If your family is anything like ours, you would probably count “family movie nights” (or afternoons) as one of the ways to have bonding time with your kids. However, not all movies are considered “family-friendly” nowadays, even if their target audience is children.
For those who are selective about the kind of movies their children watch (like me), or on the lookout for movies that teach kids about values, here are five recommended movies for your viewing.
These are just five of many family-friendly movies out there. Ultimately though, parents should have the final say regarding their children’s viewing time and choice of movies (and TV shows). Before selecting a movie for your family movie time, it is advisable to view each movie on your own, without the kids, to make sure that it does not contain any material or scenes that are inappropriate for your children.
General Patronage - Recommended for kids ages 8 and up
Value Highlighted: Integrity
It is challenging to find a movie that shows the importance of honesty. Nevertheless there are a few good movies that portray “heroes” who demonstrate the value of integrity by insisting on speaking the truth, even when they are pressured to lie.
In Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which is based on the beloved book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by British author Roald Dahl, the honest “hero” is Charlie, a poor boy who wins one of five golden tickets for a tour of the world's most amazing and delicious chocolate factory, which is owned by the wacky but lovable Willie Wonka. The other winners are spoiled children who are rude and obnoxious, and seem to “deserve” the catastrophes that befall them during their tour of the factory. Charlie, on the other hand, resists every opportunity to reveal Willie’s secrets to the public, which results in his winning the greatest prize of all.
NOTE: Even if Tim Burton’s version of the movie is more visually appealing, it is less true to the book, and does not display as much “heart” as the original version, which came out in 1971, with Oscar-winner Gene Wilder portraying Willie Wonka.
General Patronage – Recommended for kids ages 5 and up
Value Highlighted: Courtesy
Today’s movies usually try to pass off rudeness as humor or “being cool,” like Shrek 3, which incidentally also has lots of sexual innuendos. However, there are movies out there that feature courtesy as an important value - it can transform relationships by helping people see how essential it is to give and receive and empathize.
"Babe" is one such movie. This story about a pig who lives his dream and saves his life by learning to herd sheep is a true delight not just for the eye, but also for the heart and soul. The combination of animation, real animals, and puppetry is remarkable too. While Babe treats all species, animal and human, as friends, the other animals show much prejudice against him and one another. The movie emphasizes that those who receive respect usually also show respect, just as it is said that “you cannot give what you don’t have.”
I personally loved Babe, and am excited to watch it with our almost 5 year old son. I hope to teach him the lessons this wonderful family flick has for kids and their parents, too.
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
Photo 3 of 5
3. Toy Story 2
General Patronage: Recommended for kids ages 5 and up
Value Highlighted: Loyalty
Loyalty is a virtue that is important in today’s society, where bickering, corruption and betrayal of one’s own are becoming fairly common. That is why it is important to find movies that show the kind of loyalty that is considered “thoughtful” – meaning one does not necessarily go along with everything a friend wants, especially if this will prove harmful to him.
In Pixar's sequel to its original all-computer-animated feature film, Toy Story 2 features once again the lovable cowboy toy named “Woody,” who is stolen by a “bad” toy store owner. Apprently, Woody is actually a rare and highly-valued collectible as he is the only missing part of a set of toys based on a classic children's TV program. Woody's friends, led by toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear, then decided to organize a rescue mission.
However, upon arriving to save him, they are surprised to discover that Woody isn't sure if he wants to be rescued. He has become enamored with the discovery of his origin and value, and his former TV co-stars insist that he would be better off in a museum than waiting for his owner (a little boy named Andy) to outgrow him.
This is where the true test of loyalty lies. All the toys, Woody included, have to think hard about what is most important to them, and who it is they are really loyal to. Buzz realizes he needs to do whatever it takes to rescue Woody, and Woody realizes that even if Andy grows up, the chance to be a treasured part of his childhood is what’s most important, and so he decides to return home.
Photo courtesy of Disney/Pixar
Photo 4 of 5
4. A Little Princess
General Patronage : Recommended for kids ages 7 and up
Value Highlighted: Helping others
We live in a society where compassion and empathy are crucial, but when these are not translated into action, they are not enough to make a difference in the world. “A Little Princess,” based on the classic children's book of the same name, is about a rich little girl who likes to help others and continues to do so even when she becomes poor.
The plot revolves around Sara Crewe, who is brought to Miss Minchin's boarding school by her beloved military father. She is the smartest girl in school, with impeccable manners. However, her strange flights of imagination and her father's prolific provisions for her make the other schoolgirls jealous or uncomfortable.
After Sara’s dad is reported missing in action, Miss Minchin takes away all of Sara’s possession and privileges, and makes her a servant. Despite this, Sara finds ways to be in high spirits. One particular scene, which brought tears to my own eyes, finds Sara desperately hungry yet she still gives almost all her food to a beggar child. Her compassion then causes a “ripple effect” on others--the baker who saw her kind deed is moved to give the beggar child a home.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Photo 5 of 5
5. The Incredibles
Parental Guidance: Recommended for kids ages 7 and up
Value Highlighted: The importance of family
The family is the basic unit of society. Many people, myself included, believe that if the family is not strong, then the country wouldn’t be. This is why the importance of family is something that kids and adults alike should realize.
In “The Incredibles”, the value of working together as a family despite each member’s different “abilities” i.e. strengths, weaknesses and characteristics, is emphasized. When the head of the family, Mr. Incredible, is forced to go under the Superhero Relocation Program after being slapped by lawsuits, he resigns his fate and becomes an insurance salesman. His wife, Elastigirl, takes on the domesticated life, raising their children in a typical suburb. Their life changes from being extraordinary to ordinary, even downright boring.
However when the villain Syndrome threatens to destroy the world with his fiendish schemes, Mr. Incredible finds himself fighting Syndrome’s minions on a tropical island--until he gets caught and has to be rescued by Mrs. Incredible and the kids, who also have superhero powers.
This movie is especially noteworthy because it portrays characters with superpowers that essentially emphasize traditional family roles in a “super” way: the father, Mr. Incredible, is strong, as he is essentially the protector and provider of the family; the mother, Mrs. Incredible, has elastic powers and is able to stretch in a dozen different directions, much like us moms who are used to multi-tasking and juggling a dozen different roles; the son, Dash, who can run very fast and is super-active, typical of little boys who just can’t seem to keep still, and the tween/teenage daughter, Violet, who just wants to be “invisible” and keep the world out through her force field power, very much like the teen/tween girls of today.