By: Shannon Ralph
It’s getting to be that time of the year. The days are shorter. The nights are longer. Soon it will be too cold to go outside and play. Too cold to leave the house. Then the whining will begin.
“I have nothing to do.”
“This place is soooooo bo-ring.”
Then the bickering will begin.
“She touched me.”
“Make him stop looking at me!”
“Get out of my room!”
What is a poor parent to do all winter? Yes, reading is great. Arts and crafts are a wonderful creative outlet. Board games are moderately tolerable (depending on the game). Imaginative play is certainly preferable to staring at a screen. But let’s be honest. There are days during the long, dark Minnesotan winter when I simply have nothing left to give my children. I have been totally tapped out. There are days when I want nothing more than to curl up on the couch with an blanket and a bowl of popcorn.
As my children are getting older, I have struggled with deciding which films to allow them to watch. Their tastes are becoming more mature. More sophisticated. The Little Mermaid no longer holds the appeal it once held. 101 Dalmations is cute, but trite. My children want to laugh. They want to cry. They want to be entertained at their level. Below are my suggestions for movies to watch with your tween this winter. Something on this list may just save your sanity.
1. The Karate Kid (1984) Rated PG
2. The Princess Bride (1987) Rated PG
3. Back to the Future (1985) Rated PG
4. The Sound of Music (1965) Rated G
5. Star Wars (1977) Rated PG
It’s unlikely, particularly if any of your children have a Y chromosome, that you have not watched this movie yet. Boys seem to be born with an inbred fascination with all things Darth Vader. This, however, is one of the few movies that deserve that sort of unbridled worship.
6. Annie (1982) Rated G
There have been many movie versions of this Broadway classic, but none of the others have Carol Burnett’s delightful turn as the boozy, lonely, rattled Miss Hannigan. Watch it for Burnett’s comic genius if nothing else! (But the songs are pretty catchy, too.)
7. Edward Scissorhands (1990) Rated PG-13
8. Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) Unrated
This was my absolute favorite movie as a kid. Imagine my surprise when my own kids were easily won over by the story of two mysterious orphan kids in all its low-budget, less-than-stellar-special-effects glory! Sometimes simpler is better, after all.
9. The Goonies (1985) Rated PG
10. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Rated PG
11. Home Alone (1990) Rated PG
12. The NeverEnding Story (1984) Rated PG
13. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Rated PG
Yes, the flying monkeys are a wee bit creepy, but who can resist the equally creepy Lollipop Guild? This is the quintessential American fairy tale and a must see for all children!
14. Stand By Me (1986) Rated R
This is the only rated R movie on my list (obviously for older tweens), but…come on. There is nothing in this movie that your older tween hasn’t heard or talked about with their pals on the playground at school. The language is worth it when you consider that you are exposing your tween to a nostalgic soundtrack overflowing with great music and…Stephen King! Maybe it will encourage your child to pick up one of King’s more masterful literary works.
15. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Rated PG-13
16. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) Rated PG-13
17. The Avengers (2012) Rated PG-13
18. Titanic (1997) Rated PG-13
19. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Rated PG-13
So you want to introduce your tween to the joys of foreign cinema without the whine that often accompanies subtitles (adults and kids alike)? What better way to do that than a movie with amazing kick-ass martial arts and not one, but two strong heroines??
20. Lord of the Rings: The Fellow ship of the Ring (2001) PG-13
21. West Side Story (1961) Unrated
22. March of the Penguins (2005) Rated G
23. Newsies (1992) Rated PG
A flop at the box office, but a charming movie that chronicles the great newspaper boy strike of 1899. So what if the movie is better when the characters sing and dance than when they talk? It is a musical, after all.
24. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010) Rated PG
25. Flight of the Navigator (1986) Rated PG
26. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) Rated PG
27. Hook (1991) Rated PG
28. Night at the Museum (2006) Rated PG
29. Stuart Little (1999) Rated PG
Okay, so part of this movie is somewhat animated. But it is a charmer your kids will love and you will not hate. And it was nominated for an Oscar for the visual effects, so give me a little slack here and trust me on this one.
30. The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) Rated PG
31. The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) Rated PG
32. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Rated PG
33. Jurassic Park (1993) Rated PG-13
34. Cool Runnings (1993) Rated PG
35. Ghostbusters (1984) Rated PG
36. Popeye (1980) Rated PG
Wow, I didn’t realize I had so much Robin Williams on this list. Popeye made the list for sentimental reasons—it was the first movie I remember my dad taking me to see in the theater when I was 7 years old. It has been a favorite ever since. I yam what I yam!
37. Men in Black (1997) Rated PG-13
38. The Muppet Movie (1979) Rated G
From the moment your children hear Kermit singing “The Rainbow Connection” from his log in the swamp, they will be hooked. They will love it when they are 4 years old. They will love it when they are 8 years old. And they will love it even more when they are 12 years old. Trust me on this one.
39. The Addams Family (1991) Rated PG-13
40. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Rated PG-13
41. Big (1988) Rated PG
42. Bend It Like Beckham (2002) Rated PG-13
A teenage coming-of-age comedy that is just pure, bubbly enjoyment! And, as the mother of a little girl who is a budding athlete, I am always excited to find athletic movies with female leads. You go, girls!
43. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) Rated G
44. My Girl (1991) Rated PG-13
Her name is Vada Sultenfuss. That alone makes the movie worth watching. This is a charming movie, but be prepared for the possibility of some tears. And you may have to answer one or two uncomfortable questions about death. Hmmm….sounded much more fun before I started describing it.
45. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Unrated
46. October Sky (1999) Rated PG
The true story of a boy destined for the coal mines who finds his future in the stars. Your kids will love the hilarious scheming of the boys determined to pursue their passion, and you will swoon over the beautifully painful disconnect between a loving father and the son he can’t seem to understand.
47. Nim’s Island (2008) Rated PG
48. The Sandlot (1993) Rated PG
49. School of Rock (2003) Rated PG-13
50. Grease (1978) Rated PG-13