Summer Movies That Kids Will Love (and Parents Won’t Hate)
One of my family’s favorite ways to escape the summer heat is to hunker down inside the house like sweaty hermits and watch a movie together. But because my kids are only eight and ten years old, I can’t show them most of my favorite movies, like Apocalypse Now, quite yet. And I’m far too nice of a mother to expose them to romantic comedies. Kate Hudson would probably traumatize them for life.
So that means we’re left with kid crap. Sorry, I mean “kid entertainment.” I don’t want to sound harsh, but I have a well-known disdain for most kid movies because a lot of them are just terrible. (Space Chimps, anyone?) Yes, some of them are great, like UP, but unfortunately those are few and far between. If I’m going to snuggle up with the kids, I want to watch something that we’ll all enjoy. Or at least something that doesn’t make me want to scrape my skin off with a dull butter knife.
Since we see a lot of movies in the theater, and we don’t want to rewatch them on DVD, we usually wind up watching older movies at home. We’ve already seen Mary Poppins, Willy Wonka, etc. and most of the Disney classics and are in big need of something new. That’s why this summer, I dusted off my film degree and compiled a list of less obvious classic movies for us to watch as a family. These are all films that both kids and adults will enjoy, so we should have many, many hours of movie fun. Even if nobody’s yelling, “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning.”
Fantasia (1940, Rated G) – Set entirely to symphonic music, this animation classic has eight different pieces, the most famous of them being Mickey Mouse battling magical broomsticks in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” But “The Rite of Spring” which tells the story of evolution, from single-celled animals to the death of the dinosaurs, and “Dance of the Hours,” a comic ballet performed by ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators, are also wonderful to watch.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948, Rated G) – I loved anything by Abbott and Costello when I was a kid because their snappy dialogue and comic timing were unlike anything I’d ever heard in kid movies. And Bud and Lou aren’t as slap-sticky and violent as The Three Stooges. This black and white feature has movie monsters like Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein, but it’s way more funny than scary and kids are sure to be tickled by the madcap action.
The Iron Giant (1999, Rated PG) – This animated science fiction fantasy is based on a 1968 story by the British poet laureate (and husband to Sylvia Plath) Ted Hughes. Iron Giant is about a lonely boy who discovers a huge robot that fell from space and his efforts to keep the U.S. Military from destroying it. It received extremely high critical praise when it was released, but was a box-office flop due to poor marketing (it doesn’t really lend itself to a fast-food tie-in). Word-of-mouth about its rich storytelling and cool, atomic-age style have helped it find a cult audience.
A Little Princess (1995, Rated G) – Based on the children’s book of the same name, this gorgeously shot period movie tells the story of a young, motherless girl sent to a boarding school when her father enlists to fight for the British in WWI. She clashes with the headmistress, but stays true to herself even when her father dies. Directed by the talented Alfonso Cuaron (who also directed one of the Harry Potter movies) and written by the A-list Richard LaGravenese, it’s a beautiful, well-made movie.
The Dark Crystal (1982, Rated PG) – The Dark Crystal has been called the anti-Muppet Movie because, as the title says, it’s pretty dark. Well, at lease it is compared to Kermit and the gang hip-hop dancing. But this Jim Henson puppet movie is perfect for kids (probably over the age of 7) who love fantasy and artistry as it’s a story involving strange, magical creatures in their own unique world. I recently saw it for the first time and it completely hooked me.
The 500 Fingers of Dr. T (1953, Rated G) – Did you that know Dr. Seuss made a movie? He did and it’s pretty gosh darn great, if not very widely seen. The evil piano teacher Dr. Terwilliker has a grand plan to force 500 young boys to practice at his huge piano 24/7 (aka a boy’s worst nightmare) and it’s up to young Bart to stop him. This is a live action movie, not the usual Seuss animation, but Seuss designed the wild sets, penned the screenplay and even wrote the lyrics to the rollicking songs so it definitely has his stamp on it. And what’s not to like about a movie where a piano academy is surrounded by an electric fence?
Pressure Cooker (2008, Not Rated) - This excellent award-winning documentary is perfect for any kid with an interest in the culinary arts, but it’ll also suck in everyone else with its inspiring story of making dreams a reality with positivity and hard work. The film follows Philadelphia inner-city high school kids as they learn how to make haute cuisine and compete in a culinary arts competition for scholarships. Very, very inspiring.
Singing In The Rain (1952, Rated G) – Obviously, this isn’t a “lesser known” movie, but it’s one of my all time favorites so I included it. It’s full of humor, silliness and lively musical numbers that my kids watched in open-mouthed awe. Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” is a total crowd pleaser that they begged me to replay over and over. And in my opinion, Gene Kelly “singin’ and dancin’ in the rain” is the most sublime scene ever filmed in the history of movies.
What are some of your favorite movies to watch with your family? Add to the list!