Are you looking for wholesome, classic family films for family night this school year? I have three for you to consider.
While not overtly Christian, the family films I want to share here provide a jumping off place with which to discuss and process many topics together without compromising hearts.
While I think there is nothing wrong with a few wholesome family films a year, I would urge you to read the actual books the movies are based upon first, if possible. It’s amazing the deeper insights you will pick up. One will also be able to see how a movie producer may want to slant something away from the original story line to suit his own agenda, and it is an opportunity to awaken a child to be more discerning about how we can be rightly or wrongly influenced by the powerful medium of movies or other media.
When our adult children were younger, I wrestled over how far to get into movies~ there are so few really great ones. I still believe that entertainment of the movie sort can take us away from being readers to becoming spectators, merely watchers and bystanders, potentially drifting in our worldview through the skill of a director who wishes to subtly change our worldview to his. If you haven’t seen IndoctriNation, you might want to!
Inspire: Rediscovering Classic Family Films helps us rediscover entertainment that inspires to truth, beauty, and nobility of character. Rediscovering these films is a joint ministry of the Winton Family and the Gray Family of Bellingham, WA.
Classic Family Films
1.) Young Tom Edison (1940)
Reviewed by Holly Gray:
“INSPIRING THEMES: Although everyone in Toms’ world (except his family) seem to be against him, he ultimately sees the success of scientific discovery come through hard work, perseverance, business ventures, and calculated risks. The tenderness that he has in his relationships with his mother and sister are exemplary. Tom shows heroism in the face of great danger, and even invents a way to help the doctor save his mother’s life. Tom’s father has a measure of humility that is admirable in his willingness to admit when he is wrong. He also protects his family, desiring the best for his children regardless of what others think. You will also find an inspiring example for mothers and sisters of the influence that women can have, especially in their families, that will ultimately impact the world. Tom’s mother sought to impress his heart, not merely his behavior; and encouraged him to develop his unique gifts rather than being discouraged by his weaknesses. Through trials and hardships, a beautiful picture of optimism and familial love reigns supreme throughout the film.
“PARENTAL WARNING: Young Tom eventually learns to be more responsible, but children should have the maturity to recognize Tom’s irresponsibility and not to see it as something to emulate. Various people get angry with Tom (justly and unjustly) which leads to some intense moments of drama, emotion, and temper. Tom receives a “box to the ears” several times. There are also some suspenseful moments of danger. Parents will want to separate the biblically wise decisions from the foolish ones in discussion with their children. Whether in real life or as seen in this film, God can choose to mercifully use our wrong decisions for good in our lives and others. We should thank God for his mercies, but never ‘test God’ or presume on his grace for such an outcome.”
2.) Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Reviewed by Heather Gray:
“A celebration of family togetherness, survival and ingenuity: it’s a heroic tale filled with adventure, courage, and a family whose strong relationships and ongoing love for each other is evident as they use teamwork to skillfully overcome unbelievable odds.
“INSPIRING THEMES: There are many “not to miss” themes for Christian families. The Robinsons have a strong family culture that shows what can be accomplished when a family works towards a common goal. Using what they can salvage from their ship and from the magnificently diverse local flora and fauna, the Robinsons carve out a rewarding life without modern conveniences and technology! They keep up their spirits as they work and wait for the possibility of being rescued. Ignite your imagination through this refreshing picture of a purposeful family who work together to overcome dangerous circumstances courageously!
“They had real struggles that they worked through, but in an age when families are in turmoil, be encouraged by the examples of unity and gender distinction portrayed here. There is no doubt that the father is leading the family. Out of care and concern, he takes up the mantle of responsibility and protection. Immediately following their shipwreck, he leads the family to the Lord, in a prayer. The mother is a supportive wife. She exhibits a beautiful Proverbs 31, “sturdy femininity” in serving her family, having contentment and joy in difficult circumstances. Their sons have a culture of honoring their parents, and are generally respectful and masculine; following the example of their father in hard work and looking out for their mother and a young lady who enters the scene. Fritz and Ernst despise sissy young men and their attitude towards Roberta immediately changes when they discover that she is not a young man as they had been led to believe. They do not despise feminine weakness, but honor it and are gentlemanly. There is something for everyone… real animals, comedy, action, adventure, suspense, and a happy ending.
“PARENTAL WARNINGS: The Robinsons are faced with many dangers and attackers, such as wild animals and pirates. While “the bad guys” are more likely to be knocked over than shot, some suspenseful action scenes may be too violent for younger children. There is a light romantic sub-plot which includes a brief kiss, and you may wish to preview it first. Sibling rivalry is wrestled out, but the boys usually get along. With some commentary from parents about these things, I would recommend it for ages 8 and up.”
My note: the boys go shirtless in a number of scenes, and may be offensive to some. I read in a review that “their pants and shorts are always carefully tailored to cover their navels”.
The Swiss Family Robinson, the book, has been re-translated many times causing some question as to which is the best. For my money, the Kingston translation (Puffin Classics) into English retains all the richness, yet is very understandable and readable. You can rent ($2.99) or buy The Swiss Family Robinson, the movie, on Amazon.
3.) Captains Courageous (1937)
Reviewed by Holly Gray:
“INSPIRING THEMES: My favorite message in this film is the power of discipleship that a father has with his son and that it is not too late to do what it takes to make this a priority. You really get the sense of how much a boy yearns for a parental relationship with his father and the privilege that it is to have such an impact on a boy’s life. We also see how others can effectively step in where a father is not present. It is vividly pictured how a boy learns from other men through their lifestyle what it means to be a man of character and maturity.
Additionally, I love the way that we see how a family can beautifully gain an audience for evangelism through the hospitality of their home!
“PARENTAL CONSIDERATIONS: Arguably one of the most emotionally compelling films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. A spoiled boy rescued by Portuguese fisherman endures hardship and rough treatment but grows into a young man of character. The untimely death of his beloved mentor is shown in one scene that you may want to pass over. Catholic rituals and vocabulary are included.”
Find the book Captains Courageous at Amazon. Much of the dialogue in the book is ‘written’ in the heavy accent of Nova Scotia and will possible make the average reader throw up their hands, however, it will likely delight and challenge a really good reader. The story is full of action and engaging. You may wish to go straight to the Captains Courageous movie on this one 🙂
Oops! This post has already been up for one day, and I forgot to ask you all to help me! I would love to gather more good films (clean, uplifting, and wholesome) to list in later posts. I would consider it a favor if you would share your family’s favorite films below 🙂 Thanks!
“I have nothing to say against recreation in its proper place. Certain forms of recreation are needful and useful; but it is a wretched thing when amusement becomes a vocation. Amusement should be used to do us good “like a medicine”: it must never be used as the food of the man. From early morning till late at night some spend their time in a round of frivolities, or else their very work is simply carried on to furnish them funds for their pleasures. This is vicious. Many have had all holy thoughts and gracious resolutions stamped out by perpetual trifling. Pleasure so called is the murderer of thought. This is the age of excessive amusement: everybody craves for it, like a babe for its rattle.” ~Charles Spurgeon
“No [movie is really worth watching] which does not either impart valuable knowledge; or set before us some ideal of beauty, strength, or nobility of character. There are enough [great films] to occupy us during all our short and busy years. If we are wise, we will resolutely avoid all but the richest and the best.” ~J.R. Miller (Parenthetical thoughts added)
Thanks for reading!