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2008movieposters.jpgIn this upcoming award season, there will be much talk about the major categories but not nearly enough about, what I like to call, The Forgotten Category, the one that should exist: “Most Inspiring.”

Movies, after all, exist not only to entertain and to provide a break from reality, but also to inspire us to make a more positive contribution in our lives. To that end, here are my Top 10 Most Inspiring Films of 2008.

1. Seven Pounds – This one is getting hammered by the critics, but I found it to be the most inspiring film of the year. It takes work to watch it, and even more once you understand it. It messes with the biblical themes of grace, mercy, sacrifice, and redemption–themes that should compel our own lives.

2. The Dark Knight – I was a fan of Adam West’s “Batman” as a kid and of Michael Keaton’s “Batman” as a young man. Having said that, I still found “The Dark Knight” to be the most inspiring glimpse into the mind of the caped crusader.

3. Slumdog Millionaire – Like “Rocky,” the dénouement and tidy ending of this movie makes the sum of its lethargy forgivable. Also like “Rocky,” it may steal the Best Picture category.

4. Wall-E – Beautiful. Heartfelt. Fun. Funny. Fantastic. The Pixar-Disney brand creates high expectations and Wall-E delivered. The single-mindedness, loyalty, and love of Wall-E are what we all want to aspire to as we finish watching this animated film.

5. Mamma Mia – Perhaps seeing it with my bride and three daughters tilted my view, but the sheer spectacle and fantasy of a daughter discovering her daddy, a struggler recovering herself, and friends reuniting was worth enduring some of the “un-singers” who gave it their best!

6. Frost/Nixon – If you know your history, you know the ending. If you don’t, no matter. This film sheds light on the politics of conversations we all face every day at work and at home, and it offers the chance for redemption that we all seek–or need to seek.

7. Gran Torino – If you haven’t seen this one yet, it’s worth it. Clint evokes memories of his westerns, “Dirty Harry,” and his other heroic characters, but in a setting that’s more current and more real. It made me want to stand up and make a difference wherever I can.

8. The Changeling – The ending got panned and Eastwood didn’t get the raves he often does, but I found this to be a winsome (if imperfect) film with an ultimately spiritual theme: the search for that which is lost and the caring, committed heart of a mother (what St. Paul compared the gospel to).

9. Doubt – Catholics have long needed a film which takes an honest look at the church they love that’s done things they don’t love. This film doesn’t capture all the deeper issues, but it’s a healthy and well-done start to exploring them.

10. The Wrestler – A hard movie that rescues the watcher with well-timed comic moments, this film is about the restoration of relationships between father and son, boy and girl, man and mission, and, most importantly, man and self.

What films in 2008 inspired you? Share below.

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