WANTED: good family movies


My eleven-year-old has declared “family movie night” one of his favorite weekend activities. Mine too- at least in conception. But as I search for good older-kids-family movies that are both enjoyable and appropriate for parents and almost-tweens to watch together, I find myself despairing, since any screening must also include their six-year-old sister, who would have been happy with Sofia The First: Once Upon a Princess, Part 1. Again.

I have returned to some of my favorite films of  yon 1980s, hoping to gain cool-mom cred by introducing my children to some Classic Humor. You would think I would have learned my lesson on this particular account by now: just because it’s hilarious does not mean your kids should watch it.

I beg of you. Learn from my mistakes.


The Bad News Bears. This is a movie chock full of adorable little scamps. And their alcoholic coach who curses a blue streak at them.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This one would work well if you could just watch a highlight reel of Ferris singing in the shower, cut to pre-nose-job Jennifer Grey screaming in frustration, then straight to the parade float part. Screening the whole thing, however, means you get to hear, about three times a scene, what my nine-year-old calls “the ‘S’ word that is NOT ‘stupid.'” It’s like paid product placement for scatology.

Happy Gilmore. See above. Also, NOT funny (though my husband would profoundly disagree).

Sixteen Candles. Long Duk Dong has not aged well. Lots of boob talk. John Hughes is still a genius and all, but a fifth-grader does not need to see passed-out-drunk people and Molly Ringwald’s underwear.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The talking-butt scene, I was prepared for, and ready to accept the breakfast-table consequences for some time to come. But the “tricky transsexual” humiliation/reveal in Act Three somehow escaped my mind.  Homophobia, transphobia, LOTS of questions from a nine-year-old. And did I mention Nana was watching it with us? Although she napped. But that might have been out of mercy. To quote Ace himself: do NOT go in there.

Ghostbusters. Sigourney Weaver tries to seduce Bill Murray while possessed. Pretty creepy. Also, not as funny as you remember it. Like, at all.


Edward Scissorhands. He may have scissors for hands, but he’s sort of adorably spooky, and way more scared of Anthony Michael Hall than Anthony Michael Hall is of him. And maybe one curse word? However, in the month since we screened this film, my six-year-old needs to stand with her back against a wall whenever possible, so that Edward Scissorhands cannot sneak up behind her. Repeated Google searches of Johnny Depp being nice have not really led anywhere. Be warned, be warned.



Napoleon Dynamite. Might be my favorite movie. Best title sequence ever.  The kind of squeaky-clean that could only be written and directed by a married couple who are Mormons. It also gets funnier the more you watch it, at least to a point.

But we might like to watch something else one of these Sunday evenings. Anyone have any suggestions? Or should I just lower my standards and cover my eyes?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

diane pokowilson March 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm

We watched The Princess Bride last week!


tmferg March 10, 2014 at 4:38 pm

One of our favorites was Young Frankenstein, which probably looking back was not the most appropriate….either was Monty Python’s Holy Grail ! but it makes for great conversation when everyone of our children can recite all the lines of these movies(and a lot of laughs)


Jenny Fanning March 10, 2014 at 5:44 pm

One of my all time childhood faves was The Neverending Story. Picked it up last week in a $5 dollar bin only to horrify my 4 and 5 year old with creepy alien-like fantasy creatures, a “nothing” which is killing everyone and everything and a horribly scary wolf that gave my daughter nightmares. Mother of the year over here! Other ones that turned out to be a mistake – included “Rugrats go to Paris” (whole dramatic trauma over death of a Mother) and “Willow” – forgot the whole premise was a witch trying to slaughter a baby.


Mollie March 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Have you considered the old live-action Disney stuff? “Old Yeller” is great though sad. “The Swiss Family Robinson” has some racist/sexist subtext in retrospect, but it’s got wild animals and swashbuckling and is very entertaining. And speaking of the ’80s, “The Boy Who Could Fly” is excellent and the only swear in it (that I can think of) is “piss.”


Larry March 11, 2014 at 1:51 am

Any Miyazaki movie!


Lauren March 11, 2014 at 3:04 pm

The Sandlot, Mighty Ducks, Blank Check, E.T., The Goonies


Mollie March 11, 2014 at 7:44 pm

A few more ideas: first, “Muppets Take Manhattan” and “The Muppet Movie” if you haven’t already done those. And have you tried “Big”? So funny and good, and the sexy Elizabeth Perkins subplot went over my head when I was a kid.

I was going to recommend “Planes Trains & Automobiles,” for a John Hughes comedy without the awkward teen-sexual-awakening stuff, but apparently it’s rated R for language. I guess it is tricky to trust your memory.


sharisim March 12, 2014 at 2:05 am

Yes to The Princess Bride! And we recently watched “Holes”, which we loved, but may be too deep for a 5 year old.


sharisim March 12, 2014 at 2:05 am

sorry, 6 year old! Tell her I’m sorry! 🙂


Leslie March 12, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Yes yes yes – I just had this same experience. Three more “PG” movies I loved in the 80s to DEFINITELY NOT WATCH with kids: “Big”…OMG…Tom Hanks makes it to first base; “Back to the Future”…Biff attempts to date rape Michael J. Fox’s mom in the car; and “Spaceballs”…still pretty funny and my boys (and I) LOVED all the crotch humor but the language is pretty bad. I think the word asshole is blurted at least 10 times in the first 30 minutes. Good times! We all LOVED The Princess Bride though.


Suggestor March 28, 2014 at 1:59 am

The Gnome-mobile!

An elderly millionaire tells the wrong people that he sees gnomes. He’s promptly forced to enroll into an insane asylum. It’s up to his grandchildren, and the gnomes, to get him out.
Rated “G”


pk April 29, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Be aware that “PG-13” did not exist until mid 1984 or so. Any movie made before then and rated PG should be carefully looked at. It may say PG, but it may not be what you think of as PG. Like “Big” (rated PG) which is a great movie but would probably be classed as PG-13 today. I learned that when I showed that movie to the kids. Even my daughter said, “that was not exactly PG, Mommy” And I sure didn’t remember what was in the movie from watching it as a young adult many years ago – I don’t think “Kid objectionable” stuff registers in your brain before you have kids.

As far as movies marketed to kids that appeal to some tweens/teens and many adults, I’d add “The incredibles”, “Finding Nemo”, “Monsters Inc” and “Toy Story” (original) . (Watch out for TSIII, it may be PG, but it can get scary for some young ones). All time fave here is Princess Bride, and we’ve watched Monty Python, skipping the scene in the abbey, telling the kids “it’s too boring”


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