(keep in mind to be cautious of content—but all of these are at the most PG-13)
This is a remake of a movie, based on a book. It is a true story about a team of friends who crossed the Pacific on a raft made of balsawood in 1947. There is a gruesomely intense scene, but the film is morally decent and exciting. Definitely a family film. (Except for the gruesomely intense scene.)
4) Enough Said
This is a good example of how a film can stand on simplicity. There are no special effects. Not even one. This is just the story of Eva, who ends up accidentally dating her therapist’s ex-husband Albert. Her therapist makes very negative comments about Albert during the sessions and this begins to color Eva’s feelings for him. It’s a romantic comedy with style.
3) Blue Jasmine
This is another movie bereft of special effects. When my wife and I walked out, I commented that Cate Blanchette deserved the Oscar.And she got it. (Cate did—not my wife.)
Not to mention this is written and directed by Woody Allen. But don’t be fooled. Even though there are some humorous moments, it is a bittersweet story about the slow self-destruction of a woman who you sympathize with even as she makes her bad situation even worse. The ending is perfect.
2) Europa Report
This is the poor man’s Gravity. But even though it had a lower budget and has been given much less attention, this film is possibly even better in some spots. It is a found-footage movie about an expedition to the moon of Jupiter--Europa, where there may or may not be evidence confirming alien life. Even though the concept is wildly sci-fi, it is handled in a very realistic way and you can definitely suspend your disbelief and buy into the fact that you are on a mission of incredible significance.
1) The Book Thief
This is based on a beautiful book about the Holocaust narrated by Death. That alone makes this story extremely original. But the plot itself is touching and memorable. And even though the film was doomed to fall far short of such a well-written book, in general it is a great movie.