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My Movie Recommendations (A Running List)

Our family doesn’t own a TV, but we love movies, including and especially indie and foreign films. If you also prefer to live off the beaten path, you may want to check out this running list of some of my favorites (which does include mainstream movies). I’ll keep it updated. Some I comment on, but most I don’t, because it’s been so long since I’ve seen them, I don’t remember why I liked them. I just know that I liked them enough to include them in this list, which is very much off the top of my head. There are hundreds more I like, especially documentaries, that I’m not thinking of.

I’ve broken this list down into two categories: drama and documentaries. Please make use of the comment section to add your own recommendations, or to comment about any of the movies on my list.

Two Disclaimers:

1. Check parent guides! And don’t judge others based on movie content; I’d rather watch a well-made (well-acted, well-written with beautiful cinematography) movie than a squeaky-clean, low-budget, poorly written/acted film that presents an unrealistic picture of life.

2. I started this list years ago. My taste has since developed/changed/(matured(?). There may be titles on here that I once liked but now may find cringe-worthy because of the poor artistic quality. Hopefully that is not the case with most of them.


127 Hours (Based on a true story. Would you be able to do what he did?)

A Brand New Life (true story of an orphan in Korea)

A Christmas Story (for the terrific screen-writing)

A Hero (A foreign film made in Iran. Incredibly thought-provoking, about one's true character can be hidden beneath an altruistic façade.)

The Aeronauts (Titanic meets Cliffhanger. A fun date-night movie that inspires.)

Akeelah and the Bee


A Quiet Place (More thriller than horror, or it wouldn’t be on this list)

Argentina 1985

Arrival (What if you knew the future, including every tragic thing that would happen to you? Would you altar your happiest events in order to avoid pain?)

A Taxi Driver

August Rush

Babette's Feast (A foreign film with English subtitles. It spoke volumes to me as a pastor, and is one of my all-time favorites.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (hauntingly painful and beautiful picture of the power of maternal love)


The Best of Men (The doctor in this movie is like a pastor trying to heal broken people; there will always be nurses and colleagues (lifelong pew warmers) who resist his efforts, who worship “sacred cows” and insist on doing things “the way we’ve always done it.”)

Beauty and the Beast (the new one, with Emma Watson)

Big Eyes

Blue Like Jazz (If you don’t like the book by the same title, you will hate this movie.)

The Book and the Rose (If you only have about twenty minutes to watch a good movie.)

The Book Thief

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Brooke Ellison Story

Captain Phillips (I got to hear the real Captain Phillips when he came to our home town, and this is pretty true to his story. Tom Hanks got the New England accent down pat.)

The Case for Christ (Finally! A Christian film that didn’t make me cringe. Well-written, acted, excellent! A thoughtful invitation to skeptics.)

Chef (light, fun, funny, hilarious actually. Watch it if you like a feel-good story, good food and excellent writing)

THE CHOSEN (I put this in all caps like a Grandma because it is seriously the only non-cheesy Jesus series ever made. It's not a movie, but I like it enough to include it on this list.)

Collateral Beauty (I would love to have a philosophical discussion with someone about this movie, in particular, someone with a non-Christian worldview. Is love the most powerful force in the universe? And how would you define love? Is it objective?)

Colonia  (One of the best edge-of-your-seat movies ever! Starring Emma Watson AND it’s based on a true story. I absolutely loved this movie. (parental guidance suggested!)

Coraline (A creepy movie worth watching for anyone wanting to ponder this line, spoken about the villain: "She just wants somebody to love.")

Dangal (required watching for my teen girls. They can do life God’s way, or the world’s way)

Darkest Hour (about Winston Churchill)



The Devil Wears Prada (Submission to authority is a concept that is lost on Gen Z, but it pays off in this mainstream movie.)

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Dog Lover

Emma (the one with Gwyneth Paltrow; Mr. Nightly's scathing rebuke over the way Emma treats Ms. Bates is my favorite moment. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." --Proverbs)

The End of the Spear (based on a true account of missionary martyrdom; the ending is a shocking display of forgiveness)


Evelyn (with Pierce Brosnan)

Faith Like Potatoes (slow-moving, Christian-made film that I haven’t seen for years. I just remember it made my husband cry so…)

Father Stu (Since it's based on a true story, it's full of swearing--lots of F-bombs. That is, until his conversion takes place. It's a wonderful treatment of the purpose of suffering, and hilarious to boot!)

Field of Lost Shoes

Finding Forrester

Fireproof (Stilted acting and bad screen-writing with forced Christian message. It's insufferably" bad art," but if porn addiction could be taken this seriously and treated this severely, perhaps more marriages could be saved.)

Fisherman's Friends

Forever Strong

Freedom Writers

Frozen (The movie’s punchline, “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart” says it all.)

The Ghost and the Darkness (for the sheer fun of it, and because it's a true story)

Gifted Hands

Gimme Shelter (2013 movie, not to be confused with the one about the Rolling Stones by the same title)

The Giver (Read the book first! Or better yet, skip the movie and read the book.)

The Glass Castle

The Good Catholic

The Good Lie (similar to the documentary, “God Grew Tired of Us”, which I also recommend)

Greater (Inspiration without the "cheese")

Hacksaw Ridge

The Hammer

Harriet (2019)

Haute Cuisine

The Help

Her Majesty Mrs. Brown

Hidden Figures

The Hobbit

The Hundred Foot Journey


Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Hilarious, adorable, heart-warming, gorgeous, endearing gem of an indie flick!)

I Know My First Name is Steven (A heart-wrenching true story that shows the importance of the parent-child relationship during the teen years. The account of a kidnapping involving sexual abuse; it is not explicit or graphic.)

I am David

If I had Wings

I’m Not Scared

The Imitation Game (Parental discretion advised; check parent guides.)

Imperial Dreams

The Impossible

The Innocents (the one about nuns in Warsaw)

The Insanity of God


The Invisible Guest (A suspenseful murder mystery that’s well-made)

The Mercy (This line said it all: "I haven't done anything (in life)." The ending of this true story resulted from an identity grounded in achievements.)

Jane Eyre (2011 version)

Joni (the true story of Joni Eareckson Tada; about the value and purpose of suffering)

Joy (starring Jennifer Lawrence)

Julie and Julia

Keep on Keepin’ On

King’s Faith

The King’s Speech

Kite Runner

Knives Out (Sheer fun! A who-done-it unpredictable murder-mystery. Parental discretion.)

Life is Beautiful

Life of a King

Like Sunday, Like Rain

The Lion King (I can’t decide if I like the original or the new one best)

Little Boy

Little Women (2019 as well as the older version with Susan Sarandon)

Lord of the Rings (obviously!)

The Lost Honor of Christopher Jefferies

Loving Miss Hatto (similar to The Mercy, a true story about someone's desperate need to find approval through achievement. What struck me about the main character is how insecurity that manifests as social anxiety can later on manifest as outright criminal behavior.)


Machine Gun Preacher [Skip the first fifteen minutes if you don’t want to hear the F-bomb going off like a machine gun, or have to watch a rather explicit sex scene. (I’d checked and knew it was coming.) It’s not important to the rest of the story–it simply shows his pre-conversion lifestyle. After that the swearing is all but eliminated. But the rest of this movie is graphically violent and at times hard to watch. Why am I recommending it? Because it’s a true story that left me pondering about things like the issue of gun control, fighting the enemy “in the flesh” versus “in the spirit” (Ephesians 6:12, the main character’s biggest downfall, with or without guns), and the fact that much of my time is being wasted on trivial pursuits while children in Africa are brutally murdered by the thousands, and I am doing nothing to help stop it.]

The Magic of Belle Isle

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Marie’s Story (one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever seen on the power of patience and unconditional love to transform a person)

Max (The one about the military service dog.)

The Matrix (Yep, I once preached a sermon dressed as Trinity.)

The Mighty (One of my favorite family movies, a touching story about friendship and the underdog. The adorable wit of the character played by young Kieran Culkin alone makes it worth the watch.)

The Mighty Macs

Million Dollar Arm

Monsieur Lazhar

The Most Reluctant Convert (If you're a fan of C.S. Lewis, you must watch this when/if it becomes available on dvd or streaming.)

Mostly Martha

The Music Never Stopped (If you’ve had a strained relationship with your teenager or adult child, please watch this!)

Mustang (the one about five sisters growing up in Turkey)

Mr. Bean’s Holiday (for plain old family fun and belly ache laughter, if you like slapstick)

Mr. Church

My Left Foot

Mr. Pip  (Do not watch this movie if you only like “feel good” movies.  It is based on a true story and is at times gruesome and hard to watch. But it is artistically and philosophically rich.)

The Nativity

October Baby (I tend to shy away from a lot of Christian-made films because they often mean “low budget”, i.e. bad acting and insufferable screen writing. But this was a pleasant surprise. I think. It's been years...)

One Night with the King

Paper Moon

Paradise Recovered

The Passion of the Christ (Put this one at the top of your bucket list. Don't be on your death bed saying, "I never watched that Mel Gibson Jesus movie.")

Paul the Apostle (starring Jim Caviezel)

The Peaceful Warrior (Shameless plug: I wrote about this movie in my first book.)

Pelé (saw on Netflix, the true story about the soccer player)


Photograph (An Indian drama, sweet romance with superb acting; Amazon Prime)

Pig (Don't let the fact that it stars Nicolas Cage dissuade you; this is not your typical NC movie! It's a "delicacy" for foodies and more importantly, anyone wanting to ponder the vastly varying ways self-absorption can manifest in humans. I love this film!)

Pride and Prejudice

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Race (The true story of Jesse Owens, who faced the decision of whether or not to participate in the Berlin Olympics in 1936 as a black man. Lots to think about.)

Ragamuffin (I think this is my favorite movie ever. I’ve probably said that about other movies.)

The  Railway Man (Truly the most powerful true story of forgiveness I’ve ever seen. Probably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, for that matter.)

Regarding Henry (The spilled orange juice scene gave me a jolt. This movie makes me want to be a better parent, and get a grip on my priorities before it’s too late.)

The Ride (halfway decently done film based on a true story. Inspiring for anyone trying to make a difference in someone's life.)

The River Runner

The Rose Maker (Inspiration for anyone who mentors, or believes that healing can come through healing others.) I loved this story with one exception; maybe you can guess which part of the plot was ridiculous and unnecessary. But the rest of the story was still worth it.)

Run Boy Run

Saints and Soldiers

The Salesman

Sand Storm

Saving Mr. Banks

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Secrets of War

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Sense and Sensibility (I like the one with Emma Thompson. Favorite quote by the little girl at the dinner table: "I like them! They talk about things." Yes, I, too, like people who talk about things.)

Silas Marner (or skip the movie and read the book! The most profound monologue comes from the inarticulate woman admonishing Silas.)

Slumdog Millionaire

Sometimes Always Never (A modern re-telling of "The Prodigal Son," with an emphasis on "the elder brother").

Soul Surfer

Stand by Me

(Star Wars is not on this list. I tried to like it but failed.)

Taare Zameen Par (every teacher and parent should watch this. It is truly a "masterpiece," pun intended.)

Temple Grandin

Today’s Special (I love this movie! If you like culture and GOOD FOOD, you might enjoy this as much as Dave and I did. Caution: crude and vulgar language at times. Parental discretion advised. I liked this movie for the remarkable way the son treated his father. Great moral lesson on honoring parents in their old age.)


Trash  (If you liked Slumdog  Millionaire, you will like this) 

The Tree of Life (If you’re used to nonstop action and mainstream movies, you won’t like this. But if you want to see what narcissistic fathering does to boys, please watch. Skip past the long, wordless parts. The story will pick back up.)


Unbroken (Excellent, but the book is even better!)

Unbroken: Path to Redemption (faith-based sequel to the first “Unbroken” movie; it’s pretty good! Billy Graham is played by his grandson. This movie deals with whether or not PTSD can be healed supernaturally, without therapy).

The Unforgiveable (A thought-provoking story on many levels. Sandra Bullock)


The Visitor

Waffle Street

Waking Ned Divine (If you like foreign and/or indie films and appreciate off-beat humor, and need something light with which to unwind, this is your flick.)

Walt Before Mickey

The Way Back

The Way Home

Whale Rider

What Maisie Knew

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Within the Whirlwind

Woman in Gold

4-Minute Mile



A Walk to Beautiful

Accidental Courtesy

American Murder: The Family Next Door (Based on the thought-provoking true story.)

An Unconventional War (Is there a supernatural realm in which demons—or prayer—can change the course of entire nations? You be the judge after watching this.)

Camp 14: Total Control Zone (His words at the last three minutes astonished me and left me thinking for a long time. I hope they change me. BTW I wrote to the star of this film and he wrote back! He is a Christian convert. 🙂 ) 

Conscientious Objector

The Dark Tourist

The Dawn Wall (this left me in tears, soul-searching. Tommy is an incredible example of brotherly love, at huge personal cost)

First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon

Forks Over Knives (This film turned me into a vegan. For two whole days.)

The Green Prince

Happy People

The Imposter

I Shouldn’t Be Alive

Inside North Korea

ISIS: Women Unveiled

Journey to Greenland

Keep On Keepin’ On


Last Train Home

Letters from Masanjia (this tragic story should make us think twice about buying things made in China!)

Living Hope (Amazon Prime)

Living on One Dollar

Living Proof (watch if you have an autoimmune disease, especially MS)

My Octopus Teacher (the scene with the octopus on the shark’s back gave me a new approach to confronting egotists)

My 600 Pound Life (Because I want to understand, and have compassion)

Omo Child (Amazon Prime; in my top 5! Spectacular)

Particle Fever


Sons of Perdition (I am fascinated by people who join cults. One of my dream jobs would be a counselor in a cult exile rescue mission. That is what was missing from this heart-wrenching film about how fundamentalism/extremism can ruin a person.)

The Most Dangerous Ways to School (series on Amazon Prime)

Undivided (the one about an inner city school in Portland)


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