Vintage Movie Night With The Kids
A few months ago I made the mistake of watching Frozen. It was dull and long and did nothing for me except get “Doooo you want to build a snowman?” stuck in my head. It’s one of the most popular children’s movies in the world, and a lot of people think I’m crazy. But it got me thinking about old movies I watched and loved as a kid and found that, decades later, they’re still excellent. No smartphones, no special effects, no chart-topping hit songs. Just smart writing, wild imagination and good characters.
So if Frozen leaves you cold, too, introduce your kids to these films on your next family movie night. They’re enjoyable for both kids and parents. And as a bonus — you won’t have to hear “Let It Go” for the millionth time.
National Velvet (1944)
This black and white movie about a girl and her beloved horse is a peek into a world when women weren’t allowed to compete simply because they were women. The world of sport has come a long way for women since then: Tennis player Serena Williams and pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva are proof that women in sport are just as inspirational – and accomplished – as their male counterparts. National Velvet is an introduction to the fight Williams, Isinbayeva and many before them have had to make over the years. But mostly, it’s just a good film. National Velvet was made when there were no fancy special effects to distract you in case the movie wasn’t any good. This film is about simple storytelling and compelling actors – legends Mickey Rooney, Angela Lansbury, and a 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor.
Suitable for: kids age 8 and older
The Sound of Music (1965)
Multiple generations have grown up with this movie about family, love, and war. We sang with Julie Andrews about lonely goatherds, brown paper packages (tied up with string), and climbing mountains, and we worried when the Von Trapp family was in danger. The Sound of Music is the ultimate musical, family movie, and love story rolled into one. It’s loosely based on true events, so it’s not entirely historically accurate. But its themes of love of family and love of country against a backdrop of war is sadly still relevant in today’s global tumult. Ultimately, it’s a story about overcoming adversity as a family, and you can discuss present world events or even petty family strife with kids using this historical frame.
Suitable for: kids age 6 and older
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Before there were Minions, there were Oompa Loompas. They’re a wee bit scary (what else can you expect from Roald Dahl?), but not enough to frighten kids away from this magical factory that boasts a chocolate river. The lessons in this movie are obvious, but they’re lessons that kids need to know: Honesty, patience and humility are all good traits for kids to learn early on, and the children’s different personalities (and fates) communicate these lessons clearly. But fair warning: Steer clear of the 2005 remake starring Johnny Depp. His portrayal of Willy Wonka is far scarier than Gene Wilder’s in the original and will probably keep the kids (and you) awake at night.
Suitable for: kids age 8 and older
The Karate Kid (1984)
If you’re going to date the ex-girlfriend of a macho, jealous, karate-practising jerk, you’d better know how to defend yourself. If you don’t know, you’d better learn – even if that means painting your teacher’s house, waxing his car, and sanding his wood floors. The Karate Kid is an inspiring coming-of-age movie about overcoming bullies and finding inner strength. It’s more pertinent today than ever, when bullying, no longer confined to the four walls of school, has become more prevalent and insidious thanks to social media and internet anonymity. There is a 2010 remake starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, but I prefer the original. It’s exciting, entertaining and, most of all, timeless; believing in yourself never goes out of style.
Suitable for: kids age 10 and older
Adventures In Babysitting (1987)
What could possibly go wrong when a teenage babysitter and the kids in her charge leave the cosy suburbs for the big city? There are no cell phones for Chris to use to call for help when a group of criminals chases them, and no Uber to hail when a bullet goes through her car’s windshield. Chris has to think on her feet to get everyone back home before the kids’ parents. Adventures In Babysitting is a fun and suspense-filled movie; it’s the Goldilocks of kid’s movies — not too young, and not too mature. No one comes to any real harm, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except for a couple of PG scenes involving a magazine pin-up and a college party, the movie is clean, innocent fun that will entertain kids at every step.
Suitable for: kids age 9 and older
Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1989)
Lego blocks that double as shelter for the night. A cookie large enough to feed four ravenous kids. Single drops of water big enough to drench you. Those are just some of the things a group of kids has to face when they’re shrunk to the size of ants. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is clever, inventive and full of twists and turns. There are no cell phones the kids can use to reach their inventor father, who can rescue them, so they have to be resourceful. They work as a team to escape scorpions and lawnmowers in their adventure to safely cross the backyard. Kids will love this movie that takes everyday items and turns them into whimsical dangers, and may give them some ideas on how to survive without technology to solve their problems.
Suitable for: kids age 5 and older