When you ask the kids what they would like to do, they vote to make popcorn and watch a movie with you. It sounds like fun, but you know from experience what a challenge it is to find a movie that both children and adults can enjoy. So many films for kids are mind-numbing for adults, whereas most adult films are either too sophisticated for kids to enjoy or include content not suitable for children.
Fortunately, The New York Times Essential Library: Children's Movies (Henry Holt and Company) has the answer. Author and film critic Peter M. Nichols, who has written The New York Times film column Taking the Children since 1994, offers recommendations for what he considers the top 100 films for children in the 8-12 age group.
Along with obvious choices like some of the classic Disney animated features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and The Little Mermaid (1989), Nichols also includes live-action musicals like The Sound of Music (1965) and West Side Story (1961) as well as films from Hollywoods golden era.
I was aiming for films that didn't go too far over the line, but that would require in many cases some real thought on the part of kids, Nichols told the Associated Press. I think that a lot of things (today) are really junk. They're very formulaic; it just seems like you're just watching the same films over and over again.
"The idea behind the book was to kind of give kids, through their families, a cross-section of films that were more or less representative of great films," Nichols added.
To help you create a video or DVD library of films that you and your grandchildren (or the other children in your life) can turn to on those rainy weekends, Ive drawn from Nichols recommendations and my own experience to compile a list of 10 outstanding movies that are sure to entertain audiences of all ages.
This charming story of the heroic little pig with the big heart became an instant classic when it was released.
Back to the Future (1985)
Michael J. Fox stars in an action-packed film that blends time travel and poetic justice for a satisfying movie experience.
The Black Stallion (1979)
Based on the novel by Walter Farley, this is the story of a boy and an Arabian stallion who learn to trust and love each other while they are shipwrecked together on a deserted island, and then find glory and adventure on the racetrack. The film is a visual masterpiece, and includes a stunning performance by veteran actor Mickey Rooney.
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
One of the great screwball comedies, which stars Cary Grant as a befuddled scientist, Katharine Hepburn as the rebellious socialite who turns his world upside down, and Baby, a live leopard, who keeps things moving at a mad pace.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Director Steven Spielbergs fantasy about a mild-mannered space alien who befriends a family of children and must have their help to get home is a heartwarming story of friendship.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Another winner from Disney and Pixar, Finding Nemo is a full-length animated adventure about a young clownfish who is stolen from his ocean home by divers and ends up in a dentists aquarium in Sydney, Australia. The plot focuses on Nemos attempts to escape and return home, and his timid fathers courageous search for his lost son. The film is hilarious and heartwarming, and features the voice talents of noted actors such as Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney and Geoffrey Rush.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone (2001)
Based on the wildly popular book by J.K. Rowling, this story of apprentice sorcerer and orphan Harry Potter is a truly magical tale of intrigue, adventure and unexpected delights. All of the movies based on the series of Harry Potter novels are extremely entertaining, but some are darker or scarier than others.
Singing in the Rain (1952)
This classic Hollywood musical delights children and adults alike. Starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald OConnor, it includes some of the best song and dance numbers ever filmed.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, the movie weaves a mystery, a courtroom drama, and the story of a single father raising two children in the South into an unforgettable tale about racial injustice and the power of love.
Whale Rider (2002)
Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a young Maori girl in New Zealand who fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize. It is a contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph that will leave you cheering.