Keep in mind that this topic includes being aware of the reality of evil. This is especially important to note for the stories, because some are about great heroes doing the right (or hard!) thing in spite of great evil. Others show the consequences and reality of evil. Some do both.
Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption. – St. John Paul the Great, Letter to Artists
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird
Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle from Foyle’s War
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games
Sara Crewe from A Little Princess
Fight Song/Amazing Grace (The Piano Guys)
Theme from Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein)
Irena’s Jars of Secrets by Marcia Vaughan (Ron Mazellan) – The amazing true story of Irena Sendler, who risked her life saving many babies and children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
42 (2013; Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford) PG13 – The amazing true story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Intense mature situations involving verbal abuse that Jackie had to put up with. Crucial to the story, but might be too much for the littles. Powerfully acted!
A Little Princess by Frances Hogdson Burnett
A Man for All Seasons (1966; Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller) The epic story of St. Thomas More sticking to his beliefs in Henry VIII’s England.
Calvary (2014; Brendan Gleeson) R – A profoundly moving and disturbing movie about a good priest who is given a week to live (and put his affairs in order) by a sex-abuse victim, and encounters every category of gut-wrenching sin in the process (includes some disturbing descriptions). Not for the family or the faint of heart.
Cinderella (2015; Lily James) PG – Beautiful live-action Disney retelling of the classic Cinderella story. Thoughtful, entertaining, and breathtakingly uncynical. Highly recommended.
Gandhi (1982; Ben Kingsley) PG – The story of the anti-violence leader of the push for Independence from British Rule in India.
MacBeth by William Shakespeare
On the Waterfront (1954; Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint)
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
The Boy in Striped Pajamas (2008; Asa Butterfield) PG13 – Heartbreaking story of a Nazi concentration camp through the eyes of the eight year old son of the camp commandant. Not graphic, but disturbing. Older teens.
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (2009; Anna Paquin) The wonderful true story of a young Polish social worker who is credited with saving nearly 2500 Jewish babies and children from the Warsaw ghetto. 10 and up.
The Dark Knight (2008; Christian Bale, Heath Ledger) PG13 – Very intense superhero story about the right and the wrong way to fight great evil. Parental previewing strongly recommended.
The Fugitive (1993; Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones) PG13 – Heavy and at times intense (including a very dramatic, though not very graphic, murder scene), but fascinating story of a man who is accused of his wife’s murder, and has to track down the culprit while being hunted by the police. His cleverness in tough situations and inclination to help others in spite of his perilous situation make for a really great story. High school.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hunger Games (Book One) by Suzanne Collins – An excellent, but very intense story of a futuristic world in which kids are forced to fight in gladiatorial games for the amusement of their conquerors. This first book focuses on the theme of not letting evil drive you to do evil.
The Iliad by Homer – The original Greek epic poem, set during the Trojan War.
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel
The Scarlet and the Black (1983; Gregory Peck)
The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum – Beautiful chapter book about a Catholic family living in Nazi-occupied Holland. A great adventure story that also wrestles with important ideas of choices made in tough times.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
West Side Story (1961; Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno)