting, dramatic and realistic exploration of the horrors of war. I would argue that the only time we should see such graphic violence onscreen is in a war context. Otherwise it's simply like shoving rotten food into the mouth of your soul.

As for the other movies, well, in my opinion Hacksaw Ridge was the only one worth buying a ticket to see in theaters, so I haven't seen any of them. 

I don't usually like unrealistic, secular sci-fi thinkpieces (I truly disliked Interstellar, and Gravity was a bore), so I probably will never see Arrival. 

I'll have to decide later whether Hidden Figures is worth seeing - it sounds like a good story, but it also has blasphemies of the Lord's name, which I try to avoid unless it's in context and addressed (and even then I'm wary). 

La La Land is musical fluff. My wife might like it, but even she's not interested enough to buy a ticket. 

And finally, Lion - I hadn't even heard of it before I read the PI review, but it doesn't sound like anything I'd ever see. It's a triumphant true story and all that, but it sounds like it gives all glory to a counterfeit spirit instead of the one true God, which is not something I can support. 

I know I can't really judge the movies before seeing them, but there's my two cents based on the PI reviews and the trailers, and I think I'm a pretty good judge of a movie's character. 
Anonymous 7 months ago
XD
ezra_guerra 7 months ago
You sound like a pretty boring moviegoer. Hacksaw Ridge was quite fantastic, I think it was one of my favorites of the year. Films like Interstellar and Gravity are incredible, which is why I'm extremely excited to see Arrival! Hidden Figures was beautiful, La La Land was fantastic, and Lion looks amazing!!
bobed 7 months ago
I'm a boring moviegoer? Pray tell, from whence does this judgment come, O wise and doubtlessly-fun one? Because I dislike graphic violence shoved down my throat with no context, or because musicals and hollow, attempted "intellectual" sci-fi films aren't interesting to me? Well, frankly, judging by your taste in movies, you sound like a pretty boring moviegoer to me, too.
Airship Prodigy 7 months ago
Throwing my vote to Arrival. So different than any other alien movie. Just great!
Caleb Brink 7 months ago
La La Land!  (Although I loved Hidden Figures)
Anonymous 7 months ago
Silence was one of my favorite movies this year and I would vote for that. However, on this list I would go with Hacksaw Ridge. Andrew Garfield killed it this year! 
Anonymous 7 months ago
Andrew Garfield didn't kill it! He never touched a gun! ; )
Anonymous 7 months ago

Posted by the Other Anonymous


Ha ha! Have an Oscar for "Best Joke of the Day."

Anonymous 7 months ago
Posted by Peggy Carter

Wowwww! This is the hardest one yet! I saw Hidden Figures and La La Land and loved them both...Hidden Figures was definitely more convicting and intense, while La La Land was light-hearted and sweet (aside from them living together and the language). They were both amazingly acted and La La Land's music and dancing were phenomenal.
So I have to say La La Land is my vote, only since I'm forced to make a decision :P
Anonymous 7 months ago
By CbinJ
I really liked Arrival, but a clean romantic musical like La La Land is really hard to come by. And while Arrival is thought provoking, it is quite melancholy. Meanwhile, La La Land is light-hearted and does provoke a bit of thought regarding life choices and what you sacrifice as a result. If I were voting strictly on quality, I would have to go with Arrival. The acting, script, directing, and SFX/CGI are much tighter and well crafted. But considering the lighter tone and content, I think La La Land is my pick.

Vote: La La Land 

By CbinJ
John Peterson 7 months ago
My vote goes to LA LA LAND, the only movie I've seen on this list and my favorite movie of 2016. My top five movies of 2016 are:
1. LA LA LAND
2. 10 Cloverfield Lane
3. Jason Bourne
4. Rogue One 
5. Batman v. Superman