A Few of My Favorite Things

Plugged In regularly receives letters and emails requesting lists of films we recommend. It sounds like a simple request and an easy one to fulfill. But it isn’t quite as cut and dried and it might seem.

Why? Well, first of all, I’ve been working in this department for the better part of 19 years, and if I’ve noticed anything at all it’s that well-meaning believers are all over the map when it comes to entertainment in general, and movies specifically. We work very hard to not be a stumbling block to even one person. But it’s hard to do. Sometimes it appears we unwillingly disappoint the very people we are trying to serve, and we shake our heads in disbelief.

For instance, one of my very favorite films of all times is the Pixar film Up. Before the film released and I had merely seen the trailer, I said to myself, “Self, Pixar missed the mark on this one! How can a film about an elderly man whose house sails away under balloon power be of interest to anyone?!” Little did I know at the time that the film would pull out every emotion in me, and a boatload of tears. More importantly, it would remind me to value every moment, not just the big memory makers.

Even though we never tell people to go to a film or not go, there was no doubt by our review that we felt pretty good about this one. And yet I can recall an email we received that went something like this: “I read your review of Up. I took my seven-year-old. The themes in this movie were way too adult, and I feel you really have let me and my child down by not citing a warning in your review.” Meanwhile, thousands of others read the same review and made a decision to buy a ticket. They shared similar stories to mine—they felt the film’s values undergirded their own.

So, by now, I think you get my point: We hesitate to offer the “Plugged In List of Family-Friendly Movies” because we know that somebody, somewhere, will feel we let them down. That said, I regularly have friends and acquaintances ask me about flicks I personally like. (It’s similar to a physician being approached with a “Hey, doc, I got this pain in my arm and was wondering …”) So, even though I know that this list will not be without some controversy, I’m going to be brave and jot down a few titles of films that I’ve found encouraging and inspiring. Instead of Plugged In’s list, let’s call this “Bob Waliszewski’s List of Family-Friendly Movies!” And please note that, as with all films, age-appropriateness comes into play. Plus, there’s the fact that I’ve yet to see a perfect film. And as always, please be sure to check out our longer web reviews for all the details.

African Cats

Akeelah and the Bee

Because of Wynn-Dixie

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Charlotte’s Web

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Courageous

DolphinTale

Evan Almighty

How to Train Your Dragon

Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl

Luther

March of the Penguins

The Mighty Macs

Miss Potter

Nancy Drew

Nim’s Island

One Night With the King

Prince of Egypt

Rocky Balboa

The Queen

Sarah’s Choice

Secretariat

Soul Surfer

That Thing You Do

To Save a Life

The Ultimate Gift

Up

War Horse

What If…

I hope many of you find this list helpful. By the way, if you haven’t already done so, another “recommended” list of sorts is available by going to our “Movie Nights” area. There you’ll find study guides of sorts for movies that target teens and younger kids. Just the fact we’ve taken the time to write questions and discussion points for the films there (more than 80 online at this point) means they are movies with at least “potential.” Lastly, when I record the radio features that currently air on nearly 700 stations across the country, listen for the rating I give at the end. When it’s a 4 out of 5 or better, that’s another clue the film may have potential for viewing for you and your family.

I know this list won’t please everyone. And, as I said, it’s for that reason I’ve hesitated to publish it. But if you’re hungry for a few family-friendly titles, maybe some of them unknown to you until now, I decided it was finally time.

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

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