The "Drag List" for my kids
December 27, 2012 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I dragged my kids (ages 13, 11, 9) to see Les Miserables. They loved it. What other works should Mean Dad "drag" them to enjoy so that they become well-rounded adults with perspective and taste when it comes to media choices?

If left to their own devices, they would sit and play Arkham City and watch laugh-track Nickelodeon comedies all day. What I would like to do is put together a "Drag List" of movies and TV that will give them a well-rounded appreciation and a critical perspective of American culture.

Of course the movies have to be appropriate for pre-teens. Sex and violence are tolerable in small amounts if not gratuitous, not exploitative, and if they serve to enhance the story. Bonus if these items are on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or in the public domain.

Thanks for helping me with a long-term "family resolution" project.
posted by cross_impact to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Doctor Who! it's available on instant watch Netflix. :)
posted by firei at 8:43 AM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Watch "Into the Woods" by Stephen Sondheim. It's on Netflix.
posted by inturnaround at 8:47 AM on December 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

You might try introducing them to movies with subtitles. That opens up a huge world of great cinema. As a starter I recommend Little Nicholas (link is to a trailer) which is recent, hugely enjoyable and also a window into another culture (french schoolchildren)
posted by vacapinta at 8:48 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

They're the perfect ages to start going to the theater - do you have a local repertory group? Pick shows that are fun to start out with (I think our first non-musical play was Arsenic and Old Lace, which is a hoot).
posted by Mchelly at 8:48 AM on December 27, 2012 [10 favorites]

Studio Ghibli anime films - the best is Spirited Away. Totally age appropriate and at heart it's about the frustration of being adolescent, but at first you don't even notice, the world of the film is so pretty and weird and easy to lose yourself in.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:55 AM on December 27, 2012 [12 favorites]

Groundhog Day, The Muppet Movie, Goonies, Jaws, Rear Window, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Wizard of Oz, Breakfast At Tiffany's (terrible Andy Rooney part is possibly good discussion fodder), Coraline, The Searchers
posted by Diablevert at 8:55 AM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

That was the age when my parents started bringing musical theater and black-and-white movies home from Blockbuster. We were too old for children's movies, but not old enough for mature content, and musicals and older classics were in that sweet spot. I recommend the following as ones I especially remember being awesome:

West Side Story
Guys and Dolls
Little Shop of Horrors
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
12 Angry Men
Roman Holiday

Also, not in this category, but just because they are awesome and your kids will probably never pick them up from current popular culture:
Back to the Future
anything by Hitchcock
Canadian Bacon
posted by decathecting at 8:57 AM on December 27, 2012 [12 favorites]

It looks like you're in the Houston area. This is one of the performing arts capitals of the Southwest. What about some live theater? Houston Grand Opera is doing Show Boat, which is not an opera, and Don Giovanni, one of the greatest operas of all time. Tickets are surprisingly affordable. For something more intimate, Opera in the Heights is doing Falstaff in April. The Alley Theatre is doing A Christmas Carol and other cool things. Theatre Under the Stars is doing Camelot, Man of La Mancha and Spamalot. Broadway Across America is doing Catch Me If You Can, Jersey Boys, Sister Act and Wicked at the Hobby Center.
posted by slkinsey at 9:05 AM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just saw Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather which is a good mix of some great scifi storytelling along with some subtle-ish social commentary about consumer culture and the nature of belief (it's also LONG). When I was about that age, we went out to see a few musical-type things at the theater which was fun because we got to play dress-up. I think the big thing that affected my taste was getting to see interesting indie films at about that time, things like John Sayles' Brother From Another Planet and Brazil (may be too scary for kids) and that sort of "this is really weird" movies that were nonetheless engaging and relevant to someone my age.
posted by jessamyn at 9:12 AM on December 27, 2012

I also came in to suggest Studio Ghibli but if you show them Grave of the Fireflies prepare to have some seriously dejected kids on your hands because that movie is somehow even more depressing and devestating than Les Mis.

Everything else is pretty excellent though.

I also like those History channel shows sometimes because they spawn some great discussions.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:18 AM on December 27, 2012

If you're gonna drag 'em to a play, may I suggest dragging 'em to your local university's theatre? In my experience, they have pretty good stuff going on. Our university had a drum show that was out of this world, and some parents brought their pre-teens who were pretty blown away. And while old movies are great, the theatre is wonderful. I loved seeing Little Shop of Horrors in the theater but hated the movie - completely different experience.
posted by patheral at 9:25 AM on December 27, 2012

I would add to decatheting's list two more Broadway musicals:

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
posted by Elsie at 9:26 AM on December 27, 2012

If they enjoyed Les Mis, definitely start them on old musicals. Besides the ones above, I'd add "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", "Carousel", and "Singin' in the Rain", "Camelot", off the top of my head.

Non-musicals that, imao, are either awesome or that influence pop culture or both: "The Right Stuff", "What's Up Doc" (okay, there's a song there but it's not really a musical), "Young Frankenstein" and the 1931 "Frankenstein" so they know what it's parodying (and re-used the sets!), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" so they know why people sculpt their mashed potatoes into Devil's Tower, "Woman of the Year" and/or "Adam's Rib", "Desk Set", "Bringing Up Baby", "Roman Holiday", "Casablanca", "Maltese Falcon", Marx Brothers' movies, "Spartacus", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", some 1950's monster movies ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "Them!", "The Blob", "It Came From Outer Space", etc), the original "Day the Earth Stood Still", "Godzilla" or other Japanese kaiju, "Airplane!" (possibly with "Airport" so they know what its parodying, and optionally "Zero Hour!" so they know what it's a remake of), "Victor/Victoria" (again, has music but not a musical), "Blazing Saddles" (maybe with some Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns to provide the source material), "Ferris Beuller's Day Off", "Real Genius", "Back to the Future."

They're probably a bit young for "Network", "Apocalypse Now!", "Doctor Strangelove", and "Failsafe" (those last two are actually the same movie), but I think the first two are cultural touchstones of their time and the second two help to understand the WTF-ness of the cold war.

Some of these - particularly the older films - may require some discussion of how things have changed with regard to racism and sexism these days.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:29 AM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ooh, yes, Little Shop of Horrors.

Also: Philadelphia, Big, Company (they'll recognize Neil Patrick Harris), The Long, Long Trailer, Forrest Gump...

You can also get the concert version of Les Miserables, with people who can actually sing. (Sorry, I'm a hater.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:30 AM on December 27, 2012

The Princess Bride and Stardust are both age-appropriate fantasy movies that are smart and funny.

Other older musicals I loved at their age: Fiddler on the Roof and The Sound of Music.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:38 AM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was 12 when I saw "Close Encounters" for the first time. It really blew me away then and it has aged really, really well. I'd love to have a passel of older kids around to watch and discuss it with! I think it would be a great starting point for a discussion about American culture.

"Raiders" is a must-see for many reasons, including its being a great gateway for older movies. It was on USA the other night; I hadn't seen it in decades. It's amazing to me that popular culture isn't a stream of references to OLDER popular culture as it was when I was a kid (cf. Raiders) but I guess that's the way it is. I think there's a new Blu-Ray out: it's probably worth the money to get a proper version of it.

Also: take the older kids to see "Lincoln" while it is still in theaters. One or two f-bombs and some unnerving scenes of war injuries, maybe not appropriate for your youngest. There have been some excellent pro and con discussions of "Lincoln" online (check out Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog on the Atlantic for links).

Wow, Spielberg-heavy list! Finally: anything with James Cagney. I'd start with "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Maybe "Angels with Dirty Faces," too, which costars the Dead End Kids.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2012

Shakespeare time! Seriously, I was ten when I first was exposed to Shakespeare and it was wonderful. Much Ado About Nothing was my first play, and still my favourite, but really, any of the comedies are a good start and even some of the dramas will work. I saw a high school production and loved it. That's the great thing about Shakespeare, its meant to be performed with fairly low production values.
posted by GilvearSt at 9:51 AM on December 27, 2012

Gilbert & Sullivan
posted by tilde at 9:59 AM on December 27, 2012

Charlie Chaplin's films - maybe start off with the silent shorts, or feature-length silents with the Tramp character: The Kid, Modern Times, City Lights, etc. and work up to The Great Dictator.
posted by illenion at 10:01 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

For opera I was thinking La Boheme.
posted by jbenben at 10:15 AM on December 27, 2012

Singin' in the Rain, Some Like it Hot, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, To Have and Have Not, Casablanca, West Side Story, To Kill a Mockingbird, It Happened One Night, King Kong, A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, From Here to Eternity, Amadeus, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sound of Music, The Thin Man, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Empire of the Sun, The Manchurian Candidate (original), An American in Paris, What a Way to Go!, Ben-Hur, Duck Soup, The Tramp, My Fair Lady, The Last Picture Show, Once Upon a Time in the West, Bringing Up Baby, Rear Window, The Birds, North by Northwest, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, Five Easy Pieces, It's a Wonderful Life, All the President's Men, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Chariots of Fire, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (Original), The Producers, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Back to the Future, Star Wars, Young Frankenstein, Dog Day Afternoon, Kramer vs. Kramer, Being There, The Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove, Elizabeth, Cradle will Rock, Say Anything, Pretty in Pink, Point Break, Dirty Dancing, A League of Their Own, Election, The Big Lebowski, Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Spaceballz, Rushmore, Dazed and Confused, All about Eve, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Maltese Falcon, Barefoot in the Park, The Best Years of our Lives, His Girl Friday, The Searchers, The Great Escape, Cool Hand Luke, Annie Hall, Gone with the Wind, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Roman Holiday, Harvey, Rain Man, Arsenic and Old Lace, Oklahoma, Rebecca, The Wizard of Oz, Psycho, Fantasia, Double Indemnity, The Philadelphia Story, Rebel without A Cause, Splendor in the Grass, Top Hat, Miracle on 42nd Street, the Magnificent Ambersons, Goldfinger, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Peter Pan (Mary Martin), The General, Mary Poppins, Blade Runner, The Outsiders, Ten Little Indians, Clue, The Breakfast Club, The Warriors, Fried Green Tomatoes, Inherit the Wind, 12 Angry Men, The Color Purple, Big, Glory, Desperately Seeking Susan, Network..there are of course, more adult movies like Goodfellas and the Godfather and Serpico and whatnot, but the former are ones I think meet your criteria, with some discretion advised. ;)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:25 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yes and for Space: The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:28 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Houston has an amazing opera. This is also a good age to introduce mid-century jazz to them, which you can sort of sneak in by way of tunes in the car or having on while you're doing chores in the house. Try Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck for starters, throw in some vocalists like Nina Simone.

For subtitles, I highly suggest some anime (full disclosure, anime subtitling is my job). Ghibli films are something they might already be familiar with, and the Disney dubbing versions are excellent, but you can rewatch them with subtitles. But there's a wealth of other subtitled anime films out there. Try Metropolis, and then you can watch the original black and white Metropolis and compare!

The french film Amelie is beloved by all ages, except it has some stuff about orgasms in it so I'm not sure about the age-range for you. But it's fantastic and the French is important, imo, to the enjoyment of the film, since it has so much narration.

If they love Nickelodeon comedies, particularly those by Dave Schneider (Victorious, iCarly, Drake & Josh), make sure they've seen I Love Lucy, because there is a direct line between and sometimes blatant homage to the original through the current.
posted by Mizu at 10:34 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Kids love seeing other kids perform and Houston also has some excellent high school theater departments. From your area, I'd track Clear Lake, Friendswood, and maybe HSPVA and the Memorial area or Galveston area schools if you wanted to travel. Galveston Opera House also has some interesting productions at lower cost and smallish venue (relative to the comparable Houston venues).

And Houston local theater groups apparently love Sondheim: Bayou City Theatrics is performing Into the Woods in January 2013 and Stages will be doing Road Show in June.
posted by beaning at 10:57 AM on December 27, 2012

Wizard of Oz.
posted by nikkorizz at 11:08 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

South Pacific
posted by HuronBob at 11:13 AM on December 27, 2012

Why not just share what you like with them? I am sure part of the reason they loved it is because you loved it and your enthusiasm was contagious. Also - Trading Places.
posted by jazh at 11:28 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Documentaries, especially Nova and Cosmos and PBS stuff like that.
posted by Etrigan at 11:32 AM on December 27, 2012

My mother always took me to modern art exhibitions - something I'm really glad for as an adult
posted by fermezporte at 12:06 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Pirates of Penzance
The Nutcracker Suite
posted by Soliloquy at 2:46 PM on December 27, 2012

At that age I loved Laurel and Hardy, and Abbot and Costello.

I'd probably have gone for Buster Keaton and bits of Chaplin too if I'd been exposed to it (though, I dunno, maybe the silent-ness of it would have been too much of a turnoff).

On another note entirely: I'd call some of Michael Jackson's televised performances culturally important, and his dancing is still impressive as fuck even if the music sounds dated.

I feel like you oughta get them exposed to some Bob Fosse too, though the stuff I'd normally recommend (Cabaret, Chicago) might not be age-appropriate. Pippin?

Oh, and the Muppet Show seems to have aged pretty well, and introduces lots of different musical and theatrical styles, and lots of important artists from that era, in nice little bite-sized chunks. An embarrassing amount of my own pop-cultural literacy came from watching the Muppet Show on VHS. (It's the only reason I know who Vincent Price is, or Guy Lombardo, or Carol Channing, or....)
posted by and so but then, we at 3:07 PM on December 27, 2012

A good production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare—my daughter absolutely loved it at about age 10. I can't say that my son loved it, but he didn't have an aversion to Shakespeare in high school, like so many of his peers. (Macbeth has become his favorite.)
posted by she's not there at 4:52 PM on December 27, 2012

I know that you're asking for TV and movie suggestions, but I'd suggest other cultural outings such as a trip to the orchestra, or a ballet to introduce them to other forms of entertainment -- especially those that are struggling due to a lack of younger patrons.
posted by sparklemotion at 5:59 PM on December 27, 2012

West Side Story.
posted by karlos at 6:10 PM on December 27, 2012

The originals of Sleuth and Twelve Angry Men.

The Andromeda Strain.

The Pink Panther movies.

Maybe they'll need to be a bit older to appreciate Carmen in all it's manifestations.

There is a documentary about Balanchine that is full of delicious bite sized excerpts. Great introduction to ballet.
posted by tel3path at 7:30 PM on December 27, 2012

My mom printed out the AFI Top 100 list when I was around 13 and decreed that in future we would attempt to watch all of them. I don't think we did, but we often went to the movie rental place with a particular one in mind, and in this glorious age of Netflix it ought to be a lot easier. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was dull, but as a result of this maternal decree I feel I've seen a lot of pretty good movies.

I haven't seen Nosferatu (the 1922 one) mentioned on here yet but I feel like I would have loved that movie as a kid. I think you would do a great service to your children in general by demonstrating to them that silent movies are not all dull as dishwater. If you can, take them someplace with a live organist to see one.
posted by town of cats at 8:30 PM on December 27, 2012

Yankee Doodle Dandy w/ James Cagney!
posted by davidmsc at 10:03 PM on December 27, 2012

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