Films for families: The top 50 movies to watch as a family
From the high-flying Mary Poppins to an animated singing mermaid, Time Out Kids ranks the 50 best films for families.
Mon Aug 13 2012
The Sound of Music (1965)
As the camera swoops down from the heavens toward a young woman running through a field, this angel opens her mouth to exclaim "The hills are a-liiii-ve..."; from that moment on, Robert Wise's Oscar-winning musical has you right in its grasp. Julie Andrews's star was born as soon as she trilled the first line of Rodgers and Hammerstein's score, but this classic really is an ensemble affair: Every one of the von Trapps, from dear old dad Christopher Plummer to 16-going-on-17--year-old Charmian Carr and the youngest, five-year-old Kym Karath, pitch in to this juggernaut of sing-along fun. To hear the cast belt out staples like "So Long, Farewell" and "Do-Re-Mi," and watch a family band together to prove that it takes more than Nazis to break up a tight-knit clan, is to understand why, generation after generation, this movie continues to be one of our favorite things. Rated G.
Star Wars (1977)
You don't need to be a kid to enjoy George Lucas's old-fashioned tale of outer-space adventure, as the global cult of adult wanna-be Jedis and devoted Droidaphiles can attest. Lucas, though, has readily admitted that he was trying to capture the thrill he had as a child watching Saturday-afternoon matinees, and that's the real target audience for this beloved pop-culture totem: a seven- to ten-year-old who gets to experience a hero's journey from boyhood to manhood for the very first time. The rest of us are simply re-experiencing our nostalgia for that first time we saw it, which is why seeing the first Star Wars with your own child is such a rewarding experience. The second that opening symphonic blast comes on, we're all seven years old, sitting in the dark and bonding over the knowledge that the force is within each and every one of us. Rated PG.
The Black Stallion (1979)
Most of us hope that preteens will never have to experience being stranded on a desert island. Should they find themselves stuck on a small, sandy patch of land after their steamer has sunk, however, we hope they're fortunate enough to have an equine buddy like the one Kelly Reno has in this version of Walter Farley's kid-lit classic. The titular gorgeous horse ends up saving the young boy from snakes and keeps him company until they're rescued; when the twosome return to the States, he trains the horse to compete in a race. Director Carroll Ballard takes a warhorse (sorry) of a story and somehow makes it feel completely unique; from the adventure scenes of Reno and "the Black," as the creature is named, galloping along the shore to the climax's nail-biting competition, there's a sense of poetry in every sequence involving the movie's human and horse stars. Many films pair youngsters and animals, but The Black Stallion is one of the few that makes you aware of how tight that interspecies connection can be. Rated G.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
Kermit the Frog & Co. were already household names in 1979, thanks to their popular television variety show; once you watch Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and the rest of their felt-skinned friends crack wise, mingle with famous faces and narrowly avoid danger in their first feature film, though, you suddenly understand why folks from age five to 95 loved them. There was a residual countercultural coolness in their self-referentiality—at one point, they check to see what happens next by consulting the movie's script—yet they were still kid-friendly. Jim Henson's approach made the Muppets seem both hip and harmlessly square, but more important, he understood the timeless appeal of putting on a show: Even contemporary kids who don't know from Hare Krishna jokes still giggle at a monster bursting through a movie screen and still sway to the strains of "The Rainbow Connection." Rated G.
March of the Penguins (2005)
Athough nature docs aimed at the underage set had been around since the days of Disney's The Living Desert back in the 1950s, it took a French-made chronicle of the Emperor Penguins to remind folks that the movies were a great way to introduce kids to the wonders of the natural world. The runaway box-office success of Luc Jacquet's trek through the Antarctic helped restart a Renaissance of nonfiction films about our furry, feathered friends in the wild. But it was the way March of the Penguins anthropomorphized these flightless fowls that helped kids see the parallel between our world and theirs: These baby penguins had to negotiate the world and deal with their parents just like their Homo sapien counterparts. In one fell swoop, a new generation learned to relate to and relish the sight of exotic creatures. Rated G.