Movies to grow up with
February 1, 2021 11:47 PM - Subscribe

I'm working on a list of movies to watch with my kids (son, 7, daughter, 5) and trying to show them the right films at the right ages to expand their worlds and bring them joy. If you have opinions, you can help! Give me your #1 best movie and the age my kids should be when they watch it.

As I work on the list, I'm realizing it is generally reflective of my own cultural silo --male, late 30s, white american. Us white dudes have made some great movies, to be sure, but I'm looking for recommendations that are, potentially:
- more feminine
- more reflective of US non-white viewpoints
- more reflective of non-US viewpoints
- more reflective of the world my kids will grow up in than the world I remember growing up in

I will go ahead and post my current list in a comment, to avoid making this post any longer!
posted by Chris4d (14 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Here's the current list, feel free to tell me my choice for "X" is terrible...

Age 5
- The Lion King
- Toy Story
- Monsters Inc
- Elf
- Frozen
- Mary Poppins
- Fantasia
Age 6
- Wall-E
- Finding Nemo
- Harry Potter 1
- Willy Wonka
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Lego Movie
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Age 7
- Up
- Aladdin
- Harry Potter 2
- Honey I Shrunk the Kids
- Moana
- Iron Giant
- Babe
Age 8
- Harry Potter 3
- Indiana Jones 1
- The Princess Bride
- Home Alone
- Charlotte’s Web
- Spirited Away
- The Sandlot
Age 9
- Harry Potter 4
- Star Wars IV
- Indiana Jones 2
- Jurassic Park
- Apollo 13
- Nightmare Before Christmas
- Hook
Age 10
- ET
- Harry Potter 5
- LOTR 1
- Star Wars V
- Indiana Jones 3
- Big
- Groundhog Day
Age 11
- Harry Potter 6
- LOTR 2
- Star Wars VI
- Interstellar
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
- Pay it Forward
- Gremlins
Age 12
- Harry Potter 7
- LOTR 3
- Forrest Gump
- American Heart
- 2001 A Space Odyssey
- Moonrise Kingdom
- To Kill a Mockingbird
Age 13
- Harry Potter 8
- Braveheart
- Into the Wild
- Batman Begins
- The Matrix
- Alien
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Age 14
- Shawshank Redemption
- Good Will Hunting
- Dead Poets Society
- Schindler’s List
- Blade Runner
- Mad Max Fury Road
- Life is Beautiful

Honorable Mentions:
- Catch Me If You Can
- Fantastic Mr. Fox
- The rest of Disney / Pixar
- Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Secret of NIMH
- Back to the Future
- Secret Garden
- Titanic
- Wizard of Oz
- Stand by Me
- Freaks and Geeks (not a movie!)
- Ghostbusters
- Pirates of the Caribbean (first one only)
- Labyrinth
- Beetlejuice
- Neverending Story
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit
- An American Tail
- Airplane!
- Blues Brothers
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Spaceballs
- Napoleon Dynamite
- Muppets
- Short Circuit
- Goonies
- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
posted by Chris4d at 11:52 PM on February 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

- more reflective of non-US viewpoints

I see you've got Totoro, but I'd go with all the Ghibli movies. Some are more appropriate for older ages (Nausicaa, Mononoke Hime, etc.) but they're all more than worth watching.

As soon as your kids can both read comfortably, make sure to start watching subtitled movies with them so they get used to it and see watching movies (and TV shows!) from around the world as no big deal. The world is big, and the anglophone world is just a small part of it. Then make it a point to look for international material. (Which is getting easier than ever with Netflix's move to producing international content -- all of a sudden it's easy to access shows made in Africa, for example, which I never could have done as a kid.)

I think fanfare talk doesn't get a ton of traffic, so you might get some mileage out of posting a question on Ask with recommendations for non-US/anglophone movies for kids (and your other categories as well).

On a different note: since you've got Spaceballs on your list, you should definitely add Blazing Saddles.
posted by trig at 4:41 AM on February 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

I saw Back to the Future at age 5 and Ghostbusters at age 7 and they are both still my favorite movies today. They deserve better than just honorable mentions.
posted by Servo5678 at 12:25 PM on February 2, 2021

I'd throw in "In the Heat of the Night" and "The Great Santini" in the 12-14 slot.
posted by rhizome at 6:03 PM on February 2, 2021

Please add Whale Rider for a great female lead character and for learning about other cultures. Maybe 10-12 years old?
posted by hydra77 at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2021 [7 favorites]

I second the Whale Rider and omni-Ghibli suggestions. I think Spirited Away is probably a great one for kids your age.

How about Le Petit Prince? I'd guess that could be shown to kids as young as yours with no problem. Amelie might also be fun at a slightly older age -- maybe 9-13?

I personally love The Last Unicorn. That might be better once they're slightly older -- I think I first watched it at ten or eleven.

I've got complicated feelings about Aladdin -- it perpetuates a lot of really unfortunate stereotypes, and yet there's not a whole lot of better representation out there that I can think of at the moment (and I do remember loving it as a kid). Maybe something like The Thief and The Cobbler ? It at least has amazing animation.

Be careful about Blazing Saddles -- I love that movie but I think it's probably best watched by adults with discernment and plenty of historical context.

Perhaps you could incorporate some Bollywood? I remember me and my sibs being particularly obsessed with Lagaan. I bet it would work for kids 11 or 12 and up.

When I was a kid, my parents showed me a whole bunch of older movies, foreign films, and/or movies not specifically made for children. I'm actually really glad my childhood movie-watching included these. A few standouts:
- Madadayo, a really tender, loving, and fascinating Kurosawa film about a beloved teacher in post-WWII Japan. I'm guessing it might work starting at the 10-13 range.
- The complete works of Charlie Chaplin, especially Modern Times and The Great Dictator. Works for little kids, works for big kids, works for grown-ups.
- Charade - OMG I loved this movie when I was like 12-13

If you're open to TV series, there's a ton of great stuff out there right now -- She-Ra and Steven Universe come to mind as particularly great for representation, but there are others out there, too. I wish these shows had been around for me when I was a kid.

As I was trying to think about movies that fit your criteria, it became very clear to me that movies are a cultural product that take ENORMOUS amounts of cash to make, and so they're fairly likely to reflect the priorities of folks with ENORMOUS amounts of cash. I think it'll be much easier to find the kinds of diversity you want through books -- which, of course, is a whole AskMe of its own. Just thought it was worth sharing this thought I had as I was considering your question.
posted by ourobouros at 7:51 AM on February 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

One more idea: Shaolin Soccer. It's enormously fun and PG rated -- probably ok for 9-13ish and up?
posted by ourobouros at 7:59 AM on February 12, 2021

Coco, Alice in Wonderland, The Princess and the Frog, Coraline, and Matilda should be on there.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:15 AM on February 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

My 11 year old loved Bend it like Beckham and That Thing You Do (which I made her watch when she said she didn't know who Tom Hanks was)
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:26 PM on March 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm going to make a pitch for Time Bandits. It's kind of like an early gateway for Monty Python - it's got the same kind of subversive energy, but it's a little more kid-friendly. And I think it is absolutely ideal for that weird "tween" period for older grade schoolers who think the typical "kid's stuff" is babyish but aren't quite ready for teen stuff yet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:04 PM on March 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Paddington and especially Paddington 2 should be on your list.
posted by biffa at 9:14 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd second Bend It Like Beckham, my kids (11 & 13) love it. Re: Bollywood, I can recommend Om Shanti Om both on its own on the strength as an entertaining film, and as a general Bollywood gateway drug (one of its layers is it acts as kind of a catalogue of tropes over a few periods in the genre's history). I'd approach Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom with caution, I re-watched it recently and the race stuff in there is concerning, particularly if you're looking to promote empathy/diversity. In the non-anglophone world, there's some nice mellow French-language kids films like Ernest & Celestine, Belle & Sebastian, etc. I agree with trig re: the normalising subtitles thing, it'll give them a big leg up accessing international films, and old films (title cards in silents). You can't go wrong with the Muppet films, they suit anyone from 3+, although they do get uncool when kids hit the teens in my experience. Anything by Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle, Mr Hulot's Holiday, etc.) is good from about 6+ I'd say. A lot of the stuff I showed my kids while I was self-consciously um... indoctrinating (is there a less sinister word?) them was classic movie musicals (as a start: Fred & Ginger for the 30s, Gene Kelly for the late 40s/50s). For me that was important on a musical literacy level, and there's also a lot of useful teachable moments re: historical/cultural/social context, if you're into having those sorts of conversations with kids. Take note: if you go for Fred & Ginger, 'Swing Time' (1936) has a blackface sequence. Could be a reason to skip it, could be a teachable moment. YMMV. Recently, my kids have gotten into classic Jackie Chan (e.g. the Police Story series) - amazing martial arts/practical stunts, goofy slapstick, fun adventure stories, I'd say 9+ for them. Ten Canoes (2006) is a lovely film centering Australian indigenous people & culture, strongly recommended, age 8-9+ I reckon. Also shout out to the 2016 Ghostbusters, it's my kids' favourite of the series.
posted by threecheesetrees at 7:27 AM on April 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

The film I remember the most fondly from my childhood was The Borrowers, based on the first book in the Mary Norton series. Eddie Albert and Tammy Grimes were the stars, and I was absolutely fascinated. The 1973 film was nominated for a number of Emmy Awards and won one. Not only did I see it on TV, but our teachers used to roll in the A/V equipment and play it for us a ridiculous number of times. I haven't seen the remakes, but I know there was one with Jim Broadbent and John Goodman, and another with Stephen Fry and Christopher Eccleston. To this day, when I mislay something, I always think of The Borrowers. While it has some old-fashioned gender roles, the protagonist is a spunky teenage girl. They announced another reboot just last month! So, you've got options. (5-7 year-old set)

And I'm a sucker for old-school musicals like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It's a lesser-known British-set fantasy/musical than Mary Poppins, but I always found it funnier. Unfortunately, very white. There were early 2000s stage musical versions on Broadway and in the UK, and a world tour just a couple of years ago, so there's always rumblings of a remake. (5-9yo)

Little Women has so many different versions, and the background of the writing of the story is complex, but there's no doubt of its longevity. (Heck, Joey Tribiani on Friends read it, not realizing there was a movie!) I'm more of a fan of the old-school versions with Katherine Hepburn or June Allison as Jo (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy!!!), but the 2018 PBS mini-series, the 1994 version with Wynona Ryder, and the 2019 Greta Gerwig-directed version all have their fans. Again, very white, but women (at various ages) play the essential roles. It's a really good story to have discussions about: should Jo have forgiven Amy? should Amy have [spoiler], if Beth were your sister, what would you have done when [spoiler]? (8+)

Whale Rider (10+) as mentioned a few times above.

Queen of Katwe -- a teenage Ugandan girl because a chess master. Lupita Nyong'o plays her mom, and David Oyelowo is her coach. It's based on a true story. (12+)

The Red Balloon -- From 1956, this French award-winner is a classic that nobody seems to watch anymore, but I think it's beautiful and artistic. (6+)

Shrek. I mean, c'mon.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 7:05 PM on May 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Encanto belongs on this list, probably around 7-8 years of age? Shows a lot of good female struggles and relationships, as well as a multigenerational family home model. "What makes you special" as a general theme.

Hm. I haven't watched this in too long.
posted by Night_owl at 9:42 AM on February 10, 2023

« Older Anyone else watching Servant?...   |  Mother Tongue Film Festival... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments