Monsters-IncThe trouble with most “family” films is that they’re not really for the whole family; they’re designed with the youngest members in mind, which generally includes children as young as toddlers. In most cases this means movies that are so mild and milquetoast as to be unpalatable for older kids and parents, more of a torture to endure than a couple of hours of entertainment. And yet, there are some filmmakers that manage the nearly impossible task of creating movies that will wow audiences of all ages, providing fare that is tame enough for tiny tots but has layers of meaning and plot that older family members will understand and appreciate. So if you’re looking for a way to spend your Friday night as a family, here are just a few films that admirably fit the bill.

  1. Monsters, Inc. (2001). Absolutely everything Pixar touches turns to gold. That said, it doesn’t get much better than the story of Sully, a mythical monster in the closet who accidentally brings little “Boo” back with him to his monster realm. This fractured fairy tale of a movie turns the classic notion of scary monsters on its head in a way that will no doubt leave kids laughing when they discover that monsters are more afraid of kids than kids are of them. Whether you’ve got children who are frightened of bumps in the night or you’re a kid at heart yourself, the whole family will enjoy this imaginative romp from the geniuses over at Pixar.
  2. The Goonies (1985). Okay, this one isn’t exactly for the younger set. But for anyone with kids past the age of elementary school it’s a must. After all, what kid wouldn’t be excited by an adventurous group of adolescents in search of hidden treasure? Parents can once again enjoy this fun film from their own youth with the added pleasure of seeing their children watch it for the first time. Don’t forget, Goonies never say die!
  3. Mary Poppins (1964). Surprisingly, this musical confection has managed to remain relevant despite its age, largely due to the overriding theme of a fractured family being brought back together…well, that or the magic of Technicolor. The suffragette mom is a bit out of date, but this can be overlooked in light of toy rooms that clean themselves in a snap (literally), carousel horses that run a merry chase, and plenty of well-known songs that you’ll find yourself humming along to.
  4. My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Miyazaki isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and anime can be a bit of a leap for parents that have not yet experienced its strange charms. But this story of children interacting with fun-loving forest spirits will quickly have you and your kids hooked.
  5. E.T. (1982). Can you believe it’s been 30 years since this movie first hit theaters? Well, lucky for kids of the ’80s (many of whom are now raising kids of their own), this heartwarming tale of a boy and his alien is now available on Blu-ray thanks to the wonderful world of DVD duplication. Relive the magic as a lonesome boy named Elliott forges an empathetic connection with an alien being separated from his family and they work together to get him home.

Photo credit: smilepolitely.com

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