With a nephew of mine being born, I got to thinking about his future and which films to introduce to him — but when I re-watched some of them, I realized they were different experiences as an adult. Here are family films that not only teach lessons to children but to the grownups as well, even if some of the morals are kind of sad.
1. 'Finding Nemo'
Finding Nemo is a spectacular underwater adventure with memorable characters, breathtaking visuals, a lot of heart and just as many laughs. Disney and Pixar really hit it out of the park with this one by showing what a parent is willing to go through to get their child back — including frustration, dangers and traveling great distances.
Combine that with some well-timed humor, a great sidekick and visuals that would make anyone's jaws drop, and you've got the makings of a classic. It may be a fun adventure, but this movie does something smart by commenting on mistakes that can happen with a lot of families.
Moral For Kids: While it may seem like your parent is overprotective and obnoxious about many things that you do, just know that they are only acting like that because they love you. So even if your parents do get like this, do not disrespect them because it will just lead to more bad things — just talk to them and kindly ask them if they could lay off a bit.
Moral For Adults: Making sure your kid is well taken care of and safe is 100 percent great, but your child can't grow if you keep him or her in a bubble for his/her entire life. Kids need to explore, take risks (but not too dangerous ones) and experience things for themselves — or else reality is just going to ruin them when they get older.
2. 'The Land Before Time'
Before Pixar made us laugh and cry with every movie, animation legend and genius Don Bluth was doing the same thing with some of the best animated films ever made, such as The Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go To Heaven and, of course, The Land Before Time, the story of a group of lost infant dinosaurs trekking the prehistoric Earth in search of a haven known as the Great Valley. While it is a great film all around, the thing that stuck in the minds of children everywhere was the tragic death of Little Foot's mother.
It had most of us crying, but it did teach a very important lesson that kids do need to learn.
Moral For Kids: Death is a real thing. It is a very scary concept, but there's nothing that can stop it. It is a bad thing but one day, you will experience a loss whether it is a friend, favorite pet, or even a family member. There's no way to be prepared for it, but you can't pretend it doesn't happen.
Moral For Adults: Do not hide this fact from your children. They need to know about the concept of death whether it terrifies them or not, because if they don't learn and someone they know and/or love dies, reality is going to crush them. Sit down with them and teach them — it may make them cry or get them angry, but that is just a natural reaction to learning about death.
Another moral is to have a plan in place if anything happens to you. For Little Foot's mother, it's instructing him to find the Great Valley with her last breath; for you, it might just be some extra life insurance to help cover a future education.
3. 'The Iron Giant'
The criminally underrated The Iron Giant is one of my favorite movies ever, because it is one of the few that is perfect from beginning to end with no flaws that I can find. I love the characters, the animation is superb, it's very intelligent, doesn't talk down to kids, and incorporates many things that adults can enjoy — like the 1950s setting, the dark tones and much much more.
This movie also features a heartbreaking death that had many kids (myself included) were bawling their eyes out: when the Giant sacrificed himself to save the town that he came to call home while saying the name that resonated with me for many years, "Superman." It was because of this movie that I became a Superman fan, but it was also how I learned an important lesson.
Moral For Kids: Not everyone is going to like you — and some will even try to make you change yourself to fit their standards — but you have to remember one thing: they don't decide who or what you are because, like Dean tells Hogarth and Hogarth tells Giant, you are who YOU choose to be. You are your own person and if others don't like that, then they don't deserve to be around you. Nobody has the right to decide who a person is except for that person.
Moral For Adults: While "you are who you choose to be" is a great message for adults as well, there is another moral that comes from this film: teach kids that an open mind is the way to a great future; you can't judge a book by its cover. The government is afraid of the Giant and wants to destroy him immediately — sure, they might have had some legitimate concerns, but we can't think of everything new as a threat. If something is simply different from society's standards, we can't just belittle them. Keep an open mind, not just for yourself but for your kids!
4. 'An American Tail'
Don Bluth strikes again with this animated classic about a young mouse who is separated from his family on their immigration to New York City. Now Fievel Mousekewitz must search across the city for his family. This movie proved how much of a legend Bluth can be, and I recommend all families check it out...but I also recommend bringing a box of tissues, because 90 percent of this movie will depress you (albeit with good intentions).
Throughout the film, young Fievel is seen missing his family just out the corner of his eye, thus torturing the audiences with how close he was to finding them. Well, the ending of the film will make you cry, but not in the sad way; you will be so happy to see Fievel and his family finally reunite after Fievel went through so many traumatic experiences that would make the toughest of adults give up but he never did, thus teaching a much more uplifting lesson that I keep in mind all the time.
Moral For Kids: The slightest bit of hope is enough to keep anyone going. You'll go through some rough times in life may feel like just giving up, but instead you push forward and keep hope for things to turn around — and you know what? They probably will.
Moral For Adults: Just like with The Iron Giant, the same message could be used for both, but Don Bluth did manage to include another message for adults, and that is: you are as important to your child as your child is to you. Don't give up on them, no matter the situation — whether they are lost, they get in trouble with the law, or if they simply don't grow up to be what you hoped they would. Stay by them and try your best to be supportive and firm at the same time.
5. 'Toy Story 3'
All three Toy Story movies are brilliant masterpieces, with each one having lessons that kids could use, but I'm going to talk about the last film — which, in my opinion, is the best one. In a way it teaches a lesson about hope with the toys willing to risk their lives in order to make it back to Andy. However, there is another lesson which comes at the end that made EVERYONE cry (don't try to hide it, you know you did) when Andy gives his childhood pals to a sweet little girl, then decided to join her in playing with them for the last time before he goes off college. Wow, Lasseter and Co., you just love to feast on our tears, huh?
Well, Pixar may be sadists, but they are also geniuses who give a good lesson.
Moral For Kids: At some point in all of our lives, we have to grow up. Yeah, sometimes we all wish we could stay children forever, but life goes on — and as an adult you'll have many great experiences in that period of your life.
Moral For Adults: Sometimes adults assume that our childhoods should remain in the past and be forgotten. Don't forget that your childhood is your foundation — it made you who you are — so rather than forgetting your inner child, let it build your adult character. Nobody likes a stick in the mud except for other sticks in the mud, so perhaps acting a little childish here and there won't be such a bad thing.
6. 'Inside Out'
Pixar is at it again with what is arguably one the best animated films ever made, due to its very clever interpretation of a child's emotions with very colorful characters — but what made the movie so fantastic is that the writers definitely understood how a child at this age feels during this situation, such as myself when I was Riley's age.
See, when I was young, I moved to a new school and town. I was excited, but it ended up hurting me because I was considered an outcast. I missed my old home, so when I saw Riley break down and finally confess her feelings to her parents, it really affected me.
Moral For Kids: If you are upset — be it sad, angry or both — it is not wise to hold it in and let it fester. How do I know? Because that's what I did; I bottled up my anger and sadness at being tormented at school, and it resulted in me becoming emotionally troubled. Do the opposite of what I did and tell your parents the truth, even if it means breaking down crying in front of them; just let them know how you feel. They won't make fun of you or get angry with you — they will see how you feel and understand.
Moral For Adults: Change is hard on a child; if they have to say goodbye to a town/state that they loved and grew up in and the friends they've made, it can take a toll. You can't expect your child to adjust immediately to the situation, so keep this in mind before you move your family, whether you are forced to or if it is by choice. Be there for your child and help him/her adjust.
So those are some films that can teach both children and adults important lessons to take them far in life. Of course, there is something important to note: don't just let the movies raise them — watch the movies with them and help them learn about what the movies are trying to teach. Teach your kids well so that they can do the same for their children, and those children can teach their children, and so on!
What do you think of this list? Are these lessons important? Are they not? Let me know in the comments below and tell me your thoughts!