Thoughts on movies and children

The small handful of you who read the crap I put up here know that I have two children.   Mostly I talk about my son, but only because he's old enough to interact with in ways that are worth discussing.   While my daughter is just as cute, her interactions are still at the toddler level and although her mom and I are enthralled by what she does, it doesn't make for good writing except to other toddler-parents.   
 
But a 7 year old boy gives you lots to say on a site about video games.   
  
 
Like most seven year old boys, my son is a big Star Wars fan.  Unlike most seven year old boys, he has a father that is an even bigger fan, so we get to enjoy our fandom together.   We watch The Clone Wars together every Saturday morning (I DVR it on Fridays and make him wait), and we talk often of different aspects of the Lucas-universe.  So far this is good father/son nerd fodder, but as he gets older I find myself thinking about his tutelage in film.  This year we've started watching Sunday Night Football together, and it's really motivated me to expand what he's exposed to on TV.   Of course, things went horribly wrong when I tried to raise him right in video games, but film is different, right?  


So, my fellow Giant Bomb community members, both with and without children, let's talk a bit about what to show kids (and what not to).

The Setup


The rules are simple - no R rated films, and PG-13 movies must be heavily scrutinized.   No sex, no strong adult themes, and violence should be kept to a minimum -- especially gun violence.  Oh yeah, and here's the kicker:   I want to show him film series, so trilogies (or longer) only.   He's already seen TRON, and all the Pixar films, and Dark Crystal, and Labryinth, etc, etc.   My goal is to introduce him to cinematic institutions that have stood the test of time (or are likely to).


Indiana Jones

 
 My hero, and yours.

If there's anything I like more than Star Wars, it's probably Indiana Jones.   The first three films are a right of passage for boys and girls of a certain age, and my son already has some knowledge of the mythos because of Lego Indiana Jones and the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.   These days it seems as if boys aren't getting straight forward Adventure Stories anymore, and if you know the history of the creation of Indiana Jones, that was pretty much the exact problem Lucas and Spielberg where trying to resolve when they started the series.   There's fist fights, car chases, exciting (and real) stunts, exotic locations, SNAKES, paranormal mysticism and some well done gross-outs (melting faces, ripped out hearts, etc).  

Pros:  Boys need adventure and exploration, and nothing beats Indy in this regard.   There's little to no sex ("No time for love, Dr. Jones!"), and the good/bad paradigm is clear-cut and harmless at the same time.    It introduces him to the past, but it's still modern enough to be relevant.

Cons:  Melted faces, still-beating hearts...now that I think about it, I don't think there are any negatives for a 7 year old boy.   This stuff was made for kids, and the kid in all of us.

The Plan:  In release order, no Crystal Skull.  

Back to the Future


 I still remember when 1985 WAS the future.


Another seminal trilogy from bygone days, I just received the 25th Anniversary Blu Ray in the mail yesterday.   This classic adventure is a bit different from what he's used to, but I think there's enough slapstick and excitement to keep him interested.  At this point he has zero point of reference for the trilogy, so this would be going in blind.  Parts two and three might be more exciting for a young boy, but we'll see.  

Pros:  Young protagonist, harmless sexual tension, likable cast and the introduction of time travel and paradoxes. 

Cons:  The introduction of time travel and paradoxes.   Although I try to always give children the benefit of the doubt, at what age can they start to grasp the concept of time travel?   Not just "oh no, he went back to when there were dinosaurs!", but one where you can change the future and watch the effects ripple through time?   I could use some help from GB on this one.

The Plan:  Talk about time travel first, ask him when he would like to go back to if he had a DeLorean.   Throw a few hypotheticals his way (what if you could go back and change something you didn't like?) and give film number 1 a shot.   Try not to be disappointed if it doesn't' grab him.   After all, I was 9 when it was released and I saw it in the theater.

Lord of the Rings


 The other Walternate.   Yes, I made a Fringe reference.


The modern day trilogy to end all trilogies, LOTR is a spectacle like no other.   Although statistically likely to be surpassed in his mind by something else at some point in his life, it's the current top as far as I'm concerned.   Sex is non-existent,  violence is rampant (but not gratuitous) and the story is perfect for a young boy.   It has adventure, war, comedy, magic, monsters and Gandalf.  Did I mention it has Gandalf?  

Pros:  Likely to inspire an interest in the fantasy genre, much like it has for everyone else these past 50 years.   Infinitely re-watchable, almost 12 hours of content for the extended editions, highly likely to lead to expanded reading options.  Great opportunities for discussion of larger themes (corruption of Boromir being one of the first I could talk to him about).

Cons:  Very violent, though in an abstract way. 

The Plan:  Dive in.  Then plan on reading The Hobbit together next year to learn more about how things started and prepare him for a theatrical showing of that movie.


Pirates of the Caribbean


 My photoshop skills aren't good enough to remove Legolas from this image.


I might get crap for this, but the Pirates trilogy is fantastically good, even through the end.   Personally, I don't think it went wrong at any point, and I felt like the first movie was actually the weakest.  My son has a lot of exposure to this world, as Jack Sparrow is a pop culture icon, and we've been to Disneyland A LOT.  


Pros:  Pirates!   Swordfights, slapstick, and very likable characters.   

Cons:  No real moral to the story, and maybe even an anti-moral (likable thieves and all).   Undead might be a bit off-putting for a child, and Davy Jones is pretty creepy.  

The Plan:  Do I need a plan for this?   I think 7 is a great age for this kind of film, and it's mostly sexless.    The classic/romantic portrayal of young love is a great ideal for kids to start with before they become heartbroken, jaded teenagers.

What not to show him

  • Firefly/Serenity - Too adult for a child to watch by far.   This would be something saved for mid-late teen years.
  • Harry Potter - he will have to read the books first.   I will not waiver on this. 
  • Chronicles of Narnia - see above.    I will not waiver on this.
  • Star Trek - I've thought about this, but I'm not sure it's something I'll sit with him and try to expose him to.   One day he will probably just stop playing and watch it with me when I happen to put it on.
  • Jurassic Park - there are three, but I don't consider it a trilogy.  He'll see part one when he's 10 or 11.
  • Matrix/Terminator/Alien/Die Hard/Man With No Name/Lethal Weapon - too young for this by far
  • X-Men/Spider-man/Superman - to be honest, I'm not sure why I don't care to make a deal of exposing him to these, anyone think I should elevate these?

What am I missing?

You tell me GB people, am I missing a major trilogy that's on par with what I've listed here?   Can you guys think of anything else that I should be thinking of with the films I have listed?  
4 Comments
5 Comments
Posted by dvaeg

The small handful of you who read the crap I put up here know that I have two children.   Mostly I talk about my son, but only because he's old enough to interact with in ways that are worth discussing.   While my daughter is just as cute, her interactions are still at the toddler level and although her mom and I are enthralled by what she does, it doesn't make for good writing except to other toddler-parents.   
 
But a 7 year old boy gives you lots to say on a site about video games.   
  
 
Like most seven year old boys, my son is a big Star Wars fan.  Unlike most seven year old boys, he has a father that is an even bigger fan, so we get to enjoy our fandom together.   We watch The Clone Wars together every Saturday morning (I DVR it on Fridays and make him wait), and we talk often of different aspects of the Lucas-universe.  So far this is good father/son nerd fodder, but as he gets older I find myself thinking about his tutelage in film.  This year we've started watching Sunday Night Football together, and it's really motivated me to expand what he's exposed to on TV.   Of course, things went horribly wrong when I tried to raise him right in video games, but film is different, right?  


So, my fellow Giant Bomb community members, both with and without children, let's talk a bit about what to show kids (and what not to).

The Setup


The rules are simple - no R rated films, and PG-13 movies must be heavily scrutinized.   No sex, no strong adult themes, and violence should be kept to a minimum -- especially gun violence.  Oh yeah, and here's the kicker:   I want to show him film series, so trilogies (or longer) only.   He's already seen TRON, and all the Pixar films, and Dark Crystal, and Labryinth, etc, etc.   My goal is to introduce him to cinematic institutions that have stood the test of time (or are likely to).


Indiana Jones

 
 My hero, and yours.

If there's anything I like more than Star Wars, it's probably Indiana Jones.   The first three films are a right of passage for boys and girls of a certain age, and my son already has some knowledge of the mythos because of Lego Indiana Jones and the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.   These days it seems as if boys aren't getting straight forward Adventure Stories anymore, and if you know the history of the creation of Indiana Jones, that was pretty much the exact problem Lucas and Spielberg where trying to resolve when they started the series.   There's fist fights, car chases, exciting (and real) stunts, exotic locations, SNAKES, paranormal mysticism and some well done gross-outs (melting faces, ripped out hearts, etc).  

Pros:  Boys need adventure and exploration, and nothing beats Indy in this regard.   There's little to no sex ("No time for love, Dr. Jones!"), and the good/bad paradigm is clear-cut and harmless at the same time.    It introduces him to the past, but it's still modern enough to be relevant.

Cons:  Melted faces, still-beating hearts...now that I think about it, I don't think there are any negatives for a 7 year old boy.   This stuff was made for kids, and the kid in all of us.

The Plan:  In release order, no Crystal Skull.  

Back to the Future


 I still remember when 1985 WAS the future.


Another seminal trilogy from bygone days, I just received the 25th Anniversary Blu Ray in the mail yesterday.   This classic adventure is a bit different from what he's used to, but I think there's enough slapstick and excitement to keep him interested.  At this point he has zero point of reference for the trilogy, so this would be going in blind.  Parts two and three might be more exciting for a young boy, but we'll see.  

Pros:  Young protagonist, harmless sexual tension, likable cast and the introduction of time travel and paradoxes. 

Cons:  The introduction of time travel and paradoxes.   Although I try to always give children the benefit of the doubt, at what age can they start to grasp the concept of time travel?   Not just "oh no, he went back to when there were dinosaurs!", but one where you can change the future and watch the effects ripple through time?   I could use some help from GB on this one.

The Plan:  Talk about time travel first, ask him when he would like to go back to if he had a DeLorean.   Throw a few hypotheticals his way (what if you could go back and change something you didn't like?) and give film number 1 a shot.   Try not to be disappointed if it doesn't' grab him.   After all, I was 9 when it was released and I saw it in the theater.

Lord of the Rings


 The other Walternate.   Yes, I made a Fringe reference.


The modern day trilogy to end all trilogies, LOTR is a spectacle like no other.   Although statistically likely to be surpassed in his mind by something else at some point in his life, it's the current top as far as I'm concerned.   Sex is non-existent,  violence is rampant (but not gratuitous) and the story is perfect for a young boy.   It has adventure, war, comedy, magic, monsters and Gandalf.  Did I mention it has Gandalf?  

Pros:  Likely to inspire an interest in the fantasy genre, much like it has for everyone else these past 50 years.   Infinitely re-watchable, almost 12 hours of content for the extended editions, highly likely to lead to expanded reading options.  Great opportunities for discussion of larger themes (corruption of Boromir being one of the first I could talk to him about).

Cons:  Very violent, though in an abstract way. 

The Plan:  Dive in.  Then plan on reading The Hobbit together next year to learn more about how things started and prepare him for a theatrical showing of that movie.


Pirates of the Caribbean


 My photoshop skills aren't good enough to remove Legolas from this image.


I might get crap for this, but the Pirates trilogy is fantastically good, even through the end.   Personally, I don't think it went wrong at any point, and I felt like the first movie was actually the weakest.  My son has a lot of exposure to this world, as Jack Sparrow is a pop culture icon, and we've been to Disneyland A LOT.  


Pros:  Pirates!   Swordfights, slapstick, and very likable characters.   

Cons:  No real moral to the story, and maybe even an anti-moral (likable thieves and all).   Undead might be a bit off-putting for a child, and Davy Jones is pretty creepy.  

The Plan:  Do I need a plan for this?   I think 7 is a great age for this kind of film, and it's mostly sexless.    The classic/romantic portrayal of young love is a great ideal for kids to start with before they become heartbroken, jaded teenagers.

What not to show him

  • Firefly/Serenity - Too adult for a child to watch by far.   This would be something saved for mid-late teen years.
  • Harry Potter - he will have to read the books first.   I will not waiver on this. 
  • Chronicles of Narnia - see above.    I will not waiver on this.
  • Star Trek - I've thought about this, but I'm not sure it's something I'll sit with him and try to expose him to.   One day he will probably just stop playing and watch it with me when I happen to put it on.
  • Jurassic Park - there are three, but I don't consider it a trilogy.  He'll see part one when he's 10 or 11.
  • Matrix/Terminator/Alien/Die Hard/Man With No Name/Lethal Weapon - too young for this by far
  • X-Men/Spider-man/Superman - to be honest, I'm not sure why I don't care to make a deal of exposing him to these, anyone think I should elevate these?

What am I missing?

You tell me GB people, am I missing a major trilogy that's on par with what I've listed here?   Can you guys think of anything else that I should be thinking of with the films I have listed?  
Edited by Jasta

7 years old is fine for Pirate of the Caribbean, I watched it with my 3 cousins (5-11 years old) and they sat through it no bother.

What about the Bill and Ted films? I loved those as a kid, nothing potentially child damaging either.

Posted by PenguinDust

You might want to consider some Jackie Chan.  Most of his films are fairly safe so I wouldn't worry too much about cursing or inappropriate behavior.  There are 3 movies in the "Police Story" trilogy with a 4th that stars Michelle Yeoh from the 3rd (Jackie makes a cameo). 
 
If you don't mind animal movies, there is the classic Benji movies (Benji, For the Love of Benji and Benji the Hunted [Oh Heavenly Dog is another sort of]). 
 
I started watch James Bond movies when I was around 8 with The Spy Who Loved Me.  The Roger Moore movies are good for kids since they lean toward comedy and over-the-top action.  
 
A favorite series of mine as a child and still today is Godzilla.  There are 28 or 29 movies in that franchise.  I doubt a 7 year old will be so observant, but if you are looking for more recent films over the ones from the 50s-70s then start with 1989's Godzilla vs Biollante.  The movies made in the 90's are somewhat linked back-to-back-to-back.  
 
I'm not sure if I'd call it great cinema, but kids seem to like the Honey I Shrunk the Kids movies.  There were 3 plus a TV series now airing on HUB (formerly Discovery Kids).  
 
I'm not sure they hold up over time, but I enjoyed the 3 Bad News Bears movies as a kid and there is a reboot movie on top of those.  I prefer the original to the new one.

Finally, although the other 2 are less worthy of your time, there were 3 The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser...maybe skip those after all.  
 
Oh, and while I wouldn't consider it a trilogy in the sense that most of your films listed above are, the first 3 Muppet movies are great for kids.

Posted by FancySoapsMan

I like watching movies about children

Posted by Burzmali

Ghostbusters. The violence, language, and adult themes are minimal, it has some good eye candy for its time, and you can introduce him to 80s comedy proper. It was my favorite movie when I was 5, and it's still my favorite movie of all time. Granted, there are only 2, and the 2nd one isn't as good, but there's a video game tie-in and I think they're making a 3rd one (?). 
 
You've done well with Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Those were next on my list after Ghostbusters when I was a kid. I know this is about movies, but have you shown him more Jim Henson stuff, like Fraggles and The Storyteller? Those are great for kids, and I still love them as an adult. They're up on Netflix for streaming, I believe. 
 
By the way, I have a 2 year old son, and I'm planning a similar introduction to what you have here.