Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movie For Teens

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Another day, another batch of nominees! This time we turn to movies for teens. It’s a perennially tricky category to pick for, and this year yields a truly eclectic mix of movies, pitting some of the year’s top-grossing flicks against a couple of little-seen gems.

As always, read our full reviews before you or anyone in your family decide to watch any of these films. And as always, we’d love to get your input. Vote for your favorites either here or on our Facebook page. We’ll close voting on Feb. 20.  A week later, we’ll announce the winners—both those chosen by Plugged In and those you vote for.

captain americaCaptain America: Civil War: It’s tough to be a hero. Sure, it’s great that the Avengers have saved the world time and again. But should that world just trust the good guys to make good decisions all the time? Aren’t superheroes human, too? Isn’t it about time that the planet put some sort of a muzzle—or at least a leash—on the planet’s superhuman do-gooders? Such is the premise of this closet Avengers movie, one that pits Cap against old pal Iron Man and stuffs more superheroes into it than the average 8-year-old boy puts in his toy box. Civil War is a darker, more morally complex story than we’re used to from Marvel. Instead of evildoers from outer space, our heroes must battle each other, and we moviegoers are asked to take sides. Sure, Civil War still offers plenty of high-flying action and not a small amount of fun. It has a few pain points, too, from its expected violence to it sometimes salty language. But this movie makes you think a little, too, and that’s a good thing.

monster callsA Monster Calls: The monster that comes calling here really isn’t the foreboding, tree-like entity you might have seen in this film’s trailers. Oh, that thing’s monstrous, to be sure. So much so that sensitive young viewers might be overwhelmed by images of it. But the real monster in this story is the one 12-year-old Conor’s mom bravely faces: cancer. Conor struggles mightily to come to grips with the monstrous emotions of fear and grief and guilt swirling in his heart. Despite its pseudo horror-movie trappings, A Monster Calls is a remarkably tender, psychologically insightful tale, one that could be especially resonant for tweens and teens who’ve gone through significant losses of their own.

Queen_of_Katwe_posterQueen of Katwe: Phiona Mutesi had no reason to hope for much. Indeed, born and raised in one of Uganda’s poorest slums, she had little reason for hope at all. But when a mission-minded soccer coach named Robert Katende opens a chess club in the heart of the slum, Phiona displays a rare grasp of the game. Soon this uneducated girl is beating well-heeled opponents who’d been honing their chess skills since childhood, and she begins taking on the country’s best. Disney’s Queen of Katwe, based on the true story of the world’s most unlikely chess master, is a quietly beautiful tale undergirded by a subtle, unshakeable sense of faith. Admittedly, in a year in which the Mouse House released a bevy of box-office blockbusters, Queen barely made a squeak. Turns out, one of Disney’s quietest 2017 releases just might be one of its best, too.

RacedvdRace: Jesse Owens is fast—so fast, in fact, that he could be one of the star performers at the 1936 Olympics. The catch: Those Olympics are being held in Berlin, and Germany’s Nazi government isn’t exactly known for its racial tolerance. Should the United States even go to the Olympics, given the host country’s horrific policies? And if it does, should Owens—whose own country still suffers from plenty of racial injustice of its own—agree to participate? Race, released last February, probably slipped off a lot of moviegoers’ radars, and that’s a shame. Despite a peppering of profanity, Jesse Owens’ story is inspiring. He knows he can’t please everyone no matter what choice he makes. But Owens’ decision to use his gift—and the classy manner in which he uses it—reminds us that we’ve all been given gifts from God. And it reminds us to use them in the right way, emphasizing what a shame it would be to squander them.

rogue oneRogue One: A Star Wars Story: So just how did the Rebel Alliance pilfer plans for the Death Star anyway? Rogue One: A Star Wars Story answers that question. Set prior to the events in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Rogue One tells the tale of Jyn Erso. She’s a fierce young woman the Rebels recruit to find her father, whom they suspect has designed the Death Star. But he’s also baked in a weakness that he hopes his daughter can discover. Rogue One delivers a satisfying story, especially for longtime fans. It’s full of sanitized Star Wars-style combat as well as some depictions of gritty guerilla warfare. Those are issues families will want to consider, as is the film’s slightly more personal characterization of The Force. That said, heroism, bravery and sacrifice are all once again on display in the latest story from a galaxy far, far away.

Movie synopses by Paul Asay and Adam Holz.

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.

Jose-Yvette Garcia 11 months ago
Movies are changing too and past heroes are becoming funny now and not as righteous as before.....very disappointing but keep alert as what was good before now might have dark and non-Godly messages on them.  Unbelievable how they are targeting teens with dark themes like vampires etc etc...and kids love them because their friends are watching too.....just like in music.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It seems fairly certain that Rogue One will win, and no wonder, it was a great movie. But I think there is a better movie here.

It isn't Civil War. While that one had good moments, I came away quite put out that the final movie in the Captain America franchise had to leave every hero on a note where . . . they all sorta acted like jerks. To one degree or another.

No, my vote goes to the underrated gem, the ravishing film that everyone likes but nobody's seen: Queen of Katwe. A simple story is made to glow with strong, understated performances. An ugly environment is still filmed with love and color. And some tough, fairly mature themes are dealt with delicately enough that anyone of any age can see it. There is something for everyone in Queen of Katwe. Except for explosions. And a break from those is good once and a while (even though I love superheroes, Star Wars, etc).

Vote: Queen of Katwe
Max Kuntz More than 1 year ago
"Captain America Civil War" is my vote.
Jackie Lancaster More than 1 year ago
Captain America: Civil War
Sam B More than 1 year ago
I have to go with Captain America: Civil War. I liked the fact that it was a lot deeper than most superheroes movies.
Kal El More than 1 year ago
Of these, probably Rogue One. Civil War as a runner up.

But really I think it should be Batman v Superman. I could go on about it's merits for a long time, but I'll keep it simple here: deeply spiritual subtext and Christ allegories. Easily one of the most 'Christian' super hero movies, probably ever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
Vote: Queen of Katwe

I really want to see A Monster Calls, but I haven't been able to. I haven't seen Rouge One either, but I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies and I am not about to start now. 
Jesse Owns deserves a good biopic--Race is not it. I couldn't even get through the first half of the movie. There is a reason this movie was overlooked: The acting is terrible, the script is just blah (the dialogue is just recycled bits and pieces from every other sports drama), and the direction is awful (the entire movie is a bunch of badly acted, greenscreen heavy scenes thrown together in chronological order). I beseech everyone not to waste their time or money on Race (its over two hours long)--it really is that poorly done. Even though 42 was kind of boring, I suggest watching that movie instead. 
Civil War was another extremely disappointing movie. I hat that the Captain America franchise ended with an Iron Man movie. I loved The Winter Soldier (it's one of my all time favorite movies); I wanted a third Captain America movie to focus on the spy/ governmental/ political/ SHIELD elements like TWS did. Civil War was just a mess and kind of boring. (Hawkeye was one of the few highlights for me. I did like how everyone chose a side and battled each other.) I would throw a vote to Dr. Strange instead, but I think I'm giving it to Queen of Katwe.
Queen of Katwe is in the same vein as Searching for Bobby Fischer and Akeelah and the Bee, but with an African spin. Fiona and her family's story is inspiring and competently told. You may need subtitles to understand what is being said, but this movie gives you a family-friendly look into the lives of people who live in tough circumstances. I wish the Christian element was a little bit more heavy handed, but, other than that minor complaint, it was good.
By CbinJ

library_girl More than 1 year ago
Of these I only saw Civil War and Star Wars, so I'd go with Civil War, although I'd really like to see Race when I get a chance. I just can't even with the death in the last two Star Wars movies.
gogo More than 1 year ago
civil war
Airship Prodigy More than 1 year ago
While it's hard for me to not pick a movie with Spiderman in it (and a good one at that), I have to give my vote to Rogue One. Civil War's plot was cluttered, and relied on shock and awe superpowers ("Everybody has a gimmick these days"). Rogue One had a clean, straightforward plot, and it was an excellent addition to the Star Wars cannon. Good luck to both though. Definitely my top picks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent, spot on insight (I declare you are so underrated)! 

Civil War, like The Winter Soldier before it has a much heavier feel than Avengers Assemble, as Rogue One seems more personal ... and heavier than the "Star Wars" line. Yet reviewers consistently long for more death. They compare to DC's line, especially The Dark Knight Trilogy and find Marvel/Disney lacking. I say there is room for more than one meal at a restaurant, and everything doesn't have to be 3" tall steak and potatoes. That's a good meal, but sometimes a slice of pizza, or a juicy burger and fries is just what our souls need. Why am I hungry all of a sudden?
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. Funny, Clever, Deep, and Moving. Not every film can deal about radicalism and child abuse in such an impacting but sensitive way. But I understand why it's not on the list. ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Posted by the Other Anonymous


Fantastic Beasts... was a pro-LGBT+ movie. The child abuser is supposed to be a smothering moralist who smashes any sign of sexual diversity.

Check out the review at WORLD Magazine (they're Christians).

Becca Sandoe More than 1 year ago
Race is my favorite because it is based on a true story and a triumphant one at that.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of those, definitely Rouge one. Civil war was good, but the plot is full of holes so big you could fly the Death Star through them. Has the best spider man yet. The thing I hate most about marvel movies is that they never have the guts to kill someone on the good side.
Rhodes dying would have more forcefully brought to life the lesson that the story tried to get across. There would have been a consequence. And I HATED that they brought ant man in on caps team. He spent the entire Ant-Man movie trying to get on the good side of the law, then completely throws away his promise to his daughter.
Same with Hawkeye. I won't even go into the Zemo thing. 

Rouge and civil war are the only ones I have seen out of that list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Finally! Someone who speaks my language!

I completely agree with everything you said. But while I can slide those complaints under my rug, my biggest problem with Civil War was the lack of stakes. I was excited for Civil War because it looked like it would have actual stakes involved; it didn't.

Still a pretty good film though, although Doctor Strange is my favorite 2016 comic book movie and I was a little disappointed that it wasn't here. Then again, the spiritual content in that movie would make it difficult for Plugged In to support it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This review should have stated that their were spoilers. You'd expect that everyone would have seen the Civil War, but it's a good practice to include the warning.
Aaron Reeves More than 1 year ago
Rogue One!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Rogue One! I loved how trust was such a central theme in all of the relationships.

Also, it was the only Star Wars / sci-fi movie that made me feel like crying, ever.

Caleb Van Nice More than 1 year ago
CIVIL WAR gets my vote. Smart, complex, fun, and sobering all at the same time. And on top of all that, it had the best Spider-Man thus far. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by Peggy Carter

I'd have to vote for Rogue One for this one! I only saw Civil War out of the others and I don't think it was quite good enough to win :/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

My vote goes to Rogue One; it's my favorite movie of 2016! Race comes in at a close second though.