Let’s face the firing squad and admit defeat. Big studios aren’t interested in making smart movies for kids anymore. (Before anyone objects, Pixar is excluded from this blanket statement.) Somewhere in between the kids show hell of The Wiggles and The Teletubbies and the cultishness of High School Musical, it hit me: how could I bring children into a world of such fluff? I’m neither married nor a father, but assuming I follow the trend of just about every other man before me and decide to procreate, what will my children watch? It’s not that High School Musical or The Wiggles are dangerous, they just steal precious time.
Fear not! After lamenting the wasteland of age-appropriate cinema, I did what any life-affirming film geek would do — I racked my brain for movies from the past and outlying areas of cinema to come up with a list of ten movies I could recommend to folks with kids. The rules were simple. A movie had to be good and appropriate for children. Movies like Last Tango in Paris and Eyes Wide Shut were out because, let’s face it, who would let their kid watch them? Better yet, if someone were to let their kid watch such movies, social services might be soon to follow.
While for some reason three French films make the list, I tried to add a little breadth to the ten. For instance, several of the films are rather sophisticated and aimed at teenagers; however, movies like My Father’s Glory or The General will most likely appeal to just about anyone. As well, cowboys, screwball comedy, time travel, and a host of other varied people and situations should leave something for everybody. All the movies are thoughtful, so it may be hard to get children raised on the lowest common denominator to make the switch initially. It’s worth a shot, though.
This list is in no particular order and the description for each movie varies. Some movies I spent time explaining the plot because its necessary to understanding the value of the movie. Some of the movies (like Zazie in the Metro) are so strange that a less structured overview was in order.
One last bit of advice while reading the list is don't take my guesses at age appropriateness as gospel. For instance, when I was growing up in the '80s, the Rodents of Unusual Size in The Princess Bride gave me nightmares for ages. I was a wuss. In other words, you know your kids better than I do. My guesstimates for age may need to be revised ad hoc. Don’t be that guy who scars his four-year-old so badly with Labyrinth that she never watches the likes of Psycho, The Shinning, or The Exorcist as an adult.