Friday, August 15, 2014

10 Movies Every Mormon Should See

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I realize that it can be difficult to find a movie these days that is not filled with bad language, sex, nudity, excessive violence or other questionable content. But these clean, family-friendly movies do exist. As one who sees a ton of movies every year, I wanted to point out a few of them that perhaps you may have skipped over that I think you should go see. This isn't a list of unknown movies, so perhaps you have seen many of them, but none of these were huge blockbusters. All movies on this list earned less than $130 million in the US box office. Also, I designated this list as 10 movies that every Mormon should see, but I want to be clear that this isn't a list of religious movies made by the church. This is a list of theatrically released movies from the last five years that I personally loved and that are family friendly. This isn't a top 10 list and it certainly isn't an all inclusive list. It's simply a list of 10 movies. The order I have put them in is purely chronological, not from best to worst. Given the subjective nature of movies, after reading this list I encourage you to add your opinion in the comments. Let everyone know your opinion of the movies here that you have seen or suggest other movies that you think should've been included. I am just one individual with my own personal opinions, but together as a community we can help each other out immensely.

1- Rango (March 4, 2011)
Rango is an outright hilarious movie. It's also one of the more ingenious animated movies made recently as it's a Western movie that is animated with a chameleon as the main protagonist. I don't think you'll ever see that combination again. But it works. Not only was I laughing out loud the entire movie, but it also has a good story to go with it. It didn't get as much attention in the box office because it wasn't Pixar or Dreamworks, but it did manage to take home best animated feature at the Oscars that year.

(Rango is the only movie here I don't have a review for in the archives -- the other nine I do and will post the link for you to read -- just keep in mind that some reviews are towards the beginning of my reviewing career, so be patient with those)

Click here to buy Rango on Amazon

2- Hugo (November 23, 2011)
Martin Scorsese is very well known for his sketchy movies (The Wolf of Wall Street just broke the record for number of f-words in a movie). However, he definitely shows his versatility in this one by making a completely family friendly film in Hugo. And by goodness did he do a good job. Hugo got nominated for 11 Oscars that year, part of which was because it was an homage to cinema but the other part is that it is an overall fantastic movie about a boy who lives in a train station in 1930's Paris. Stand-out performances overall by actors of all age including Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen and Christopher Lee.

Click here for my full review of Hugo

Click here to buy Hugo on Amazon

3- Arthur Christmas (November 23, 2011)
It's time to go festive with this choice. When you think of Christmas classics that should be watched every Christmas season, Arthur Christmas may not be one of the movies that you think of, but to be perfectly honest it should be. Once again, smaller animation company led to not as much attention, but I was just blown away by it, especially because I didn't expect much when I first went in. This could be a fun Christmas movie is what I said going in. Now I try to make it a Christmas tradition.

Click here for my full review of Arthur Christmas

Click here to buy Arthur Christmas on Amazon

4- We Bought a Zoo (December 23, 2011)
Now here's a movie that pulled on all my emotional strings. Matt Damon plays a man who's wife has recently passed away and he's having a tough time dealing with it. So what does he do? He goes and buys a zoo. Because, well, why not? This movie is so inspiration that in fact some of the quotes and messages from the movie are ones that I personally use to inspire me when I'm not doing so well. Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson blow it away with their performances and the music by Jonsi (from Sigur Ros) is the icing on the cake. Grab your box of tissues because you're going to need it.

5- ParaNorman (August 17, 2012)
Ok, I went festive for Arthur Christmas and now I'm going to go festive again, this time giving Halloween a chance to shine. ParaNorman is done stop-motion animation style and that is the main reason that I was super impressed with this movie. Stop-motion isn't popular in the box office but it's popular with me because I realize how much time and effort goes into making a movie all with clay. But not just that, though, the movie itself is a really good one, too. It has a perfect balance of good story, good characters and fun Halloween themes to make it a perfect family movie for your next Halloween.

Click here for my full review of ParaNorman

Click here to buy ParaNorman on Amazon

6- Life of Pi (November 21, 2012)
A movie about a boy on a boat with a tiger, trying to survive? How can this be an epic movie? Well, I won't give anything away, but the movie does actually have some religious undertones as it's about a man originally from India telling a story about his life that is intended on convincing this other guy to believe in God. Super insightful movie as it will leaving you pondering its message for quite some time. Just like the previously mentioned Hugo, this movie was also nominated for 11 Oscars and almost snuck away with best picture. It's also based on a book, so if you are a big reader, you should check that out as well.

Click here for my full review of Life of Pi

Click here to buy Life of Pi on Amazon

7- The Saratov Approach (October 9, 2013)
Ok, I'll be honest, this movie is really intense at times and thus not for the younger crowd at all, but I just couldn't make a list entitled "10 Movies Every Mormon Should See" without including the fantastic movie about two Mormon missionaries. This isn't church made and it was released in select nationwide theaters, so I feel it qualifies for this. Anywho, this is the true story of two missionaries back in the late 1990's who got kidnapped in Russia. Not only is this a great survival movie that even non-Mormon audiences were able to connect with, but attitude of the missionaries towards the end is so inspiring that, yes, I think this is one that is a must see among Mormon audiences.

Click here for my full review of The Saratov Approach

Click here to buy The Saratov Approach on Amazon

8- The Book Thief (November 8, 2013)
I personally am a person who is a big proponent of looking at the content in the movie rather than just the rating, which is why I feel comfortable putting this one and the last one on this list, despite the PG-13 rating. The Book Thief is what I would call a light PG-13 because of some war related elements in the movie, but it is otherwise still a clean, family-friendly movie. Out of all the movies I saw last year, I felt very comfortable putting this in my personal top 10 best movies of the year. It's a very unique perspective on World War II as it follows a little girl adopted into a family living in Natzi Germany during the war. It's a slow moving character piece that focuses on us getting attached to this girl, her family, and her friends. Thus the of family, friends, and other relationships is a strong focus as these people just try to survive the war so they can be together.

Click here for my full review of The Book Thief

Click here to buy The Book Thief on Amazon

9- Heaven is for Real (April 16, 2014)
I'm sure every Mormon would agree with the title of this movie and as it suggests this is a Christian-themed movie. There has actually been a lot of those released in theaters this year and this one is the best as it follows the true story of a little boy who had a brush with death. Upon recovering he claims he visited Heaven and his simple, child-like statements to his family and others in the town give everyone a chance to reflect on their own faith and decide whether or not they believe his story. Yes, this is a positive, faith-building movie, but that's not the only reason I would suggest it Mormons. If you pay close attention to everything the boy says and ponder on it, you will realize that there are a lot of unique doctrines stated that completely agree with doctrine taught in the Church and thus this non-Mormon Christian-made movie should be especially fascinating to Mormons.

Click here for my full review of Heaven is For Real

Click here to buy Heaven is For Real on Amazon

10- Belle (May 2, 2014)
Last up is the movie that is the least known out of all these movies on this list. But despite being the least known, I would claim that it is a very important one to check out because it teaches what I think is a very important history lesson. Yes, it's a period piece romance drama that reminded me a bit of Pride & Prejudice, but more importantly it's the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle. If you've never heard of Dido, she is the daughter of a slave and a British Naval Officer who was raised by the Lord Chief Justice of England in the late 1700's. As is portrayed in this movie, she was a very influential person in the eventual abolition of slavery in England. This isn't really for younger people just because it may bore them, but at PG it's very appropriate for families and thus you should check it out and learn about this great part of history.

Click here for my full review of Belle

Click here to buy Belle on Amazon

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