Here’s a list of 20 films I most enjoyed last year. Most on this list came out earlier than 2006, but with the cost of going to the movies plus a babysitter, that’s what our normal watching habits entail. Also, we have two kids, which heavily influences our fare as well. I tried to get the list down to 10, but just couldn’t. I thought of separating them into two lists—children’s versus adult fare—but that didn’t work either because some of the kid’s films are better than some of the ones meant for mature audiences. So, here you go, in alphabetical order:
Because of Winn-Dixie (2005). I rented this one for my eight-year-old daughter, whose teacher read the book to her class in school. I stuck it into the DVD player one afternoon for her and a friend and ended up watching it myself—and having a couple of insights into the nature of Kingdom life and doing church. It’s a good story, well-done, both moving and comforting. See here for more on the Kingdom-thoughts germinated from the film.
(Image: 20th Century Fox/Walden Media)
Benji (1974). Okay, so this isn’t the very first time I saw this movie. In fact, it was one of my favorites when I was a child. I rented it for my daughter during a phase when I was recording and renting the films I liked when I was kid. Remember Escape to Witch Mountain, Parent Trap (the original with Haley Mills), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Gnome Mobile, and E.T? Anyway, this one isn’t included for its great filmmaking, acting or even story, but because it brought back the magic I felt every time I saw it as kid. Some films just do that.
(Image: Mulberry Square Productions via impawards.com)
Bride & Prejudice (2004). A modern take on Jane Austin’s Pride & Prejudice, this was my very first Bollywood film, and I absolutely loved it. However, if you don’t like your movie characters bursting into song and dance, you may think twice about renting this one, heh. According to T-Hype (who has a wonderfully original and must-see blog), this isn’t the best Bollywood has to offer, so check out her list of films newbies should get there hands on. I’ve already added them to my NetFlix queue. For more of my thoughts about Bride & Prejudice, see here.
(Image: Miramax Films)
Cars (2006). We took both our kids to see this in the theater. It was a bit too long for our three-year-old, but our daughter loved it. And so did my husband and I. It’s a great story about learning to hear and see others for who they are, getting a grasp on what’s important in life, and having fun. One odd thing about it the film, however, is that there’s not one living animal or human in the film—even the bugs are cars.
Casino Royale (2006). This is the best Bond film ever. This Bond is darker and grittier than the previous incarnations—and the closest thing out there to the character in the Ian Fleming books. In addition to its good story, action and characters, its themes generate some good questions that bring God-talk into open spaces. For my full review, see here.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). We Tivo’d this one on TCM. Wow. Some films are destined to be great classics, and this is one of them. This is the only version I’ve seen of Tennessee William’s play, which centers on a Southern family as it gathers to mark its patriarch’s 65th birthday. I loved this tale, a wonderful, painful and healing story of redemption and confession and reconciliation. Also, I must mention that living in the South has made stories like this one gain a depth I’d missed before. Heh, the stickiness of the red clay mud Brick’s car gets stuck in was a detail with which I really can relate.
(Image: MGM via Wikipedia)
Dear Frankie (2004). We got this one off Christianity Today’s 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2005. An export from Britain, this film tells the story of a single mother who hires a stranger to pretend to be the absent father to whom her deaf son has been writing letters all his life. It made me laugh one minute and cry the next and was one of the most moving and affirming stories I’ve seen in quite some time. It is wonderfully acted and carries powerful themes on family, truth and community. See my review here.
Dreamer (2005). We rented this one—the story of 11-year old Cale (Dakota Fanning), her father (Kurt Russell) and an injured race horse that changes their lives—for our daughter, but we all loved it. It has a wonderful story with a solid and loving family and reminds me of how things ought to be. See my full review here.
Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006). This one is still in our DVD player as I type. My kids have seen it four or five times over the last several days (I lost count) and aren’t getting tired of it. When I asked my daughter why she likes it so much, she tilted her head and said thoughtfully, “I don’t know.” Then she looked at me and asked, “Why do you like The Mummy so much?” Heh. The film makes her feel good about the world and it makes her laugh—and that makes sense. It’s an affirming story, with themes of community, love-overcoming-fear and sticking-it-out-together. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but we like it.
(Image: 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005). A favorite book of mine, the film-version marks the most recent addition to my film posters collections (which includes original one-sheets for Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, The Mummy, Signs, and Out of Africa and full-sheet copies of Contact, Room with a View, Ghost, and a couple of others.) It was fun to see Narnia on film (though it didn’t quite match my expectations like Lord of the Rings did) and I’m looking forward to Prince Caspian (and my beloved Reepicheep) now in production.
Millions (2004). This is another one from across the pond and off Christianity Today’s 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2005. It tells the tale of two young brothers who try to figure out what to do with over a quarter of a million English pounds (on the eve of the euro changeover) that literally drop out of the sky. The story celebrates faith, integrity and compassion that takes for granted that God exists, reveals himself to those with faith and cares deeply for us—and wants us to care for and love others, too. See my full review here.
Nanny McPhee (2005). This slighty-mad-version of Mary Poppins was a delightful surprise to our family. Even my three-year-old son was mesmerized by it, heh. The film is a wonderful (though a bit dark) fairy-tale-type story of transformation and love and life—which ushered forth some God-talk about Kingdom living on this blog. See more about that here—and for another review, see Mirathon’s take on this wonderful flick.
One Night with the King (2006). While this biblical epic isn’t the best film ever made by a long-shot, there was enough in it to capture my imagination and stick with me. The strengths of the film lay with main star Tiffany Dupont (Esther), who is delightfully fun to watch, the cinematography (most of the time) and its story—which reminds us that God is ever-working and present. The main weaknesses were an unpolished script and some bad directing decisions. I’m not sure how it will play on the small-screen, but the film—at least on the big-screen—seemed to do more things right than wrong. Plus, I must admit, it left me feeling good and encouraged. See the rest of my review here.
(Image: Gener8xion Entertainment)
Over the Hedge (2006). This is another animated feature our family enjoyed. This one follows the adventures of a wiley raccoon and the make-shift family of forest animals he encounters. It’s funny and engaging, with themes celebrating family, trust, forgiveness and redemption. A theme which I didn’t pick up on was pointed out by a recent commenter to this blog (who works both in Restorative Justice in the public schools and in a United Methodist youth ministry); he explains that he uses this film “to illustrate how mediation, restoration and reconciliation are used in the movie to show a better way of life. Watch it again,” he writes, “and see how those who use violence to get their way get violence in return and those who seek peace make peace.” Good stuff. See my full review here.
Pride & Prejudice (2005). Two versions of this Jane Austin novel made this list and this one—definitely the more literal rendition—captures the humor, tension and drama of the novel very well. This story (one of my favorites by Austin) is one of the best love stories ever written (both romantic and familial) and portrays the power of forgiveness, humility earned and love to bring about community and right-ness in relationship—all very relevant and biblical themes. The critics favored the film (it holds an 85% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes) and so did I. See some of my other thoughts on the film here.
(Image: Working Title Films and Focus Films)
Superman Returns (2006). The latest addition to the Superman genre, this film wasn’t all I’d hoped it to be, but it had its moments. Ultimately, as comic book films are apt to do, it not only reminded me of my own calling in life but also of the One who calls me. For more of my thoughts on the film, go here.
(Images: Warner Bros/Cinemablend)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). I didn’t read this classic novel until a couple of years ago, and it quickly became one of my all-time favorites. We TiVo’d the film off TCM and thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is powerful and continues to challenge us to examine ourselves and our prejudices and willingness to stand for what is right in the face of overwhelming odds. I am also struck by Atticus’ relationship to his children and the wisdom he exhibits as he teaches and loves them. An incredible story, which the film does a good job of capturing.
(Image: Universal via Wikipedia)
Walk the Line (2005). I didn’t become a Johnny Cash fan until later in life, after I heard an NPR interview with him when American IV was released. Before I watched the film, I didn’t know much about Cash’s life except what I’d learned through interviews and his music, much of which is permeated by his walk with faith, sin, and redemption. After watching the film, however, I looked at my husband and said, “Now I understand why he was the way he was.” For more of my thoughts on the film, go here.
(Image: 20th Century Fox; from Wikipedia’s Walk the Line, itself worth the visit)
The World’s Fastest Indian (2005). This film is loosely based on the life of New Zealander Burt Munro, who—in his sixties—set land speed records with his customized Indian Scout motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. But the magic of this film is less about that and more about what happens to us—and those around us—when we step out on what we believe. For more on the film and my thoughts on it, go here.
(Image: Magnolia Pictures)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). This was the final installment in the X-Men trilogy. While not the best of three, it delivers both in story and God-talk. In particular, the final film shows the long-term value of a community committed to loving each other, recognizing and developing each others gifts, teaching each other to live by what is right and wrong, and working together to embrace the thing that made them different from the rest of the world—not to benefit themselves but to help and protect those who often despise them. And that gives us something to think about as followers of Jesus. For my full review, go here.
(Image: 20th Century Fox)
Editor's Note: Some of these films contain scenes of violence and sexual content as well as language that may offend some viewers. As always, seek out reviews from critics you trust as you prayerfully consider the films you see.