Family movies are wonderful vehicles for spending time with your kids — and there really isn’t much that can top them in terms of creating opportunities for forging bonds between families, building family traditions, and creating lifelong memories.
While no two family films are the same, the best ones (that is, those that prove to be the most enduring in a family’s film library) seem to share some common traits. Whether you’re looking for your family’s next “ET” or the next “Lego Movie,” here are some selection tips that can help you choose the best family movie to watch, buy, or rent.
First: Younger children can get something out of the film.
A good family film is accessible to all family members, including the youngest. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your five-year-old needs to understand everything about the plot, or that your eleven-year-old should be able to identify and explain the deeper aspects of a film about the human experience. But they have to be able to enjoy the film on some level.
For example, think of The Sound of Music. Young children may not be able to follow the story much, but they may enjoy watching other children sing and dance. A younger child may not fully appreciate the plot and themes of Polar Express, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be captivated by the film’s beautiful animation.
Second: It’s not so childish that mom and dad don’t like it alone.
Conversely, a great family film should be so interesting for mum and dad that they are happy to watch it alone. This could be because the film sprinkles a liberal number of clever “wink-wink” moments into the dialogue that only adults can understand (think “Aladdin”), or because the film’s theme touches on inspirational themes (“Free Willie” or “Big”), which the adults find attention-grabbing and worth seeing.
Third, the film has a great lesson.
The best classic family movies almost always provide a wonderful lesson or lesson moment — without being preachy or heavy-handed, of course. Ideally, this is something the family can discuss before and after the film, prolonging and enriching the film experience together.
A handful of examples of great family movies with memorable or moving lessons that you might want to watch are True Grit, It’s A Wonderful Life, Akeelah and The Bee, Forrest Gump, Charlotte’s Web, Up” and “Frozen”.
Four: A compelling plot.
Let’s face it – whether you’re eight or 80, there’s nothing quite like watching a great story. Even the pickiest family member can become involved in a movie with an exciting plot, and the discussions that can arise after your family sees the movie for the first time can really enrich your movie viewing experience.
Examples of family films with compelling storylines worth exploring are Cloak and Dagger, The Karate Kid, The Parent Trap, Homeward Bound, National Velvet, Finding Nemo, “Hugo”, “Ratatouille” and the Harry Potter franchise to name a few.
Five: Memorable moments.
Some of the most treasured memories you have as a family are the spontaneous recitations or reminders of jokes and catchphrases from favorite family movies — or the family talent show performances of movie song-and-dance numbers you’ve all seen a dozen times by heart – or those tearful moments when the whole family cried together before the movie brightened up and finally had everyone laughing, smiling, or cheering.
Family films with such moments are “Toy Story”, “The Lion King”, “Annie”, “Happy Feet”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Mary Poppins”, “Shrek”, “Miracle on 34th Street” , ” Dumbo” and “Old Yeller”.