- Movie night can be about more than just consuming mindless entertainment. Tweet This
- The right films can be a gateway to discussing difficult topics with children and preparing them for the world that awaits them. Tweet This
- When we turn to a lengthy classic or an epic, our kids are more engaged, even after the movie ends, than they are with the latest popular film supposedly “geared” toward kids. Tweet This
Family movie night is longstanding custom in many homes. But in a culture where entertainment is saturated in wokeism, finding family-friendly movies is increasingly difficult. That certainly was the experience in my home, where coming up with a movie every week that was both entertaining and clean, never mind oriented toward virtue, became a weekly quest that I came to dread.
Everything changed when one night my husband suggested The Sound of Music. Even though I loved it as a girl, I worried my kids would find it too long and too slow. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did the kids not want to turn it off, but they wanted to listen to the soundtrack on the way to school. And they began asking questions about the historical events surrounding it, including the rise of Nazi Germany. My six-year-old is now obsessed with World War II, and I’m almost certain the first time he heard about it was from watching The Sound of Music, which only has fleeting scenes of men in uniform.
We’ve since found that often it’s when we turn to a lengthy classic or an epic that our kids are more engaged, even after the movie ends, than they are with the latest release from Pixar or other popular films supposedly “geared” toward kids. No doubt this is because movies in this genre open the minds of children to deeper themes about truth and virtue and tell grand stories that expand their intellectual horizons. Here are five additional "classics" to consider for your next family movie night:
- Ben Hur. If you told me my sons, who can’t even sit still at the dinner table, would sit through a three-and-a-half-hour movie made in 1959, I would have more than skeptical. But they were rapt. The story of a Jewish prince who is betrayed and sold into slavery and his epic comeback, its themes are timeless: betrayal, mercy, conviction, honor, and most importantly, forgiveness. It also stars Charlton Heston, a sore sight for little boys in our manliness-starved culture, especially the screen version of him fighting, and yes, chariot riding, in ancient Roman gear for the honor of women, slaves, lepers, and other marginalized members of his day.
- The Ten Commandments. Speaking of Charlton Heston, we watch this one annually now around Easter, but you don’t have to be a Christian and it doesn’t have to be Easter to enjoy him play Moses in a nearly four-hour Biblical saga. Moses’ story bears timeless appeal as a man who emerges from an identity crisis as a leader of great moral and historical consequence, and Heston brings him to life on a set that, nearly 70 years, later still dazzles.
- Fiddler on the Roof. Just a few days after we finished this three-and-a-half-hour musical made in 1971, Chaim Topol, who plays the unforgettable Rep Tevye, died in Israel. The news of his passing splashed across the media led to opportunities to continue the discussions with our kids that began during the movie centered around the historical persecution of the Jewish people. Those conversations, sadly, proved to be more prescient than I could have imagined.
- Master and Commander. On the list of movies that my husband and I enjoy together annually, our success with slow and lengthy epics prompted us to try it out with the kids. Though it’s a military drama channeling Moby Dick on the high seas, it’s ultimately a story of authentic, masculine friendship. Use caution when watching with younger children sensitive to violence and consider fast-forwarding the battle scenes. And be prepared for your boys to sword fight for a least a week after. But it’s the films focus on the dynamic friendship between the captain and the ship’s doctor that set it apart from the heap of military movies Hollywood churns out and makes it a movie worth watching with kids.
- High Noon. If there is a theme that encapsulates this movie and forms a common thread to the prior four, it is the lonely struggle of living a virtuous life in a broken world. High Noon is a classic western featuring the inimitable Gary Cooper who plays a lone sheriff standing up to evil at the very edge of civilization. Though it’s 70 years old, it could have been made yesterday, in that seemingly nothing has changed about the often solitary struggle of taking a moral stand.
Movie night can be about more than just consuming mindless entertainment. Rather, the right films can be a gateway to discussing difficult topics with children and preparing them for the world that awaits them. They can also open their minds to great ideas, and—in glamorizing honor and virtue—to greatness in general. They dispel the myth that entertainment, be it literature or film or theatre, should be tailored to children in order to entertain them. Rather, children often find the ultimate form of entertainment in grappling with greatness.