We're always looking for ways to bond with our children. When they're little, it involves lots of cuddles and hands-on activities. As they get older, you might want to share some of your favorite activities with your kids. How about movies?
Of course, many of our favorite films from our childhood aren't appropriate for kids or didn't age well. It can be hard to find a movie that both you and your kids will enjoy. That's why we're rounding up some classics with memorable characters and important messages, perfect for the whole family.
So, grab your loved ones and popcorn. It's time for a movie night, mama.
1. Legally Blonde (2001)
It's hard to believe this movie has been around for 20 years! Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a girl who knows what she wants: her boyfriend, Warner (Matthew Davis). When he breaks up with her to attend Harvard Law, Elle hits the books in a plan to win him back. Along the way, she realizes she's capable of more she realized. We love Legally Blonde for all the memorable characters (Jennifer Coolidge, Luke Evans, Selma Blair and Ali Larter gave great performances), laughs and most importantly, for Elle's unwavering belief in herself. Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
2. The Sound of Music (1965)
Maria (Julie Andrews), who's studying to become a nun, is hired to look after the children of widower George von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), a wealthy Captain who keeps his estate in tip-top order. He routinely issues strict military decrees to discipline the kids, blows a whistle to beckon them and dresses them all in sailor outfits. When Maria arrives, the Captain is initially hostile toward her; however, the children warm up to her after she allows them to be happy-go-lucky and creative. The free-spirited Maria not only brings out the children's singing talent, but allows them to enjoy life, turning her into the motherly figure they've been missing. She even encourages the Captain to bond with them more. The Captain begins to notice the positive impact Maria has on the kids and eventually takes to her, opening the door to closer family relationships within the von Trapp family. Streaming on Disney +, Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video
3. Annie (1982)
This classic film (there's also a 2014 remake) is based on the 1977 Broadway musical. The story follows Annie (Aileen Quinn), a precocious dreamer who yearns to find her birth parents. After having to endure living in a less than desirable girls' home run by Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett), a cold-hearted alcoholic, her life takes a turn for the better after a billionaire, Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks (Albert Finney), takes her in for a week to boost his image. Annie arrives at his mansion filled with luxuries she's never experienced, enjoying her stay, but still hopeful her parents will come for her. Annie soon comes to realize who has her best interest and who doesn't. Although this fictionalized tale focuses on the relationship between Annie and Daddy Warbucks, and her quest to find her parents, the film will spark a real and honest conversation about foster care, adoption and birth relatives, confirming the reality that families come in many forms. Streaming on Hulu, Starz, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV
4. Selena (1997)
Selena is based on the true events of Mexican singing sensation Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (Jennifer Lopez). In the background, the movie explores the pivotal relationships of Selena's compassionate and supportive mom (Constance Marie) and her strict yet loving dad (Edward James Olmos), as the musician's singing career first takes off, the pains and struggles along the way, and her ultimate rise to fame. Although the film ends tragically with Selena's untimely passing, the film beautifully displays her life, her first love, and even her death, in a tasteful and non-gratuitous way. Moms will appreciate the special bond Selena had, not only with her mother, but with her entire family, as fame takes them all over the world together where Selena performs to loving and adoring fans. Selena made an indelible impression wherever she performed and broke down cultural and racial barriers along the way, leaving a rich legacy that will never be forgotten. Streaming on HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV
5. The Parent Trap (1998)
The Parent Trap is a remake of the 1961 film of the same name. This movie spotlights a divorced couple, Nicholas (Dennis Quaid) and Elizabeth (Natasha Richardson) who broke up shortly after their identical twin daughters Annie and Hallie (Lindsay Lohan) were born. The sisters bump into each other at a summer camp where they initially dislike one another. When they realize they are sisters, separated at birth, they hatch a plan to switch places so they can reunite with the parent they never got to know. Nicholas lives in Napa, California, and Elizabeth in London, so the girls learn each other's accent and the adventure begins. As each daughter gets to know their parent, they share new laughs, tears and authentic joy. Streaming on Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV
6. Freaky Friday (2003)
Freaky Friday is also a remake, this time of the classic 1976 movie of the same name. This fantasy comedy follows the story of high schooler Anna (Lindsay Lohan) and her widowed mom, Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) who are constantly at odds, as the two fail to understand each other's world. One night, the mother and daughter have a heated argument at a restaurant and a peculiar incident causes them to wake up in the other's body the next morning. Anna is an aspiring musician with an upcoming show, and Tess a successful therapist who's about to get married, so the timing of their switch couldn't be worse. The duo literally have to learn to walk in the other's shoes. The more they remain in the wrong body, the more problems and conflicts they encounter that they have to solve, but the more they begin to empathize and respect each other as their bond grows closer. Streaming on Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV
7. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
This uplifting movie is about a gifted 11-year-old girl, Akeelah (Keke Palmer), who goes to Crenshaw Middle School in the inner city of Los Angeles. Her principal encourages her to enter the Spelling Bee; she does and wins. One day, a visiting English professor, Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne) tests Akeelah and sees that she's talented enough to enter the National Spelling Bee. Meanwhile, Akeelah's mother, Tanya, who is widowed and stressed from the weight of life, is fervently opposed to her daughter entering the contest because of her own fear of failure. As time goes on, Tanya recognizes the God-given gift in Akeelah and her daughter actually teaches her a lesson about courage. When Akeelah feels like giving up, Tanya ends up being her biggest supporter. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV
8. The Karate Kid (2010)
The Karate Kid is part of the original franchise that began in1984. After losing her job, widowed mom, Sherri (Taraji P. Henson) receives a job opportunity in China, so she moves her 12-year-old son, Dre (Jaden Smith), to Beijing for a fresh start. After Dre is confronted by the neighborhood bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), a kung fu prodigy, Dre is saved by an older maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a kung fu master, who teaches him how to defend himself. The martial arts drama shows the grit and determination of a kid coming of age in a new country, but also showcases the strength and courage that Dre musters within—qualities he inherited from his strong single mom. Streaming on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV
9. Miracles from Heaven (2016)
This heartfelt drama, based on a true story, shows the lengths one determined mom, Christy (Jennifer Garner), takes to ensure her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers), gets the proper medical treatment to help with her life-threatening illness. After an emergency surgery that leaves Anna on a feeding tube, local doctors exhaust all resources to help. The country's top physician, Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez) is located in Boston but he has a several month's-long wait list. This doesn't stop Christy from flying out to Boston with Anna. They befriend a local resident (Queen Latifah) who makes their stay better, and due to a last-minute opening, Anna gets an appointment. After extensive treatment, Anna's outlook is dismal, and they are sent home with nothing more that can be done. When it seems all hope is gone, the family's miracle finally shows up in the most unexpected event, leaving an entire community in awe. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV
10. Hidden Figures (2016)
Hidden Figures tells the story of the African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race (a series of competitive technology demonstrations between the United States and the Soviet Union, aiming to show superiority in spaceflight.) Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are all ambitious working moms with supportive families, yet demanding jobs, where their unit is separated by race and sex. Katherine becomes the first Black woman on her team assigned to assist Al Harrison's (Kevin Costner) Space Task Group, where she has to walk a ½ mile to the nearest bathroom for "colored people". This historical drama is not only entertaining for the family, but educational, highlighting the lesson that with the right determination moms can succeed and achieve their dreams even during the most extreme challenges. Streaming on Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV
11. The Greatest Showman (2018)
Although this film centers around PT Barnum's (Hugh Jackman) rise to fame building an immensely popular circus, this musical drama also showcases a strong and stable bond with his wife Charity (Michelle Williams) and daughters as their dad tours the world to pursue his dreams. Charity is there when her husband starts with nothing to eventually gaining immense notoriety and she supports him at every level. While Barnum travels with the circus, Charity remains a caring and stable rock for her daughters. Though history proves that Barnum was way more flawed, the fictionalized version teaches kids the importance of pursuing their dreams and loving people for their unique qualities and differences. The ultimate message moms and kids will glean from this film is hope, inclusion and acceptance, plus the catchy soundtrack will have you coming back again and again. Streaming on Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV
This article was originally published on April 27, 2021.