Movies for the Whole Family
By Kathy O'Connell
I inherited my love of movies from my Dad. Thanks to him, I discovered Marx Brothers movies and old musicals. My mother mostly took us to the movies in the summer because we didn't have air conditioning and the movie theatres did. I went to a lot of movies that were inappropriate and boring for kids. While The Manchurian Candidate is a fine movie for grownups, no little kid should have to sit through it like I did.
There are movies for kids that might bore grownups (The Rugrats Movie) and movies for adults that kids won't enjoy (All About Eve). They're fine movies, but the whole family may not enjoy watching them together. I'm assuming that your family has already discovered some classic treasures, so they aren't on this list. If your family hasn't discovered The Wizard of Oz, ET, classic Disney movies (like Lady and the Tramp), The Princess Bride and Star Wars, stop reading now and go watch them together as a family.
Now, these are among my favorite movies for family viewing:
Kathy's Movie Picks:
|THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987): This may be the best movie ever made, and it fools you by starting out as the story of a grandfather reading a story to his grandson. In this story, Princess Buttercup and Wesley are in love, but they are separated when he is kidnapped by the Dread Pirate Roberts. This movie has swordfighting and adventure. This movie has romance and true love (the noblest cause of all). This movie has pirates and a giant and Miracle Max and an evil prince. Most of all, this movie has plenty to laugh at and get excited by for everybody in the family. My favorite character in “The Princess Bride” is Inigo Montoya, who is on a quest to find the 6-fingered man who murdered his father. Little kids may get scared by the Rodents of Unusual Size in the Fire Swamp, so “The Princess Bride” is probably best for kids 8 years and older. How can you go wrong with a movie that has a Fire Swamp? Rated PG.|
|UP (2009): Warning: If you see “Up” with grandparents or most any other older person, they will spend a chunk of this movie crying. Don’t worry about it. It’s not a sad movie. It’s about an old man who loved his wife a lot, and she died after they were together a long time. Now that you’ve been warned, go see “Up”!!! Carl Fredricksen is an old man who ties a bunch of balloons to his house and tries to fly the house to Paradise Falls to fulfill the dream he and his wife had. Unknown to Mr. Fredricksen, he has a stowaway---Russell, the Wilderness scout. During their high-flying adventure, they encounter Doug, who is my favorite movie talking dog. “Up” is a great movie that won the Academy Award as “Best Animated Feature” for 2009. It was also nominated as “Best Picture” that same year. The colors in this movie are amazing, as you’ll see in Kevin the bird. There are many funny parts along with some exciting parts that will leave you breathless. Make sure you stay for the whole movie, since the story continues through the end credits. You will be smiling at the end of “Up,” even if the grownups with you are still crying a little. Rated PG.|
|CORALINE (2009): I always love a movie with a talking cat. “Coraline” has one of the best talking cats in movies. Based on the humorous horror novel by Neil Gaiman, “Coraline” tells the tale of a girl whose family moves into the creepy old “Pink Palace Apartment House.” She is bored out of her mind, sick of adults not listening to her, missing her friends, and getting on her parents’ nerves. So, Coraline starts to explore the Pink Palace. She discovers that their neighbors include elderly performing sisters and a man who runs a circus of jumping mice. And that’s in her “real life!” Imagine what happens when things start getting strange! Her neighbors and her talkative neighbor Wybie play roles in the alternate world Coraline discovers. Coraline’s busy parents don’t have time for her. While exploring the Pink Palace, she finds another world with a seemingly perfect “Other Mother” and “Other Father,” who look exactly like her parents. But they have buttons for eyes and pay total attention to her. Coraline learns the perfect world isn’t as perfect as it seems. This is an excellent stop-motion animated movie that is visually exciting, a little bit scary, and always full of humor. I’ve been told by fans of the book that it is very faithful to the book. “Coraline” may be a little too scary for little kids, but parents and kids age 10+ will love it. Rated PG.|
|INKHEART (2008): Inkheart is based on the first book of the “Inkworld” trilogy of books by Cornelia Funke. Imagine being able to bring literary characters and events to life just by reading about them! That is the gift and the burden of the “Silver Tongues” like Meggie Folchart and her father Mo. Unfortunately, bringing fictional characters to life makes real people disappear, such as Meggie’s mother. Mo’s quest for his wife takes him to bookstores all over the world in search of the book “Inkheart,” which holds the key to finding his wife. Dustfinger, a character from the book “Inkheart,” wants Mo to read him back into the book, and these quests unlock many secrets for young Meggie as she learns to live with her family gift. This movie includes classic references from literature like “The Wizard of Oz,” The Hound of the Baskervilles, and “Peter Pan.” Kids who like to read will recognize the characters brought to life in “Inkheart,” yet the twists and turns the movie takes will seem fresh and new. I love movies that have dotty old lady characters, and “Inkheart” has the wonderful Aunt Elinor, Meggie’s mother’s aunt. While she claims not to like children, she loves books, and that love brings her closer to Meggie. Rated PG.|
|CITY OF EMBER (2008): I was afraid this movie was going to make me feel claustrophobic (afraid of closed-in spaces), but it didn’t. Ember is a city built deep within the Earth, but the reasons for building the City and instructions on escaping from the City are long lost. This information would come in handy, since the generator that powers the underground City is beginning to fail, with the result of many blackouts plunging the City into darkness. Lina and her sister Poppy live with their forgetful Granny. When Lina locates a box, Granny is overjoyed, but she can’t remember why the box is important. You’ll learn the box has historical importance to the citizens of Ember and could help lead to a solution to their energy problems. Lina works with her friend Doon to uncover some of the secrets of Ember, and she discovers some secrets about her own family and the leaders of Ember. This movie is exciting for both kids and adults, with excellent lessons about friendship, leadership, and power (electrical and political). The underground City of Ember is imaginatively brought to visual life, yet the possibility of doom always hangs overhead. Lina and Doon are excellent young characters whose friendship grows when they swap job assignments. Doon’s father will appeal to “techies” and anyone who enjoys inventions. The Mayor is played by Bill Murray, one of my favorite actors. He does not remain one of my favorite characters, though. Rated PG.|
|CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005): Do a grown-up a favor and introduce them to this movie. This is an imaginative re-telling of Roald Dahl's classic kids' book about a poor young boy who wins a trip to a fabulous candy factory owned by a strange man named Willy Wonka. Johnny Depp is amazing and a little weird as Willy Wonka - he has said he based his portrayal on Michael Jackson. My favorite part of this movie is the Oompa Loompas, who live and work in the Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. They are everywhere. The other kids who win a tour of the candy factory with Charlie are rotten and spoiled, and there are lessons in what happens to them. Rated PG.|
|HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (2004): Hayao Miyazaki is the greatest creator of animated films since Walt Disney. This fantasy is the story of Sophie, a plain young girl who works in a hat shop. She is put under a spell that turns her into a very old woman. Howl is a mysterious wizard. His castle (which moves!) is protected by the fire demon Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal), who is also under a spell. Their country is involved in a stupid war.This is a beautiful and creative movie. Miyazaki's images include amazing flying machines. Rated PG.
NOTE: I prefer the English language version of this movie.
|OSMOSIS JONES (2001): In the tradition of Who Framed Roger Rabbit this movie combines animated and real-life actors. Bill Murray plays Frank - a widowed dad with very bad health habits. One day, he eats a bad egg and gets a disease. Inside his body (the cartoon parts of the movie), a white blood cell/crimefighter named Osmosis Jones (voice of Chris Rock) struggles to save Frank from the evil bacteria that is trying to kill him. Osmosis joins with a cold pill named Drix (voice of David Hyde Pierce) in the quest to save Frank. It was created by the Farrelly Brothers, who are very good at gross-out humor. Rated PG.|
|AKEELAH AND THE BEE (2006): Akeelah is an 11-year-old girl from Los Angeles who discovers her talent for spelling. This movie is about Akeelah's journey to try to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Along the way, you'll meet Akeelah's hard-working mother, her coach, and all the people in her neighborhood who help her train for the bee. There is a lot of spelling in this movie, which might bore some little kids. But kids 10+ and their families will get swept up into this story of achievement and community. Watching Akeelah and her competitors is like watching a great sports event. Rated PG for some bad words.|
|SECONDHAND LIONS (2003): Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is a shy troubled young boy with a very irresponsible mother. She drops him off with a couple of old uncles in Texas. She believes stories that the uncles are hiding a fortune, and she wants Walter to find the money for her. Instead, Walter finds a family with these grizzled old varmints. Walter learns the story of his uncles' exciting past lives of adventure. This movie has adventure, an old lion, and lots of meat (which the uncles love to eat). Kids 10+ will love seeing Walter's quest to find happiness and security in life. Rated PG.|
|BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (1971): An inexperienced witch's adventures take her and her children from WWII England to a mythical land where jungle animals rule - all via an enchanted flying bed. This was the very first movie Kids Corner producer Robert Drake saw ... as well as the very first time Robert went to a drive-in movie theatre ... the experience of taking pillows and camping out on the roof of the car, under the evening stars, made this movie even more magical!|
|A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964): The Beatles' first movie is about a day in the life of the Beatles. John, Paul, George, and Ringo are the most famous band in the world. They get chased by fans. They run around in a field. They run around a television studio. Ringo goes for a walk and gets arrested. It doesn’t sound like much, but I saw this movie twice a day for two weeks when I was a kid, and I still enjoy it today. Paul’s grandfather travels with them, and he’s always making trouble. Nobody dies. Nobody gets blown up. And it ends with a concert with songs you’ve heard since you were little. Your parents will probably sing along with the songs. Let them. It’s a funny movie about being young and the most famous band in the world in the 1960’s.|
|THE GOONIES (1985): A bunch of kids try to save their homes in the “Goon Docks” of Astoria, Oregon. The Goonies are determined to save their community by finding the hidden pirate treasure of One-Eyed Willie, a pirate from long ago. They encounter bad guys and adventures in the caves that hide the treasure. The main Goonie is Mikey Walsh. He’s played by Sean Astin as a kid. You probably know Sean Astin as Sam from the “Lord of the Rings” movies. This movie is full of adventure and good humor, including a bunch of criminal brothers called the Fratellis.|
|THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938): The tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men and Maid Marian. The tale of Robin Hood started as a folk ballad, handed down through generations as the classic story about a thief who robs from the rich to give to the poor. Robin Hood fights for justice and love in spectacular color photography. Don’t let the 1938 date fool you into thinking this movie is too old fashioned to watch. You will boo the bad guys and cheer for the good guys. It helps the enjoyment of this movie if you learn some of the history of England, including the Crusades and Richard the Lionheart. Mostly, this is an exciting story about freedom and friendship.|
|DUCK SOUP (1933):
The funniest Marx Brothers movie, and that’s saying a lot. It is a lot of silliness built around a plot about two countries at war. The nation of Fredonia goes to war with the nation of Sylvania. Rufus T. Firefly is appointed leader of Fredonia by rich Mrs. Teasdale, and he hires Chicolini and Pinkie, who are really spies for Ambassador Trentino. “Chicolini may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don't let that fool you ... he really is an idiot.” The plot doesn’t matter in a Marx Brothers movie. It’s a lot of silliness that will make you laugh, and will make you understand how silly it is when bullies go to war for silly reasons.
|MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1945): If I could only take one movie with me to a deserted island, it would be this movie. It’a a musical year in the life of the Smith family of Missouri as they await the 1904 World's Fair. Rose and Esther are sisters who find romance. Tootie is a little girl who buries her dead dolls in the backyard. Mr. Smith comes home from work one day and announces the family is moving to New York. This is an old fashioned story that will make you laugh and cry, especially when Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” This movie is full of wonderful music and kids, especially Margaret O'Brien as Tootie. I first saw this very colorful movie on a teeny black and white television on vacation when I was 10 years old. It didn’t lessen any of the magic of this wonderful family movie.|
|POLLYANNA (1960): Hayley Mills is an orphan who goes to live with her mean Aunt Polly. An old-fashioned story that will teach you The Glad Game and the scientific principle behind prisms.|
|THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T (1953): A kid hates his piano teacher (Dr. Terwilliker). He winds up in a strange place where boys are forced to practice the piano all the time. Written by Dr. Seuss, this is one of the strangest movies ever made.|
A Few Rules For Old Movies
For The Family
- You can't go wrong with Hayley Mills (The Parent Trap, Summer Magic, In Search of the Castaways)
- Old horror movies are better than today's violent slasher movies. If you like to get scared, check out Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolfman.
- Old musicals can be corny, but they are lots of fun. Try Singin' in the Rain, 1776, and The Music Man.
- Older kids might enjoy more serious movies. Have you
ever watched The Miracle Worker?
It's the story of Helen Keller and her teacher.
- Sometimes comedies can have deep messages (Lilies of the Field). Check out director Frank Capra movies (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life).
- Remember old movies were made in different times. There may be scenes or characters that seem offensive now that were acceptable long ago. Enjoy the movie as entertainment and be glad we live in better times.
My all-time favorite movies are not aimed at kids. Their common thread is they are about show business (Broadway, all-girl orchestras) and they are all funny.
THE PRODUCERS (1967): My Dad came home one day and said, I've just seen the funniest movie ever made. He took me to see it the next day. He was right. The story of two failed producers who try to create a sure Broadway flop.
SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959): We first saw this in an icy-cold theatre in Florida and I still laugh at it today. A couple of male musicians hide from gangsters by joining an all-woman band.
ALL ABOUT EVE (1951): Behind the scenes in the theatre. Margot Channing, the greatest actress of her time, befriends a miserable weasel named Eve Harrington. You can see whose side I'm on.