Movie night can be more than just an easy way to kick back on a Friday night. A careful selection of the night’s entertainment can also spark conversations with the kids, mould values and give them a different perspective of the world.
We’ve picked out 10 such movies that you can watch with your family over the next few weeks. Don’t worry, the movies are not too serious and we did a PG 13 check to ensure they don’t contain graphic scenes of sex or violence.
When Jackie Harrison is diagnosed with a terminal illness, she must get used to the idea that her children will be raised by another woman. It doesn’t make things easier that her ex-husband plans to marry a woman much younger than her.
Watch it for: Heart.
There is nothing easy about this film, be it a dying parent, divorce, teenage angst or having an ex move on. The beauty of the film, which one must watch with teenage daughters, comes from the way the film tackles life’s difficult decisions. In the midst of pain, the film shows that love can survive. Death can be a difficult topic to broach with children. Take this chance to discuss your child’s fears. Due warning – you might want to sit down to watch this film with a few extra boxes of tissues.
2. The Sound of Music
A woman leaves the convent to be a governess at the house of a naval officer in Germany. His seven children play pranks on her but soon warm up to her. She fills the role of a mother to the children during the second WorldWar.
Watch it for: A history lesson set to music.
Watching a gory war film with kids is not the best parenting technique. But this Broadway musical adapted to a film is a family drama against the background of the war. The film released in 1959 and hence there may be little that can relate to life today. Watch this film, however, to teach your kids the values of a united family and to understand how different families look on the outside.
A scientist and his teenage daughter live in an old mansion haunted by three mischievous but fun-loving ghosts.
Watch it for: Well-meaning ghosts.
This one is highly recommended for families with young kids. Kids tend to believe in ghosts or fear things that go ‘boo’ in the night. The film is a good way to initiate children to the idea that ghosts or things that we can’t explain need not always be scary. Definitely keep your child away from films like Poltergeist as they have an active imagination as it is. Use this opportunity to talk to children about what happens after one dies, depending on your belief system. Be specific with your answers; don’t give them more information than they are capable of processing at a time. They are bound to have questions and your answers will help ease their doubts. It’s better than them getting half-baked, misleading information from the world outside and developing a phobia.
4. The Pursuit of Happyness
A single dad must take care of his son and the escalating prices. A career move could change his life for better or for worse.
Watch it for: The story of struggle.
Parents frequently worry about their kids having opportunities come by too easily. The film featuring Will Smith (it helps that kids recognize him) is based in 1981 and is a crown in Smith’s acting career. The struggle to be a stockbroker and break out of a blue-collared existence is a lesson you might want your kids to learn. It’s subtle, yet suitable for children 10 years-old and above. If your kids are older try Bicycle Thief; it’s a black and white, silent film but can leave a lasting impact on the viewer.
5. Dead Poets Society
English literature teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) teaches a class of boys about poetry, love and how to live in the moment.
Watch it for: Carpe diem (seize the day).
This one is a cult film that deserves to be shared with the younger generations. Released in 1989, it’s perfect for teenagers above the age of 15, any younger and they might not understand the context. Watch it with your kids and share with them works and people that inspired you. Take the opportunity to talk about teachers that inspired you and ask if they have a teacher who they admire.
The film also talks about teenage suicide, though there aren’t any gory scenes. In the film, the student shoots himself because of pressure from family to perform. In today’s competitive world this may be a topic up for debate.
To make the experience a little more fun, play a game to spot actors like Matt Damon, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Josh Charles, all of who feature in the film as teenagers.
6. Toy Story
Woody (voice over by Tom Hanks) is a traditional pull-string toy, who feels threatened when Buzz Lightyear (Tin Allen), an astronaut action figure, is delivered to the house. Woody fights for the attention of the kid he belongs to, while combating other threats as well. In the process, his loathing for Buzz turns into a friendship.
Watch it for: The animation and a different take on friendship.
Pixar productions made history in the field of feature length animation films with films such as Toy Story. A film that released in 1995, Toy Story is a good way for young parents to introduce their kids to cinema they grew up watching. Since most kids are pretty technologically advanced, you can speak to them about how technology has evolved over the years. The story of the film itself is timeless. The two funnymen Hank and Allen make for good wholesome family entertainment across toddlers, grandparents and teenagers.
7. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
A Greek woman falls in love with an American man who must get her family to fall in love with him as well. Set in Greece, there is much confusion, miscommunication, family semantics and a happy ending.
Watch it for: Crazy family quirks and lessons on inclusiveness.
Every family is dysfunctional in its own sweet way. Like the name suggests, the Portokalos family is mad fun. You are sure to identify someone in your family that has the same idiosyncrasies. In this family, cousins, uncles and grandmothers too will get in your face about decisions that they feel might affect your life. But it’s only out of genuine concern. In an age of nuclear families, it’s refreshing to look at a family that likes to love and debate in generous quantities. The film promises plenty of fun, beautiful Greek landscapes and a lesson on making adjustments to let someone new into your life.
8. Father of the Bride
George Banks (played by Steve Martin) faces the toughest moment in his life when his daughter decides to get married. The father of the bride is left to deal with planning a wedding, a wife going through menopause, an eccentric caterer and the uncertain weather.
Watch it for: The humor and an emotional take on a father-daughter relationship.
This one has a lesson for parents as well; treasure the moments you have with your kids. Unlike most Hollywood clichés, this film doesn’t have a football quarterback dating a high school cheerleader. It’s simple and relatable with some good father-daughter moments. George Banks, known for his stinginess, must deal with added finances of a wedding while hiding behind what is really bothering him; the thought of losing his darling daughter. It’s sure to make you laugh and has a slight chance of making you cry as well.
9. The Lion King
Simba is only a cub when his evil uncle tricks him into thinking he was responsible for his father’s death. Overcome with grief, he flees to the dense forest to be alone. But his true friends support him in seeing his destiny to be the king.
Watch it for: Emotions.
This is one of the finest examples of Walt Disney’s true blue animation series. Though created in 1994, the characters even today can move you enough to feel their joys and pains. Though the film portrays a family of lions, the sense of love and loss is easily relatable.
Younger children will love it for the music and the jungle scenery.
10. Shallow Hal
Hal prefers to date women based on their looks. As a result, he goes through a slew of them without bothering to get to know their hopes and dreams. A curse is out on him so he can only see the inner beauty of people around him. He then falls in love with a plump girl but worries if he will still be in love after the curse is lifted.
Watch it for: Morals.
This romantic comedy is ideal if you have teenagers in the house. Adolescence can be a difficult time for kids who are discovering themselves and may struggle with self-esteem issues. Hal’s character is grey. He starts out with a false idea of beauty as a skinny, blonde woman, one that is blatantly put forth through advertising and television. His beliefs, however, evolve through the film. Jack Black manages to pull this off without coming off too preachy.