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Three Classic Films to Watch with Kids

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by Dayna Chu (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and primary school teacher living in SE Melbourne. I love finding adventures for myself, my husband and our four kids to enjoy. Come along! Heart my articles, subscribe to the fun, follow along on
Published September 11th 2014
Who needs animation?
family movies, classic family movies, chitty chitty bang bang

Disney has moxy, there is no denying it, and when it comes to our family's classic favourites, Disney makes the cut, but only for one of our three favourites. I'm not sure what defines classic for you, but we're not talking about The Little Mermaid or even The Lion King here.

I have a few criteria when assessing film options for our family. It needs to be somewhat gender neutral, not too scary (have you watched some of these evil characters in Disney through the eyes of a five-year-old? Eep!), at least tolerable for us adults, and, of course, hold the kids' attention.

Here are our three favourites, plus, true to my style, a freebie for you to (re)consider.

family movies, classic family movies, the sound of music

1. The Sound of Music: 1965 Film: An Austrian widower (Christopher Plummer) recruits a former nun (Julie Andrews) to be the nanny/governess of his seven children. She wins their hearts, and eventually his, through music and a tenacious zest for life.

While there are some mature themes in The Sound of Music, war and (anti-)Nazi German Third Reich era setting, the details are subtle, and actually somewhat lost on younger children. Children like watching other children, and what could be better than watching seven siblings being funny, naughty, and playful, singing, learning, and problem solving together? Mature love and young love, suspense and humour and drama, and of course some adventure. We've watched it over and again with our family. Take it for a test-drive if you're a bit hesitant like I was before watching it with my kids; I think you'll find that it becomes one of your favourite things.

family movies, classic family movies, mary poppins

Mary Poppins: 1964 Film: Disney enters the contest, and Julie Andrews returns again on our list, in one of our family favourites: Mary Poppins. Dare your kids not to love this one; there may be some eye-rolling at first, especially if they're over about ten-years-old, but grab a spoonful of sugar and have a go. A whimsical and magical nanny arrives at the home of the Banks family and teaches them about having fun while (somewhat) maintaining their sensibilities. Imagination, music, and even a bit of animation enrapture young and old, male and female viewers. The core message of the movie teaches a lesson that remains valuable to this day: Family relationships are to be invested in and treasured above all riches.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: 1968 Film: It's Dick Van Dyke that makes a return to our chart this time, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the car named for the sound it makes. A crazy story takes flight when inventor Caracatus Potts (Van Dyke) gets a bit stranded with his kids and lady-friend on a picnic. A flying, floating car that can pilot itself? What more does a family need to stimulate the imagination, besides an inventor that makes candy? There are a few scary bits, to be sure, which we were prepared to use as teaching opportunities with our kids. The "child catcher" offers a discussion point for stranger-danger discussions, but you may also want to be quick to remind your kids that Professor Potts is actually just telling a story right now, so this "isn't real." While on the long side, the storylines-within-the-story carry their own weight and the kids don't bore of it. The not-too-mushy romance and happy ending for Jemima and Jeremy makes this movie truly scrumptious.

To throw one in from left field, the freebie: Honey I Shrunk the Kids: 1989 Film: Rick Moranis plays an oblivious scientist father of a teenage girl and younger boy, with a wife that feels passed over in favour of his focus on his latest invention, the shrinkerator. When he accidentally shrinks his kids and the neighbours' kids to the size of insects, they must fight the dangers of a bee, the sprinkler, the lawnmower, and even a bowl of cheerios, as the father and mother search for them. Cheesy acting and cringe-worthy styles of the eighties just make this film all the more entertaining in the new millennium. The "battles to stay alive" are kept light with the less-than-dramatic music, and the scenes are not too dark; there were some nervous moments, but nothing that phased my five-year-old and seven-year-old. Bring on the adventure and the imagination.

Get out the popcorn and cuddle on the couch for one or two family movies this weekend. What are some of your favourites?

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Your Comment
By the look of it, a 'classic' for you means a musical. I love Mary Poppins, so have to agree with you on that one, but I can't stand Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, neither when I was a kid or as an adult.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12626) 2470 days ago
Haha; good point, musical it is. What it certainly isn't, is anything from the 80s or later... I'm too young to consider those classics... I guess that's why the last on the list is a freebie?!
by Dayna Chu (score: 3|1485) 2470 days ago
Kids love to sing along - I agree these are great classics for kids and parents to enjoy together.
by Lucy (score: 3|1157) 2470 days ago
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