Whether she’s offering her kids a hug, a shoulder to cry on, or an important lesson about growing up, there are few characters as compelling as a good movie mom. This list includes some of Common Sense Media‘s favorites — check one out for your next family movie night.
Parents need to know that Disney’s short-and-sweet tale of a shy little circus elephant with supersized ears is considered controversial, because of its depiction of the black crows. On the one hand, critics claim the crows (who were in fact all voiced by African-American actors) are animated minstrels, whereas Disney apologists say the crows are the only likeable characters besides Dumbo, his mom, and Timothy the mouse. If you’re okay with the representation of the crows, there are still a couple of disturbing scenes, particularly when Mrs. Jumbo is captured after defending Dumbo. Plus, Dumbo and Timothy accidentally get drunk and hallucinate the “Pink Elephants on Parade” segment, that’s alternately trippy, creepy, and cute. Overall, the message is that we should celebrate and not mock each other’s differences.
The Princess Diaries
Parents need to know that this movie is rated G because it has no profanity, violence, or sexual material, and there is very little to worry about. But that does not make it a kids-only movie. This is a family movie in the best sense, a movie that the whole family will enjoy. Mia drives without a license and manages to escape a ticket using tactics they might find troubling.
The Sound of Music
Parents need to know that this classic film is rich in character, music, and story, as well as filled with positive messages. In the final 10 minutes there are a number of suspenseful scenes that may be frightening for some children, including the main character being held at gunpoint. Kids might be curious to learn more about Nazis and World War II after watching this movie. There’s some moderate alcohol consumption and one character smokes. The romantic scenes are limited to gentle embraces and brief chaste kisses.
Parents need to know that this animated Pixar film is considered one of their all-time best for portraying mature themes about families in a way that both kids and adults can enjoy. Because of the movie’s focus on a superhero family, there’s much more violence than is usually featured in comparable PG-rated movies. The family adventure includes all sorts of weapons, explosions, deaths, wide-spread destruction and more. A few characters are shown with drinks in hand, and one character even smokes a long-stemmed cigarette. Despite the intensity of the Bond-level violence, there are plenty of positive themes about family, courage, and identity to make this a must-see for families.
Parents need to know that this action-packed adventure includes a little bit of potty humor (which most kids will find hilarious) and one almost-swear word. Younger children might be scared by the mutant creatures, but most will find them more silly than frightening. Characters are frequently in peril (though it’s usually played for laughs), and there’s a certain amount of head-bonking violence. But no one even gets a scratch, except for one villain, whose encounter with flames leaves her having a very bad hair day.
Parents need to know that Brave is pretty scary for a “princess movie,” especially for kids under 7 and/or those who are very sensitive to peril. Several intense sequences involve a large angry bear that attacks the main characters — which are even more so when seen in 3-D — and (possible spoiler alert) a possibly disturbing but mostly comical transformation of a mother into a bear. A moment when the mom-turned-bear temporarily forgets she’s human and growls at her daughter could upset younger kids. There’s also a lot of brawling among the Scotsmen, who use both weapons (arrows, swords, etc.) and their bodies (fists, teeth) on each other. The first Pixar movie to revolve around a female main character, Brave does have a strong message about family relationships and open communication between parents and kids (particularly mothers and daughters). There’s no romance for Princess Merida, but you can expect a few jokes about men being naked under their kilts; a couple of scenes even include quick glimpses of naked cartoon bums belonging to men and three young boys. Although there are no product placements in the movie, there’s a ton of Brave merchandise available, particularly aimed at girls.
Parents need to know that Freaky Friday is a switched-identities comedy that will appeal to older kids, tweens, and teens alike. It’s a good movie for families to watch together, as it will spark shared laughter and possible lively conversation about parent-child relationships. There is some very mild sexual innuendo as filmmakers skillfully handle the awkward moments when the teen girl in her mom’s body and the mom in her teen’s body are confronted with potentially romantic moments with the two male love interests. Occasional swearing is used to help define the characters as they adapt to their new and unfamiliar roles (“Oh, my God!” “We’re screwed,” “harlot,” “hell,” “fart,” “it sucks”). Two earthquakes shake things up a bit, but no one is hurt.
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Common Sense Media is a leading independent nonprofit organization offering the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for everything kids want to watch, play, read, and learn. The ratings, reviews, and information are unbiased and provided for free to help families and educators make great media and technology choices.