Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Best Classic Movies For Families

I'm kind of passionate about kids being "culturally educated" in the arts. Probably comes with being my dad's daughter. And, though I shouldn't be, I'm consistently surprised at the dearth of classic movies people have actually seen. It's depressing. 

Worse, movies that are clean, fun, entertaining and smart are just plain difficult to find. Especially for kids. It seems like most modern movies for kids or families are just... dumb. We can usually count on Pixar and sometimes other production companies manage a decent film ("The Road to El Dorado", "Despicable Me") and Disney is often still very good ("The Emperor's New Groove" is one of our favorites). I prefer movies that are intellectually challenging, even at kid-accessible levels. I don't like my kids watching hours and hours of stupid shows. I want their minds challenged, or at least not dumbed down. (That's why I love Phineas and Ferb!)

So, here is a list of movies I would recommend for kids, teens and everyone. Some might be a bit too much for toddlers, but I leave it to you to be the judge. 

"Singin' In the Rain"- if you haven't seen it, you will enjoy it along with your kids. Some of the dance sequences will take your breath away (Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly's "Moses Supposes" in particular) and you will laugh yourself silly. (It's even better on the big screen!)  Don't tell my dad, but when I showed it to my teenage sons, I fast-forwarded the long fantasy sequence "Gotta Dance". It's long and... long.

"The Princess Bride"- I can't imagine that your children haven't seen this yet, but if not, it's a must see. It's not an old classic, having been released in 1987, but it has a timeless, classic feel to it. My 14-year-old son wants me to mention that this movie is NOT just for girls, despite the title having the word "princess".

"The Music Man"- Witty, fast-paced and sweet, Shirley Jones is lovely and Robert Preston defines the title role.

"The Court Jester"- Hilarious, fast-paced and energetic. Also highly recommended Danny Kaye viewing: "Wonder Man", which my siblings and I still frequently quote...

"The Pirates of Penzance"- One of my all-time favorite movies, Gilbert and Sullivan's rollicking piratical operetta is witty, silly, campy fun. Kevin Kline is perfect as the Pirate King and everyone else seems to be having as much fun as he is.

"Duck Soup" or "Animal Crackers" (Or "The Cocoanuts" or "Horse Feathers" or "A Night at the Opera")- I love almost anything with the Marx Brothers, but these are among their very best.

Disney's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"- Found now on the DVD titled "Ichabod and Mr. Toad", (we don't watch the Mr. Toad bit-- too long and not Halloween-y) this is my favorite Halloween cartoon. Incredibly well animated, the music and story are woven with humor, suspense, chills and mystery. Excellent. Not for the littlest ones, I think.

Disney's "The Jungle Book"- the music and story are endearing, the voice performances are inspired and the animation is top-notch. Also, it's quite funny at times.

Disney's 1951 "Alice in Wonderland"- I'm not a fan of the newer live-action version, but I adore this animated take on the classic story. 

"The Muppet Movie"- A movie within a movie and Kermit the Frog-- what more could you ask? This isn't the best thing the muppets did, but this one is pretty darn good, and kids love it. Plus, the music is fun.

"Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein"- If you've never watched Abbott and Costello, you should start with the Youtube video below of their most famous routine-- "Who's on first?" "Meet Frankenstein" is another fun Halloween time movie, and might be a little intense for the very young.  

"Arsenic and Old Lace"- Probably not for the very young, but this movie is a rollicking good time; funny, smart, fast-paced and mysterious, this is a Halloween must-see. Cary Grant is perfect.

"The General"- No classic movie education would be complete without at least one silent film, and Buster Keaton was the King of silent comedy. This movie has some spectacular train chase footage, and keep in mind that Keaton did all his own stunts. What you see is what he did!

If you want to give your kids (and yourself) a full film education, you probably should include more musicals (because), but don't just choose randomly. Not all musicals are created equal. "Oklahoma" is great, "Annie", "The Wizard of Oz" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" are all very enjoyable. 

Thanks to my dad, for the following titles 
(that I didn't think of) to add to your list:
"The Music Box" (a Laurel and Hardy short); Disney classics: "Pinocchio", "Peter Pan", "Dumbo", "Bambi", "Lady and the Tramp", and "101 Dalmations";

The challenge now is finding these titles. Some are on Netflix, some are likely on Youtube, and some are shown on cable/sattelite channels from time to time, and some are even brought back for special showings in Cinemark theaters. so watch for them, enjoy and consider yourself culturally enlightened and educated.

So, which of these have you seen? Did I miss any of your favorites? 

All images used are from


Chris said...

You should perhaps note that "The Muppet Movie" is their first theatrical film, from 1979, not the 2011 movie titled simply "The Muppets."

And now you've made me want to watch the "Gotta Dance" sequence from "Singin' in the Rain" again ... except that someone has borrowed my DVD. Hmmm.

Great job, Steph, as always. Love reading your blogs.

Steph said...

Good point on the Muppet stuff. You'll get your DVD back sometime.

Thanks, Dad. :)