A couple of years ago, I implemented a standing family movie night on Fridays. We seldom deviate from this tradition, and we take turns selecting the movies. The only criterion is that the movies must be appropriate for all four of us – ages 7 through 45. You can imagine the challenges this limiting, though necessary, restriction presents. I spend a lot of time on the IMDB app, looking up potential new movie night options and reading through the Parents’ Guide of each one.
In the midst of all this research, prescreening, and negotiating, just to ensure the four of us enjoy a movie together every Friday without awkwardly fast forwarding scenes with overly adult themes or ensuing nightmares, I sometimes long for the days when all of my protections become moot. While I never wish for my kids to grow up faster, I do look forward to a time when I can share my favorite movies, and the lessons those films contain, with them.
Here are the top 10 movies I can’t wait to share with my kids, haphazardly grouped by genre:
Teen Angst Movies
While I hear a lot of parents bemoaning the teenage years, as an adult, I’ve actually always loved and truly connected with the teenagers who pass through my life. I sincerely look forward to spending my kids’ teenage years with them, especially since I never seem to outgrow movies about high school or college.
Teen Angst Movie #1: Sixteen Candles
As a child of the ‘80s, Sixteen Candles holds the strongest nostalgia for me as the first film of my generation that I saw in the theater. My mom’s best friend, a frequent caregiver, took me. We watched Molly Ringwald’s somewhat awkward character, Samantha, endure a very bad day. Her entire family forgets her 16th birthday in the wake of her self-centered sister’s wedding. As if waking up this way isn’t bad enough, Samantha then, to her horror, realizes the survey she took naming the hottest guy in school as the one she would “Most like to do it with” got intercepted during class instead of making its way into the hands of her best friend.
Best line: “I hope whoever got the note doesn’t know it was me who wrote it. I’d *bleep* twice and die.”
Lessons for my kids: High school is rough, for everyone, including the popular kids. Your only goal involves surviving the daily barrage of social warfare. On second thought, get decent grades, too, then you can escape from your hometown and all the people who watched you grow up.
Teen Angst Movie #2: Easy A
While I admit to feeling a little disloyal for this proclamation, given my child of the ‘80s status (sorry, Molly Ringwald), I consider Easy A the greatest teen angst movie of all time. In frustration over her best friend constantly pestering her for details about her nonexistent love life, Emma Stone’s character, Olive, finally lies to her, making up an elaborate story about how she lost her virginity. Much to her chagrin, this story spreads like wildfire at her high school, landing Olive with an unearned reputation. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson shine as Olive’s enlightened, supportive, and oh-so-witty parents, while Amanda Byne’s wild-eyed Christian crusader steals every scene she appears in.
Best line: “Just once, I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason.”
Lessons for my kids: As best as you can, protect your reputation in high school. Avoid intentional self-destruction. Recovering from it might prove difficult.
Teen Angst Movie #3: Pitch Perfect
Still angry about her parents’ divorce, Beca, played by Anna Kendrick, begrudgingly attends the college where her dad works (translating to a free education), when she really wants to head to Los Angeles and become a music producer. After making a deal with her father to join one extracurricular activity in exchange for her freedom to go to L.A. at the end of the academic year, Beca auditions for and joins the Barden Bellas, an all-female competitive acapella group on campus. In spite of her attempts to push everyone who gets too close to her away, Beca emotionally engages in the success of the group and becomes loyal to its members, all while attracting a handsome love interest.
Best line: “Wanna do something else? We could re-live my parents’ divorce, or visit a gynecologist.”
Lessons for my kids: Everyone needs a sense of belonging. Even though Beca initially declares joining an acapella group “lame”, for the first time in her life, she finds people who care about her and accept her for the unique talents she brings to the group.
Heartbreaking Relationship Movies
In my younger days, I hated this genre of movies. If a romantic movie failed to end happily ever after and thus feed my dreams of finding true love, I twitched with discomfort for days after seeing it. After surviving an unhappy marriage and an unpleasant divorce, I see the value in these sorts of movies. Some couples just aren’t meant to be. We can learn a lot and potentially avoid some personal mistakes, by observing those couples.
Heartbreaking Relationship Movie #1: Chasing Amy
For those indie movie lovers who know Kevin Smith’s work, including the seminal Clerks, you may or may not have seen his second, lesser-known film, Chasing Amy. Starring none other than Ben Affleck in his first lead role as Holden, a comic book author, the movie explores his initial friendship and ultimately ill-fated love affair with Alyssa, a self-declared promiscuous lesbian. After Holden pursues her relentlessly, despite her known preference for women as partners, she reluctantly falls in love with and enters a romantic relationship with him against her better judgment. It all ends very, very badly.
Best line: “Even if, you know, even if we never talk again after tonight, please know that I am forever changed because of who you are and what you’ve meant to me, which – while I do appreciate it – I’d never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of.”
Lessons for my kids: Everyone has a past. If you fall in love with someone and you want to spend your life with them, you need to accept them as they are, including all of their past life choices. If you judge them or try to change them, you will likely doom the relationship.
Heartbreaking Relationship Movie #2: Spanglish
As a general rule, I avoid what I refer to as “stupid funny” movies, meaning movies starring Adam Sandler or Will Farrell. This movie falls far outside that genre. Adam Sandler plays John Clasky, a successful chef in Los Angeles married to an insecure, recently unemployed career woman, played by Tea Leoni. She harmfully passes on her perfectionist tendencies to their overweight daughter while simultaneously cheating on her husband. Enter Flor, the Mexican housekeeper hired by the family, whose own daughter must come to stay with the Clasky clan during their annual summer trip to a beach house. Flor and John beautifully fall in love, while his marriage falls apart, but, despairingly, the happy ending remains too complicated to pursue.
Best line: “There are some mistakes you cannot risk when you have children.”
Lessons for my kids: Avoid marrying the wrong person. Hold out for the one who feels most right to you. Wait for the true sense of belonging. As psychologist James Dobson put it, “Don’t marry the person you think you can live with. Marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.”