Redemptive Movie Reviews

 

Why do the great stories we find in movies seem to stir us and resonate with us so deeply?  Because they are all sourced from the one great story.  The larger story.  Our story.  

The giants of culture have been borrowing our story for years in the films they direct and produce.  By identifying the redemptive stories embedded in all those great films, we feel like we are taking it back, one review at a time.


The Darkest Hour

With Hitler rampaging across Europe, the newly elected Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill, must convince his countries leaders to not negotiate but stand in the face of tyranny. One of 2017's most redemptive films was also one of my favorites.

  • IMDB 7.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 85%/83%

  • (PG-13)


Mcfarland, usa

This is one of those great redemptive stories that you can also watch with the older kids. A coach getting a final chance, Kevin Costner, gives the local migrant working children their best chance at a better life by starting a cross-country team. While trying to change their lives his life gets changed in the process.

  • IMDB 7.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 80%/88%

  • (PG)


lion

The true story of a 5-year old Indian boy who gets separated from his family on the streets of Calcutta, gets rescued through adoption by an Australian family, and then as a young adult goes on an unlikely journey to find his way home. A beautiful story of restoration and the power of a family's love.

  • IMDB 8.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 86%/91%

  • (PG-13)


the company men

It isn't until Bobby Walker loses everything that he values (title, income, car, status) that he finally realizes what really matters. Once he finds out that what he values doesn't have anything to do with his job, he is able to go back to a similar role, but as a different and better man. He shows us that the necessary restoration of a person's life often comes on the other side of our most challenging seasons.

  • IMDB 6.8

  • Rotten Tomatoes 67%/55%

  • (R)


Maudie

The true story of a folk artist from Nova Scotia who takes a job as a housekeeper to survive. The awakened glory she finds in her painting not only changes her life, but gives her the confidence and currency to change the life of the man she works for and eventually marries. A beautiful story of restoration and the uncovering of a person's glory.

  • IMDB 7.7

  • Rotten Tomatoes 89%/89%

  • (R)


we bought a zoo

From a desire to start over after the loss of his wife, adventure writer Benjamin Mee moves his two children to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo. A beautiful story of healing and restoration for Mee’s family, the zoo, and many others. Based on the true story of a zoological park in Devon, England. Appropriate for most of the family.

  • IMDB 7.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 66%/71%

  • (PG)



About Time

The men in Tim’s family have an incredible secret; they can travel back to any point in their life. While time travel is a tried-and-true movie technique, this story takes a uniquely redemptive turn. At first Tim goes back to right the wrong of things in the past. But what Tim ultimately realizes is that he lives every day as if he were living it over again, there is no need to travel back in time at all. A great lesson for all of us.

  • IMDB 7.8

  • Rotten Tomatoes 68%/81%

  • (R)


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter lives a very tedious professional and personal life and compensates by regularly daydreaming a more significant story. One small decision leads him on a life-changing adventure that leads him to life, love, and becoming a completely different man. One of the more uplifting and inspiring films in recent years.

  • IMDB 7.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 51%/70%

  • (PG)


The Queen of Katwe

Phiona sells corn on the streets of rural Uganda when she discovers the game of chess at 10 years of age. A natural aptitude and the love and dedication of a coach help her develop into a champion and escape the impoverished conditions of her life. Queen is the powerful true story of overcoming unbelievable obstacles to find a better life. This one is from Disney and for the whole family.

  • IMDB 7.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 93%/87%

  • (PG)


The Greatest Showman

P. T. Barnum is a serial entrepreneur in all the best and worst of ways. He is a man of compromised character who wants worldly riches and personal acclaim. This whitewashed Disney-like depiction, however, is a family friendly joy-ride from start to finish. An overriding theme of finding purpose and value in someone despite their limitations is the prevailing theme. I dare you to watch it and try to get the songs out of your head.

  • IMDB 7.8

  • Rotten Tomatoes 55%/88%

  • (PG)


isle of dogs

From the incredible mind of Wes Anderson comes a stop action masterpiece that is as entertaining as it is visually stunning. Despite the fantastical tale that provides backdrop to the story, the tale really is about a boy, the love of his lost dog, and his heroic quest to locate him. If you are a West Anderson fan, you’ve likely already seen it. If you haven’t, take the chance.

  • IMDB 8.2

  • Rotten Tomatoes 91%/88%

  • (PG-13)


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

A sadly overlooked tale about a Scottish ichthyologist and lover of salmon fishing who encounters a visionary sheik with a similar love and desire to bring the sport to the most unlikely of places - the deserts of Yemen. Though the tale is around the mission of bringing this project to fruition, it is really a story about a person really stuck finding faith, love, and a life worth living. If you loved Walter Mitty, you’ll really enjoy this one. Great date night movie.

  • IMDB 6.8

  • Rotten Tomatoes 68%/64%

  • (PG-13)


Warrior

Okay, it is a cage fighting movie. Expect some violence and language and other adult themes. But also one of the most inspiring films you will ever see. Against impossible odds, the restoration of a broken relationship between two brothers literally takes center stage. The improbable tale about cage fighting that had my wife in tears and me choking them back in the unforgettable final scene.

  • IMDB 8.2

  • Rotten Tomatoes 88%/93%

  • (R)


Seabiscuit

What happens when an undersized horse, an oversized jockey, a broken-hearted owner, and a crackpot trainer get together? Movie magic. The incredible true story of how three people and a horse cooperated in the restoration of one another and the inspiration of everyone in Depression era America. “You know, you can’t throw a whole life away just because it is banged up a little bit.”

  • IMDB 7.2

  • Rotten Tomatoes 77%/76%

  • (PG-13)


The Astronaut Farmer

Based on the true story of a man in Texas who planned to launch himself into orbit. This is well before some well-known billionaires decided to throw their hat in the same ring. Farmer still carries the childhood belief that he can be anything he wants to be. For him, that is an astronaut. Okay, so I can’t really recommend you watch the movie, it is pretty mediocre, but the trailer is fantastic. The adult realization of a childhood dream is beautifully redemptive, for all of us. “You are a fabulous father. You’ve got your family dreaming together.”

  • IMDB 6.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 58%/49%

  • (PG)


Moneyball

Oakland A’s GM, Billy Beane has a problem. The budget he has to field a team is only a fraction of the teams he is competing against. But he makes a huge bet on Peter Brand’s mathematical approach by building a team with lower cost players to replace superstars in the aggregate. While thumbing his nose at 100 years of baseball tradition, his 2002 team wins 100 games, just misses the world series, and sets an American league record with 20 consecutive wins.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 94%/86%

  • (PG-13)


Saving Mr. Banks

Pamela Travers is terrified of Walt Disney making her beloved “Mary Poppins” into a whimsical cartoon like other Disney movies she’s seen. She completely resists every attempt by Walt to win her over until Walt realizes something very important: treating the story well means treating Pamela’s own life story well. Rewriting a redemptive perspective on “Mary Poppins” is actually a work of healing in Pamela’s life. An incredible true story.

  • IMDB 7.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 78%/84%

  • (PG-13)


Molly’s Game

This is the true story of how Molly Bloom’s career-ending crash in the U.S. Olympic trials triggered a series of events that led her to run the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade in Los Angeles and New York City. It definitely has some language and one pretty violent scene, but the redemptive climax of the movie involving Molly’s father is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a film. Extraordinary picture of how the father’s love can overwhelm anything.

  • IMDB 7.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 82%/84%

  • (R)


The Hundred-foot Journey

We all eventually learn that the success that the world offers doesn’t hold a candle to the fulfillment we find in love, family, and home. Hassan Kadam has to travel from complete obscurity to the pinnacle of culinary success in order to learn this simple lesson. A delightful family film that will leave you soul satisfied and possible searching for some good Indian food.

  • IMDB 7.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 69%/81%

  • (PG)


Gifted

When Frank Adler promises to give his niece a normal upbringing, he has no idea what challenges he will face once her abilities as a mathematical prodigy are revealed. A beautiful film about how the love of a parental role model can conquer anything. The scene where Frank teaches her about what it was like when she was born is one of the most touching scenes I have seen in a film in a long time.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 73%/85%

  • (PG-13)


Safety Not Guaranteed

One of those small independent films that almost no one saw. A quirky caper with a truly odd-ball protagonist and a good ensemble cast of some really flawed people that all find a way to endear themselves by the end of the film. The film rests on this newspaper ad: “WANTED: Someone to back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done it once before.” Great surprise ending to this one.

  • IMDB 7.0

  • Rotten Tomatoes 90%/80%

  • (R)


Million Dollar Arm

A nice little Disney film based on the true story of a down-on-his-luck professional sports agent who thinks that the most popular sport in one of the most populous countries in the world might be the source of the next great baseball player. The transformation of our protagonist from selfish opportunist to loving father figure makes for great viewing for the family.

  • MDB 7.0

  • Rotten Tomatoes 64%/68%

  • (PG-13)


Chef

Sometimes you have to lose a career to gain a life. Great father/son film where a man leaves the limelight at the top of his career to start over in the most humbling of positions. Fantastic ensemble cast where the love of great food and family take center stage. Definitely not for the kids, but a real fun ride with a great redemptive turn.

  • IMDB 7.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 87%/85%

  • (R)


Dunkirk

One of the most famous stories of WWII comes for film in extraordinary fashion. One story told in three separate chronologies (one week, one day, one hour) that all weave together cohesively into one story in the end. From the austere landscapes, the pervasive sense of desperation, and eerily droning soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, this one never lets you get too comfortable in your seat. A beautiful picture of how an army of ordinary people stepped into the extraordinary.

  • IMDB 8.0

  • Rotten Tomatoes 92%/81%

  • (PG-13)


Columbus

If you don’t need a lot of action, adventure, or even dialogue and you love modernist architecture, this might be the film for you. The buildings, bridges, and other structures take center stage as two young people befriend one another through their different relationships with both architecture and family. Sometimes there is hope to be found in even the most challenging circumstances.

  • IMDB 7.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 98%/80%

  • (NR)


Cinderella Man

James Braddock is a boxer down on his luck like every other Depression era American. Despite being banned from boxing due to some injury-related performances in the ring, he gets a back-door opportunity to fight again. This time, he is not only fighting for the health and safety of his family, but for the hopes and dreams of every other man in America. When his wife, Mae, comes to see him before his biggest fight, it may be my favorite movie scene of all time. It always wrecks me. This true story is one of the more inspiring tales you will ever see.

  • IMDB 8.0

  • Rotten Tomatoes 81%/90%

  • (PG-13)


Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

This family friendly movie features a young Dakota Fanning as Cale Crane, who believes a broken down disappointment of a horse, “Sonador”, deserves a second chance. While it appears she is rescuing and restoring a lost horse, she is really doing the same thing for someone far more important, her father. Maybe this father of four daughters is just a sucker for father/daughter films, but I think this one deserves a few viewings.

  • IMDB 6.9

  • Rotten Tomatoes 64%/78%

  • (PG)


Buck

The documentary about the man who inspired 1998’s Horse Whisperer with Robert Redford. Buck Brannaman redeemed years of his own child abuse into helping people with horse problems actually realize that they really have horses with people problems. This one will inspired you and leave you thinking about it long after watching.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 86%/86%

  • (PG)


The Greatest Game Ever Played

20 year old Francis Ouimet doesn’t know that golf is an elitist sport not intended for his kind. He just knows that he loves the game and seems to posses God-given gifting for the sport. This true story about the winner of the 1913 U.S. Open is a little slow moving, but is inspiring and appropriate for the whole family. Packed with much deeper themes of restoration that most would imagine, Francis ends up not only redeeming his own story, but that of his hero, pro golf champion, Harry Vardon who overcame similar obstacles, and most importantly, his own father.

  • IMDB 7.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 63%/82%

  • (PG)


Walk the Line

Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the tortured, but redeemed Johnny Cash was so good that it inspired a whole new generation of fans for the deceased singer. Like any great biopic, the original story of this incredible singer brings understanding and tremendous empathy to his very public challenging journey. Reese Witherspoon’s Academy Award winning depiction of June Carter Cash is inspiring. The tough love she showed Johnny was the key ingredient in his redemption as she heroically fought for his heart.

  • IMDB 7.9

  • Rotten Tomatoes 83%/90%

  • (PG-13)


May it Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers

If you are unfamiliar with the Avett Brothers or their music, this documentary about their musical journey and their lives will make you an instant fan. As the celebrated producer Rick Rubin says in the movie, “It seemed that just being around them would make life matter.” The good heartedness of Seth and Scott Avett and the cultivated love and community of everyone in their lives is contagious. Getting to witness the weight of translated pain into beautiful music, is one of the more touching things I have seen in film.

  • IMDB 8.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 89%/97%

  • (NR)


Searching for Bobby Fischer

What are parents supposed to do when extraordinary gifting and ability is revealed in their child? That is precisely the dilemma of Josh Waitzkin’s parents. A well-meaning father wants to develop the child’s genius while a good-hearted mother wants to protect the innocence of her child’s good heart. Watch childlike goodness challenge the sensibilities of everyone and change them all for the better. Every parent should watch this one.

  • IMDB 8.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 100%/86%

  • (PG)


Whiplash

The unrealized dreams of some can often motivate them to help others realize theirs. But when the pain of those lost dreams doesn’t find much healing or redemption, that desire to help others can look pretty brutal. One of the more difficult movies for me to watch had me celebrating and enjoying the redemption the story found all the more. It is riveting and powerful and worth the ride. The culminating scene toward the end is unbelievable. (Full disclosure, my own time spent pounding the skins may have jaundiced my view of this one!) This incredibly well reviewed film from 2014 won three Oscars and probably deserved more.

  • IMDB 8.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 94%/94%

  • (R)


Fever Pitch

Okay, there aren’t a lot of RomComs (romantic comedies) that can really qualify as redemptive, but this one hits the mark. Not only is it a movie about relationships that won’t make you blush, it is a story about two half-hearted people both becoming more fully alive. Ben has an unhealthy obsession with the Boston Red Sox that keeps him from love and life. Lindsey has a similar fixation with her career that keeps her from the same. Their interest in one another causes both their established kingdoms to crumble for the sake of finding a more balanced better way to live where everything fits, but in proper proportion. Great date movie for the both of you.

  • IMDB 6.2

  • Rotten Tomatoes 65%/60%

  • (PG-13)


Spare Parts

The true story of how four poor hispanic high school students in Arizona form a robotics club with their substitute teacher who is a recently laid off engineer. With only 800 dollars, some used car parts, and other inexpensive spare parts, they take on returning champ MIT and many other prestigious university team’s with college students and budgets more than ten times the size of theirs. More importantly they overcome lower expectations from their neighborhood and families, inspire everyone, and change the course of all their futures.

  • IMDB 7.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 55%/82%

  • (PG-13)


Momentum Generation

Saw this one at the Aspen Film Festival in very limited release. A women recovering from a recent divorce purchases a home on the North Shore of Oahu to start a new life for her and two teenage boys. Their home soon houses a surrogate family for a couple of dozen boys with broken stories and big dreams of becoming professional surfers. An older surfer becomes a surrogate dad and this little “family” launches some of surfing’s greatest (Rob Machado, Tom Dorian, Kelly Slater, etc.). When fame, success, and money start to break down the “family”system, the boys all go their separate ways. In a beautiful redemptive turn, the most successful among them, Kelly Slater, restores relationships with all the guys, creates a “family” text and starts an annual “family” reunion they attend.

  • IMDB 8.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 100%/100%

  • (TV-14)


Henry Poole is Here

What would you do if you found out you only had a few weeks to live? Well, Henry decided to drop out, return to his childhood neighborhood and anesthetize the pain until the inevitable occurs. When a simulacra (religious imagery in natural phenomena) appears on the side of his house, people in the neighborhood start making a pilgrimage to his backyard. A slow and thoughtful, but beautiful story of redemption where someone expecting death actually discovers life, love, and maybe even a little faith.

  • IMDB 6.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 39%/52%

  • (PG)


Kings of Summer

This fantastic coming of age film is one of my favorite of the last few years. Three young boys seeking the natural independence that adolescence requires, embark on starting a new life and a new home. With salvaged materials from construction projects, they create a semi-permanent home and organize under their own rules and laws. Along the way, they encounter danger, love, broken hearts, and the breakdown in friendships. A near tragedy with a snake has them rejoining their former lives and restoring the broken relationships with their families and each other.

  • IMDB 7.2

  • Rotten Tomatoes 75%/77%

  • (R)


The Way, Way Back

Fourteen year old Duncan’s life sucks and having to spend the summer at the beach house of his mom’s new boyfriend. His desire to escape the house, the boyfriend, and some unsettling things going on there, leads him to the local waterpark. At a time when Duncan feels like he has lost his place in the world, the park offers work, community, and beautiful relationship with a father figure played by the fantastic academy award winning Sam Rockwell. Duncan’s new identity and confidence not only changes his life, but helps rescues several others in the process, including his mom.

  • IMDB 7.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 85%/84%

  • (PG-13)


Field of Dreams

Ray Kinsella thinks the voice he is following is all about the restoration of Terence Mann, Shoeless Joe, and Dr. Moonlight Graham. He thinks he is supposed to mend their broken stories of an abbreviated association with baseball. But the journey Ray is taking is about something much deeper, the inexplicable restoration of his relationship with his father. It is that story, that reminds us of something deep and true for all of us; we were created for complete and perfect restoration with our Father. This one is a top five all time.

  • IMDB 7.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 86%/86%

  • (PG)


Won’t You Be My Neighbor

What if it turned out that the stereotypically nicest and most passive seeming man, was action a warrior with the heart of a lion? And what if so fiercely lived out his faith through the loving of God’s children that nearly everyone who encountered him was changed by the experience? That is the “rest of the story” of Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) beautifully told through this award winning documentary celebrating his life. This one will make every the stoic among us feeling emotion and more alive through the watching. Check out the nosebleed levels on these ratings.

  • IMDB 8.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 99%/96%

  • (PG-13)


Incredibles 2

It took 14 years to bring this sequel to market because director, Brad Bird, didn’t want to make the typical “money grab” parlaying the success of a film with a quick sequel, but waited until the right story emerged to follow up the first one…and it shows. This one packs a serious combination of doing the right thing, caring for others, and the love of family. Despite all their incredible gifts and powers this superhero family defeats the ultimate enemy by succeeding as a family through the love of one another. Great one for the whole family.

  • IMDB 7.9

  • Rotten Tomatoes 93%/87%

  • (PG)


Up

The 2009 animated feature from the folks at Pixar may have the most beautiful and poignant picture of both the joy and heartbreak of marriage ever captured on film. And that is just in the first 10 minutes! The rest of the film is about fulfilling the dreams of a lost loved one. In the process of that huge adventure, a wounded heart is restored, a man finds a new reason to live, and a young boy finds the father figure that he desperately needs. Probably saw this one already, but watch with a redemptive lens and it will blow your socks off.

  • IMDB 8.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 98%/90%

  • (PG)


Silver Linings Playbook

Breakout performances for Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are just part of the incredible ensemble cast. This hilarious and poignant movie answers the question: What happens when two really broken people meet? Pat (Cooper) thinks that the path to happiness will come from restoring the life before his bipolar disorder and resulting violence had him institutionalized. The plan to restore his old life is beautifully disrupted when Tiffany (Lawrence) shows up and helps him write a different, but better story. Definitely not for the kids to watch, but a very redemptive movie with a happy ending.

  • IMDB 7.7

  • Rotten Tomatoes 92%/86%

  • (R)


Elf

What makes a holiday film an enduring classic? The Hallmark channel is working overtime this time of year to figure out that formula, but it is very rare that a new Christmas movie becomes a classic. What if someone made a movie where the hero was the very epitome of light coming into the darkness of the world? What if he personified light and in him were no darkness at all? What if his very presence changed the lives of everyone around him? Maybe “Elf” became an instant classic becomes it so beautifully pointed back the one we are supposed to celebrating.

  • IMDB 6.9

  • Rotten Tomatoes 83%/78%

  • (PG)




Gran Torino

What happens when an angry former auto worker who has just lost his wife has an asian family move into the house next door? Well first, a lot of anger and repressed racism, but then our protagonist (Clint Eastwood) experiences an aesthetic conversion of the heart. What ensues is one of the most heroic and messianic figures ever put on film. A beautiful picture of a man laying down his life for others. Very rough, but worth the ride.

  • IMDB 8.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 80%/90%

  • (R)


Hidden Figures

There isn’t a more controversial topic in the country than race. And let’s face it, some of the history around this topic is pretty ugly. Some of the movies that have dealt with this topic have been appropriately horrifying. What I most appreciate about this movie is that it introduces in the issue in a way that still felt appropriate for my children. This is an inspiring movie where racism is overcome due to the necessity of the space race and the incredible mind of a female African-American.

  • IMDB 7.8

  • Rotten Tomatoes 93%/93%

  • (PG)


Batman Begins

I am not particularly a fan of the whole comic book genre of Marvel the DC universes. Based on box office, pretty much everyone else in the world disagrees. What I did love about this one was the incredible telling of the origin story. We all come from somewhere and are a product of that journey we have taken. This one shows that trauma can be redeemed and that the final crucial stage in being forgiven is forgiving yourself.

  • IMDB 8.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 84%/94%

  • (PG-13)




Shawshank Redemption

Red is an institutional man. His only reality is what is contained within the walls of Shawshank. Andy Dufresne begins planning his life beyond from his first day in the prison. While this movie contains many of the things a typical prison movie does (definitely not for the kids) it is actually one of the most profound cinematic expressions of freedom ever filmed. That is why it is the highest rated film of all time on IMDB. One of the greatest films of all time on almost everybody’s list.

  • IMDB 9.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 91%/98%

  • (R)


Free Solo

Alex Honnold may have just completed the most audacious athletic feat in the history of the world. His 9 year journey into climbing the 3,200 feet of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley with any ropes, harness, or anything else other than his hands, was so audacious that no one else had ever considered it before or since. A staggering achievement that will have you asking many questions as you hold your breath along with everyone else watching this staggering achievement.

  • IMDB 8.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 98%/94% (8.2)

  • (PG-13)


Green Book

What do you do if you are a classically trained African American pianist in the 60’s? You decide to take a tour of the deep South…and bring along a mafia tough guy to be your bodyguard. Beautiful story of how two men overcome hatred, anger, and fear to find a deep and loving lifetime friendship. This one has some adult themes and is definitely not for the kids, but this is a challenging watch that will confirm why it was the most decorated film at the last Oscars.

  • IMDB 8.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 78%/92%

  • (PG-13)


Instant Family

Pete and Ellie have pretty much a perfect apart from one thing. Ellie starts to realize she experiencing a void that can only be filled by children. Entering into the local foster to adopt program turns out to be the most heartbreaking and fulfilling experiences of their lives. While there is lot of the filming played for comic intent, you also get to see the heartbreak and restoration of adults, children, and pretty much anyone who serves witness to their story. While it may look like a typical Disney rom-com, it comes by its’ PG-13 honestly. Not for the kids.

  • IMDB 7.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 82%/81%

  • (PG-13)


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Based on a true story, this is the tale of a poor farmer named Trywell who has an enduring faith and big dreams for his land and family in dusty Malawi. When his hope begins to fade with each subsequent setback, he finally bets all on his sons dreams and ingenious plan to restore the farmland by “making the rain”. While there are some mature themes dealt with, it is relatively family friendly for all but younger children. An inspiring true story of hope and redemption.

  • IMDB 7.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 84%/94%

  • (TV-PG)


The Descendants

Matt King has been made trustee of the estate that holds his family’s 25,000 acres of undeveloped land on Kauai. While the family’s extensive descendants want to sell the land before the trust ends in seven years, Matt is distracted by a much bigger problem. HIs wife’s coma related to an accident associated with an affair, has his immediate family and his relationship with his daughters in a shamble. The redemptive story he is finding its his daughters helps him redeem his role as trustee. Great film that very few have seen.

  • IMDB 7.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 89%/79%

  • (R)


The Blind Side

Leigh Anne Tuohy is both big-hearted and ferocious. She steps into the story of a homeless boy who is trying to survive a broken family situation with drug-addicted mom. This true story is about a life that would have been likely lost or discarded, but became a successful college and pro football career. Funny, heart-warming, and a very redemptive story. For most of the family.

  • IMDB 7.7

  • Rotten Tomatoes 66%/85%

  • (PG-13)


Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Turns out there quite a few Spider Men of different varieties and from different dimensions. Most notably, young teen Miles Morales who is trying to figure out his superhero body at the same time that his friends at school are trying to figure out their human ones. I am neither a fan of comics or super-hero movies, but this genre altering film not only offers mind-bending animation, but a lot of redemption as well (plus a great soundtrack). The best reviewed movie of 2018.

  • IMDB 8.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 97%/94%

  • (PG)


Apollo 13

This true story immortalized the words “Houston, we have a problem.” This is one of those classics you probably can’t even remember seeing, but should probably see again. Edge of seat suspense, great story telling, with the entire NASA space program and several lives hanging in the balance. Not for the younger kids, but a great historical film worth rewatching. Redemptive story that we all know but feels fresh from great storytelling.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 95%/87%

  • (PG)


It Might Get Loud

This is one of my favorite documentaries of all time. It turns out that even the greatest guitarist in rock history (Jimmy Page, Bono, Jack White) all have a childhood and an origin story tied to their genius. If you didn’t know that these three men are the lead guitarists of Led Zeppelin, U2, and the White Stripes, you might want to skip this one. But if you appreciate their music and love hearing the source of genius, you may want to tune it. A late scene where genius enjoys genius as they play for one another is worth the price of admission.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 80%/84%

  • (PG)


Hitch

While Alex “Hitch” Hitchens may have a lot of experience and tricks up his sleeve to help a man with the heart of a woman, true love still comes down to old fashioned chemistry. True love can overcome impossible odds where even the best strategic approach can fail. Hilarious and endearing journey for both Will Smith (Hitch) and Kevin James (Albert). Not really for the kids, but a great date movie.

  • IMDB 6.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 68%/62%

  • (PG-13)


Dead Poet’s Society

Professor Keating has returned to his own prep school, Welton, to shake things up a bit. His mission is to awaken beauty, passion, and love in the collection of future doctors, lawyers, and bankers that attend. It is a beautiful story of awaking and the slumbering coming alive. One of my all time favorite movies that has one of my all-time favorite movie characters, Knox Overstreet. That may or not have anything to do why my first born son is named “Knox”.

  • IMDB 8.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 84%/92%

  • (PG)


Antwonne Fisher

A young sailor, Antwonne Fisher, appears to be angry at everyone and everything. What he is really longing for is a sense of home, family, and fathering. The love of a great woman and an unlikely father figure allow him to journey back through his story of brokenness to find healing and a family he had only dreamed existed. The juxtaposition of the opening dream sequence and family reunion toward the end are stunning. Not an easy watch, but one of the more redemptive stories you will get to see.

  • IMDB 7.3

  • Rotten Tomatoes 79%/86%

  • (PG-13)


Only the Brave

Many of our own redemptive stories are a result of someone giving us a chance at just the right time. The reason some of us are given those unlikely chances is due to the paying forward from others own redeemed brokenness. Eric Marsh gives a young man a chance that no one would and risks lives, reputation, and maybe even love to prove that the young man is worthy of his investment. See a beaten down man become a more whole-hearted leader. Great story.

  • IMDB 7.7

  • Rotten Tomatoes 87%/91%

  • (PG-13)


Secondhand Lions

This one is sneaky fantastic. A woman who appears to be ill-equipped and not too interested in raising her pre-teen son, drops him off to live with two crack-pop and mysterious distant relatives. They regale with tales of adventure and heroism and help him on the journey to manhood in very unorthodox fashion. Great family movie that is full of fun, redemption, and insight. Robert Duval’s “Hub McCan” is one of the more endearing characters you will meet in film.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 59%/84%

  • (PG)


Disney’s The Kid

Longfellow writes that “often times we call a man cold when he is only sad”. That is certainly the case with Russell Durwitz. He is an image consultant who helps other find success in the world’s eyes despite the fact that any form of happiness has eluded him. A surprise visitor on his 40th birthday takes him on a adventure of remembering, healing and restoration. One of my favorite films that has become part the culture of our family with our kids. This one will really sneak up on you.

  • IMDB 6.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 49%/48%

  • (PG)


Wild Rose

Toward the end of the movie, a man in Nashville tells Rose that he didn’t understand a word she is saying. I could relate. Understanding the “English” of the characters in their deep Glasgow Scottish accents could be challenging, but worth the strain. This one follows the familiar trope of an unknown finding stardom, but not in the way you typically expect. Success has many definitions and the gritty indie journey of Rose beautifully illustrates that. Art imitates life in Wild Rose and it takes a while to get to glory, but it is a nice payoff when it does. Not for the kids.

  • IMDB 7.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 94%/90%

  • (R)


Chasing Happiness

Before you skip this one just because it is a documentary on the Jonas Brothers, here me out. They were as surprised by their meteoric rise to success as many of their most outspoken critics. Turns out that fame is very costly and even destructive, but when the heart of the artist is good enough and grounded enough, there is always a path back home. These are three extraordinary young men who share their rawest memories and deepest hearts for one another with the cameras rolling. It gives them a path back to true brotherhood and having fun together. Great documentary.

  • IMDB 8.0

  • Rotten Tomatoes NA/NA

  • (NR)


Get Low

This one takes its’ time telling the story, but it will stay with you for a very long time. Turns out that the notorious hermit of Caleb County has a lot more to his story than they realized. All those decades of weird behavior are rooted in the shame of a tragedy he believes is unforgivable. It takes a confession, some kindness, and a mock funeral in front of the whole county to find the forgiveness and redemption his soul craves. Beautiful storytelling. Incredible performances by Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray.

  • IMDB 7.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 85%/75%

  • (PG-13)


A Good Year

Not exactly loved by the critics, but probably suffered from the incredibly high expectations of Ridley Scott’s direction and their inability to accept Russell Crowe in a RomCom. Max Skinner is a successful investor, womanizer, and narcissist. But deep within him there is an embedded memory of a glorious childhood, being deeply loved, and a yearning for a better life. A return home to hastily deal with the estate of his late uncle, wildly disrupts him and awakens him to love and more meaningful life. Something about this one has me coming back to it every few years. Great date movie.

  • IMDB 7.0

  • Rotten Tomatoes 25%/65%

  • (PG-13)


The Way

Sometimes the best way to understand someone you don’t really know is to walk the path they have walked. A father (Martin Sheen) walks the last steps of his son’s life as a way of understanding and redeeming his loss. As you might imagine, he gets his life transformed in the process. Set on the famous pilgrimage path of the Camino de Santiago, this is a film that will have you asking questions about your own life after watching.

  • IMDB 7.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 83%/82%

  • (PG-13)


Stranger than Fiction

This one is very different and quirky, but one of my favorite romantic comedies ever. What if your life was an inexplicable story that somebody else was writing? And what if that very boring and disinteresting story was just starting to get really enjoyable and worth living? A story about coming alive, finding love, and fighting for a life that you didn’t think was possible. Beautifully cast, written, and soundtracked. Great date movie.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 72%/85%

  • (PG-13)


The Management

One of the quirkiest and worst reviewed movies I have ever reviewed, but something about it has me returning to it again and again. Maybe it is protagonist's awkward optimism. Maybe it is his idealistic belief that love can truly conquer all. But I think the thing I remember most is that he more courageously, sacrificially, and completely fights for the heart of his beauty in a way I‘ve never seen in film. In a way that not only rescues her, but heals her. Bit of a funky ride, but there is something so poetic and powerful about his journey.

  • IMDB 5.9

  • Rotten Tomatoes 47%/30%

  • (R)


Iron Giant

This animated film is no Disney movie, but it has much of the heart and sentimentality that you would find in one. Sometimes we assume the worst and seek to destroy the things we do not understand. The childlike innocence of both a robot and a 9-year old boy are beautifully on display. Sometimes that kind of innocence is our only hope in a world that has completely lost it. It is a great family movie, but maybe not for your youngest ones. Beautifully story of redemption.

  • IMDB 8.0

  • Rotten Tomatoes 96%/90%

  • (PG)


Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

A great comedy that doesn’t seem to fit in the cinematic canon with all John Hughes other teen films from the 80’s, but carries a similar sensibility that you will recognize. If you look past all the slapstick, you will find a powerful redemptive story. The ability to look past our own frustrations can often provide the simple path to overcoming…helping someone else with theirs. The most challenging people around us are often just battling their own pain. Really funny with an emotional sucker punch at the end. A movie about Thanksgiving and giving thanks.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 93%/87%

  • (R)


Spanglish

A beautiful story about an immigrant trying to find a better life for her family colliding with a wealthy and dysfunctional family in California. This one deals with power of fidelity, the cost of infidelity, and how stories can be completely redeemed through the love of others. Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, and Cloris Leachman are perfectly cast. This one will make you laugh, cry, and have you thinking about it long after the final credits. Not for the kids.

  • IMDB 6.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 53%/60%

  • (PG-13)


Sneakers

In this movie from 1982, Robert Redford leads a team of misfits with complementary skills that test security systems. They’re hired by an imposter CIA operative to steal a secret black box that has powerful encryption ability. This predecessor to the “Oceans” franchise is full of mystery, adventure, and a lot of laughs. It is very redemptive to see people with questionable values become heroes while utilizing each of the team’s unique gifts.

  • IMDB 7.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 78%/80%

  • (PG-13)


Stand by Me

This movie, based on the novel by Stephen King, takes us on a coming-of-age journey with a group of young boys to solve the mystery of a dead body. With an all-star cast featuring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss, and John Cusack. They leave as boys and return from their journey as men.

  • IMDB 8.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 91%/94%

  • (R)


Dances with Wolves

John Dunbar has to reject his identity as a civil war hero and soldier in order to get his life and heart back. In the process of befriending, earning the trust, and fighting for the hearts of the local Lakota Indians, he discovers a deeper understanding of who he is. Everyone feels like we are sometimes living a life that is not our own. John Dunbar’s journey requires that you think more deeply about your own life and its’ meaning. A classic that I like to watch every few years.

  • IMDB 8.0

  • Rotten Tomatoes 82%/87%

  • (PG-13)


Gladiator

The general who becomes a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an empire. Sound familiar? This allegorical film presents Maximus as a Christ figure that sacrifices his own life for the ransom and rescue of all of those in slavery. Winner of 5 Academy Awards out of 12 nominations. One of the best big budget epics ever made. Not for everyone, but in the canon of movies that every man should watch at some point in their life.

  • IMDB 8.5

  • Rotten Tomatoes 76%/87%

  • (R)


Yesterday

What if you magically became the only person in the world who remembered all the Beatles songs? Would you pass them off as your own? This is exactly the conundrum that Jack Malik is facing in this movie. Full of great music, funny circumstances, and a hard realization that way more important than all the fame and fortune in the world, “all you need is love, love, love is all you need”.

  • IMDB 6.9

  • Rotten Tomatoes 63%/89%

  • (PG-13)


Amazing Grace

In what became one of the best selling gospel recordings of all time, Aretha Franklin performed at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972. The film footage was never released until over 45 years later. As the critics describe in the trailer, “it is like you are looking into the face of God” and “everybody deserves to have Aretha take them to the moon”. A beautiful recording that gives you a glimpse into the early 70’s in a racially torn America.

  • IMDB 7.6

  • Rotten Tomatoes 99%/83%

  • (G)


Open Range

A former gunslinger has to decide whether or not he wants to change his life by taking on some cattle rustlers and protect some ranches. Charley Watts (played by Kevin Costner) finds that becoming an honorable man cannot only redeem his past misdeeds and troubled life, but possibly lead to the love of a woman he thought he would never deserve. Typical western in many ways, but a whole lot more going on here.

  • IMDB 7.4

  • Rotten Tomatoes 79%/84%

  • (R)


Notting Hill

Not typically a fan of RomComs, but this one was a pretty good ride. William Thacker is an unsuccessful travel bookstore owner in Notting Hill and falls into a relationship with Anna Scott, the most famous actress in the world. This one is hilarious, endearing, and full of redemptive turns. Anna famously reminds William that despite her fame and fortune, “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”. Great date movie.

  • IMDB 7.1

  • Rotten Tomatoes 83%/79%

  • (PG-13)


Almost Famous

I love coming-of-age movies and this is one of my favorites. Cameron Crowe’s biopic about a boy growing up way too fast is very familiar to my experience as a young man. The soundtrack of great music and the “friends” you find in your vinyl collection was the experience of many young men and women. The precious depiction of encountering love, life, and innocence lost is handled here with a gentle and thoughtful hand. Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll never felt so redemptive.

  • IMDB 7.9

  • Rotten Tomatoes 89%/92%

  • (R)