Save me from Disney
November 11, 2006 8:28 AM   Subscribe

How to introduce a little kid to grown-up movies?

I've got a four-and-a-half-year-old girl that I'd like to expose to the wider world of cinema, mainly because I cannot take one more freaking Disney princess film at this point (and don't get me started on the Barbie/Bratz stuff, either). We'd like to find movies to watch with her that aren't just kiddie fare, but also aren't completely age-inappropriate (I'm thinking it's a little early for Pulp Fiction...)

We watch a bunch of cartoons with her from time to time, including Batman, Legion of Superheroes, Xiaolin Showdown, Danny Phantom, Ben 10. She's a big Batman fan but I think those films are probably much too scary. We let her watch The Princess Bride quite a while ago and she loves it. She's also seen Star Wars and says she liked it, though it honestly didn't seem to hold her attention. She also recently enjoyed the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on TV.

She's got an excellent grasp of fantasy vs. reality, and we'd be watching with her to help her put things in context and so forth. It's OK if some characters die, and it's OK if there is some violence, but anything much more graphic than the ROUS scene in Princess Bride is probably too much.

So, esteemed HiveMind, what movies would you suggest we check out for her?
posted by Andrhia to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some off the top of my head:

Musicals (Singin' in the Rain, The Sound of Music)
Homeward Bound
Where the Red Ferns Grow
Wizard of Oz
The Bad News Bears
Charlottes Web
Fly Away Home
Free Willy
James and the Giant Peach
Lemony Snickett
Old Yeller
The Secret of N-I-M-H

Some more obvious then others. Hopefully a couple help!
posted by meta87 at 8:51 AM on November 11, 2006

Classic comedies--Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, Bringing up Baby.....
posted by brujita at 8:52 AM on November 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

My daughter (and I) loved 8 Below. Just don't bother with Snow Dogs if you like 8 Below.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:04 AM on November 11, 2006

Home Alone is what got my boys watching more grown up fare. They also like the Discovery and History channels. Dirty Jobs and How it's Made are huge favorites.

Take a look around one of the movie rental sites under the children's category.
posted by LadyBonita at 9:05 AM on November 11, 2006

I'd never seen my 5 yo daughter watch anything as intensely as when she watched E.T. Expect tears at the end, tho.

And I showed her my own "edited" version of "To Kill A Mockingbird", cutting out the trial scenes and just showing the Scout/Jem/Boo Radley storyline. Since it's about kids, it kept her attention (it's just scary enough) and has a nice lesson, too!
posted by sexymofo at 9:06 AM on November 11, 2006

I like meta87's list, esp. NIMH, Charlotte's Web, and anything Dahl-related.

I loved The Last Unicorn when I was little. Might be a tad bit too old for her, though; you might want to watch it first. I haven't seen it in years so I don't really remember, but it is quite sad.

Maybe The Goonies? Or Flight of the Navigator? Whale Rider, in a couple of years. Powerpuff Girls now and ongoingly, unless the music would drive you crazy.
posted by librarina at 9:06 AM on November 11, 2006

I think the Miyazaki films might be helpful too. They are meant primarily for kids, but some of the themes in Spirited Away, for example, are a lot richer and more subtle than what she'll be used to. And the visual detail will keep her interested even when she misses some things. Secret of NIMH, suggested above, is a great one. Whale Rider, too, maybe when she's six or so. My Neighbor Totoro is just as much fun for a four year old as it is for a twelve year old.
posted by luriete at 9:13 AM on November 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think there's a pared-down version of I Spit On Your Grave. Mostly just people stomping around in the woods, but kids love nature.
posted by adipocere at 9:13 AM on November 11, 2006

Where the Red Ferns Grow
Charlottes Web
Old Yeller

These three are tearjerkers, so watch out. I know Charlotte's Web had me in hysterics at age 4.
posted by nekton at 9:15 AM on November 11, 2006

Two other threads on this topic: 1, 2.

I'd second the Miyazaki films, especially My Neighbour Totoro. It's very beautiful and a lot of good fun. If you want to make it a bit more grown up you could always get her to write a paper on the symbology of the scene where Totoro makes the giant tree grow in the middle of the night. But maybe that's a bit much. Kiki's Delivery Service is good fun too.
posted by GuyZero at 9:27 AM on November 11, 2006

My two year old watched Oliver constantly for a few weeks and loved singing along. He did the same with Sound Of Music. He's now watching Narnia and can't seem to get enough of it.
posted by gfrobe at 9:37 AM on November 11, 2006

I have a lot of fond memories of watching old black and white comedy with my dad when I was quite young. Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, a lot of the classics. If you're okay with excessive slapstick, those types of films are hugely funny to kids, and hopefully will be entertaining to you as well.

I heartily second Bringing Up Baby. You could also screen a couple Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies to see if she might like those (if she's in any type of dance class I think they'd be a hit). I am personally loathe to reccomend Shirley Temple because I was never a princess-y little girl and some of the attitudes may be TOO dated, but it might give you some what of a break from modern antimated type (again with the dance connection).

In more modern reccomendations: The Land Before Time, along with pretty much every movie directed by Don Bluth (including The Secret of NIMH) is a great break from traditional insipid kiddie movie fare.

For when she gets a little older: this animated version of The Hobbit was pretty much my favorite thing ever when I was a seven year old geek, along with The Last Unicorn and The Flight of the Dragons (the latter is terribly geeky, the hero uses logic and physics to defeat the villian)

And finally, strong third to Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli films. My much younger brother was seven when Princess Monoke came out and watched it over and over until the tape literally broke.
posted by nelleish at 9:43 AM on November 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh! A couple more from my sister:

The Point - pretty much her favorite movie ever, sweet message, and very different from other animated movies (several versions available on Amazon)
The Beatles' Yellow Submarine - maybe a little trippy, probably not intended as a kids movie, but we loved it to pieces growing up because we loved the music.
posted by nelleish at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Early Disney evoked a full, grown-up range of emotions, and while difficult to watch at times, might prove a good transition.
posted by Phred182 at 10:06 AM on November 11, 2006

IMDB best 50 family movies.

looks like a pretty good list to me.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:09 AM on November 11, 2006

Great suggestions so far, but as a point of clarification, I'm looking for accessible adult films for her, not stuff aimed primarily at children. Somewhat different from previous threads. Think along the lines of non-animated, PG-rated stuff like the Star Wars and Princess Bride she's already seen and enjoyed. I do know how to look at the G-rated movies section at Blockbuster just the same as anyone else does, honest.

I hadn't thought of E.T., that's a great suggestion, and I've never tried the musicals, probably worth a shot.

(Oh, and she has seen both Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service and liked 'em both, so they are great suggestions even if not precisely what I have in mind.)
posted by Andrhia at 10:21 AM on November 11, 2006

The Theif of Bagdad (1940) should be as well-known as The Wizard of Oz.

The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T is a live-action Dr. Seuss movie

The Box of Delights is a superior mini-series based on one of the best children's books ever written.

Your child might enjoy (the non-Disney version of) Robin Hood.

There's a wonderful, trippy, musical variety show called Ziegfeld Follies. Since it's a series of disconnected numbers, it's good for a short attention span. By the way, it features Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, and Lena Horne.

Other musicals I'd recommend include Singin' in the Rain, Meet Me in St. Louis (which is my favorite!), The Pirate, (and speaking of Pirates) The Pirates of Penzance, Oklahoma!, Little Shop of Horrors (may be too scary), and the That's Entertainment series (1) (2)(3).

If your child isn't easily scared, try the 1933 version of King Kong.

And before you give up on Disney, try the less-well-known The Three Caballeros.
posted by grumblebee at 10:36 AM on November 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I loved musicals when I was little.

Annie, Grease, Funny Girl, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, (even the awful Xanadu was great in my eyes as a child), etc. Some of those have adult content but I never noticed the adult content until I was well on my way to being an adult on account of the singing and dancing.

Also - Mary Poppins - even though it's marketed as a kid's movie - it has some pretty adult themes in it. (And singing and dancing.)

When I was little I also really enjoyed It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World and other stuff with Jonathan Winters. Also enjoyed Spike Jones.

When I was in about second grade I also enjoyed very not appropriate things like Richard Pryor.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:37 AM on November 11, 2006

It's hard to come up with adult movies a 4 year old would understand, but a bit easier to find kid's movies that aren't saccarine sweet and have enough wink-nudge humor included for the adults.
The School of Rock was made pretty much exactly with this in mind.
Nickelodeon's The Adventures of Pete and Pete are out on DVD now, and it's a great TV example of this. Only kid's show ever to guest star Hunter S. Thompson and Iggy Pop.
I can't believe Dreamworks dropped Aardman; they've put out some of the few kid's movies with soul recently. Chicken Run, and both Wallace and Grommit movies are probably good choices.
Beetlejuice is probably a bit too scary for now, but in a few years.
I was going to say Indiana Jones with the caveat that he's a bit of a player, until I realized that there's no real way to explain a Nazi's face melting off to a child that young. Maybe just skip Raiders.
Pirates of the Carribbean. I think skeleton pirates are easier to explain than face-melting Nazis.
Maverick, with the caveat that he's also a bit of a player.
I don't have kids, and I haven't seen all these movies extremely recently, so please don't hold me responsible if I've suggested anything inappropriate.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:39 AM on November 11, 2006

Drop Dead Fred!
posted by c at 10:42 AM on November 11, 2006

The Earthling
posted by Sufi at 10:54 AM on November 11, 2006

I'm looking for accessible adult films for her, not stuff aimed primarily at children. Think along the lines of non-animated, PG-rated stuff like the Star Wars and Princess Bride.

I hate to break it to you, but Star Wars and Princess Bride are children's movies aimed at children.
posted by dydecker at 11:06 AM on November 11, 2006

This probably sound like it's right out of left field, but one of the first "adult" movies I remember loving as a child was Silent Running. There's something about Huey, Dewey, and Louie that I think really appeals to little ones.
posted by Brave New Meatbomb at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2006

Seconding (thirding? Dunno) musicals. I loved them when I was a kid. Oklahoma was a favorite, as well as the unsinkable molly brown, my fair lady, etc etc etc. Don't be afraid of old or corny ones, she totally won't notice (I never did).
posted by MadamM at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2006

Neverending Story!
posted by ludwig_van at 11:48 AM on November 11, 2006

Esther Williams movies.
The King and I

Our Gang movies.
Nancy Drew movies.
The Hudsucker Proxy
The Bowery Boys
Roy Rogers films
Tarzan movies
Buck Rogers serials
Flash Gordon serials

And since we're saving you from Disney, let's point you at the richness of Hanna-Barbera.
posted by paulsc at 12:00 PM on November 11, 2006

Cool Runnings was pretty funny, as I remember. Based on the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team trying to go to the Olympics.
posted by belladonna at 12:07 PM on November 11, 2006

Breaking Away! Very funny and bittersweet, with great story and performances -- really a wonderful family film.
posted by scody at 12:24 PM on November 11, 2006

If you don't mind animation (I agree with you about Disney):

the Toy Story movies, especially Toy Story 2

Wallace and Gromit
posted by lukemeister at 12:25 PM on November 11, 2006

Breaking Away! Very funny and bittersweet, with great story and performances -- really a wonderful family film.

Filmed in my hometown, Bloomington, IN. I was in elementary school when they filmed it, and the cast/crew sort of moved into our small town and took it over (in a good way). I can watch that film today and see my childhood -- literally. I can see kids I knew walking around in the background. One of the kids in the bg was a bully who really scared me. It's odd to watch the film now and see that he was just a little kid.
posted by grumblebee at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2006

I hate to break it to you, but Star Wars and Princess Bride are children's movies aimed at children.

What's it like in your universe?
posted by bingo at 1:06 PM on November 11, 2006

I ljust remembered how much I loved Ladybugs with Rodney Dangerfield when I was a kid. It's pretty cheesy, there's plot related crossdressing, and at one point an attractive woman gets her butt squeezed. Doesn't change the fact that I watched it over and over. RIP DANGERFIELD
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:06 PM on November 11, 2006

I'm not sure if any of these are whimsical enough to attract the attention of a 4 year old, but here you go...

-- Bend It Like Beckham (girl power!)

-- A League of Their Own (more girl power!)

-- Dear Frankie (Sweet movie with kids in it, and no sex or violence. There's one scene with bad language at the very end; Frankie's (real) dad says some nasty words to Frankie's mom, including the F-bomb. But you could skip right past that scene and everything would still make sense.)

-- Chocolat might be okay; it has some good themes about accepting everyone and being true yourself

-- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Big on the whimsy. Possibly more annoying than a Disney movie.

-- The Secret Garden. One of my favorites as a kid; I watched the old Hallmark version over and over again, but there are a few out there to chose from.

-- Empire of the Sun. Saw this in the theater with my parents. (age 9) The whole kid-being-seperated-from-his-parents thing didn't freak me out, especially since he ends up having a sort of fun adventure on his own.

-- Avalon. Another one I went to see with my parents. (age 12) Sentimental & nostalgic, but kids love that.

-- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Yup, my folks took me to this one too. (age 11) Brilliantly imaginitive.
posted by junkbox at 1:21 PM on November 11, 2006

I love these suggestions. My boys, ages 3 and 6 have seen a lot of the movies mentioned here--one of my husband's favorite movie's is The Princess Bride, so we have seen that a few times.

These movies are aimed for kids, and you probably have already seen them, but don't forget the Wallace and Grommit movies. They are great. We also love The Incredibles and Shrek. They are kids movies that don't bore the adults.

Some grown-up movies that I loved as a kid:

Adventures in Babysitting
Peggy Sue Got Married (save this one until she is a bit older)
Back to the Future
Escape to Witch Mountain
The Little Princess (fabulous Shirley Temple movie)
posted by LoriFLA at 1:57 PM on November 11, 2006

I have three daughters, and I won't rent or watch anything rated 14A (I guess that's the equivalent to PG-13 in the US). I've found this threshold to be appropriate and comfortable, and filters out most of the cruft.

As for specific suggestions, there's been a lot of good ones already that should keep you and your daughter cuddled on the sofa for many, many nights!
posted by dropkick at 2:51 PM on November 11, 2006

I third Miyazaki films, but some may be inappropriate for very young children. Spirited away has a little girl's parents turn into big, ugly, noisy pigs. Princess Mononoke contains some brutally violent scenes, and Howl's moving castle was simply a disappointing mess, in my opinion. Totoro, I believe, would be very nice.
posted by Anything at 3:16 PM on November 11, 2006

Jim Henson! The Muppet Movie(s), the Dark Crystal (might be a little too dark actually)

Into the West is a really lovely film with a really horrible cover.

My little nephews love Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre

Pee Wee's Big Adventure

Strictly Ballroom, if she likes dancing
posted by kmel at 6:34 PM on November 11, 2006

Do I have to be the first to say it? IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU. I don't care what kind of sophisticated little girl you've got, I doubt she's developmentally ready for much beyond some of the musicals and kid-focused fare suggested above. Some Disney movies *can* be cloying and insufferable, and there's NO way my kids are seeing anything Bratz or Barbie either, but there's all sorts of age-appropriate stuff to be discovered. Try to focus a few years down the line-- Do you really want her to grow up faster?
posted by eve harrington at 8:35 PM on November 11, 2006

Unstrung Heroes is a good one, unless you think the ending would be too sad.
posted by concrete at 8:39 PM on November 11, 2006

The Search with Montgomery Clift, is a post WW2 movie about a little boy whose family had been put in the camps for political reasons. He doesn't realize it, but his mother has also survived. Clift plays a soldier who finds him and takes him under his wing.
posted by brujita at 9:06 PM on November 11, 2006

Wow, great suggestions abound.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Rough Guide To Kids Movies.

I picked up a copy in Chicago this past summer and my friends we were staying with loved it, bought herself a copy and recently told me that she was really delighted with it and that it's opening up a whole new world of movies for her six year old (she has a two year old two that it will come in handy for later). This past summer her oldest (5 3/4 at the time) kid's favorite movie was Finding Nemo, and now, Princess Bride. :) She said the book was invaluable now.

I've gone through large chunks of it (even though I don't have kids - I just love the Rough Guides) and it's excellent because it basically addresses exactly the question you are asking Andrhia.
posted by smallerdemon at 11:25 PM on November 11, 2006

I hate to break it to you, but Star Wars and Princess Bride are children's movies aimed at children.

No, they aren't...they were very much marketed to and loved by a general audience.

My favorite movies at that age were golden age musicals, too. Rogers & Hammerstein, Gilbert & Sullivan, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, etc.
posted by desuetude at 12:25 PM on November 12, 2006

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