Image: Illumination / Dreamworks Annmation
Watching movies with your kids can be a fun activity and good way to bond for families. When watching a really good movie, there are often golden opportunities you can find to talk with your kids about events in the film, important themes and valuable lessons that they might show. Movies can provide a segway to discuss some of these topics in a way that is relaxed and pressure-free.
Of all the different genres of movies, those directed at kids and families seem to have the best track record for blending entertainment and valuable life lessons. That being said, there are some films that are better than others when it comes to presenting feel good stories with important morals. The following list is a compilation of children's movies that contain valuable life lessons that are important for adults and children alike.
Image: Disney Pixar
Finding Nemo is a classic Disney animated film, and one that contains important messages for both parents and children. In the film, the father of Nemo was very overprotective due to the loss of his wife, and when Nemo disobeys him he ends up on an adventure that takes him far away from home. Nemo's father ventures out to find his son, and has many adventures of his own along the way. Finding Nemo contains a few life lessons, such as the value of friendship and family, and the importance of never giving up and not letting fear hold you back. Additionally, it can be seen as acautionary tale for parents who are holding on too tight to their children, and for children to see the dangerous of not listening to their parents.
Frozen was an incredibly popular movie, winning awards and the hearts of children and adults everywhere. A female centred film, this is a refreshing take on a love story that doesn't rely on a woman finding a man to save her. The tale follows two sisters, including one who has magical powers that she struggles to control. In her attempt to keep people safe, she shuts herself off, which is heartbreaking for her unknowing little sister. Eventually the truth comes out and she isolates herself further, causing her sister to come try and bring her back. There are many lessonbs in this film, but the standout ones are the unbreakable value of family and the importance of not shutting yourself off and living in fear. And of course, who could forget to "Let it go".
Image: 20th Century Fox
The Sandlot is likely to be a film that nostalgic parents who were kids themselves in 1993 would be thrilled to watch. The Sandlot is a coming-of-age comedy and follows a new kid in town who gets onto a team of baseball playing misfits. The main villain in the film is a large dog that inhabits the adjoining junkyard. The Sandlot has many themes, including friendship, tackling your fears and the importance of reaching out to the new kid. It's an older film, but one that will likely be timeless with it's themes of friendship and perseverance. Take a trip down memory lane by adding this one to your movie night.
Image: DreamWorks Animation.
Unlike the unsightly little dolls that preceded it, the movie Trolls is a colorful and fun extravaganza, full of music and laughter. The movie follows Princess Poppy and the exiled Trolls, after they escaped from the unhappy creatures known as the Bergens. When their friends are kidnapped and intended to be eaten by the Bergens, Poppy and Branch (the only Troll who isn't dripping in chipper optimism) go on an adventure to try and rescue them. There are important takeaways in the film about friendship, the power of thinking positively and reaching out to those different than us with love and acceptance.
Image: DreamWorks Animation
When Shrek came out it was a gift to parents, full of hilarious one liners the kids wouldn't understand and entertaining for the whole family. Shrek was the tale of a loveable ogre whose swamp is overrun by exiled fairytale creatures. He makes a deal to rescue a princess, and along the way learns about friendship, love and not judging a book by it's cover. Shrek has a few life lessons. The importance of friendship is stressed, as Shrek goes from isolated grouchy ogre to friend and potential love interest to the princess. The other major life lesson is that you cannot always judge someone based on appearance, and there is often more to people than meets the eye.
Image: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Moana is a wildly entertaining animated musical that is both touching and full of important lessons. The main character is Moana, a young Pacific Islander who longs to leave her island and go adventuring. Due to a curse on her people she is prohibited by her father to leave. After the death of her Grandmother she leaves to return the Heart of Ti-Fiti and, accompanied by a Demi-God, learns the importance of following your heart. The biggest takeaway from this film is the message of perseverance and not giving up. However there are a few other lessons, such as the importance of respecting and appreciating the Earth.
Image: Universal Pictures
The Lorax is a classsic story by Dr. Seuss, and one that could be considered a cautionary tale. The Lorax is a creature who acts as protector of the environment. When a man named the Once-ler finds the forest, he cuts down the trees to manufacture a garment called a thneed. As this garment gains popularity, he begins to cut down more and more trees to keep up with demand. This results in the decimation of the forest, which is devestating for the Lorax. Above all, the main message in this film is the importance of protecting our natural resources, and not letting greed harm the environment.
Image: Disney Animation
Beauty and the Beast is a classic tale that stresses the importance of inner beauty over outward appearance. Belle, the main character, ends up meeting the Beast at an enchanted castle and becomes his prisoner. She comes to find out that he was once a selfish and vain prince who has been cursed to take on the appearance of a terrifying beast. As Belle gets to know the Beast, she realizes that there is more to him then his appearance and gruff demeanor. Beauty and the Beast is a heartwarming story of love, and never judging a book by it's cover.
WALL-E is an unusual animated film, as it follows a robot and doesn't have much in the way of dialogue for the first long while. It's a cautionary tale about the future, with the Earth being covered in garbage and free of inhabitants except a robot named WALL-E who is charged with cleaning up the mess. One day a new robot named EVE comes, and they end up going to a spaceship where the humans are, although their life up there looks much different than life down here. This is a wonderful story about the importance of protecting our planet, as well as our physical health.
Image: Warner Bros
Happy Feet is a musical comedy, one that features many songs that your family is sure to immediately recognize. Happy Feet is the story of a penguin named Mumble that doesn't have the ability to sing. Amongst the penguins this is the quality that would enable him to find true love. However what Mumble does have is the ability to dance like mad, and over his adventures he uses this skill to his advantage. Happy Feet has some environmental themes, and shows the importance of family. However the main takeaway from the film is that everyone has unique value, even if they bring something different to the table.
Shrek Forever After is one of the Sequels in the Shrek franchise, and shows the importance of valuing the things that you have. In this movie, Shrek is tired of the drudgery of his family life as husband and father, and desires the freedom he once had to be a fierce ogre. He is tricked by Rumplestiltskin and ends up in a different reality where he never existed and never met his wife Fiona or had his children. Shrek ends up fighting to make it right so he can have his old life back, one he took for granted by loved nonetheless. As with most of the Shrek films, this one is hilarious as well as heartwarming, and shows how important it is to cherish the life you've got.
Brave is another Disney animated film, one that takes place in medieval Scotland. The hero of the film is a young girl named Merida, and although her parents intend her to be married she is more comfortable with a bow and arrow than with the idea of being a wife. Merida meets a witch and ends up giving her mother enchanted cake that turns her into a bear. Merida then races against time to mend their bond before the enchantment becomes permanent. Brave is about going your own way, and being true to yourself, however it is also about the importance of the family bond.
The Goonies is another older movie that is sure to delight nostalgic parents. The Goonies follows a group of misfit boys looking for a hidden treasure so they can save their neighborhood from being developed into a golf course. The Goonies is predominantly about friendship, perseverance and working together as a team. However there are other important themes. One of which is not to judge a person based on appearance, and another is that even if you feel you don't belong, you still are important. If your kids are a little older and can handle movies that might appear a little dated, the Goonies would be a great addition to your watch list.
Despicable Me is the story of a villain named Gru who ends up as a father to three little orphaned girls. A true super-villain, Gru has weapons, Minions, and a plan to steal the actual Moon. Although he initially uses the girls to further his evil pursuits, eventually they win him over to the good side. This movie is heartwarming because it shows the capacity to change, especially in the context of love. Rather than showing love in the sense of a Prince finding a Princess, Despicable Me shows the power of familial love, even without the actual blood bond.
Up is an animated film about an elderly man named Carl who decides to tie thousands of balloons to his house so he can fly away to the exotic places he never got to visit with his late wife. The grouchy old man discovers after takeoff that he has accidentally brought a little boy named Russel with him. One important lesson from the film is that it is important to follow your dreams. In the movie, Carl and his wife had many adventures they wanted to take together, but sadly she passed away before they were able to. In the movie, Carl proves that it is never too late to follow your dreams and make new friends.
Inside Out is one of those rare movies that has valuable lessons for kids and for parents. As a parent, watching Inside Out can be a heartwrenching experience. The story is about Riley, a little girl who moves away from her comfortable, familiar life to move to a new city, around the same time that she is right on the brink of puberty. The movie centers on her emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger and Disgust as they try and navigate what she is going through from her emotional headquarters. For parents, this movie reminds us of the inner turmoil our kids may be going through and to be patient and understanding. For kids, this movie shows the importance of emotions, all of them have their place and their value.
Image: Dreamworks Annimation
Kung Fu panda is about a hapless panda named Po who wants more than anything to do Kung Fu. As it turns out, his dreams will end up coming true. Po discovers he is part of an ancient prophecy and winds up training under Master Shifu to defeat a villainous snow leopard. In the film, Po learns that it is important to work hard and to never give up. Those around him learn that you should never judge a book by its cover. This movie is entertaining for both kids and adults, and teaches important life lessons about teamwork and perseverance.
Toy Story is a classic, and would be a great addition to most families' movie nights. The movie follows a group of toys owned by a child named Andy, with Woody being the main and favorite toy. When Buzz Lightyear comes on the scene, all of a sudden Woody finds his place as Andy's favorite is usurped. When Woody tries to get revenge on Buzz, they both end up on an adventure that finds them trying to get back to their beloved Andy before he moves away forever. The most important message from Toy Story by far is that jealousy only causes harm, and that trying to resist change can be more harmful then going with the flow.