In December of 2010 I published a popular post that listed my “Top 10” favorite movies of all time. I was actually surprised how many of my readers had not seen the movies on my list! Hopefully they were inspired by my post to add those movies to their list of family favorites.
I decided this year to publish another list of movies that are appropriate for family viewing. Consider watching one (or more) over your holiday break. You won’t be disappointed! (And don’t forget the popcorn!)
The Princess Bride: I know you’ve probably seen this movie, because it seems to be on everyone’s Top Ten list. It wasn’t on my Top Ten, but it does come close. In the event you haven’t seen this movie, try to imagine Peter Falk telling a hysterical love story to the young Fred Savage with a cameo by Billy Crystal, and Mandy Patinkin running around trying to find the man that murdered his father. Moreover, with the exception of two profanities it is a thoroughly clean movie. A truly FUN family movie. My favorite quote (of course): “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.”
Muppets from Space: I don’t know if the reason I love this movie so much is because of the scene where Pepe and Rizzo the Rat (my favorite Muppet) convince Gonzo to build a Jacuzzi, or if it’s the fact that the movie is filled with hits from the greatest decade of music ever (the 1970’s). “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind, and Fire and “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang are just two of the awesome songs in this movie. Absolutely a fabulous family movie with the usual fun cameos that Muppet movies are known for. My favorite quote comes courtesy of Pepe and Rizzo (a riff on “Field of Dreams”): “If you build it, they will come.”
Ernest Goes to Jail: Of all the “Ernest” movies this is the only one, in my opinion, that is worth watching. It has been a family favorite of ours for more than two decades. Pixar fans will know the star of this movie, the late Jim Varney, as the voice of Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story movies. The more mature members of my audience might remember Ernest from the days when Jim Varney did TV commercials with his “Hey Vern” shtick. In any case, this movie showcases Varney’s true talent as he performs two distinctly different roles – one being a clueless, but sweet, bank janitor and the other a ruthless convict who manages to rule the prison he is incarcerated in. This is not a movie for very young children but my 10-year old first watched it a few years ago and loves it. There is no profanity or anything else questionable. The best part of the movie has to be when Varney is practicing his best “tough guy” line – and it is therefore also my favorite quote: “You dirty rat, you killed my brother…”
Meet Me in St. Louis: If you were looking for a switch in genres, here it is. “Meet Me in St. Louis” is a 1944 film featuring a (still) young Judy Garland (“The Wizard of Oz” hit the theaters in 1939 so that gives you an idea of Garland’s age in this film). The end of the film is set during Christmas-time which makes it a perfect movie for the holidays. In fact, the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” originates from this movie (and the scene with Judy Garland singing it is my favorite scene in the movie). There are so many funny moments in this movie and so many funny lines but since I have to pick a favorite how about when little “Tootie” Smith declares that her sick doll “has to go.” Watch the movie to figure it out!
Rocky Balboa: Before I get to my review of “Rocky Balboa” I’d like to first point out that I’m not generally a fan of the Rocky movie series. I find it more than distasteful that in the original Rocky our “hero” seduces a young, naïve girl. The fact that she eventually becomes his wife in no way makes up for this glaring exploitation. But “Rocky Balboa” is in a class all by itself. In this final Rocky movie we meet a much older Rocky who lost his wife to a “lady cancer” (presumably breast cancer) and who is still grieving deeply. He is also the owner of very popular Italian restaurant where he treats his fans graciously. There is a sweetness about this movie that strikes me deeply. Naturally the end of the movie offers up a bloody mess of a fight, but that is not what this movie is really about. It’s about family and love and memories – whether they be painful or bittersweet. My favorite quote comes from a scene before the fight when Rocky’s former nemesis Spider Rico quotes Zechariah 4:6, combining it with a Scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:57: “’Zechariah 4:6 says, ‘It is not by strength, not by might, but by His Spirit, that we have already claimed the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.’”
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: This movie features Danny Kaye at his comedic best. Based on the short story by James Thurber, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is utterly hysterical. The premise of Thurber’s story was that Mitty constantly daydreamed to escape his boring life, and while the movie does capture that element, it also defies the story by placing Mitty in a real life cloak-and-dagger mystery that has him continually rescuing a beautiful “damsel in distress,” despite his usually cautious self. If you’re looking for a movie to watch that is just pure fun, this is it. I don’t know that I have a “favorite” quote but a particularly funny line is when Mitty says – in response to Dr. Hollinghead’s claim that “perhaps you are mistaking me for someone else” – “Oh no, no one looks as much like ‘you’ as you do!”
Mr. Bean’s Holiday: As you may know, Mr. Bean is a character from a British comedy series. I’m not really familiar with this series, starring Rowan Atkinson, but I adore this movie. As with the series, Atkinson’s character almost never speaks, but he doesn’t need to! It’s fascinating really, to see how the story manages to develop beautifully with Mr. Bean saying nary a word. This is a sweet movie that is extremely funny, with a definite emphasis on the love of family, and especially the love of a father for his child. Since Mr. Bean rarely speaks, I don’t have a favorite quote, but my favorite scene involves Mr. Bean and his young friend Stepan trying to earn money for a bus ticket by performing a scene from an unnamed opera. This is a perfect movie for family viewing – give it a try!
The Muppet Christmas Carol: I know I’ve already included one Muppet movie, but I just can’t leave this movie off the list. There have been dozens of versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol made for movie and TV screens, but I think this is the best. I really do. Not only does it include what seems to be hundreds of Muppets – including Gonzo portraying Dickens himself! – but Scrooge is played by Michael Caine, and he is sensational. With just the right combination of humor and sensitivity, this movie captures the flavor of Dickens’ message while entertaining children and adults alike. My favorite quote? “Heat wave! This is my island in the sun!” (Watch the movie to find out what I’m talking about!)
Hoodwinked: I first saw this movie when it came out in the theater and was surprised how funny it was. Hoodwinked is a clever riff on the “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale with the story being told from several very different perspectives. Not wanting to give too much away, I will leave you with the admonition to include this movie on your family movie night list, and I’ll also leave you with my favorite quote: “Never trust a bunny!”
Hook: This 1991 flick stars Robin Williams as a grown-up Peter Pan, who actually doesn’t remember being Peter Pan, nor does he even believe Peter Pan is real. Rather, he is now Peter Banning, a cut-throat acquisitions lawyer. Or, as Granny Wendy points out, he is now a pirate. In any case, Peter Banning will have to somehow access his “inner Pan” if he is going to save his children from Captain Hook (played by Dustin Hoffman), who has grown bored for lack of fighting since Peter left Neverland. This movie, for me, never gets old. It is incredibly clean, good fun for kids and adults alike. My absolute favorite quote is: “Don’t mess with me man, I’m a lawyer!”
Do you have any great family films you can recommend to my readers? Please suggest them in the comments!