Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movies for Adults

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PIMA adults 2019

I gotta be honest: This might be my favorite category, in part because it triggers such robust discussions inside our little team. How do we weigh a film’s adult content against its inspiring messages? Does a beautifully made movie with just a pretty-good point outclass a just-pretty-good film with an outstanding moral behind it? These are not easy questions to answer, but boy, do we try.

This year’s crop contains some strong contenders, no matter how you slice it. And while none of them will be taking home a Best Picture Oscar, they’re certainly winners in our book.

(Remember, we want your thoughts, too. Pick your favorite among our nominees or, if you think we whiffed on one, choose your own. Let us know your own favorites down below, on our Facebook page or on Twitter, if you’re so inclined. You’ll have until Feb. 15 to vote. Winners will be announced Feb. 22.

Leave No Trace: A man with PTSD lives off the grid with his teen daughter—until someone finally catches them and brings them back to civilization. The girl, who’s named Tom, has lived all her life on the lam with her father, and she finds that society isn’t so bad. But can she forget her father—so strong in the wilderness, so fragile under a roof—to find another way to make a home? This film earned a 100% “Freshness” rating at Rotten Tomatoes (along with fellow PIMA nominee Paddington 2), but it was probably too small and released too early (June 29) to make a legitimate Oscar push. And that’s a shame. This film is as resonant and as beautifully acted as they come, and its tender tragic story has the power to impact you deeply. And while this film is unquestionably aimed at adults, it’s as clean and unspoiled as the scenery this father and daughter walk through. Find this movie. Watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

Mary Poppins Returns: Mary Poppins Returns brings us back to the Banks’ residence, featuring Michael Banks, a recently widowed father raising three sprightly children and working hard to support his family. He could sure use a little help … but would a spoonful of sugar do? This sequel reminds us that life is most valuable when we see it through eyes filled with wonder and joy, finding the positive in every situation. It encourages us to lean on those closest to our hearts and to believe in the impossible. A few mild British exclamations and some magically daring scenes appear, but this sequel is really all about the magic that already exists in each of our lives.

A Quiet Place: It’s only been months since a new hushed era fell upon the Earth. Horrible ever-hearing aliens took our world by storm—creatures nearly indestructible in their armored, insectile form and as fast as a whip-crack in their vicious attacks. In this new age of quiet, when the least little sound can mean almost-certain death, a fumbled board game piece will ring out like a shot. Here, Lee, his wife, Evelyn, and their kids have to navigate new whisper-silent lives. But Evelyn is very pregnant. And as we all know, babies … aren’t the quiet types. A Quiet Place is something of a horror movie, complete with horror movie scares and some terrible deaths (kept mostly outside the camera’s eye). But that said, there’s also quite a bit here to appreciate. A Quiet Place’s first-rate filmmaking panache and moments of intense familial love and sacrifice can turn a quiet night at home with nothing to do … into a disquieting cinematic consideration of the stuff we value most.

Searching: An “edge of your seat” kind of thriller, Searching is brought to life entirely through various screens—screens that may hold the key to a young girl’s disappearance, and screens that the girl’s father searches frantically in order to find her. It’s a movie that keeps you guessing, tugs at your heartstrings and makes you keenly aware of social media’s powerful and potentially dangerous impact on teens. There’s some sexual innuendo, drug references, deception and spoken violence, but nothing too graphic on screen. Parents, this is the kind of movie that will challenge you to think more deeply about the value of an emotional connection and open conversation with your tweens and teens.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: Can we just say it again? This film should’ve been up for an Oscar. But its lack of recognition from the Academy can’t tarnish this shining example of documentary filmmaking at its best and most resonant. The movie traces the life and career of Fred Rogers, a man whose Christian faith informed his career. Indeed, Rogers injected  a sermon of sorts—love yourself, be kind to others and always try to do the right thing—into every television show he made. Rogers believed passionately in loving everyone just the way they are. In an era filled with cinematic superheroes, Neighbor gives us a real one—a man who fought not with a hammer, but with kindness and mercy, a man who spoke firmly and forcefully without ever raising his voice.

(All movie capsules written by Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Kristin Smith and Paul Asay.)

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.

Zia Ahmad 13 days ago
A Quiet Place is one of my favorite movies.
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Anonymous 5 months ago
5 for Mary Poppins Returns
Anonymous 5 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I guess I'll go for A Quiet Place.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Mary Poppins Returns
Anonymous 5 months ago
I change my vote to Won't You Be My Neighbor. I still think Mary Poppins Returns was a wonderful movie but the Mr. Rogers movie has now become my second favorite movie of the year behind Bohemian Rhapsody, so my vote now goes to Mr. Rogers.
Jacqui Torena 6 months ago
A Quiet Place
Teal Neighbors 6 months ago
Mary Poppins Returns.
Maya J. Toman 6 months ago
Mary Poppins Returns, for sure! That was an amazing movie.
charitysplace 6 months ago
A Quiet Place

I'd vote for Mr. Rogers, but it's not fiction -- it's a documentary.
Lostariel Bronwethiel 6 months ago
Definitely A Quiet Place!! 
Eva Schon 6 months ago
A Quiet Place, definitely!
Anonymous 6 months ago
A Quiet Place.
Anonymous 6 months ago
A Quiet Place begrudgingly gets my vote. 
Anonymous 6 months ago
Why is Mary Poppins and A Quiet Place on this list? Mary Poppins= Kids; A Quiet Place= Teens

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous 6 months ago

Mary Poppins Returns easily gets my vote since it's the only film on the list I've seen, but personally for me it would be Bohemian Rhapsody. Sure there are a couple of gay kisses and innuendo in it, and some rough language as well, but it was so remarkably well-done both as a musical bio and as a thought-provoking character study of Freddy Mercury that it should have been a shoo-in for a nomination. Oh well, I really did love Mary Poppins as well, so it's all good, lol.

However, if neither God's Not Dead 3 or Unbroken: Path to Redemption make it in the best Christian category list then something is completely off with the Plugged In staff.

Anonymous 6 months ago
GND 3 and Unbroken will be the ONLY titles in that category lol
-David the Clown 
Jamey Perrigin 6 months ago
A Quiet Place
It's probably one of my favorite movies of all time.
Anonymous 6 months ago
1. Still need to watch A Quiet Place

2. Where's Isle of Dogs? Loved that movie

3. The only correct answer for any category this year is Into the SpiderVerse

-Evan
Anonymous 6 months ago
Oh my goodness! I completely forgot about Isle of Dogs!!!!
That was by far a superior film to Spiderverse imo

-David the Clown
Anonymous 6 months ago
I really liked both equally, so I have a hard deciding on which one I want to win the Oscars for best animated feature....

-Evan
Rocketshipper 6 months ago
Searching by far!!!  Third best movie of the year IMO

I am perplexed as to why Mary Poppins ended up on the adult list.   Is it because you assume the audience is primarily the adults who grew up with the original, rather than kids?  

Keith and Martha Brown 5 months ago
Great question!  Can anyone comment?
Tim Page 6 months ago
I'd give this one to A Quiet Place with a close second being Won't You Be my Neighbor. 
Cj lastrue 6 months ago
Nomination: A Quiet Place (thank you for all you do)
John Peterson 6 months ago
After I saw A Quite Place back in April, I deemed it as the best movie of the year. Now that the year is over I still think it was the best of the year. 
Vote: A Quite Place
Anonymous 6 months ago
Whatever happened to the Lead Balloon awards? You guys at pluggedin only did them once or twice I think, but they were awesome. I would love to see them make a comeback.
-David the Clown
Anonymous 6 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

What were the Lead Balloon awards again?
Anonymous 6 months ago
Basically PI's version of the Razzies. Worst movies of the year (content wise)
-David the Clown
Anonymous 6 months ago
I'm confused as to why some of these movies are in the adults category...
Anonymous 6 months ago
I didn't not see Searching, but I agree on the others mentioned. I saw Mary Poppins Returns and love it greatly as a longtime Mary Poppins fan. I wish that Creed II could've been a little more family friendly in content. It had some good messages tied in with all the drama...and brutal fighting. 
Anonymous 6 months ago
I only listened to Creed 2's soundtrack. Far too much auto-tune imo lol!
-David the Clown
Julienne Dy 6 months ago
I'm a little confused as to why Mary Poppins Returns was in the adult's category.  Maybe the movie's message just resonates better with adults?  I wouldn't know I haven't seen anything on this list.  Although, I really did want to see Mary Poppins Returns and Won't You be My Neighbor.  I tried to get my siblings to see Mary Poppins Returns over Christmas but got outvoted in favor of Into the Spiderverse.