What’s New and Streaming for Families This September

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Black panther

We’ve enjoyed Labor Day, National Cheese Pizza Day, National Teddy Bear Day. Man, September is zipping past us at the speed of that last, fleeting summer vacation day. And we still haven’t talked about what’s on the streaming services that might be fit for your families. So let’s get to it already.

There are, once again, some fun, family-friendly gems on Netflix this month. In fact, I see so many that I might just limit my list to a report about them. Let’s start with the big dog, er, that is, the big cat in the batch.

Black Panther (PG-13, 2018): 2018 has been a pretty huge year for superhero movies. And none of them hit the scene larger than Black Panther—the story of the hidden-away African nation of Wakanda and its superhero protector. This one had almost everybody clawing for a bucket of popcorn and a comfy theater seat. Plugged In’s Paul Asay purred out this commentary: “Black Panther isn’t necessarily better than some of the other standout superhero movies that have come before it. And … it has its share of problems—whether it’s the film’s occasionally intense violence, it’s occasional profanity or its often hinky spirituality. Still, Black Panther has a good heart, and it gives us a real hero—strong and honorable and, when possible, even filled with grace.”

Speaking of grace and a dash of hinky spirituality, there’s another popular family film on Netflix this month that you might want to see and talk through with your young clan.

Bruce Almighty (PG-13, 2003): This Jim Carrey-starring hit tells the story of an average Joe—er, Bruce, who gets so fed up with his less-than-satisfactory life that he can’t help but voice his complaints to God Himself. In fact, Bruce is pretty sure that he could fill the job of Almighty much better if he ever got the chance. So God gives him a chance to grab the celestial reins. Now admittedly, this comedy does have its issues in the form of coarse jokes and some light sexual allusions. And some folks may take issue with how God is presented here. But in the midst of those few bumpy trails, there are a number of cinematic road signs that can direct kids to spiritual points well worth driving home—especially with your parental hand on the wheel.

If you don’t want to worry over any of those important issues, though, you can always dig down to something much smaller and kid-focused.

The Ant Bully (PG, 2006): Ten-year-old Lucas expresses his youthful frustrations by terrorizing a large anthill in his yard. He stomps; he kicks the mound; he yells angrily about how small and stupid the ants are. So the ants figure out a magical way to shrink Lucas down to their size and help him learn that picking on someone smaller than you is a terrible thing to do. He picks up some other little lessons, about teamwork and community, along the way, too.

Or how about grabbing the family and swinging with a bug of a different type? (Ok, it’s technically an arachnid. Picky, picky.)

Spider-Man 3 (PG-13, 2007): Four years after being bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining wall-crawling powers, things are looking up for Peter Parker. He and Mary Jane are in love, he’s excelling in his college studies, and crowds are cheering the web-slinging Spider-Man while he’s being handed the keys to the city. But Peter can’t lay back on his laurel-filled web. Dark forces (including the Goblin, Venom and the Sandman) want to squash this hero beneath their feet. There are definitely lots of spiritual overtones and solid lessons in this super’s tale. But keep in mind that this movie sports brain-bruising battles, sharp-toothed-and-screeching monster attacks, and requisite Mary Jane-dangling-from-a-precipice moments all mashed together in this cinematic spider costume, too.

OK, so I can’t just give you Netflix stuff. Let me toss you a family-friendly bone from Hulu, too. Here’s another film that mixes a compelling story with themes of faith:

The Miracle Season (PG, 2018): Based on the inspiring true story of the West High School girls’ volleyball team. After the tragic loss of a star player in an accident, the remaining teammates have to wrestle with their grief and figure out what’s of value to them, both individually and as a team. Paul Asay said this about this thoughtful sports pic: “It’s a rare film that I don’t feel iffy about recommending … but I feel like I can recommend this one with little reservation. While it’s not perfect, either aesthetically or from a content perspective, The Miracle Season keeps its nose pretty clean and its story pretty compelling. And while I wouldn’t want to tell you whether to see it, I’m glad that I did.”

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 3 days ago
In my opinion a secular religious movie is a movie not billed directly as a Christian film but still has tons of religious content in it. Bruce Almighty is a fine example of this, as are other movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Noah, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.
Anonymous 6 days ago
Sausage Party, Friends with Benefits, even The Notebook are all more explicit than Bruce Almighty in my opinion. And Saved, The Da Vinci Code, and O Brother Where Art Thou are way more sacrilegious than Bruce is too. Bruce Almighty is funny, sweet, thought-provoking, and when it comes to God very respectful even reverent at times. I just don't understand how anyone could bash such a good spiritually sound movie as Bruce Almighty.
Anonymous 9 days ago
Good recommendations except for Bruce Almighty... in my opinion, rather sacrilegious. I'm capable of enjoying light religious riffing just like the next guy, but there's so much about how this movie treats God and religion that just rubs me the wrong way. Also, "light" sexual content? I seem to recall a rather lengthy scene that would be VERY uncomfortable for most families to sit through.

-Posted by Chuck
Anonymous 8 days ago
Bruce Almighty is one of the best secular religious movies I've ever seen, right up there with Pan's Labyrinth. It's sequel Evan Almighty was pretty fun too, though not quite as good as Bruce was.
Anonymous 8 days ago
No comment on the points I offered or does discernment just not that big of an issue for you?

-Posted by Chuck
Anonymous 7 days ago
Chuck, both your statement and Anonymous' can be true at the same time. Bruce Almighty can be a great secular religious movie, AND it could have a scene that would be very uncomfortable for most families to sit through.

-- The Kenosha Kid
Anonymous 5 days ago
I disagree on a few things - That there's such a thing as a "secular religious movie" and your implication that Bruce Almighty belongs on this list.

The list PI posted is specifically meant to recommend movies for FAMILIES to stream. Even you admit that BM has an inappropriate scene that most families with young kids would squirm through, if not fastforward altogether. So how can you argue it belongs on this list?

-Posted by Chuck
Anonymous 4 days ago
@Chuck
There is a disclaimer right after the brief review that says
"If you don’t want to worry over any of those important issues, though, you can always dig down to something much smaller and kid-focused." 
And they also said that there was content that might make many families uncomfortable. 
Now to be clear, Bruce Almighty isn't something that i would personally watch, but you have to keep in mind that not all families are the same, and that families can have children with different ages. So what one family would not consider appropriate for them, or their little ones, another family might not have a problem with. 

Ps: @Anonymous
Pan's Labyrinth is one of the greatest films of all time, in my opinion!  
-Davidiswise The Clown