G-Rated, non-boring movies?
June 6, 2009 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Children's movies with no scary parts that a parent can stand to watch?

My husband and I want to watch movies with our kids, but our six-year-old son has no -- repeat, no -- tolerance for anything at all scary. He couldn't even watch Dora the Explorer until recently, because of Swiper. I've asked for suggestions before for things for him, but now I'm hoping to find family movies that really are for the whole family. He and his three-year-old sister like Blue's Clues and Sesame Street, but those aren't movies we're all going to want to kick back and watch together.

Things we've tried that didn't work out: Bedknobs and Broomsticks, A Night at the Museum, My Neighbor Totoro, Flushed Away, Happy Feet, Wall-E, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Finding Nemo, Space Chimps, March of the Penguins, the preview for Up... you get the idea. They all have scary or tense scenes that he can't handle.

P.S. I'm much less uptight than I was when I asked that previous question. I will settle for shows that are marketed to Hell and back. I just want to watch a movie with my kids, damn it.
posted by The corpse in the library to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know of any fictional stories that don't have conflict - which is usually scary. I would try documentaries. It is not a movie, but my kids liked "How Things are Made" and cooking shows around age 6. You might also check out Mr. Bean - it is hard for me to judge what your son might find scary but mine thought it was very funny.
posted by metahawk at 7:20 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

School of Rock.
posted by Stynxno at 7:23 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

If it helps -- and maybe it won't -- a child can be scared by any number of things that aren't supposed to be scary at all. Clowns are a popular example, but I remember being scared by things as innocuous as the Muppet aliens who went "yip yip yip," and the HBO "Home Box Office Feature Presentation" flying logo.

I loved the Weather Channel as a kid. I'm serious -- it drove my mother nuts. I would second the recommendation about documentaries, and suggest Cosmos -- again, seriously.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:26 PM on June 6, 2009

The Care Bears movie isn't scary but it also is close to intolerable as an adult.
I'd suggest: The Love Bug, Singin' in the Rain, The Parent Trap.
posted by rmless at 7:29 PM on June 6, 2009

You could try him on some Bob the Builder episodes, but they aren't movie length.
posted by rodgerd at 7:30 PM on June 6, 2009

What if you bump it up to PG and get movies with iffy-er content and no scariness. Like, say, School of Rock. They say ass and stupid, but the tension is more will they get caught playing Rock and Roll and will they win the Battle of the Bands, not death, like all the other children's classics. (Why do all the mommies in all the children's movies have to be dead?) Also, Princess Diaries. The conflict is should she be a princess!?! And both of these are pretty watchable. (School of Rock is actually awesome, and my son sat through Princess Diaries at that age even though it's girly.)
posted by artychoke at 7:31 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Aw, Stynxno beat me.
posted by artychoke at 7:33 PM on June 6, 2009

Cave of the Yellow Dog - not a children's movie, but one that my four-year-old finds very enjoyable. I have to keep re-adding it to my Netflix que.

You can read the synopsis at that link above and see if it would work for your son. It is subtitled, so you may have to read it to him the first time through, but it's easy to get the story even without the subtitles. (And, you can make up your own narrative if there's anything objectionable - there are a couple of lines where the father talks about wolves killing sheep, but no wolf/sheep struggles are ever shown.)

It's a simple, gentle story and it's a fascinating peak into how a nomadic Mongolian family lives.

My child enjoys Whale Rider, but there is a tearful scene in there and some beached whales.

Some of the flicks made by Feature Films for Families my be entertaining for your son, but I find them a little preachy. They're not unwatchable, though, and you can even choose the type of "value" you want him to learn.
posted by Ostara at 7:33 PM on June 6, 2009

I loved the Beatles movie "Help" as a little kid. Nothing scary there, as I recall...
posted by brundlefly at 7:34 PM on June 6, 2009

In Help!, IIRC, the bad guys are trying to cut Ringo's finger off to get his ring for their sacrificial virgin to wear, so maybe not.
posted by artychoke at 7:36 PM on June 6, 2009

I am in the same boat: no bad guys, no kids getting separated from their parents. The documentarys can be pretty good, as mentioned above. We have watched a lot about Mars and the rovers, the baby mammoth and anything about dogs.

On rotation now around here are: The muppet show, not the movie (Um, actually it is not nearly as funny as it was when I was 8 but still, give it a try). Pooh, the original. Mary Poppins, Sound of music until the intermission (the Nazis come after the wedding). The original Casper cartoons.
posted by shothotbot at 7:37 PM on June 6, 2009

Just wanted to qualify my earlier recommendation. My family did NOT like the Mr. Bean movie - it is the shorts, which are nearly wordless, that are very funny.
posted by metahawk at 7:39 PM on June 6, 2009

Poltergeist. No, I'm kidding.

Does The Red Balloon have any scary parts that I'm forgetting?

Does he like Sesame Street? I can't remember there being anything scary in Follow That Bird, but it's been many years since I've seen it. And, seconding the The Parent Trap.. there are no creepy villains and it has some nice music that might be fun.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:41 PM on June 6, 2009

I loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but perhaps the child snatcher would be too frightening for your son. I found him funny rather than silly.

For that matter, a lot of the old musicals might work. They're fun and entertaining for adults (if you can stand musicals) and there are lots of colors and dancing and singing for kids. Particular favorites of mine: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Hello Dolly, Singing in the Rain, The Music Man, Carousel, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Brigadoon, Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins. Most of those have conflict but it's not of the scary sort. Maybe the scenarios are too mature for kids to feel fear about them (romantic love and so forth) but I really ate those up when I was a kid.

Also, what about Groucho Marx or I Love Lucy?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:43 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The stepmother to be in The Parent Trap is mean and slaps one of the Hayley Millses. And screams a lot when the bears come in her tent. And is going to send the twins to boarding school and is mean. I am having trouble not ruling everything out. I can't remember anything bad in "Summer Magic", another Hayley Mills one.
posted by artychoke at 7:45 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Somebody in your earlier thread suggested the Curious George movie, which if you haven't seen yet should work out for you. The scariest scene is a very brief bit in which George loses his grip on a bunch of hot air balloons over NYC, and is quickly rescued by the yellow hatted man. It lasts about three seconds. Everything else is very mild and gentle, and is actually fairly enjoyable for adults (the first time through, at least).
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:56 PM on June 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

Someone mentioned Help, but then retracted it -- but that made me think of A Hard Day's Night. I don't think there's anything scary as such -- I think it's mainly only silly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:01 PM on June 6, 2009

Milo and Otis.
posted by ShadePlant at 8:13 PM on June 6, 2009

*The Adventures of Milo and Otis.
posted by ShadePlant at 8:15 PM on June 6, 2009

**Strike that from the record. I recall it being cute and nice but then here's reality.

posted by ShadePlant at 8:18 PM on June 6, 2009

A Hard Day's Night is far far far from silly, but contains nearly zero actual conflict apart from time pressure, so that might just work.

Nthing Cosmos. Seriously. What could be better for a kid? In fact, Nthing the entire "documentary" suggestion. Unless you're getting a modern one like March Of The Penguins, they are usually pretty flat in presentation. Is your son more bothered by actual plot elements, or the manipulative music / lighting / camera work which modern movies have attached to the threatening scenes? If it's more about tone than content, then docs may be the way to go.

Still, what about all those old Garland / Rooney "let's put on a show in our barn" movies? Or for that matter, any of the Andy Hardy films. I know I'm going back a few years with these suggestions, but American cinema has been based on thrills and tension for so long, it's difficult to find anything recent which isn't going to scare your son.

What about non-narrative videos? Like music video compilations, or concert films?
posted by hippybear at 8:28 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was exactly the same way as a child. I couldn't even watch a film in which one character twists her ankle. Milo and Otis is possibly traumatizing - there is a scene in which Milo (I think) is swept away down a river.

However, my mother suggests the Aristocats - even the villains are relatively humorous, though there is a slightly tense car chase scene. Mary Poppins is also a good bet.

(If all else fails, however, you can always keep the fast-forward button close at hand. It was my best friend as a child.)

You might also try (although I know you want movies) singalong videos like Wee Sing or Kidsongs. No scary parts whatsoever!
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 8:33 PM on June 6, 2009

Just going to jump in and mention that the scene in Mary Poppins where the kids get lost in the alley terrified me as a child. Bad idea.
posted by reductiondesign at 8:38 PM on June 6, 2009

He couldn't even watch Dora the Explorer until recently, because of Swiper.

And I bet he's really proud that he's not afraid of Swiper anymore! I don't at all think that you should try to scare your kid for developmental purposes... but when a kid finds Muppets Take Manhattan scary - (I'm guessing because he was creeped out by amnesiac Kermit?) - then he's a kid who'll have a Big Emotional Reaction to any kind of scary / sad / tense content. I think it's wonderful that he's so sensitive, and the fact that he keeps coming back for more movies despite the fact that ALL movies are frightening to him - means he's getting something out of them. Don't you be scared of scary movies - he's doing important emotional work.
One thing that might help is a little coaching - when I was a little kid I was really sentimental and a sad or lonely or disappointed character would have me sobbing. I'm glad my parents didn't turn the movies off - they'd suggest that I might wait and see and that the story wasn't over yet, etc. and I think it's beneficial for kids to see that scary and sad situations aren't permanent - they can be overcome (both inside the narrative, and inside the viewer's head).
posted by moxiedoll at 8:42 PM on June 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

It's animated and only a half hour, but The Cat in the Hat from 1971 is a lot of fun and full of catchy songs.
posted by contrariwise at 8:45 PM on June 6, 2009

Mael Oui, IIRC the Red Balloon gets destroyed by a group of little boys with rocks. Pretty traumatic after you get emotionally attached to it.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:47 PM on June 6, 2009

What about the Garfield and Friends cartoons? The biggest conflict is whether he'll get lasagna.

Follow that Bird features Big Bird being kidnapped, which I think might be scary but I haven't seen it since I was like 5.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:48 PM on June 6, 2009

Mary Poppins.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:51 PM on June 6, 2009

Yeah, Follow That Bird is pretty scary and sad. (He spends most of the movie far away from Sesame Street, crying about how he misses his friends, and the Grown Ups are sad and missing him and at one point he's locked up and painted blue by carnies (!!) who are very mean to him).
posted by moxiedoll at 8:53 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is a funny question for me right now, as I'm currently re-watching one of my favorite childhood movies: The Cat From Outer Space. As an anxious kid with an overactive imagination (I loved the Neverending Story, but always needed to flee to the upstairs bedroom during the Gmork [the wolf creature's] scene -- though I've just wikipedia'd Gmork and he's still pretty damn scary looking). I also had to duck my head into my parent's lap during the dinosaur scenes in the Universe of Energy at Epcot Center. I have a real sense of where your son is coming from.

I absolutely loved live-action Disney comedies of the 60's/70's, though, like The Cat From Outer Space and it's ilk - The Ugly Dachshund comes to mind as well (I had/have a love of animals) -- as does The Parent Trap, The Shaggy Dog, Freaky Friday, Thomasina, etc. I also loved Flight of the Navigator, if I recall correctly. I think it's hard to find a movie with no intensity/tension of any kind, but these are great, lengthy movies that are family-friendly and very different from the movies of today. I'm about 3/4 of the way through the Cat rom Outer Space, and it's certainly a little stale watching it as an adult, but it's still enjoyable beyond the nostalgia I have for it.
posted by atayah at 9:01 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Singin' in the Rain. My daughter loved it ... Musicals are a pretty good bet overall .. We like the Sound of Music and Hairspray in our house.
posted by duckus at 9:12 PM on June 6, 2009

I was scared of/upset by most movies as a child. I watched many of them anyway (Don't Eat the Pictures [Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art] comes to mind -- I can recite every word of it, yet I still wouldn't look at the screen during the scene when the demon questions Sahu until I was in high school! I wasn't particularly scared of Big Bird in China, but my younger brother was.), leaving the room during the upsetting parts, usually. Not too many movies come to mind that I *wasn't* scared of or upset by. For instance, I was *terrified* of the Care Bears movie (mentioned above), the Neverending Story, Follow That Bird (still can't watch that one: Big Bird is *SAD*!). I love Disney movies, but most of them scared me or upset me before about 6th grade.

In fact, I am unable to think of a single movie I really liked as a child that *didn't* scare me. Winnie the Pooh wasn't too bad, but the Heffalumps and Woozles were frightening (I did really love the illustrated Pooh books, though). Mary Poppins, maybe? I think I would've been not scared by some classic musicals too: My Fair Lady comes to mind as being not child-inappropriate. I really loved Sesame Street in general, and not that it would appeal to a child today, most likely, but my favorite thing of all was a local kids show on WPIX Channel 11 in NY, The Magic Garden with Carole and Paula: the record they signed for me when we went to see them (LIVE!) is still one of my most cherished possessions. (Best DVD release ever!)

In general, I liked records better than tv/movies. I actually really liked listening to records of stories, including lots of things that I wasn't able to watch due to the frightening content (Disney movies, especially). I had tons of the 45s of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and so on, the kind that came with a book that you would turn the pages of when the record chimed at you. (I also read much more than I ever watched things.) That way you would hear the music with it, like watching, but without the intense scariness of a movie. I know that doesn't quite answer your question, but my parents were always willing to listen to things with me. I knew the words to most songs from every Disney movie ever without being able to sit through the movies. Pictures + music + narrator was much less overwhelming or frightening for me than moving pictures + music. It was much more manageably stimulating and controllable.
posted by lysimache at 9:15 PM on June 6, 2009

In Help!, IIRC, the bad guys are trying to cut Ringo's finger off to get his ring for their sacrificial virgin to wear, so maybe not.

Guess I wasn't a very sensitive child, but the bad guys are played as... "bad guys." As in bumbling cartoon bad guys. And they're simply trying to get the ring back. The only mention I can recall of cutting off the finger is made by one of the other Beatles, in jest.

Been a while, though. YMMV.
posted by brundlefly at 9:28 PM on June 6, 2009

Much like the classic Disney musicals, their new breed of musicals (the High School Musical series, the Cheetah Girls series, Camp Rock, etc.) are very low tension films that are not bad for parents who can handle musicals.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:39 PM on June 6, 2009

What about the Wallace & Gromit movies/shorts? I don't seem to remember any especially creepy or scary parts... unless you find claymation creepy and scary.
posted by turducken at 9:47 PM on June 6, 2009

Kiki's Delivery Serivce doesn't have any villans and nothing scary happens until the last 10 minutes or so. At the climax of the movie there's some danger of people falling from great heights, but it doesn't last long and in the end nobody gets hurt.

Have you tried reading the book with your child before watching the movie? A lot of children's movies are adapted from books, and maybe having read them with you first would make them not so scary. I'm not saying Coraline or anything, but maybe something more like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Yeah I know those Oompa Loompas are creepy).
posted by Loudmax at 10:26 PM on June 6, 2009

I think Wallace and Gromit would be good. I'd also think about "Babe." What a great movie that was!

- AJ
posted by Alaska Jack at 10:41 PM on June 6, 2009

Please don't show your son Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! I was an easily-frightened child too, although I got desensitized to plain old explosions and things sooner than funny-looking characters (ugh, Muppets). Actually, I'd rule out all of Roald Dahl for the foreseeable future...
posted by scission at 11:27 PM on June 6, 2009

Mary Poppins has a bit where the children become lost, and are menaced by an old woman and a scary dog. It's scary.
posted by hermitosis at 11:40 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd also recommend some musicals. Things like The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Singin' in the Rain, Anchors Aweigh, Mary Poppins, and Lili. I don't know if puppets count as 'scary', but I remember really enjoying Lili as a kid.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:43 PM on June 6, 2009

rmless: "The Care Bears movie isn't scary but it also is close to intolerable as an adult."

If you're talking about the original 1985 Care Bears movie, that evil spirit in the magic book, as well as Nicholas when he "isn't caring about anyone," is going to scare this kid half to death, if he can't even watch Dora because of Swiper.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:58 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is your son into sports at all? The Rookie is G-rated, not remotely scary, and also surprisingly good.
posted by dseaton at 12:39 AM on June 7, 2009

A TV show rather than a movie, but DVDs of Jeeves and Wooster keep me and my 7-year-old godson screaming laughing.
posted by mdonley at 2:01 AM on June 7, 2009

If you're willing to bump it up to PG, maybe you would consider:

Mrs Doubtfire
Field of Dreams
Never Cry Wolf
The Toy
Air Bud
Charlie Brown movies

There seem to be a lot of light comedy or rom-coms out there which may have mild language and/or connotations of sex, but are otherwise not scary. For example, I knew some kids who loved Maid in Manhattan.

Also, don't forget the classics. One of my favorite movies as a very young child was The African Queen.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:21 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe The Point? It's also got a wonderful happy soundtrack.
posted by cotterpin at 4:23 AM on June 7, 2009

My 6 year old loves Blue Man Group: The Complex and Stomp Live.
He's also a big fan of Schoolhouse Rock.
posted by Daily Alice at 4:37 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wallace and Gromit are awesome, but both Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave have "villains" and tense/scary parts. A Grand Day Out might make the cut - the little tension is not due to bad intentions on any character's part, just Wallace and Gromit trying to get to the moon and back for some cheese.
posted by chihiro at 6:15 AM on June 7, 2009

My son who is now 7 refuses to watch anything scary and it has been a long and slow process to watch anything feature length. He had a really bad experience at school with Toy Story a year ago and we are just getting over it. Hre are the things he has loved and the things that he has been able to deal with.

The key in getting over this slowly for us was making sure that he had some sort of a connection with the movie before we started it. Hearing about our own experiences with films and talking about them a few weeks in preparation REALLY made difference in terms of his ability to confront whatever fears he was facing. Also taking time, watching a feature over two or even three sessions seems to help.

Bob the Builder was HUGE at the time
Thomas The train was HUGE at the time. I really like Thomas and find the tongue and cheeckiness quite fun.

The first films that we could both watch together were documentaries. The Planet Earth Series is AMAZING for everyone. He also pretty much knows every episode of both Orangutan Island and Escape to Chimp Eden are both fantastic shows that you can buy on DVD.

As far as feature films is concerned, this is where we have been successful.

School of Rock
Sound of Music (the first half is zero scary, the last third has some scary stuff, but he dealt with it OK)
He loved Surf's Up, but I have not seen it.
The Cricket In Times Square (old Chuck Jones 30 min cartoon)
Charlotte's Web (1970's cartoon version with music)
Both "Cricket" and "Charlotte" were very successful because we had read the books first.
Disney Jungle Book
Disney Aristocats (All Disney has some tension, good vs. bad, etc in it, so it certainly is not "scare" free.
Babe (with reservations, there is a lot of dark material about pigs going off to slaughter right up front, it really matters what exactly scares your kid. This stuff did not bother mine.
Disney's Lion King (Again, because he knew the story and had scene a play version at school (first grade) he was completely OK with the scary parts.
I have Wallace and Gromit in the Que for sure
I also have:
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Mary Poppins
The Apple Dumpling Gang

My opinion is that it more about communication and not having any surprises than anything else. Good luck and let us know what you find!

posted by silsurf at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, we LOVE the Point for sure
posted by silsurf at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2009

Alvin and the Chipmunks is ok. The worst thing David Cross does is shove the chipmunks in a cat carrier.

Maybe you can do some selective editing? For instance, Ratatouille would be wonderful after you get past the scary "fleeing the farm" opening, and I don't think it would hurt your child's understanding of what happened if you started it when Remy first goes to the restaurant.
posted by saffry at 8:10 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would be looking at learning basic video editing skills and apply them here. For example my kid loved Iron Man but it had some rather grotesque/violent adult themes, so I removed those parts and made a lite-PG version.
posted by crapmatic at 8:43 AM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

How about Sandlot if he likes baseball. There is the "huge" dog that is supposed to be scary and the kids tell fantastical stories about the "Beast." But at the heart of the movie is a heartwarming story of a new kid making friends and learning how to play ball.
posted by schyler523 at 9:40 AM on June 7, 2009

My five year loved The White Planet. She gets scared by movies very easily but this had her enthralled for the entire 80 minutes. (There are a few scenes of polar bears hunting other animals, but nothing too grisly.)
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 2:08 PM on June 7, 2009

Not sure how available it is in the US (with the intertoobs, anything is possible), but you might check out Clangers. I found it entertaining, but I'm a stop action nerd.
posted by brundlefly at 2:36 PM on June 7, 2009

reductiondesign: "Just going to jump in and mention that the scene in Mary Poppins where the kids get lost in the alley terrified me as a child. Bad idea."

Yeah it's probably a little spooky.
posted by radioamy at 7:13 PM on June 7, 2009

crapmatic: "I would be looking at learning basic video editing skills and apply them here. For example my kid loved Iron Man but it had some rather grotesque/violent adult themes, so I removed those parts and made a lite-PG version."

That's a great idea!
posted by radioamy at 7:13 PM on June 7, 2009

I read your earlier question because my son (much younger, he's 3) doesn't like any tension in anything he watches either (ended up screaming and running from the room during the opening scene of Cars, was terrified by the sharks in Finding Nemo). Mostly we don't even try and just stick with shorter stuff like Binou and Toupie but a friend with a child the same age recently loaned us Dreamer. The movie starts with the horse breaking a leg but we prepped our son beforehand and told him that the horse would get better and we made it through the film. We also recently made it part way through the Jungle Book with no problems (besides eventual boredom, but he's 3, right?) and Curious George was OK too, though he found the scene where the old guy who owns the museum slips and falls in the office a bit rough. I managed to talk him through this "difficult" scene though he had his hand over his mouth in horror for a few minutes.
posted by Cuke at 8:09 PM on June 7, 2009

NOT Mary Poppins (youtube link).
posted by Night_owl at 11:46 AM on June 8, 2009

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