We’re in our second day of unveiling nominees for our world-renowned, mightily coveted Plugged In Movie Awards. And in this installment, we turn our attention to movies suitable for teens.
This doesn’t mean that they’re solely for teens, of course. Many adults don’t mind watching superheroes do their thing. By default, this tends to be where PG-13 blockbusters land—the movies most fans flock to in droves. But we almost always find room for some lesser-known gems, and this year is no exception.
Remember to chime in with 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.
Black Panther: “It’s hard for a good man to be king.” And so it is. But Wakanda’s King T’Challa, otherwise known as Black Panther, knows no other way to be. Using his superhuman skill, his wits and his good heart, T’Challa must save his realm from the clutches of the usurper Killmonger, and in so doing perhaps set an example for all. Black Panther made history this year, becoming the first superhero movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. And while people can debate whether it’s really the best superhero movie ever, there’s no question that Black Panther is just as important as it is fun—and let’s face it, it’s pretty fun. Yes, there’s plenty of violence to navigate, along with a bit of bad language. But T’Challa is no fractured antihero: He’s as good as they come. And he and his bevy of heroic helpers turn this film into a surprisingly complex, resonant fable about doing the right thing … and making up for past mistakes.
Little Women: A heartwarming rendition of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, set in modern day, Little Women shines bright. Filled with messages of familial love, acceptance, perseverance and forgiveness, it shows families just how important it is to stick together, especially through tough times. And it teaches us to support other peoples’ dreams, even when they’re not the same as ours. There’s some sibling rivalry, a few kisses, some sexual innuendo and sips of alcohol. But overall, it’s a sweet story about the power of family.
The Miracle Season: Caroline Found, best known as “Line” to her friends and teammates, was the heart and soul of Iowa City West’s state-winning volleyball team. She was its best player, its most boisterous cheerleader and its most infectious jokester. But when she’s killed in a tragic accident, everyone who knew her—especially her best-friend, Kelly and her father, Ernie— wonders how life can go on when someone so full of it can be cut down. This inspiring, faith-flecked sports movie digs into that question earnestly. It finds that even in the aftermath of tragic death, hope, joy and rebirth can still be found. And it suggests that while Line might be gone physically, her spirit goes on.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: There’s a new friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in New York City … well, a couple of them actually. Peter Parker, the city’s long-standing hero, has gone down. And thanks to the mob boss, Kingpin—who’s been messing with the space/time continuum—Spider-beings from all sorts of different dimensions are being drawn into ours. This is definitely a colorfully animated pic that shoots its cinematic webbing in a number of stylistically creative directions. It’s exhilarating, fast, and at times, laugh-out-loud funny. It also webs in messages of family love and heroism that are both moving and inspiring. The only drawbacks are a couple bloodless deaths in the tale that could upset the younger Spidey fans in your group.
Tomb Raider: In this tale, young Lara Croft isn’t an explorer. She’s just a young woman whose life has been left empty since her father’s disappearance. Lara’s dad, Lord Richard Croft, was obsessed with exploring for supernatural things. It took him to far reaches of the globe and, most people believe, to his death. But when Lara is given a strange Japanese puzzle found in her father’s effects, it draws her into an adventure that she never would have dreamed of taking. When you hear the name Lara Croft, you may think of old video games with a certain, uh, reputation. But this cinematic Lara is different. She’s focused, heroic, brilliant and tough. Granted, there is still some well-toned flesh on display and lots of derriere-kicking to go around. But this Lara Croft does female empowerment right. And her rollicking bold-and-brave choices are worthy of emulation.
(All movie capsules written by Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Kristin Smith and Paul Asay.)