2017 Plugged In Movie Awards: And the Award Goes To …


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, after long and arduous deliberation (involving an occasional round of fisticuffs) and painstaking vote counting, it’s time to unveil the winners of our fourth annual Plugged In Movie Awards. Alas, due to budget cuts, we had to cancel our typical star-studded banquet in Hollywood. Perhaps next year.

The Nominees: Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Moana, Pete’s Dragon, Sing!
Plugged In’s Pick: Pete’s Dragon
Yep, this category was pretty competitive, what with the strong, empowering messages in Moana to Dory’s poignant search for her parents. But Pete’s Dragon, with its fantastical, touching tale of an orphaned lad and his invisible dragon pulled enough heartstrings to come out with the win.
Reader’s Pick: Tie, The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon
“Why didn’t you nominate Zootopia?” came the cry. “Zootopia was great!” Yes, it was pretty great, and come Monday, it might well be an Oscar winner. But given the nominees on the docket, you just couldn’t decide from the sweet, powerful story of The Jungle Book and Disney’s live-action resonance of Pete’s Dragon. Oh, by the way, four of the five nominees were Disney films. Go figure.

The Nominees: Captain America: Civil War, A Monster Calls, Queen of Katwe , Race, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Plugged In’s Pick: Queen of Katwe
In a category filled with CGI bombast and monster blockbusters, Plugged In chose a quiet, beautiful film that few people saw but almost everyone should. Queen of Katwe, the well-crafted story of a girl raised in one of Uganda’s worst slums who becomes a teenage chess whiz, is filled with great messages involving faith, family and perseverance. Oh, and by the way, it’s an outstanding film aesthetically, too.
Reader’s Pick: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Y’all had a tough time choosing between two of the year’s biggest blockbusters, Rogue One and Captain America: Civil War. But in the end, this Star Wars spinoff, with its cadre of courageous, sacrificial heroes, won the day. Princess Leia would be proud.

The Nominees: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion
Plugged In’s Pick: Arrival
This was tough. Lion’s resonant narrative about a kid taken from his family and, as a man, tries to find it again, offers some great messages in a powerful, poignant package. But in the end we chose Arrival, a surprisingly poignant movie about one woman’s attempt to communicate with aliens … and makes some difficult but incredibly impactful choices along the way.
Reader’s Pick: Hacksaw Ridge
This Mel Gibson-directed war drama almost didn’t make it past the nomination stage, given its bloody trappings and R rating. But the message was just too strong to ignore, and the movie itself was strong enough to earn itself your nod for best adult picture. La La Land, Oscar’s likely Best Picture darling, came in a fairly close second.

The Nominees: Ben-Hur, I’m Not Ashamed, Miracles From Heaven, Risen, The Young Messiah
Plugged In’s Pick: Risen
As we’ve said before, Christian movies have never been better. This was an incredibly difficult choice, but Risen came with the whole package: A powerful message, a crowd-pleasing story, an A-list actor and top-shelf filmmaking. It’s the sort of craftsmanship we’d like to see more of.
Reader’s Pick: Risen
Despite a surge by fans of both Miracles From Heaven and I’m Not Ashamed (many of which, alas, came after our Feb. 20 deadline), Risen took home the reader’s choice award as well.


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.

Emily Shore More than 1 year ago
Poor choice for a kids movie. If you're going to include live action kids films, then you need to have a separate category for animated because my 3 year old counts as a kid but she absolutely hates watching live action films because let's face it, she's a toddler! And a toddler girl who loves watching lots of action scenes and nothing slow, plus princesses. In little toddlers case, the winner should have been Zootopia or Moana. Both films were well plotted and well researched (a year for each) and featured amazingly developed characters. Create another category for parents with toddlers! It's very deceptive and you could end up endorsing a choice which would lead to little kids getting scared. Jungle Book certainly would scare my toddler with the tiger scenes. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Uh, I think that this is the FIFTH annual Plugged In Movie awards; this whole thing started back in January 2013.
Nise Davies More than 1 year ago
Rachel Scott's mother and siblings, and all the cast and crew of I'm Not Ashamed are so grateful to have been recognized in your top 5.  As a producer, I'm deeply disappointed I didn't realize we had received this honor, and that voting was taking place until the final1.5 days.  We would have loved to have had time to promoted Plugged In and your voting event.  I'm Not Ashamed is a true story and indie production, that held STRONG to the truth without watering it down for "commercial' success.  The Christian genre studio films out spent us on marketing at least 10 to 1 so we appreciate it very much when we receive ministry endorsements and recognition.

We are also very appreciative for this powerful review/endorsement we received from Plugged IN's director before our theatrical release in Oct:

As the director of Plugged In I see approximately 140 films per year. If I could get every teenager in the country to watch just one of the 140 films I’ve viewed in the last 12 months, hands down it would be “I’m Not Ashamed.” The ex-youth pastor in me can’t help but see how this story of Rachel Scott will challenge and strengthen believers, and bring non-believers to Christ.


Bob Waliszewski

Focus on the Family

Director, Plugged In

charitysplace More than 1 year ago
I've had mixed feelings about "Risen" for over a year -- I wish I'd liked it more, but it felt small to me, contained, cramped, and somewhat unrealistic in that he simply walks away from his former life at the end, that because Pilate and he were buddies, it's fine to walk out on being a centurion. Real life didn't work like that. ;)

I did like that both "Risen" and "The Young Messiah" focused on a centurion's individual relationship with and reaction to Christ -- one after his death and resurrection, the other with a child who uncannily sees into his innermost soul. Both gave me things to think about, but ultimately "The Young Messiah" has stuck with me more, continually inviting me to look deeper, to think more about Jesus' younger years, the culture shock of leaving Alexandria -- the pivot in the wheel of ancient times, full of philosophers, teachers, and higher minded individuals -- for the brutal Roman occupation of Judea, infiltrated by zealots, religious wars, and crucifixions.

Some stories just resonate with me better than others, I guess.

Regarding Zootopia -- remove the "racism" supposition and put in "bigotry" and it's a message everyone needs to hear. It hurts my spirit whenever I hear any believer play the us vs. them game -- the conservatives vs. the liberals, the Protestants vs. the Catholics, the Baptists vs. the Presbyterians. THOSE PEOPLE... and us. That's not how Christ thought, and not how we should think, either. In that sense, "Zootopia" was by far the best movie I've seen in a long time. It's not a preachy film about racism, it's a fun film about bigotry, and bigotry runs deeper than skin color.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Posted by the Other Anonymous

Even though Zootopia's anti-bigotry message was good in a general sense (bigotry is a bad thing), the movie makers had a specific pro-LGBT+ message in mind.  Zootopia simply hijacked the civil rights movement for the LGBT+ crowd.  The girl who voiced Judy Hops said she hoped kids would get that message.  So did other people who worked on the movie.

Jesus said it is better for a person to tie a millstone around their neck and jump into the sea than to lead a child astray.

Now, I don't like arguments about politics.  Who does?  Nevertheless, we have an enemy, and we are caught in spiritual warfare.  God doesn't tell us to be bigots, but He does command us to call out sin for what it is, whether it is in us (Psalm 51 and Matthew 7) or elsewhere (how about Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and every other Old Testament prophet?).

Zootopia is propaganda, and it is bigoted against people who say a man is a man, a woman is a woman, and marriage is between one man and one woman.  According to the movie, people who believe homosexuality is sin are backward, coldhearted, and wrong.

I'm pretty sure Zootopia is bigoted against Christians.

Alex Clark More than 1 year ago
Wait...how was Zootopia pro-LGBT?  I didn;t get that impression at all, did I miss something?

Seemed like it was a general "anti-discrimination" message.  Audiences could fill that in with whatever "discrimination" they might be thinking about, but that's applicability, not inherent in the message itself.
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
"Zootopia is propaganda, and it is bigoted against people who say a man is a man, a woman is a woman, and marriage is between one man and one woman."

What scenes and quotes specifically point this out?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zootopia is definitely pro-LGBT. The co-director revealed on Twitter that Judy's next-door neighbors (the two gazelles) are gay and "married." https://twitter.com/thejaredbush/status/803836679425556480
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
Umm, possible pro-LGBTQ subtext aside, the movie had some other content concerns.  Anyone else remember the "naturalists' club" scene.  Cringe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by Peggy Carter

I finally saw Arrival a couple nights ago, after hearing so many rave reviews of it. Not only was I disappointed, it left me feeling really oppressed...I understand why PI chose it, if they were going on content, but it was not something I would ever re-watch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
Arrival is quite melancholy and usually I don't do good with melancholy. The way you feel about Arrival was the same way I felt about Saving Mr. Banks. I guess we all have different things that set off that depressed feeling. (I'm assuming you meant "depressed" instead of "oppressed".) Even though I do plan on watching Arrival again and it was my second choice vote, I actually voted for La La Land because I tend toward lighter fare and it is so hard to find lighter fare that is both for adults and clean. I am glad to see it got second place. And it probably will win the Oscar if past winners like Argo or The Artist are any indication. 
By CbinJ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by Peggy Carter

I really liked Saving Mr. Banks, but you're right that we all have different things that set off our emotions. I usually do well with sad movies, but for some reason not Arrival. (I did mean oppressed, depression is much different.)
Kal El More than 1 year ago
So based on your comments about the kids movie award, I take it you guys don't honor write in votes this year even if they are a majority? That's unfortunate if that's the case.
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
Umm, I've been following this awards series since its conception, and other than an acknowledgement, PluggedIn has never given awards to write-ins.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I get to have my cake and eat it too. Plugged In chose the ones I largely voted for, and the community as a whole picked my second favorites. Yes!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
I'm pretty happy with PIO's picks, they were pretty much congruent with my choices in contrast to the reader's picks. I am supremely disappointed that PIO would describe Zootopia as "pretty great". (What happened to discernment? Just call it like it is--it is propaganda.) However, I am supremely happy that Pete's Dragon and Queen of Katwe got the recognition they deserved. Even though I ultimately voted for La La Land, Arrival is a great pick too. The only choice I disagree with is the winner of Best Christian film. Risen was excessively grotesque in its depiction of death. It's hard to enjoy a movie when you have to cover your eyes during the entire first half. Ultimately, there were a few compelling moments, but nothing worth gushing about in my humble opinion. My pick was Miracles from Heaven. I thought it was a pretty lousy year for Christian movies over all. The closest to a great "Christian" movie in 2016 was Doctor Strange; I found the spiritual content deeply thought provoking. 
By CbinJ
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I think possibly CbinJ is referring to lines like the one where the fox says "And you, little guy, you wanna be an elephant when you grow up, you be an elephant because this is Zootopia - where anyone can be anything." 

If that wasn't the line being referred to, I'd still like to draw attention to it, because while Zootopia had some nice messages about accepting others, this line directly challenges biological reality -- maybe cute in context, but sounding disturbingly like the modern debate about whether a person can change gender. 

That said, Zootopia was a sweet little movie, I saw it in theaters, and I thought cliche dialogue was its biggest problem, not propaganda. However, I did see glimpses of what appeared to be a hidden agenda, particularly in that line.