Watching news reports of a group of idiot teens watching a man drown in a lake not ten minutes from my home and doing nothing, I began to think – those kids didn’t have enough family time. Ostensibly, these children’s parents didn’t have the time, foresight, or opportunity to teach their children to have a moral compass. What’s left is four soulless children on the fast track to the prison industrial complex.
I’m not gonna lie – lassoing your kids up for a family night is difficult. There are so many distractions – video games, YouTube, social media, Pokemon. You need to find a common ground that satisfies their curiosity as well as entertaining you. And that’s hard! If you leave the room, there goes family time.
Today’s kids aren’t as childish as you would hope. As a parent, especially of a tween or teen, you’ll need to be ten times more creative than any other movie buff or stupid parent blogger to keep them in the same room for two hours. Plus, your damn kids prolly saw every new movie out already, so you’ll need to dig back. Way back. I’ll be the first to admit that old movies typically suck – but the ones I’ve recommended below are timeless.
A few caveats. The movie should be funny, but also needs to ultimately teach a moral lesson. If it ain’t funny, it needs to keep moving to keep people interested. I can’t count the times kids left the room 20 minutes in. Have everyone put their phones in a basket and turn them off. They aren’t going to die if they don’t have their phones for a couple hours. And have a family dinner before the movie if you’ve got the time. That’s a nice extended intro to chat about current happenings. You can’t really talk during a movie.
Some have a few sexual references, so make sure you’ve already had that talk. If you’re freaky about that kind of shit, watch them yourselves first.
Also, always opt for the original. Chances are your brats haven’t seen that version on Netflix. Plus, there’s a certain charm in the originals that seems to be lost with today’s directors.
10. Home Alone (1990, Macaulay Culkin)
Home Alone is a 1990 American Christmas comedy film written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus. The film stars Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, a boy who is mistakenly left behind when his family flies to Paris for their Christmas vacation. Kevin initially relishes being home alone, but soon has to contend with two would-be burglars played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. The film also features Catherine O’Hara and John Heard as Kevin’s parents.
Moral lesson: Always have a battle plan for adverse situations.
9. Karate Kid (1984, Ralph Macchio)
The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts drama film produced by Jerry Weintraub, directed by John G. Avildsen, written by Robert Mark Kamen, and stars Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita and Elisabeth Shue. It is an underdog story in the mold of a previous success, the 1976 film Rocky, which Avildsen also directed. The film features the Gōjū-ryū style of karate. The Karate Kid was a commercial success upon release and garnered critical acclaim, earning Morita an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Moral lesson: There’s a specific order of things in Karate just like in nature. It is nature’s progression that allows animals to survive in the wild, and it’s Karate’s progression that would ultimately allow Daniel-san to succeed as a student.
8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, Peter Ostrum)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a 1971 American musical fantasy film directed by Mel Stuart, and starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. It is an adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. David Seltzer, who went uncredited in the film, was brought in to re-work Dahl’s screenplay against his wishes, making major changes to the ending and adding musical numbers. These changes and other decisions made by the director led Dahl to disown the film. Seltzer’s changes were much better than the real story.
Moral lesson: Honesty is the best policy.
7. Wayne’s World (1992, Mike Myers)
Wayne’s World is a 1992 American comedy film directed by Penelope Spheeris, produced by Lorne Michaels and written by Mike Myers and Bonnie and Terry Turner. The film stars Myers as Wayne Campbell and Dana Carvey as Garth Algar. It was adapted from a sketch of the same name on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Wayne’s World follows Wayne Campbell, a young rock ‘n’ roll fan who lives with his parents and has a collection of hairnets and name tags from former jobs in the fast-food industry. However, he and his best friend Garth Algar, also a fan of rock ‘n’ roll, are producing a public-access television show titled Wayne’s World which they are broadcasting from Wayne’s parents’ basement. Everything changes when a studio decides to buy Wayne and Garth’s program in order to improve it. However, the studio slowly begins destroying the show. Wayne attempts to trust in his new girlfriend Cassandra and to save his channel.
Moral lesson: A flawless profile, a perfect body, the right clothes, and a great car can get you far in America, almost to the top, but it can’t get you everything.
5. Joe Dirt (2001, David Spade)
Joe Dirt is a 2001 American adventure comedy film starring David Spade, Dennis Miller, Christopher Walken, Adam Beach, Brian Thompson, Brittany Daniel, Jaime Pressly, Erik Per Sullivan, and Kid Rock. The film was written by Spade and Fred Wolf, and produced by Robert Simonds. The plot concerns a “white trash” young man, Joe Dirt, who at first seems to be a “loser”, a failure, an antihero. As he travels in search of his parents, his fine qualities are increasingly revealed. He ends up with a new “family” of close friends, people he has helped and who respect him. Critical reception was mostly negative, and the film was a modest financial success.
Moral lesson: Home is where you make it.
4. Ghostbusters (1984, Bill Murray)
When Doctors Venkman (Bill Murray), Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Spengler (Harold Ramis) suddenly find themselves downsized from the University’s parapsychology department, they decide to go the entrepreneurial route, chasing down ghosts and apparitions. But they face their greatest challenge when the beautiful Dana Barret (Sigourney Weaver) discovers her refrigerator door leads directly to the gates of hell. Now with the whole world watching, it’s up to the Ghostbusters to keep Manhattan from becoming a madhouse in this hilariously-haunting action-comedy.
Moral lesson: I ain’t afraid of no ghost. Hopefully your kids will no longer be either.
3. Big Daddy (Adam Sandler, 1999)
Immature 32-year-old bachelor slacker Sonny Koufax lives in New York City and refuses to take on adult responsibility. Despite having a law degree, he refuses to take the bar exam, works one day a week as a toll booth attendant and lives off a sizeable legal settlement from a minor accident. His girlfriend, Vanessa, threatens to break up with him unless he grows up. His roommate, Kevin Gerrity, proposes to his podiatrist girlfriend Corinne Maloney before he leaves for China for his law firm, and she accepts. Sonny constantly teases Corinne, especially about her former occupation at Hooters.
Moral lesson: You gotta grow up sometime, but who says you can’t have a little fun along the way?
2. Back to the Future (1985, Michael J. Fox)
Back to the Future is a 1985 American science-fiction adventure comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. It stars Michael J. Fox as teenager Marty McFly, who is sent back in time to 1955, where he meets his future parents in high school and accidentally becomes his mother’s romantic interest. Christopher Lloyd portrays the eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, Marty’s friend who helps him repair the damage to history by helping Marty cause his parents to fall in love. Marty and Doc must also find a way to return Marty to 1985. Bonus: there are two more films – more family time!
Moral lesson: Everything you do has repercussions throughout time.
1. Contact (1997, Jodie Foster)
Contact is a science fiction drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis. It is a film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel of the same name; Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan wrote the story outline for the film. Jodie Foster portrays the film’s protagonist, Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, a SETI scientist who finds strong evidence of extraterrestrial life and is chosen to make first contact. The film also stars Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner, John Hurt, Angela Bassett, Jake Busey, and David Morse.
Moral lesson: We’re all in this thing together.