Family movie night is a staple activity in our house. In the summer, we use it when everyone’s had a full day of outside time and we need to settle. Or when we’ve all been running in different directions and need to reconnect.
Lots of people will tell you the secret to a successful family movie night is letting the kids pick the flick, but I disagree. There’s plenty of time for them to watch the movies they choose, like rainy cottage days, long car trips, airport delays or during an impromptu girls night in when someone’s sitter cancels and mommy’s friends descend on the house like a plague of locusts. Family movie night at chez Millard is always mommy’s choice. Not because mommy is a control freak (okay, not entirely because of that) but because it’s my way of sharing important movies they wouldn’t otherwise watch, and memories they wouldn’t otherwise hear. It also ensures we don’t have to sit through Sing! 11 times (and that’s one of the good ones!)
At first, my daughters were not pleased about mommy making the selection. I’m pretty sure they thought I was going to subject them to something silent, or black and white, what with me being 100 years old and everything. But now that they’ve experienced how much more engaged I am when it’s something I’m into, they’re all for it. I’ll admit, I spent much of Kung Fu Panda 3 and Norm of the North on my phone or puttering around the kitchen with one eye on the television going “uh-huh” every time they asked “did you see that, mommy?” My inability to be “present” all the time, and to consistently meet my kids on their level, is one of my greatest flaws as a parent. I’m not good at playing Barbies or faking interest in Minecraft. And I’m terrible at pretending to enjoy bad movies.
Vintage flicks already on repeat include The Pagemaster, Matilda and E.T. (they can barely wait to hear young Elliott call his brother “penis breath” every time).
Recently we watched the Incredible Journey remake called Homeward Bound, followed by the original version of The Parent Trap (NOT the Lindsay Lohan remake) and Clue. The last one was a mistake but they were so into the board game I thought it would work. It didn’t.
My kids are seven and 10 and sometimes we push the envelope – ie. Clue, but now I’ve started making a list of classic and memorable films from my childhood that we can watch together, meaning I’m right beside them and can explain, question, advise and reminisce. My list includes:
- Adventures in Babysitting
- Jumanji (must get to this Robin Williams classic before remake featuring “The Rock” and some babe in a crop top comes out this December)
- Swiss Family Robinson
- The Goonies
- The Princess Bride
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
- Harry and the Hendersons
- Uncle Buck
- The Black Stallion
- Escape to Witch Mountain
- Freaky Friday (also the original)
- Black Beauty
- Mary Poppins (remake with Emily Blunt coming soon!)
- Two Brothers
- Sixteen Candles
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Stand By Me
- Space Camp
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
- The Boy Who Could Fly
- My Girl
- The Sound of Music
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Honourable mention goes to Chariots of Fire because the first time I was to be alone in the house with a boy my dad rented it for us from the video store, because nothing is going to kill the mood between two teenagers like a bunch of dudes in the 1924 Olympics.
People love movies, or I least I love movies, because I love to be scared, inspired, and entertained. Watching an “old” movie can remind us of different, simpler times. Movies can prompt stories and jog memories. For me, sharing something I loved with my girls gives them a window into my past and my own childhood. Maybe it’s because they’re still young (and interested in me), but my kids love hearing old stories. They’re just starting to wrap their heads around the fact that their Grandma is also my mom, or that their uncles are also my brothers. So when I tell them stories about the time Grandma got so mad at me or the time Uncle Paul flushed my stuff down the toilet it’s like their heads are going to explode. They can’t get enough.
Regardless of era, movies can open the door for important conversations, too. As parents, they can give us a jumping off point from which to ask things like “how do you feel about that?” or “what would you have done in that situation?” or “why do you think he made that choice?” We have some of our best family conversations after a movie. Except for Clue.
Using a family movie night to reconnect might seem silly, given that you’re all sitting in front of a screen. But at least it’s the same screen, and if your kids are like mine, a movie won’t stop them from talking, ever. So there’s no danger of them zoning out. And once that warm little body snuggles into you or you feel those feet on your lap and hear those giggles, you’ll get over it.
What are the movies you have shared or can’t wait to share with your kids? Comment below or share your picks with me on Twitter and Instagram at @wineandsmarties.