We’re back with more clean(-ish) movies, this time with a list strictly aimed at grown-ups.
Of course, many of these films have mild enough content that you could watch with your kids, but these movies have subject matter, mood, themes, and pacing that are more ideal for adult entertainment.
Not that kind of “adult” content that passes as “entertainment”! We mean good, clean fun for adults and mature teens who don’t want to be blasted with gratuitous violence, sex, nudity, and swearing.
Many of these films are PG, which often means they have some swearing, religious profanities, innuendo, or violence. But for the most part – depending on your point of view and what you find objectionable – they’re pretty darn clean.
I’ll try to mention anything glaring, but again, be forewarned: I’m not claiming these movies are perfectly clean, just relatively clean and certainly not gross.
They’re also adult-oriented, so you may find intense scenes and suggestive content. So please, use your discretion and good judgment.
With that cleared up, the other main thing is this:
These are great movies!
They’re sweet, interesting, engaging, rewarding, fun, powerful, illuminating, and entertaining. High-quality production values, highly rated by users and critics, yet many of these may have slipped by under your radar. Some because they’re older (1980s and 90s; I’ll save old classics for another post), others because there have just been so many films to come out in the 2000s.
12 Amazing (& Amazingly Clean) Movies for Adults You’ve Probably Never Seen
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These are listed approximately by IMDB user rating, which is listed along with the overall Tomatometer ranking from Rotten Tomatoes.
1. Temple Grandin (2010)
PG / 8.3 IMDB / 100% Tomatometer
Claire Danes shines as the titular character in this insightful biopic. Temple Grandin is a genuine hero who has overcome many obstacles – both living with autism spectrum disorder and dealing with the stigmatism that comes with it – to become a leading scientist in the field of animal behavior.
The film does a great job putting you into the mind of someone who deals with sensory issues. Yet it does so in a very compelling and even entertaining way.
Content: Pretty much totally clean. No profanity. Real-life drama makes this primarily for adults and older teens.
Grandin’s story is a beautiful one, and the movie won many Emmy awards, including Best Made for Television Movie, Best Actress (Danes), and Best Supporting Actress (Julia Ormond) and Actor (David Strathairn). Watch >>
2. Children of Heaven (1997, subtitled)
PG / 8.3 IMDB / 83% Tomatometer
This simple, heartwarming film has so many wonderful lessons it bears multiple viewings. Set in Iran, young Ali picks up his sister Zahra’s shoes from the shoe repair shop, gets distracted, and loses them on the way home.
Familiar with all the troubles that come with living in a poor neighborhood, Ali doesn’t want to further distress his parents with yet one more financial issue. So he and Zahra come up with a plot to make sure their parents don’t find out.
Content: Family-friendly, with 3 minor profanities. For anyone old enough to read the subtitles (and there isn’t even a whole lot of talking).
An acclaimed film the whole family can enjoy. Watch >>
3. The Elephant Man (1980)
PG / 8.1 IMDB / 92% Tomatometer
Screen legends Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, and John Geilgud resonate in this real-life story of The Elephant Man, which is directed by auteur David Lynch.
John Merrick (Hurt) lived much of his life as a carnival act due to the unique deformities of his face and body. Dr. Frederick Treves (Hopkins), a surgeon at London Hospital, discovers Merrick’s plight and advocates for him.
Content: Traumatic scenes of the titular character being tormented by society for the way he appears. This can be upsetting to some viewers. A few mild curse words. Probably best for teens and up.
Through the kindness and care of Dr. Treves and others, Merrick warms to his newfound dignity and begins seeing visitors and even entertaining some of the premier lights of London society. This begs the question of whether he is being put on display yet again, in another kind of circus.
Nominated for eight Academy Awards (and the transformation of Hurt in Merrick led to the Academy creating the make-up category the following year), this is an enduring classic and an insightful look at what it means to be human. Watch >>
4. The Straight Story (1999)
G / 8.0 IMDB / 95% Tomatometer
The Straight Story is the second film from David Lynch on our list of clean movies for adults (and the only two Lynch movies, aside from his PG-13 Dune from 1984, that aren’t “adult/mature” in the typical content rating sense).
Content: Though rated G, there are a few mild obscenities in the film. Younger audiences will likely find it slow.
Richard Farnsworth (famous in our house for playing Matthew in the classic Anne of Green Gables miniseries) is Alvin Straight, a reclusive, ornery retired farmer who learns that his brother has had a stroke and may not have long to live.
Alvin becomes determined to see his brother one last time and repair their relationship. With no car and no drivers license, he hops on his riding lawn mower to make the journey of several hundred miles.
A beautiful film that combines Americana, and picturesque and emotionally symbolic journey, a quirky story, and a wonderful performance from Farnsworth. Watch >>
5. The Company of Strangers (1990)
PG / 7.7 IMDB / 100% Tomatometer
Also known as: Strangers in Good Company
This is a deceptively simple film. On a side excursion to an abandoned farmhouse where one of the women used to live, a bus load of senior ladies breaks down. In the age before cell phones, they try to fix the motor and figure out how to make do in their predicament.
They handle their situation like they seem to have done throughout their lives: with dignity, resilience, and grace. In between conversations about how to lug an old mattress from the barn into the house and whether throwing rocks at fish will get results, they learn more about each other and the ups and downs of their lives.
Content: Brief discussion of sexuality and a scene where they look at (and laugh at the possible uses for) a nude metal sculpture of a woman. It’s older women discussing life; pretty tame. Older audiences will appreciate this film most.
The acting is almost entirely improvised. You get the sense that these women are discussing things they really know, from real life.
This is not a movie for anyone who is yearning for quick cuts, action scenes, or a twist ending. But if you are looking to watch something quiet, meaningful, and true to life, you won’t find much better than The Company of Strangers. Watch >>
6. Giant (1956)
G / 7.6 IMDB / 93% Tomatometer
A sprawling, Texas-sized epic (3+ hours!), an underrated classic, and the third and final film starring James Dean.
Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor star as a newly married couple. Hudson is Bick, a rich Texas ranch owner who visits Maryland to buy a house and while there falls in love with the owner’s daughter Leslie (Taylor).
They marry and return to live at the ranch out West, where Leslie’s East Coast sensibilities meet the “giant” ways of Texas.
Content: This is from 1956, so it’s pretty G-rated. A few very mild innuendos/inferences, but only by implication. Suitable for all audiences.
There are plenty of ups and downs over the years, the chief of which involves a former ranch hand who becomes an oil tycoon, memorably played by James Dean. Watch >>
There’s also an interesting documentary about the making of this movie, called Children of Giant.
More classics you might enjoy:
- 12 Angry Men (1957 / 9.0 / 100%)
- Witness for the Prosecution (1957 / 8.4 / 100%)
- Stairway to Heaven aka A Matter of Life and Death (1946 / 8.1 / 97%)
- The Great Escape (1963 / 8.2 / 94%)
- High Noon (1952 / 8.0 / 97%)
- Arsenic and Old Lace (1943 / 8.0 / 81%)
7. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
PG / 7.6 IMDB / 89% Tomatometer
A PG-rated action-thriller? Starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin before he got super-smug? With James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, Joss Ackland, Stellan Skarsgård, and Tim Curry? From Die Hard and Predator director John McTiernan?
Content: 8-12 bad words scattered throughout. Teens and up will enjoy this one.
If you haven’t seen it, this is a smart action classic and the very first iteration of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character.
Spies and espionage, Cold War-era tensions, submarines, and a tense, engaging script. An action movie with brains instead of explosions. Watch >>
8. Leave No Trace (2018)
PG / 7.2 IMDB / 100% Tomatometer
In Leave No Trace, Ben Foster stars as a man living with his teenage daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) in a large, secluded park in Portland, Oregon. It’s almost idyllic – they enjoy a permanent campout, practice stealth, play chess, grow vegetables, and, on rare occasions, venture in to town for groceries or other supplies.
The two share an incredible father-daughter bond, where familial love actually seems strengthened due to necessity and proximity.
But one day they are spotted, and the police come along with social services. Their bond is put to the test as we learn about the father’s need for seclusion and the daughter’s need to be part of a community.
Content: Nothing to speak of, but real-life subject matter – the type of stuff people go to counseling or support groups for.
Director Debra Granik’s previous feature film was Winter’s Bone, which launched the career of Jennifer Lawrence and won a ton of indie film awards. Leave No Trace wasn’t such a surprise hit, but won its own share of awards and packs just as powerful of a punch – without the R rating.*
*BTW, Winter’s Bone has that rating for about 20 swear words. It’s worth checking out if that doesn’t bother you, or you have a content filter subscription.
For what it’s worth, I think both films are equally good, with pared-down, realistic dialog, non-professional actors, and interesting pacing. Watch >>
9. East Side Sushi (2014)
PG / 7.2 IMDB / 95% Tomatometer
Juana is a single mom trying to make ends meet – selling fruit from a cart, cleaning at a gym – for her daughter and father who live with her. Searching for better work, she gets hired at a Japanese restaurant and discovers a passion for sushi.
Content: One bad word (I believe; might have missed one but this is pretty clean). Someone is robbed at gunpoint, which might be distressing for younger viewers.
Of course, there are trials to endure and obstacles to overcome. An authentic, inspiring, and sweet “foodie” movie with light drama and a whole lot of heart. Watch >>
10. Duma (2005)
PG / 7.2 IMDB / 93% Tomatometer
Carroll Ballard is one of my favorite directors. He directed Disney’s live-action Never Cry Wolf, which made our first list of clean movies. He also did The Black Stallion, which is even better than you remembered, as well as the underrated family classic Fly Away Home. And his final movie (unless he comes out of retirement in his 90s) was Duma.
The common thread throughout these movies is a great love for animals. Wolves and horses, of course, in Never Cry Wolf and The Black Stallion. Geese in Fly Away Home. In Duma, it’s a cheetah.
Twelve-year-old Xan finds and rescues a baby cheetah, whom he names Duma, then raises him, becoming inseparable companions. The plan was always to return Duma to the wild before reaching maturity. When the unexpected happens, the family has to move and the plan goes awry.
Content: One instance of the “a**” word. Mild animal peril. Suitable for all ages.
Can the bond between boy and cheetah survive separation, a journey against all odds, and the pursuit of those who would place Duma in captivity? This is a wonderful family film that adults will love too. Watch >>
11. The Walk (2015)
PG / 7.3 IMDB / 83% Tomatometer
The true story of Philippe Petit, a circus performer with a daredevil’s spirit who dreams of tightrope walking between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and directed by Robert Zemeckis, this is an enjoyable drama/biopic with a huge visual payoff at the end.
Content: A solid amount of PG-level swearing, otherwise this could have been a true family film. Teens and up.
Personally, I think the whole flick is worth checking out just for the final 20-30 minutes. Watch >>
12. The Big Year (2011)
PG / 6.2 IMDB / 42% Tomatometer
More of an ode to nature and bird watching than the comedy you’d expect from a film starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson, The Big Year is a light, entertaining drama that (I hope) will make you want to grab a pair of binoculars and go birding.
Content: Some swearing and innuendo. Overall, more of a grown up film.
It wasn’t overly well-received, as you can see from the IMDB and Tomato scores. But you can’t always go by those. It wasn’t a laugh-out-loud slapstick comedy, but rather draws you in to this interesting, quirky, and yes, funny community that has a passion for birds.
I enjoyed it, and it really did inspire me to go outside and look at the birds. Just see it! Watch >>
A Few Hidden Gems
These few could have easily made the cut:
- Dark Horse (1992 / PG / 7.7 / 67%)
- Little Manhattan (2005 / PG / 7.5 / 77%)
- Enchanted April (1991 / PG / 7.4 / 84%)
- Red Dog (2011 / PG / 7.4 / 83%)
- The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014 / PG / 7.3 / 68%)
Clean PG-13 Movies
Sometimes movies are rated PG-13 because, while they deal with the subject matter in a sensitive way, the topics and themes are intense and emotional. Here are some good ones.
- Bella (2006 / PG-13 / 7.1 / 44%) Rated PG-13 for a thematic/distressing scene. No objectionable content. Topic: Grief, guilt, accidents.
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008 / 7.8 / 64%) Rated PG-13 for violence, although everything occurs offscreen, or you see people with bruises afterwards, etc. Topic: Holocaust.
- Life is Beautiful (1998 / 8.6 / 80%) In my opinion, one of the greatest films of all time. Somehow it it a screwball comedy (and a genuine drama) about a husband and father who is taken into a concentration camp. Virtually no objectionable content. Italian, with subtitles. Topic: Holocaust.
- Luther (2003 / 6.6 / 45%) Biopic of the life of Christian reformer Martin Luther. The Middle Ages were a nasty time, and some of that is depicted here (a few d-words, burning at the stake, etc).
More Excellent Clean Films for Grownups
Here are some honorary mentions that are either a little over-the-top in terms of content, or too widely known as blockbusters and Oscar winners. But, if you’ve never seen some of these, you might really enjoy them!
- Dead Poets Society (1989) – Some swears words/innuendo caused me to drop it from this list. (And as something of a classic, you may have seen it.) It’s probably still PG, maaayyybe a mild PG-13. Excellent movie, Academy Award winner, and features Robin Williams in a dramatic role. Watch >>
- Hoosiers (1986) – Another classic from the eighties that you might have already seen. If you haven’t, it’s a great sports movie. Watch >>
- Waking Ned Devine (1998) – This dark comedy is a beautiful Irish film and a ridiculous caper. An elderly man wins the lottery and dies from shock, and the rest of the small town work together to try and claim the prize. It’s PG, but there’s a scene with old man butts along with some swearing so it doesn’t quite make the list, but otherwise it’s entertaining. Watch >>
- Empire of the Sun (1987) – A forgotten Steven Spielberg film starring a young Christian Bale as he deals with being lost and separated from his parents in Shanghai during the WWII Japanese invasion of 1941. PG with mature themes, still retains a sense of that childlike Spielberg magic. Watch >>
- The Bookshop (2017) – A sweet little film for book lovers. Florence, a grieving widow, opens a bookshop in a sleepy little English coastal town. Light drama ensues. Watch >>
- Taking Chance (2009) – Kevin Bacon stars in this poignant true-life story of honor, duty, and a journey of discovery. Bacon plays Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, as he accompanies the body of a fallen comrade back to his hometown. Watch >>
- The House of Mirth (2000) – Period drama directed by Terence Davies from a book by Edith Wharton. If you like English period pieces, you’ll appreciate this one.
- The Gathering Storm (2002) – Biographical film of Winston Churchill in his “wilderness years” as a political outcast warning the country – who didn’t want to hear – of the impending threat from Germany and others. Features historically accurate rear old-man nudity; Churchill was well known for his love of baths and accompanying tendency to wander around naked, lost in though or dictating speeches. Watch >>
Other blockbusters you may have seen:
- The Princess Bride (1987 / PG / 8.1 / 97%)
- The Truman Show (1998 / PG / 8.1 / 95%)
- Groundhog Day (1993 / PG / 8.0 / 96%)
- Life of Pi (2012 / PG / 7.9 / 86%)
- Little Women (2019 / PG / 7.8 / 95%)
- Hidden Figures (2016 / 7.8 / 93%)
- Remember the Titans (2000 / PG / 7.8 / 73%)
- Finding Neverland (2004 / PG / 7.7 / 83%)
- Apollo 13 (1995 / PG / 7.6 / 96%)
- Rudy (1993 / PG / 7.5 / 78%)
- August Rush (2007 / PG / 7.5 / 37%)
- Galaxy Quest (1999 / PG / 7.3 / 90%)
- Contact (1997 / PG / 7.5 / 66%)
- Driving Miss Daisy (1989 / PG / 7.4 / 82%)
- We Bought a Zoo (2011 / PG / 7.1 / 65%)
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002 / PG / 6.6 / 76%)
- Phenomenon (1996 / 6.4 / 50%)
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