2016 Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movie for Teens


All this week we’re unveiling our picks for our Plugged In Movie Awards, wherein we select the movies we feel best nourish both the mind and soul. (But make sure to read our full reviews before deciding whether you or your family should see any of these!) Our four categories are Kids, Teens, Adults and Christian movies. We’d love for you to chime in, either here or on Facebook, and vote for your favorites. Then, in a few weeks, Jake Roberson and Paul Asay will unveil the winners—both our “official” selections and the top popular vote-getters—on our Plugged In Vodcast.


0127HungerGames4The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2: Plugged In tends to like movies that exude a sense of innocence—particularly in a category catering to teens. But Mockingjay – Part 2—the final and brutal chapter in The Hunger Games saga—is neither innocent nor optimistic. It’s a war movie, and a harsh one. Katniss Everdeen, the franchise’s longsuffering central character, loses a great deal as she leads the final surge against President Snow and his corrupt Capitol. But while Panem’s landscape is indeed bleak, we can spot important lessons in the rubble. That war is terrible. That the lines between a righteous cause and a corrupt one can be thin and blurred. And that even when a crusade is just, it comes with a cost, sometimes a steep one. Loss is a part of life, Katniss tells us. But we can go on living—and even living well—just the same.

0127MyAllAmericanMy All-American: Written by the same screenwriter who penned Rudy and Hoosiers, this tale of courage and tenacity tells the true story of Freddie Steinmark, a gifted athlete who dreamed of playing big-time football. But despite setting all kinds of records in high school, the diminutive Steinmark gets passed over by almost everyone … except the Texas Longhorns. Suddenly Steinmark seems on the verge of living a storybook life. He excels on the field and is deepening his relationship with his high school sweetheart. But then a nagging knee injury turns out to be something much worse: something more fearsome than any opponent Freddy ever faced on the field.

0127SparePartsSpare Parts: In 2004, four undocumented immigrants from a Phoenix high school entered a national robotics competition in California. You wouldn’t think that they would have a chance against the likes of college teams from MIT, Duke, Virginia Tech and Cornell. In classic underdog-movie style, however, these crafty and scrappy kids (with the help of a teacher who believes in them and coaches them) challenge every assumption made about them. The result is an inspiring—and only occasionally problematic—movie about perseverance and friendship that also takes a challenging, complex look at the lives of illegal immigrants and the struggles they face.

0127StarWarsVIIStar Wars: The Force Awakens: A long time ago in a movie theater far, far away, a little flick called Star Wars alighted upon the masses. It’s hard to follow up that sort of success (as creator George Lucas himself discovered with Episodes I, II and III), but Director J.J. Abrams and Disney give it their best shot here with Episode VII. It’s a relatively simple story—about how a wayward stormtrooper, an abandoned scrap collector and a rolling robot helped make the galaxy a wee bit safer—and one that felt, frankly, like we’d seen parts of it before. But no matter: It’s rare to see a rollicking adventure story that’s this fun and, moreover, this clean. (The mostly bloodless lightsaber fighting and bombastic explosions are about the worst of it once you’ve had a good discussion about the Force.)

0127TomorrowlandTomorrowland: From Mad Max to Mockingjay, the cinematic landscape of 2015 was full of bleak, dystopian visions of the future. Tomorrowland sought to change that dynamic, declaring that our future need not be all sandstorms and arrows to the knee. It can be a bright, happy place—a little like Disneyland, if you squint just right. Not everyone loved this kinder, gentler tomorrow: Despite the presence of George Clooney and backed by Disney’s unparalleled marketing arm, Tomorrowland made less than $100 million at the turnstile. But for Plugged In, Tomorrowland is a welcome tonic for the stomach-churning pessimism we typically see in sci-fi. It’s got a few content issues, too, but it stubbornly shows us that the sun really might come out tomorrow—come what may.

Movie summaries written by Plugged In reviewers Adam Holz and Paul Asay.

Who wrote this?

Steven Isaac served as editor for Plugged In’s NRB- and EPA-award-winning website for more than a decade, orchestrating, managing, scheduling, shaping and tweaking at least 750 reviews and articles annually. He’s a husband and a father of a teenager.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Lydia Grace More than 1 year ago
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens was AMAZING and Tomorrowland was better than I expected (I just rented it since I had a free movie, but I really enjoyed it), my vote has to go to Mockingjay. I loved the movie, and I felt it really lived up to the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know PIO put up an explanation of how they choose the movies, but the inclusion of The Hunger Games and Tomorrowland is still a headscratcher. Tomorrowland received rotten reviews from nearly everyone including PIO. The Hunger Games--I thought they ended that series like five years ago--eye roll.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
None. Little Boy or Max--I think both of those came out last year.

Little Boy was a very intriguing film. It was more spiritual than religious; it felt like Heaven is for Real in some ways. The balance--dealing with difficult subjects (faith, forgiveness, racism, suffering, war, etc.) verses restraining the content--was near perfect. It was a  PG-13 in the same vein as The Giver.

Max was an amazing thing to watch. The throwback feel and, again, dealing with the hard questions, but being fair and balanced with the answers and content. Messages about patriotism, race, war, guns, crime, inefficient bureaucracy, family bonds, friendship, forgiveness, loyalty, responsibility, pride, and etc. all rolled up in a movie that didn't seem to garner much attention. It wasn't perfect in that some of the characters don't have to face consequences of their actions, but I have a feeling that was partly due to editing and run time/ pacing issues. The movie doesn't tie up all of the plots it unravels and the run time is still long--deleted scenes might clear up some concerns PIO outlined.
Ethan Tang More than 1 year ago
Star Wars! No doubt x) Duhduhduh duuuuuuh....duuuuh...duhduhduh duuuuuuh duh ....
Caleb Brink More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tomorrowland is my vote
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely Star Wars: The Force Awakens is my #1 pick, then Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Pt. 2 is my #2 pick
Isaac_Trenti More than 1 year ago
I’ve only seen one of these movies, and I haven’t heard much good about any of the others on this list.  Of these five options, I would say Star Wars:The Force Awakens, simply for the fact that it was the only one that I saw and took the time to see in theaters.
Cj .J .R. More than 1 year ago
>>>>>> Awesome picks of the year >>> which ever film has parallels to the truth >> to open a discussion for others . that's always the best 
Trevor Stoneman More than 1 year ago
Star wars. Definitely. Tomorrowland was just a waste of what could have been a great movie, by how it's action was so bad, and how crap the ending was.
Jane Eyre More than 1 year ago
Tomorrowland had me laughing out loud at the ending which was so pathetic and preachy about worshipping the earth.  It was a horrible and ridiculous movie and would never watch it again.  There is enough brain washing about global warming in the media so do not need more in entertainment.
Grace Evans More than 1 year ago
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, hands down.  Such anticipation for that film, and it didn't disappoint!
Caleb Van Nice More than 1 year ago
Force Awakens!
Kal El More than 1 year ago
Of these: definitely Star Wars, followed by Hunger Games.

I kind of think we could've stood to see at least one of these inspirational dramas excluded in favor of one of the comic films of last year. It's pretty easy to make a case for any of them, but certainly Avengers: Age Of Ultron, with its depth and teachable moments (as Christian parallels go) could've make the cut. Or Insurgent...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Kal El, I'm sorry I'm so late to getting to your comment, but I need to ask; how could you recommend a movie as awful as Insurgent?! That movie was horrid!

Hear me out; as a Christian, where are the redeeming values in seeing a unmarried duo having sex, girls wearing midriff baring shirts, and a heroine that's more whiny than Hayden Christiansen's Anakin Skywalker?

Furthermore, what about the plot holes galore? When the bad guys attack the good guys secret hideout, why do they shoot darts that stun everyone except Divergents? Why not just use real bullets? Also, the good guys have these necklaces in their necks that if the good guys flip the switch to activate them, the good guys will all die; so why don't they?

There were WAY better teen movies that came out in 2015. My personal best teen films are: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ant-Man, and Mission Impossible 5.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I meant the bad guys. If the bad guys flip the switch.
Nolan Ryan More than 1 year ago
While I really enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I have to say Tomorrowland had the better moral story for us today. It combined good acting, visual effects, and an original story to deliver an imperfect, yet fun and important film!
Chels More than 1 year ago
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (good, clean adventure with just the right amount of danger, a lot of nostalgia, and plenty of new stuff to look forward to)
2. Tomorrowland (I liked it while getting why most people didn't like it. Really, despite some of it's content issues, it was a pleasant antidote to so much YA dystopian fiction, plus it was a pretty original story)
AryandilMithian More than 1 year ago
Definitely Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I would put a well-written segment about my reasons for choosing this movie, but I really don't have anything other than that it really was a great movie and one of the best films of 2015.
Abigail Falanga More than 1 year ago
Augh! Again, I've seen only two of these ("Force Awakens" and "Tomorrowland")! Hard to choose between those two; but I'm inclined toward "Force Awakens," simply because "Tomorrowland" seemed like a better kids film
Stephen Barbee More than 1 year ago
my only vote here would be Star Wars. After reading the books, I've decided not to watch the final Hunger Games movie - too depressing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by Smith.

Having not seen any of these -- yet -- it wouldn't be fair for me to vote.

But what about Mr. Holmes?

And where is MI: Rogue Nation? Superb films, both of them.

Let's see if RN makes the adult list. If not, maybe it's time for a write-in.