Stop, look, and listen.
That could be the motto for Christianity Today's list of the Most Redeeming Films of 2011. A number of them, including No. 1 Of Gods and Men, are slower-moving, contemplative movies, films that ask you to put the popcorn aside, pay close attention, engage your heart, soul, and mind, and invest in the movie. In other words, everything Transformers 3 would never ask you to do.
Of Gods and Men, an inside look at life in a monastery, will force you to ask yourself, "What would I do in their shoes?" The Tree of Life is, on a macro level an artistic meditation on, well, life itself (and the afterlife), and on a micro level, on the thin line between family devotion and family dysfunction. Win Win also explores family dynamics, love, loyalty, and difficult ethical issues that any of us could face in a down economy. The Way is an introspective examination of a man's heart and soul in the wake of terrible tragedy, as he literally takes a long journey to find himself—and, in a sense, his son.
Hugo will not only make you fall in love with the beauty of Paris, but its music, its food, and its people, but also with old movies themselves. Oh, and it includes arguably the year's best reflection on what it means to be in community and/or the body of Christ—by using a metaphor for the human race as a machine with no missing parts, and how each of us, as an individual part, was created for a specific purpose … and this from Martin Scorcese, no less! But, as is the case with a number of these films, such insights only exist for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Great filmmakers won't bash you over the head with a Message You Need to Hear; the best auteurs let the story do the talking, and you, the viewer, may need to peel back a layer—or three or four—to see what's beneath. That's exciting.
As we do annually, we first roll out our Most Redeeming list—simply the year's best movies that include stories of redemption. Several feature characters who are redeemers themselves; all have characters who experience redemption to some degree. Some are feel-good flicks; others, less so. Several of the films are rated R and PG-13 and are not intended for young viewers, so please use discretion. But in all of these films, redemption itself is one of the main characters or plot points.
Posting next Wednesday (January 25): Our Critics' Choice list.
Directed by Xavier Beauvois
(Sony Pictures Classics) | Rated PG-13
Directed by Terrence Malick
(Fox Searchlight) | Rated PG-13
3. Win Win
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
(Fox Searchlight) | Rated R
4. The Way
Directed by Emilio Estevez
(Arc Entertainment) | Rated PG-13
Directed by Martin Scorsese
(Paramount Pictures) | Rated PG
Directed by David Yates
(Warner Brothers) | Rated PG-13
7. Soul Surfer
Directed by Sean McNamara
(TriStar Pictures) |Rated PG
Directed by Lech Majewski
(Kino Lorber) | Not rated
9. War Horse
Directed by Steven Spielberg
(Touchstone Pictures) | Rated PG-13
Directed by Alex Kendrick
(Lionsgate) | Rated PG-13