It seems harder and harder to find actual fun, kid-friendly movies for kids these days. If you’ve been frustrated by what passes for “kids” movies lately, with their emphasis on death, violence and or scary content that has your kid hiding their eyes and/or crying, you’re not alone.
What happened to the real, fun family movies for kids?
Where are the kind of movies for children that make you and your child laugh and leave you feeling good? We have a few.
Why kids movies in a wellness column? Wellness is not just about physical health. It is about emotional well-being as well. Mind, body, spirit. Movies are a fundamental part of children and pop culture. Good movies inspire wellness.
Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2, non-kid movies marketed for kids
I didn’t mind Big Hero 6, for kids 13 and up. I object to its being sold as a fuzzy, funny, feel good action comedy. It was way darker and more depressing than their advertising. It’s like marketing The Hunger Games as really about kids on a camping trip.
FOR EXAMPLE: (Spoiler alert) In Big Hero 6, as with nearly all Disney movies, the parents are dead, this time before the flick starts. Then, the older brother of the 14 year old lead character dies in a horrible building explosion.
Next, the cute and cuddly balloon-like robot the older brother invented (the sweet thing in all the ads), the thing that is now best friend and protector and who repeatedly saves the 14 year old’s life; well, he dies too, onscreen. Hooray, let’s have more popcorn.
Has the Ratings Board Lost Its Mind? (More Ranting Alert)
Who rated Big Hero 6 PG? Dear Ratings Board. Do you have actual children, or are they android kids like Haley Joel Osment in A.I.?
Or are you simply being pressured by the movie studios to slap a more financially amenable PG rating on these types of films instead of the slightly less profitable PG-13?
I Made Up My Own Modern Day Kids Movie. The Joy of Wonder
Based on what I’ve seen lately, I’ve created a new animated kids film. It’s called The Joy of Wonder and it will be marketed as “a bold adventure beyond imagination to a place where wonder lives!”
The movie opens in a post-apocalyptic city where people have resorted to cannibalism. 14-year old Angus, a sensitive rebel with a heart and his scrappy beloved pet Rex, a cute marshmallow-like creature with too big wings who was created in Angus’s dad’s lab, are eating the remains of their entire family.
As Angus finishes chewing his father’s hand, he notices a microchip stuck in the palm. He plugs it into his computer and we discover Angus’s dad did some kind of secret experiments that might have caused the apocalypse. We also see happy video of Angus’s mother cooking in the kitchen and singing show tunes.
Just then, Jenefa, the tough yet inappropriately good-looking, vaguely Asian classmate who Angus secretly pines for, walks slowly past carrying in her arms the corpse of her 4-year old sister.
Angus sees Jenefa and humorously tosses his dad’s hand away, so she doesn’t see he’s now a cannibal. Rex however, humorously retrieves the hand and gnaws on it in front of Jenefa. Red-faced Angus tosses it again. Repeat 2 more times for comic effect.
Angus and Jenefa talk about how there is supposed to be a mythical place called Wondra where only young people live, that has escaped the carnage. Angus does not believe it until Jenefa’s dead sister coughs and speaks her final words: “Wondra. It’s real.”
And so Angus determines to find Wondra. With the help of Rex and Jenefa, who mostly scolds and is attracted to him, and some other young kids; a muscular blond haired jock, an effete intellectual African-American who discovers an important clue but is then devoured by ravenous wolves, and another girl who is nerdy, but oh so pretty.
There is also a bad guy with a foreign accent, who we first thought was a good guy. He chases them relentlessly, until the big final showdown where he transforms into a hideous monster and horribly disfigures the blond haired guy. The villain is eventually defeated and arrested, but not before the kids all gnaw his arm off.
The children finally find the lost city of Wondra, but it is a ruin. They then realize “Wondra” is really a place within themselves, if they just believe.
And so Angus, increasingly tousle haired, decides to lead a new society based on hip-hop dancing and making toys with adults as slaves and food. He is assisted by Rex and Jenefa who help him with his outfits. The three live fulfilling lives in New Wondra.
The movie is rated G.
A Better Way: List of Best Kids Movies That Are Actually For Kids
Let’s not curse the dark. Let’s put on a light.
Here then, is a list of great actual kid-friendly movies where you don’t have to worry too much about your kid being traumatized or depressed. Happy movies, with maybe something good to say, too. Depression and sadness? Real life will take care of that, thank you very much.
Some of these are older, but good is good. Naturally these are subjective and each of them may contain something scary or unpleasant, but the overall feel of each movie in the opinion of several, is one of joy.
A list of actually family friendly movies for children 5 – 10, in no particular order (Thanks to all my friends on Facebook for pitching in and suggesting titles):
My Neighbor Totoro – Great fun Miyazaki anime. Imaginative, strong female lead, adventure and heart.
Toy Story – Friends working together, overall triumphant tone and funny.
Ratatouille – Despite some scary chase sequences, the rat is so lovable and plucky, the overall feel is one of triumph (7 and up)
Winne the Pooh – How can you not like Winnie and Tigger? But maybe a bit too slow for even slow children.
The Muppet Movie (1979 Original) – One or two sequences involving frog legs, but the overall feel is so joyous and fun (6 and up).
Nanny McPhee – a kind of naughty Mary Poppins. But still done with humor and glee. (7 and up)
Dolphin Tale – Some trauma to dolphins etc. but triumph is what most will remember (7 and up)
Kiki’s Delivery Service – Good strong female characters with magic and wonder.
The Adventures of Ociee Nash – Strong female lead, plucky, triumphant.
The Secret World of Arietty – Magical, imaginative, thoughtful (gasp!).
Mary Poppins – I dare you not to like this (for 7 and up for all the talking in between songs)
Dr. Doolittle (Original) – Charming, fun, classic about the animal doc. (7 and up)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Despite the child catcher, the overall tone is wonder and magic (6 and up)
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Original with Gene Wilder) – The scene in the tunnel is scary, and Wonka is not always sweet, but a classic, classic about “pure imagination” and determination. (6 and up)
The Court Jester – Danny Kaye at his best (the flagon with the dragon has the brew that is true). I’ll put this at age 10 and up for the fight scenes, slow lovey dovey song and the poisonings, but overall fun and funny.
The Red Balloon – Beautiful, 34 minute short film, no dialogue, about heart, guts and determination.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – 15 minute short about the power of story, creativity and imagination.