As we gear up for the holiday season, there will be times when you want to enjoy a good, wholesome family movie night. But how do you decide on a great, feel-good movie everyone can enjoy? Well, we checked out some awesome titles. Some are newer, and one is really old. For our judging criteria, we used a variety of factors.
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The first factor is the age range. We wanted titles that would appeal to young and old alike. Secondly, duration. It can be difficult to find the time to watch a long movie like “Titanic” or “Dances with Wolves,” so we kept our selections under a two-hour duration. Thirdly, we thought a happy ending would be nice, so we avoided those movies with less-than-blissful endings. Get the popcorn popping if you’re ready. These are our recommendations for your family movie night adventures!
1. “The Princess Bride”
Can we really say enough about this selection from 1987? It has a princess, a hero, pirates, villains, adventure, comedy, romance, and even a giant! Although skeptical at first, a young grandson (Fred Savage) listens as his grandfather (Peter Falk) reads the tale of Buttercup and the handsome young Westley. As the story unfolds, the boy is captivated, and your family will be too! Whether you have seen this movie or not (seriously, if you have never seen “The Princess Bride” you are missing out!), it is always an excellent choice for a family movie night. You can watch this classic movie with subscriptions on Disney+ and Prime Video. It can also be purchased from Apple TV, Vudu, and Redbox.
2. “Singin’ in the Rain”
A quintessential love story, this 1952 musical starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds is a romantic adventure. The cast is working to transition from silent movies to “talkies” amidst the complications of falling in love. While not for everyone, this one is worth watching for the singing and dancing! Younger kids might even recognize Debbie Reynolds, as she portrayed the grandmother, Aggie Cromwell, in the Halloweentown series. You can watch “Singin’ in the Rain” on Prime Video Max and Hulu Max with subscriptions, or purchase it from a variety of sources.
3. “Mamma Mia!”
Another musical, romantic comedy, “Mamma Mia!” from 2008 showcases the upbeat music of ABBA. The characters are assembled for a wedding, but there is controversy about who the father of the bride is. With three possible choices, all in attendance, the bride has a tough decision. Each man is eager to claim her as his offspring and hilarity ensues as they vie for the honor. The music is absolutely fantastic, with a combination of ABBA hits from the past and additional new music supplied by band member Benny Andersson. This is a feel-good movie the whole family will be singing along with! “Mamma Mia!” is available for free with an Apple TV+ trial subscription. All other services show it only available as a rental or purchase at this time.
4. “Toy Story”
This 1995 film began what is now an entire franchise of movies, short films, and products. Starring the toys of young Andy, we follow Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) as they have adventures while no one is watching. Whether you have seen it 100 times or never, this is always fun for children and adults. Relive your childhood, but do watch out for Sid! “Toy Story” is available with a Disney+ subscription or can be rented from other sources.
5. “Field of Dreams”
This 1989 drama combines sports and dreams. On a small corn farm in Iowa, a man hears a voice whispering, “If you build it we will come.” He built it, and they came. Follow the story as Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) builds his “Field of Dreams.” This movie is available free on Peacock TV, or to rent from other streaming services.
The United States hadn’t won the Olympics in hockey for 20 years. Until Coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) and the 1980 “Miracle” team took to the ice. Follow the story as these young athletes and their determined coach take the world by surprise. Even if you are not a sports enthusiast, you will enjoy this epic 2004 film on family movie night. You can watch “Miracle” on Disney+ with a subscription, or rent it on other platforms.
Disney movies are always an excellent choice for family movie nights. Animated or live-action, they contain wholesome storylines, characters, and plenty for everyone. The 2009 movie “Up” is no different. Follow the story of Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner) as he floats his house using nothing but balloons, to Paradise Falls. There is adventure, heroes, and even a villain! With a stowaway and some adopted critters, this movie has something for everyone! You can stream “Up” on Disney+ or rent it on other services.
8. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (The original one, not the newer ones)
Based on the book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” by Roald Dahl, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” follows young Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) as he enjoys a one-of-a-kind tour of the famous chocolate factory of the eccentric Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder). We know there was a 2005 adaptation starring Johnny Depp, and now a 2023 adaptation with Timothée Chalamet, both of which are good in their own right, but the original from 1971 stays more in line with the book in our opinion. You can stream the 1971 classic on Apple TV with a free trial, or rent it from several other streaming services.
9. “School of Rock”
This 2003 classic film follows the exploits of failed rockstar Dewey Finn (Jack Black) as he navigates substitute teaching in a middle school class. He doesn’t stick to the curriculum but manages to mold his young charges into a rock band with some kick. We see the kids grow into their adolescence and become a team. Whatever your age, “School of Rock” will check all the boxes for a family movie night win. You’ll find this adventure free on Roku at Paramount+ and PlutoTV. It is also available to rent on other services.
Another classic from 2003, “Elf” follows 30-year-old Buddy the Elf (Will Farrell) as he searches for his real dad, Walter Hobbs (James Caan). Buddy was raised as an elf in the North Pole after hitchhiking in Santa’s toy sack as an infant but realizes he is not a real elf. He has adventures and mishaps that end in hilarity and bring Christmas joy back into the life of his biological dad. “Elf” is available with subscriptions on HBO Max, Prime Video, and Paramount+. You can rent or purchase on additional platforms.
No matter what movie you select for your family movie night, be sure to enjoy it. We seldom take time out just to spend with our families. The upcoming holiday season is a perfect time to form new habits and traditions! Make some popcorn and hunker down for an enjoyable evening.
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