Family movies are wonderful vehicles for spending time with your kids-and there’s really not much that can beat them in the way of creating opportunities to establish inter-family connections, build family traditions, and make lifetime memories.
While no two family movies are alike, the best ones (meaning the ones that prove to be the most enduring in a family’s movie library), seem to have a few shared characteristics. So whether you’re looking for your family’s next “E.T.” or its next “Lego Movie”, here are some selection tips that can help you pick the best family movie to go see, purchase or rent.
One: Younger kids can get something out of the movie.
A good family movie is accessible for all members of the family, including the youngest ones. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your five-year-old needs to understand everything about the plot, or that your 11-year-old should be able to identify and explain a movie’s deeper points about the human experience. But they do need to be able to enjoy the movie on some level.
Consider “The Sound of Music”, for example. Small children probably can’t follow much of the plot, but they may enjoy watching other children sing and dance. A younger child may not fully appreciate the storyline and themes of “Polar Express”, but doesn’t mean that he won’t be captivated by the movie’s gorgeous animation.
Two: It’s not so juvenile that Mom and Dad don’t like it on their own.
Conversely, a great family movie should be interesting enough to Mom and Dad that they enjoy watching it on their own. This might be because the movie sprinkles in a liberal amount of clever “wink-wink” moments in the dialogue that only grownups can understand (think “Aladdin”), or because the movie’s subject matter addresses inspirational themes (“Free Willie” or “Big”) that the grownups find attention-getting and worth watching.
Three: The movie has a great lesson.
The best classic family movies almost always offer a wonderful lesson or teaching moment-without being too preachy or heavy-handed, of course. Ideally, this is something that the family can discuss before and after the movie, thus extending and enriching their collective enjoyment of the film.
A handful of examples of great family movies with memorable or moving lessons that you might consider checking out include “True Grit”, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “Akeelah and The Bee”, “Forrest Gump”, “Charlotte’s Web”, “Up”, and “Frozen”.
Four: A compelling plotline.
Let’s face it-whether you’re eight or 80, there’s nothing like watching a great story. Even the pickiest-to-please family member can get caught up in a movie that has an exciting storyline, and the discussions that can spring up after your family’s first viewing of the movie can really add to your movie watching experience.
Examples of family movies with engaging plotlines that are worth investigating include “Cloak and Dagger”, “The Karate Kid”, “The Parent Trap”, “Homeward Bound”, “National Velvet”, “Finding Nemo”, “Hugo”, “Ratatouille”, and the Harry Potter franchise, just to name a few.
Five: Memorable moments.
Some of the most cherished memories you have as a family are the spontaneous recitations or recollections of jokes and catchphrases from favorite family movies-or those family talent show performances of movie song-and-dance numbers that you’ve all seen a dozen times and know by heart-or those tear-jerker moments where the whole family cried together before the movie turned lighter and ultimately left everyone laughing, smiling or cheering.
Family movies with these kind of moments include “Toy Story”, “The Lion King”, “Annie”, “Happy Feet”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Mary Poppins”, “Shrek”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, “Dumbo” and “Old Yeller”.