Though we’re not a telly-owning family, I find that this time of year calls for some cosying up by the fire with a film on the laptop. I remember as a child curling up with my sister and brother to watch The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or A Box of Delights – a treat made all the more special because we only watched the telly on rare occasions. But choosing a film that is interesting and engaging for all the family can be a challenge, especially in the era of fast and furious entertainment. For sensitive children, today’s films can be overwhelming with all their intense speed and noise. The ideal film educates and illuminates, is emotionally engaging enough to make you laugh and/or cry, has characters you care about, and offers plenty of scope for family discussion afterwards.
Here are some recommendations of family favourites from Green Parent readers to enjoy on the sofa together:
Sarah, mum to Jenna, 8, Morgan, 6, Rowan, 3 and Talia, 1:
My Neighbour Totoro is beautiful, magical, and nature-honouring. It’s very low-conflict and shows loving respectful family relationships. It has been a favourite for many years and is good for all ages. It’s a simple story and not rushed, and the many forest spirits are quirky and wonderful.
Secret of Kells is one of those animations that just blows me away: all of the backgrounds and imagery are based on Celtic illumination, for example all of the trees are amazingly detailed knotwork, and it’s all hand-drawn. Some parts are a bit scary for little ones, but the overall message is hopeful and life affirming, and speaks of courage to follow your own path – and grace to forgive past hurts. It really is one not to miss, but best shared with children who are not likely to be fearful of some very dark moments.
How to Train your Dragon is a great family film. Although it has scary moments – it IS about dragons and Vikings – overall it is a very gentle and humane story about not fitting in, and standing up for right. It’s very different to the books, so don’t judge one based on the other. In fact this is the only instance ever where I can say I prefer the film!
The new Muppets film is hilarious. I include this one mostly because the adults giggled all the way through it. It’s quick and bright and a little hard to follow for the younger ones, though it really is silly enough (and full of musical numbers) to keep them engaged.
Angie, mum to Grace, 4, and Jude, nearly 1:
‘We all absolutely loved Five Children And It with Eddie Izzard. It has some scary themes for younger ones (parents leaving and maybe not coming back…), but it was the first film Grace was really engaged with.
Favourite film for the boys at the moment is The Railway Children, the original one with Jenny Agutter. The boys really love it and the worse language in it is when the boy calls his sister ‘a garden squirt’ which DS finds very funny.
School of Rock has been our family favourite for years and years now – we must have seen it over a dozen times. It was probably that which inspired the boys to form a heavy metal band come to think of it…