The 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2008
So, what's a "redeeming" film? The definition varies, but for our list below, we mean movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are "feel-good" movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films.
We also let each of our voters choose "One That Got Away"—a single film they wish had made the final list. Think of those extra films as sort of our "honorable mentions."
For each of the top 10 films, we have included random comments from our critics. To learn more about the film's synopsis, click "Our review" at the end of each summary.
"A meaningful masterpiece that offers as much food for thought to adults as it does to children." "Whimsical comedy, thrilling action, threads of Noah's Ark and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and an inspiring mechanical hero—a fusion of R2D2, Woody Allen, and Charlie Chaplin—who reminds us that humanity at its best, living responsibly and passionately, just might help us out of the mess we've made at our worst." "Unconditional love." "A wake-up call to be aware of the beauty that is round us at all times." "A thing of beauty—a true artist's picture that is both entertaining, provocative, subtle, sad, and joyful." "Existential longing, awe and apocalyptic hope form the ambitious thematic terrain of this poetic, mesmerizing film." "A timeless parable about love in the ruins—a testament to the power of love to transform darkness into light." (Our review.)
"A withdrawn professor's static life is shaken up—and ultimately enriched—by his unexpected involvement in the lives of a pair of illegal aliens." "When Walter reaches out to two needy immigrants, he changes their lives and redeems his own, becoming a Christ-like sufferer alongside the oppressed." "A tale about the rewards of living with courage, conscience, and compassion." "It buys the right to discuss the U.S.'s treatment of immigrants because it was first and foremost a story of people. I cared for these people." "Though the film tackles a weighty issue and—ultimately—provides no easy answers, it is thoroughly satisfying. It oozes goodness, humanity, and a classy reverence for dignity and trans-cultural decorum." "A film about tricky political issues that eschews polemics in favor of real compassion." (Our review.)
"Eastwood adds an interesting new wrinkle to the themes of mortality, violence, revenge and redemption that have been so prominent in his more recent films." "Some have said that Gran Torino doesn't have a happy ending, but the symbolism of what happens points to loving sacrifice and the complete commitment of one's life for the betterment of others." "We see a man redeemed from hatred to love for neighbors who steadily and persistently showed him love—even when he continually pushed them away." "Profound on a number of levels—a commentary on our contemporary zeitgeist but also a timeless story of redemption, sacrifice, and grace. It's Eastwood working through his own Dirty Harry mythos, atoning for his own cinematic sins in the same way that any of us must reckon with our past as we age and the world changes." (Our review.)