Just a reminder: The August Prayer Booklet is available in the blog shop as a print at home PDF, and on Amazon as a paperback booklet. The first devotion for the month is Our Lady, Queen of Angels and the very cool associated Portiuncula Indulgence of St. Francis of Assisi on August 2nd, so get ready now. :) Each month's new booklet is available on the 20th of the preceding month, assuming I can get all of them done before (or with) new baby! About a month to go on that front, keep us in your prayers!
It's been a while since we had a mailbag post on the blog, but it seemed like this one would be of interest to many.
We have eight children ages 10 months-17 years. For the last few years we've been having a hard time finding a movie that we can all enjoy as a family. On family movie night, we'll often end up with three or four groups watching different movies on separate laptops in different rooms--not the effect we were going for in having a family movie night. But the older kids' movies are either inappropriate for little kids or won't hold their attention, and the little kids want to watch a cartoon or children's movie that the older kids are bored with. It's also becoming difficult because we feel there are movies that the teenage girls could watch but the 12- and 10-year-old boys should not, and these younger kids are always chomping at the bit to watch the movies the older kids are watching. We're having trouble coming up with old classic movies that would be appropriate (and interesting) for any audience that we haven't seen a million times. How does your family solve this problem?
You're in our prayers.
Thanks and God bless,
Thank you for your prayers. Such a good question. But . . . it sounds like two issues to me. I agree that true “family entertainment” is hard to find, but, really, in our home the main point of family movie night is to be together and have a shared experience, not to cater to every personal preference.
It makes me think of my old “I Do Not Cook Two Dinners” post. I also do not put on two movies. That means that sometimes the teenagers watch Pinocchio (as we all did together on Father’s Day and everyone really enjoyed) and sometimes the toddlers watch I Confess which we also watched recently and which obviously went over the little guys' heads.
We allow input from all parties in the choice of movie, but once it’s chosen, there’s no whining or complaining, especially from teenagers, unless they’d prefer to go vacuum out the cars instead of watching a movie.
We don’t expect everyone to love every movie, and, of course, every movie night is a chance to practice discernment. We have often paused something to have a quick discussion and we would certainly switch to a different movie if we had inadvertently chosen something inappropriate. But if the family activity just doesn’t happen to be your favorite, that’s okay, you can be polite and watch anyway. And we can discuss it together afterwards.
We tend to watch movies in the evening, so if something isn’t holding the interest of the little kids, we can just pause it and put them to bed. And if we want to share a movie with just our teens, we’ll start it after the younger ones are in bed, so as not to cause unhappiness amongst the littles.
But we do it together. I want to be there to guide my kids’ understanding of a movie, and I want us to have that shared family experience and be able to have conversations or inside jokes about it afterwards. So, it's rare that any of our kids would watch a movie for the first time without a parent. If they’re watching on their own, it’s from a limited selection of TV shows that I’m comfortable with, or a movie we’ve watched before. Our teenagers will occasionally go out to the movies with friends, if we've read reviews online or talked to someone who has seen it.
So, all that to say . . . perhaps you won’t agree with me, but I think the shared experience is more important than how much any particular individual likes the movie, and even if that unicorn of the perfect family movie doesn’t exist, family movie night is still a worthwhile thing to do!
Movies and TV show recommendations have been some of my most controversial posts on the blog. People feel VERY strongly about what's appropriate for family viewing or for Catholic viewing. Different folks have very different comfort levels with different types of content.
In our home, we avoid movies with more than a very small amount of swearing (we are okay with a bit more language in movies for our oldest kids, who understand why we avoid using swear words ourselves) and any sexual nudity (unfortunately these two preferences leave out most of the movies from my 80s childhood), sex and toilet humor, sex scenes, mindless violence, divorce/remarriage/living together before marriage as a prominent theme, or anything that celebrates evil or sassiness or disobedience, as we think that these influences have the potential to be disruptive to happy family life. I also dislike the standard Girls Just Wanna Have Fun trope of the parents not understanding the child's passion for something, the kid doing it anyway, and the parents learning learning that they were wrong the whole time, so so wrong. (See The Little Mermaid, Brave, Coco.)
Note: I am very careful about how much family fighting a movie shows. There are a few movies that we watch that contain family fighting but we always talk about what's going on, as that isn't something that happens in our home. Kids shouting things at their parents (especially something like, "I hate you!" at their parents) is almost always a deal-breaker for me. I have been a mom for seventeen years and nine kids so far and NOT ONCE has anyone shouted, "I hate you," or "You're stupid!" or "I wish you weren't my mom!" at me. This is certainly not because I am a perfect and never stupid mom. I am (often) imperfect and (occasionally) stupid. But the husband and I don't speak like that to each other and we don't speak like that to our children, and we are very careful about our kids seeing other kids speaking like that in movies or TV shows. I think that does the trick.
See also: The Problem With Every Movie From My Youth: and ten family movies that won't teach your kids to swear like a sailor
We only very rarely fast forward through scenes, and we haven’t used services that allow you to skip scenes or language, because I don’t want to cause scandal among our friends by seeming to have shown my kids movies with scenes that we would certainly consider inappropriate. There are a handful of movies that are an exception to this policy, mostly ones that the husband has wanted to share with our teenage sons, and he is willing to fast forward through a couple scenes to make that possible.
But even more than the specific hot button content issues, the MESSAGE of a movie is really important to me. Does it undermine our values and what I’m trying to teach my kids about the world? If so, we don’t watch it, even if "everyone else" is. Is the message a really good one? Then I can tolerate a bit more edginess.
So, all that said, to answer your question, there is no way to create a list of "movies appropriate for all Catholic families" that will satisfy everyone, but here are a few movies we’ve shared and enjoyed on family movie nights over the past few years . . .
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Going My Way
- The Bells of St. Mary’s
- The Sound of Music Jack wants it known that he does NOT approve of the lack of war violence in this movie, and didn't even as a small child.
- The Wizard of Oz
- The Court Jester
- Duck Soup
- A Night at the Opera Marx Brothers
- The Nutty Professor
- The Shaggy Dog These two are kind of hit or miss in our family, some of the kids find them pretty boring.
- Darby O'Gill and the Little People Scary parts, but all my kids were okay with it. Young Sean Connery . . . singing!
- I Confess All my kids have seen this, but there is murder, and talk of extramarital relations, and suspicions of such of a priest, so it's probably best for teens and up.
- The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin Very loosely based on one of our favorite books: By The Great Horned Spoon
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Really REALLY long, and all over the place plot-wise, but it's entertaining, and the romance and family relationships are sweet.
- North by Northwest Good for teens. Innuendo, implied funny business, but a clever and thrilling classic Hitchcock tale.
- Charade For older teens. Innuendo, violence, divorce, murder, but non-graphic and a good story!
See also: If Irish Eyes Are Smiling, You Can Bet They’re NOT Watching an Irish Movie, or: Eleven Irish Movies That it’s Entirely Possible That You Would Want to Watch
- The Emperor’s New Groove Such a good father figure!
- Prince of Egypt This movie is just so well done, and the songs are hauntingly beautiful.
- The Princess and the Frog Some scary parts, and Mama Odie needs a pause to discuss, but the message of not messing around with demons, I like!
- Lilo and Stitch Some serious family fighting, but overall a good message about overcoming bad inclinations that can be helpful when talking to stinker kids about not giving in to their every whim.
- Pinocchio We have a tradition of watching this on Father's Day.
- The Lion King We just saw the 2019 version of this, see my take at the bottom.
- Beauty and the Beast
- Toy Story 1-3
- Monsters, Inc.
- The Incredibles Mature themes like temptation to infidelity and family fighting, but again, a good overall message.
- WALL-E Very pro-life robot romance!
- The Iron Giant
- Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse This new movie is surprisingly great, with a good father figure, and good messages about sacrifice and responsibility and marriage.
- LEGO Movie
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- We like all of the classic pre-1980s Disney animated movies
- Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Just like most animated movies, it features a kid with a passion for something that his dad just doesn't understand. However, in a very unusual twist, in this movie, THE DAD is the one who gets vindicated! There's a monkey throwing poop joke I could do without.
- Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie
See also: I Have Some Thoughts About Frozen
Some people are likely going to disagree with me on the appropriateness of some of these, and that's okay! But we think the hilarity and overall message is worth the few swear words and the awkward moments that require discussion.
- The Princess Bride Some kid swearing, talk of suicide and piracy, and an immoral revenge plot line that needs to be discussed.
- Pee Wee’s Big Adventure 1985
- Napoleon Dynamite
- Star Wars We have watched all of them as of 2019, and have been okay with the content and message.
- Home Alone Some family fighting, and an "adult" magazine in Buzz's room that we fast forward past.
- A Christmas Story
- E.T. Family fighting, divorce, some kid swearing, but in the end the siblings look out for each other.
- The Addams Family Overall a good message, but does have some questionable moments.
- The Secret of Roan Inish
- The Muppet Movie
- Muppet Treasure Island
- Muppet Christmas Carol
- Muppets in Space
- The Goonies There is some swearing and toilet humor and inappropriate handsiness by a teenager.
- Jurassic Park Might be too scary for some little kids, but mine are okay with it.
- Cool Runnings
- Back to the Future Older kids, as there is some allusion to premarital sex and a non graphic attempted rape scene.
- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure There is weirdness with the stepmom, that we discuss or skip.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail We skip the vestal virgins scene.
- Groundhog Day There is discussion of suicide and premarital sex and a non graphic scene of the main characters in bed.
- Little Women 1994 with Winona Ryder
- The Blues Brothers 1980 The good: They're on a "mission from God" to save their Catholic orphanage, amazing music. The bad: lots of language. We've enjoyed it with our older teens.
- Rudy 1993 Some language, but a really well-done, inspiring movie.
- The Book Thief Intense but sweet WWII movie, good for older kids.
- The Hiding Place 1975 A very well-done adaptation of Corrie Ten Boom’s autobiography of her time helping Jews in occupied Holland, and, after her arrest, in a nazi concentration camp. Very Christian. Good for older kids.
See also: A Shortage of Perfect (Chicken) Breasts: Another Princess Bride Birthday Party (with free food tag printables!)
- The Greatest Showman Temptation to infidelity, but a good message and good songs.
- Captain America For older kids because of some bloody war violence, but so great.
- Harry Potter The later ones have more mature themes that we save for older kids.
- Lord of the Rings For older kids because of orc scariness.
- The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Earth to Echo Features a teen party with inappropriate behavior.
- Black Panther
- Guardians of the Galaxy A fun movie for teens, but it does break my rule against bad guys being the good guys.
- Cinderella The live action version is really a beautiful update.
- Pride and Prejudice The 2005 version with Kiera Knightley was a surprise hit with even the older boys in our family. It's really funny!
- Chicken Run
- Super 8 A fun pseudo-eighties movie good for older kids.
- To All the Boys I've Loved Before Good to share with teens, I think, but only if a grownup is there to discuss things like avoiding the appearance of sin. I would skip Sierra Burgess is a Loser.
- Les Miserables I think the new adaptation is excellent for older teens. It requires some discussion about heavy themes, like suicide and fornication and prostitution and pharisaical justice, but we want to discuss those at some point.
- Our family really enjoys DisneyNature documentaries (like Growing Up Wild)
- Penelope I like this one for teen girls looking for a romantic movie to watch. The opening exposition references fornication, adultery, and suicide, but I think for older kids it's okay to explain. The mother is a problematic character, but I appreciate that Penelope treats her with respect anyway.
- Wonder Woman Good for teens. Some talk of human sexuality and pleasure, and some innuendo, but all in a pretty innocent and charming way, in my opinion.
- Inkheart 2008 Fantasy/action/adventure. All ages enjoyed it in our house.
See also: A Twelve Year Old Boy Reviews Cinderella
I hope these give you some choices for your next movie night!
Bonus Movie Review: Lion King 2019
It bugs me that people are calling this movie "live action." It's definitely still animated, it's just differently animated. End of rant.
Anyway, I've heard a lot of folks online wondering if this needed to be remade, as the original was so good, and the remake is really very similar. But I think there's an important clarification in the remake that makes it worth redoing and worth seeing.
In the 1994 version, it's easy to miss the point that the Hakuna Matata worldview is WRONG. After all, it's a really catchy song, and we like Timon and Pumba, and the ramifications of the song aren't addressed. In the 2019 version, we still get the song, but we also get a more in depth look at what that philosophy means: that life has no purpose or greater meaning or eternal consequences and that we should just look out for ourselves, and bother none about those around us.
Mufasa's Circle of Life worldview, on the other hand, is one where our actions and choices affect one another, where life has meaning and purpose, where sacrifice and responsibility exist, and where there is an afterlife from which the noble dead can inspire and support us. Yay! It's made clear in this version that Mufasa's Circle of Life philosophy is the correct one. I think that's an important message! And aside from adding in the word "farted" to a song from which it was awfully nice to have had it skipped all these years, the remakers avoided the temptation to get edgy with the source martial. The characters are the characters, the actors are good, the jokes are funny. I think it's worth a watch.
As always, I encourage you to look up other reviews or preview movies before watching in case what you think is appropriate for your family isn't the same as what I think is appropriate for mine.
I'd love to hear what you would add to the list! And if I forgot a warning note for a particular movie on the list, please feel free to share that too. It has been a while since I've seen some of these!