This will probably be the easiest post I will ever write. I love movies! Watching and discussing movies is one my greatest passions. If you ever want to get me off topic, just ask my opinion of a movie that I’ve seen. I am going to pull the reigns back on myself for your sake. I thought this post could serve two purposes: 1) discuss some movies that would be good to watch with your children; and 2) offer some alternatives for an older audience. I won’t be providing summaries of the movies, but instead sharing why I believe these films are worth a watch. With that said, let’s grab some popcorn and jump right into it!
Movies to watch with your children:
- The Lion King (animated version): The new live action movie is “okay,” but it doesn’t have near the depth that the original had. If you are not familiar with this movie- Spoiler Alert: the dad dies. What I really enjoy about this movie are the multiple themes relevant to the relationship between a father and son that are well depicted. It talks about a father’s unfailing love, discipline, parental guidance, loss of a loved one, taking responsibility, standing for what’s right, supporting your friends, and many more valuable lessons as well. It doesn’t get any better than this!
- Finding Nemo: This is about the lengths that a father will go to care for his child. If you have ever been accused of being a helicopter parent, then you will likely relate well to Marlin (dad). Marlin learns many valuable lessons in his journey to find his captured son, and his son learns some lessons as well. This movie is one of those rare specimens in which you are likely to enjoy the movie just as much as your children will.
- Inside Out: I realize that many of the selections I have chosen are produced by Disney, but this movie needed to be on the list. I swear Disney is not paying me to write this review. I truly appreciate the level of thought that the writers give to Inside Out. It is one of the best portrayals of the human psyche that I have ever seen in film. Ask any mental health clinician, they will agree that this movie is a marvelous representation of how our emotions work. That’s not to say that this movie is so deep that it can’t be enjoyed. What makes the movie so great is the artistic efforts put in to take complex thoughts and present them in a way that even children can pick up on. I believe that the world is a better place for having been given this film.
- Megamind: Megamind is one of those movies that takes all the superhero tropes this latest generation has become accustomed to and flips them on their head. The main character of the movie is not the stereotypical superhero that crash lands on earth, falls in love with a damsel in distress, and saves the day with his vast array of supernatural powers. Instead, the story focuses on the “not-so-super” villain. I have a soft spot for redemption stories. Megamind is one of the best examples of this story arc that I know of. Let me also say that I find this movie to be absolutely hilarious. My poor family probably hears me quote this movie at least once a week. Trust me, this film is a must-see.
- How To Train Your Dragon: This film translates well the experience of a son seeking to find his place in world, and a father learning to guide him along the way. I think this movie also helps us fathers better understand how we can be a support to our daughters as well. Hear me out, I know this may sound like a stretch. The main character isn’t much like his father. His father is strong, hard as a rock, and stubborn in his old ways. Instead, Hiccup (the son) is nurturing, full of ingenuity, and insightful. When dads raise daughters, we also have to overcome our own paternal way of thinking to better understand a perspective that may likely be much different than our own. Just as Hiccup’s father had to broaden his views, so do we as dads with our own children. There are two other movies in the series I am aware of. I personally enjoyed the second the best.
- Kung Fu Panda: Why? Because it’s a panda that does kung fu. What else would you want from a film? I also would highly recommend the second Kung Fu Panda. The first and second movie are very, very deep for movies aimed at children. The third in the trilogy was not quite as well-produced (in my honest opinion). The second movie, in particular, has a arc around Po’s (main character) upbringing as an adopted son and touches heavily on finding peace through personal tragedy. Like I told you, there’s some pretty deep lessons in Kung Fu Panda.
- Despicable Me: I can’t say that Despicable Me is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. In fact, I don’t even like the movie. However, I can appreciate the fresh take on the relationship between a father and his daughters. The main character slowly grows to become a likeable character as you see him take on his role as a father. Don’t get me wrong, I think Despicable Me has some funny moments. Children find the movie hilarious. Most people I know say they really enjoy this movie. If you and the kids can get into the first fifteen minutes of this movie, then I would say that it’s worth finishing.
- Angels In the Outfield: This movie hits you from both angles (I said angles, not angels). First, there are some heart-wrenching moments in which you see a father abandoning his son, as well as the impact that his actions have on the boy. Second, you see a man, who did not have a strong example of fatherhood leadership in his own life, soften and become the father that the protagonist (as well as his friend) need.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse: This is a beautiful movie, and I mean a BEAUTIFUL movie! I have never seen a film use sound and picture as artistically as this movie does. The relationship between father and son plays a huge role here. The protagonist, Miles, struggles to value his father’s straight-and-narrow lifestyle as he is led down a different path by his more laid-back uncle. Not only is this a great movie for kids, it is also a true cinematic masterpiece as well.
- Beauty and the Beast (animated version): Not sure why Disney feels the need to re-write movies that were perfect the first time, but this seems to be direction they have chosen. I may lose my man-card for saying this, but Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies of all time. I don’t think there is a single part of the movie that I don’t like. Belle is a great example of a strong-female character that is balanced in love, intelligence, and courage. This is something our culture struggles to convey to young girls. Belle isn’t a female plot tool that simply exists to give the male protagonist something to pursue, but she’s also not an arrogant thrill-seeker that cares only for herself. Instead, she is an intriguing character that propels the story along with every action that she takes, always making the world around her a little better. I wish we still made movies this good.
Movies for teens (13+ at least):
- Karate Kid: Daniel, the protagonist, doesn’t have a father in the movie. However, he finds a father-figure in Mr. Miyagi (the wax-on, wax-off guy). If you want to know how to mentor your children well, Mr. Miyagi is a great model to follow. He balances sternness with graciousness better than any other character I have ever seen in cinema. I also appreciate the depiction of Daniel becoming a man under Mr. Miyagi’s guidance. It is clear that, by the end of the movie, Daniel’s view of the world and his response to it has drastically changed.
- Remember the Titans: There are some powerful themes in this movie that I believe deserve having a conversation with our teens about. As the story progresses, people make some difficult decisions to stand up for what they believe in. During our current struggles as a nation, I can’t think of a more appropriate movie to watch with your son or daughter, given they are old enough to understand the content.
- To Kill a Mockingbird: I will be honest, I have not seen the movie. However, I have read, and love, the book. I have heard that the movie captures the heart of the book like few other adaptations have. Atticus Finch is one of the best examples of moral character that I can think of. In fact, if I were to have had a boy, I would have named him Atticus. Atticus’s daughter, Jean Louise, is a very relatable character. She represents well the trusting relationship that a father and daughter can have with each other.
Bonus: For fathers to watch themselves (not with children)
- Click: I must be out of my mind to recommend an Adam Sandler movie as a “must watch.” The humor can be very crude at times. Still, I can’t get over how great this movie is at showing the importance of being available to our family. This movie is the Christmas Carol for fathers (which I can only imagine was the inspiration for the film). If this movie doesn’t wake you up and get you back to the dinner table, I don’t know what will.
- Cinderella Man: If you ever find yourself struggling to keep life afloat as a dad, watch this movie. Based on a true story, James Braddock fights his way through the Great Depression, literally. He’s a boxer. James is challenged with many setbacks, but he always remembers what he’s fighting for. He has a vision of seeing his family pull through there tough circumstances, and he gives that vision everything he has. Watch this movie, and see the heart of a champion at work.
- Bridge of Spies: If you felt compelled to do the right thing in light of a difficult situation, but everyone else was against you (including your own family), what would you do? That is the premise of this movie. The father has to make hard choices, many of which lead to even harder choices. There are very few scenes in movie history that leave you feeling as satisfied as the last few scenes of this movie. This movie not only shows you how to be a better father, but also how to be a better man.
I’m sure there are many more classics and treasures that I have missed, but this is a good list to get you started on your toolbox. I hope you enjoy!
Brian Faust is the Fatherhood Program Coordinator of Rock Solid Fatherhood in Warsaw, IN. He is the husband of the world’s best wife and father of three beautiful girls. He has nearly a decade of mentorship and mental health experience. Brian has a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Grace College. It is his desire to come alongside men of all walks of life as they embrace their role as partner and father with rock solid strength.