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



Evan Almighty

How to Train Your Dragon

Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl


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


Soul Surfer

That Thing You Do

To Save a Life

The Ultimate Gift


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.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ummmmm.... how can Nativity Story not be on any of your lists? It has a littttle violence, but I think it is the most accurate portrayal of the story that I have ever seen. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Siera:

Courageous is a great, uplifting movie. But that doesn't make Soul Surfer or To Save a Life bad. True, all of the bikini wearing on Soul Surfer will hopefully make people wince, but there is a deep story underneath. And, I have news for you, stuff like premarital sex, as devastating, sinful, shameful, and tragic as it is, does indeed go on in our culture. It is not okay, and in truth, the filmakers of To Save a Life never implied that it is. And hopefully, To Save a Life will make teens -and adults- ruminate on some of the hard facts of life, and think about whether or not they'll go with the flow of culture or stand up for Christ. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion, and it is great to see that believers are being careful about what they watch. God bless.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  The Reviewer:

It's interesting how a lot of people have posted about Soul Surfer. I really wanted to see this movie after PluggedIn had gushed about it on the podcast and in the review. And since I used to love movies and TV shows about extreme sports, I thought it was something I would really enjoy. I am actually really glad I borrowed from a friend before I bought it because it was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I didn't have a problem with any of the content (because there really wasn't any negative content), but it was just so poorly made and really weird. The mood/ tone was distant at best and cold or unemotional at worst. Some of the camera work and angles seemed unprofessional. The way the movie handled the loss of her limb, just didn't allow for the audience (me) to connect and comprehend. I would not recommend it at all, ever.

As for the rest of the list, there are some that I like, some that I don't like, and some I haven't seen. Up, Dolphin Tale, and Because of Winn Dixie are three of my favorite movies. I don't like Secretariat because it is really boring; and I usually like movies based on a true story such as The Rookie or etc. I also really don't like The Boy in the Striped PJ's because it is just really depressing for no apparent reason--it's not even based on a true story. Also, I hate the Holocaust. It was terrible, but we get it already. Also, I don't see it making my family freindly list either. It's dark and talk about adult themes... Up is about every day natural death and grief; meanwhile, The Boy in the Striped PJ's implies (for most of the movie) and is about a time when millions were being systematically murdered. There is kind of a difference.

And another movie that doesn't really get much credit that I enjoy is The Ultimate Gift. I got it in a three DVD pack with Amazing Grace (another good movie) and One Night with the King (another poorly made movie). But I just really love the sacrastic humor and kind of self-awareness of The Ultimate Gift. I told my brother, who makes fun of my media discernment habit, that watching the movie makes me feel like a rebel because of the minimal amount of cursing, Jason's "bad" behavior (for example, smoking and speeding on his motorcycle), and the self-aware tone that I mentioned.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Marc H:

Great post.  I've never seen the blog section before (or slowed down to visit it).  Kudos to you to put a list out there despite what some people may think.  There are a few on here that have been on my list for some time.  Time to get to it!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Bob:

Just saying, its a lot milder than taking your family to the beach. The "eye patch" swimsuits they were joking about is something that is one of the more worn clothing. And its messages were much deeper. Unless you watch it with that intended purpose, your not going to be lusting.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Lisbeth:

Soul Surfer's not about girls in two-piece swimsuits.  It's about a surfer girl's amazing comeback after losing one of the most vital body parts surfing requires: an arm.  Her struggle to become the champion she once was, minus one arm.  Bethany Hamilton's still doing professional surfing today.  Heck, she did a lot of the surfing stunts that AnnaSophia Robb couldn't do for the movie.  For me, "half-naked" means either only from the waist up or only from the waist down is covered.  When you're in a swim suit, one-piece or two-piece, you're not "half-naked" because the crucial staff is covered. 

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  ben:

My wife and I really enjoyed watching Milo and Otis with our kids (under 5). We enjoyed it too.

There's lots of good older movies too, but I'll have to write down your list and see what we can watch on Netflix later...

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  JMC:

That's what I was thinking....

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Harka:

I really, really appreciate you making a list - and giving the info about the movie nights list.  I frequently wish Plugged In had a list with the ratings, because sometimes I don't want to read through reviews. I have learned to skip down to the conclusion of the review if I'm not willing to read the whole thing.  But I also appreciate the reviews.  They are thorough and extremely helpful. And I love your title - but doesn't that mean Sound of Music should have been on the list too? 

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Bob:

The thing is, death isn't holding what weight it used to have. Frequently kids T.V. shows poke fun at it (like iCarly, not Sesame Street). Come to think of it, when I was little, I read a book about Big Bird dealing with someone dying! The themes hit harder because they're deeper. And would you really rank them as adult? Maybe at complete and utter ridculous worst, but adult?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  James:

I remember having the same feelings about Up when I saw the trailer. "An old man with a balloon house?" "There kidding, right?".Then I took the kids and it blew me away. It's the best animated film of all time in my books.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  David:

I havent seen all of these but there are some strange choices: I am about 50, and not a particularly timid person, but was unable to watch the harrowing end of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas -- this would give a kid nightmares for years I'd guess.  Some of these other movies have bad language and depict gangs and drugs.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  JakeP:

i just like movies that actually bring about the whole Gospel more. like "Courageous"

every man needs to repent and put their trust in the finished work of Christ!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Jeff:

Sounds like you went into those movies expecting to be offended, no offense.

Soul Surfer takes place on a, where else, a beach. Yes, they show girls in swimsuits, but it goes with the territory. And not everyone who sees it is going to "lust after half-naked women."

To Save a Life shows the life of one guy before he finds God. I'd actually have to give them credit for daring to take on some of the harder issues people do really face. I don't think they applauded premartial sex, but people do live that kind of life without God. And let me ask you, would you rather have them give a nod to the abortion crowd? Premartial sex is wrong, yes, but is it right to do something else wrong?

I hate to say it, but this is a textbook definition of why people are afraid to say anything among their fellow brothers and sisters.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Lisbeth:

My favorite movie of all the ones on your list is "How to Train Your Dragon".  With my family, it was a last-minute decision to see the movie.  I wanted to see it because I heard that it was getting good reviews and it looked like it was a good movie.  My sister was somewhat interested and my mother had never heard of the movie.  My mother initially thought that it would not be a good movie, judging from how packed the theater was with small children and because DreamWorks has given us some duds in the past.  We were all floored by how good it was.  I really like movies where you feel an emotional connection to the main character and "How to Train Your Dragon" provided me with that kind of experience. 

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  JakeP:

soul surfer??? for those who want to lust after half naked women!!to save a life??? i got the impression that sex before marraige is okay, as long as you dont abort the baby!!


Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Jay B.:

My wife and I try not to go a few months without watching That Thing You Do. It is so classic. My kids could care less about it, so I have no comment on how it effects them.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Stephanie:

I'm guessing you've never watched it, or watched it very closely.  For a G-rated film, like Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, it has some serious stuff in it.  Death in a film-made-for-children is something very few movies deal with, I think.  But the producers of Up did it in such a way that was uplifting (no pun intended).  I recommend you watch it again and pay close attention to the themes.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kate:

I think most Christians were more offended by Bruce Almighty than Evan Almighty; but i agree that the latter was better and funnier. I saw One Night with the King on Hulu and my church screened The Ultimate Gift at a movie night event. It's always risky to talk about mainstream movies with other christians, you're almost guaranteed to get judgmental looks.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Bob:

Up has adult themes? Really?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Jeff:

Believe it or not, I'm glad Evan Almighty made the list. I went to see it and I actually liked it. I didn't see anything really offensive about it. But on every Christian review site I went to, this one not included, all people could talk about was how offensive and even blasphemous the movie was. Now, I respect people's convictions, but most people seemed to be spouting off just to show how self-righteous they were. I also admit that the movie wasn't perfect, but let me just address some of the issues that was mentioned.

God is not depicted as breaking His promise never to flood the world again. I can't say much more without spoiling it, but it's not His direct doing.

Another issue people had was just the fact that they were portraying God. I didn't think it was done in an offensive way. Besides, if God wanted to appear as a man, don't you think He could? I mean He already did when Jesus was born, but I hope you know what I mean.

One positive thing I'd say the movie had was a good look a prayer. Like the movie says, if someone prays for patience, do you think God will just give it to them or would He give them opportunities to be patient? Quite a bit of food for thought I'd say.

But in any case, I'm glad to see it not getting blasted by someone. I also think that it's a little sad that we have to walk on eggshells among fellow Christians concerning our likes and dislikes.

One other movie that I think always had some good messages is Kung Fu Panda; both of them even. Now, I know they didn't make this list, and I'll probably get some controversy over it, but I really think there are some good nuggets in there.

Anyway, that's enough from me, and may God truly bless your efforts here at Plugged In.