The Academy Awards are happening this weekend, with Hollywood’s celebrities and filmmakers honoring one another’s work. The Oscars focus primarily on artistry, which is important to be sure, but from an eternal perspective is not the most important criteria for what makes a movie “good.” Films like Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained may be well-made, for example, but an ultraviolent, ultra-profane revenge movie is arguably not an example of the force for good that cinema can be.
In conjunction with the Oscars, I wanted to focus on films from the past year that move audiences to live Christ-like virtues.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my ten most inspirational films of 2012. Here I’ll describe the general plots and the virtues promoted in the films; if you want to know about a movie’s content or what scriptures could be used to discuss their themes, I encourage you to follow the links to my full reviews provided with each film.
10. (tie) The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises (both PG-13). I’m cheating a little here by including two, but both of these superhero films contain strong depictions of pride giving way to humility, working together as a team to combat evil, and being willing to lay down one’s life for others. Read my full reviews here and here.
9. Life of Pi (PG). This adaptation of the immensely popular novel is visually astounding, but also thematically fascinating. A young Indian man is shipwrecked and adrift at sea for months with only a tiger for company. While some have claimed that the film denigrates religion, I disagree; it has far too much affection for the topic for that to be the case. What the film does acknowledge is that faith is a choice one makes. There will always be reasons to believe or not to believe, but we choose to follow that which gives our life the most meaning, peace, and direction. Read my full review here.
8. Christmas Oranges (PG). Mainstay Productions lovely adaptation of the classic story about charity among orphans is certain to motivate viewers to forgive and let their hearts be softened to alleviate the suffering of others. Read my full review here.
7. Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed (PG-13). Director Ryan Little’s tale of faith and compassion amidst the horrors of war encourages viewers to sacrifice for righteous causes, as well as to love and see the humanity in their enemies. Read my full review here.
6. Redemption (PG). This gritty true-story Western, set in 1800’s Utah Territory, finds a lawman taking pity on an exiled criminal. The film teaches the value of finding the good in others and being a friend to people whom others reject. It also portrays, with gentle clarity, the peace one can find through Jesus Christ. Read my full review here.
5. Silent Night (PG). This beautiful film from acclaimed director Christian Vuissa tells the oft-overlooked tale of how the hymn Silent Night came to be, as an Austrian priest is inspired to write it while serving a new congregation. The film illustrates the power of hope, both in keeping our faith alive and in inspiring us to use our talents to help others. Read my full review here.
4. Wreck-it-Ralph (PG). This marvelous Disney film finds an arcade villain jumping from game to game in search of self-purpose. The movie demonstrates with surprising poignancy the truth that, no matter our past, we can change (repent), make things right, and be a better person. The title character learns the value of selflessness and kindness. Read my full review here.
3. The Impossible (PG-13). A vacationing family is separated when the resort they’re staying at is swept away by a massive tsunami in this harrowing true story. Marvelously illustrates that family is most important, that people are at their best helping others after a tragedy, and that miracles still happen in modern times. Read my full review here.
2. October Baby (PG-13). This touching Christian drama finds a young woman, adopted as a child after her mother’s failed abortion attempt, trying to find out who she is. Portrays in moving fashion the strength found in interfaith friendships, the peace that comes through forgiveness, and the value the Lord places on every human life. Read my full review here.
1. Les Miserables (PG-13). This adaption of the stage musical (itself an adaption of the novel by Victor Hugo) unabashedly proclaims the message that God is active in all of our lives, no matter how desperate things may seem. Paroled convict Jean Valjean changes his identity to escape a relentless policeman and starts a new life, where he feels compelled to show mercy and kindness to others because the Lord has done the same for him. Affirms that there is a life after this one, and that God takes into account all the good we do.Read my full review here.
Over at my web site you’ll find my own awards for Best Actor/Actress, Best Romantic Chemistry, Best Religious Film, Best Stuntwork, and much more.
What films inspired you the most in 2012? What did you get out of them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! For more of my articles and reviews, as well as my fun videos, please visit www.mormonmovieguy.com