The Tween Years | Movies pt 2. (The Fun Part)

by , posted on April 22nd, 2014 in Movies Worth Watching, The Tween Years

7 Great Movies for Tweens and their Families

Last week I finally dived into the tween series and talked about how R rated movies probably aren’t the best idea for our kids, while never mentioning two important things: 1. great movies for tweens to watch and 2. how much fun it is to watch movies with my kids now. I consider that a fail on my part.

Consider this is a do-over.

Remember when your kids were all about Thomas, or Barbie? And someone gifted them the DVDs for their birthdays (or you bought them yourself)? And you sat through them because you felt it was your parental duty? And how as you watched, your eyes glazed over and you could feel your brain turn to mush then trickle out your ear?

Well congratulations! Those days are behind you. Now you can watch movies together that are entertaining for everyone.

Actually to be fair, you’ll still need a child-like sense of humor and wonder for some of the films your kids enjoy. But that’s the kind of the nice thing about them. You can laugh at sophomoric silliness without apology or guilt. As my kids frequently remind me, “Laughing makes you live longer.”

Seven Great Movies for Tweens and their Families

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Yes, okay so there’s the whole face melting thing. But tweens will marvel at how fake it all looks. Also how far technology has come. There’s good fodder in there about the creativity of filmmakers and storytelling. It can also help you lead some thoughtful discussions about history—Nazis and all.

I’m not much of a scary movie fan, but I am kind of a nut for 50s Sci-Fi films. Such creativity! ParaNorman combines the elements of a great classic sci-fi film with gorgeous stop animation to produce a powerful and charming story about tolerance. Even for zombies. Note: it really isn’t for younger kids. Sorry little brothers and sisters.

Akeelah and the Bee
Okay, so I have to steal this quote from Rotten Tomatoes because it’s a perfect wrap up for this film, “Sort of like Rocky for the middle school nerd set, Akeelah is a warm, family-friendly underdog story…” Akeelah is a role model for tweens (especially girls) who fear being seen as bookish. She shows it’s cool to be smart and strong minded. Love that. Yes, it can lead to some thoughtful discussions about race, but also about the power of studying and playing to your strengths.

The Swiss Family Robinson
Disney is the king of family films, but to be honest, many of them leave me feeling just a bit flat. The Swiss Family Robinson however has a slight edge that will delight tweens and you. Plus afterwards, you can have the kids marvel at all they have. “The Swiss Family Robinson kids didn’t have cell phones and they made do.”

Freaky Friday (the original)
Sigh… Freaky Friday is one of my favorites. Jodie Foster provides a strong female lead offering tween girls and boys a nice contrast to the stereotypical fashion-obsessed, Taylor Swift singing, females frequently seen in media. Because of it, I let some of the the stereotypical subservient mom/wife character stuff slide. No Sonny Bono you can NOT call me up from work to ask me to starch your shirts. I am not your maid.

The Goonies
This one almost didn’t make the list because I get a bit annoyed with films where everyone yells over top of one another, but Dave really enjoyed watching it with the kids. And I have to admit, I enjoyed it too. There’s action and adventure and a whole lot of rambunctiousness. Oh and a few bad words, which my children really don’t like. In fact, I’ve tried to get the kids to loosen up about how offensive they find swearing. I’m like, “Sure kids shouldn’t say these things because it’s rude, and when you overuse profanity people won’t take you seriously, but you know, when artists and writers use it judiciously, it can add a sincerity to their work.” Seriously, this is how I talk to the kids, which, may be why their eyes glaze over for 70% of my ‘life-lessons.’ Okay, more like 80%.

The Secret of Kells
Here’s another animated film that’s better for tweens than young kids. The animation is stunning. STUNNING I say. The story is intense. It’s set in Medieval Ireland so you know going in there’s going to be some violence. The medieval times were not a good time to be a kid, or woman, or anyone really. Which can lead to some great discussions afterwards. But the narrative is strong and both you and the kids will enjoy the magical tale that weaves together Vikings, mysticism, and heroics.

That should keep you and your tweens busy for a while.

Note: I added links to amazon because that’s where we usually rent our movies, but you can also stream the following on Netflix: ParaNorman, Akeelah and the Bee, and The Secret of Kells.

-More Family Movie Night Picks (for the slightly younger crew)
-Art Documentaries That Inspire

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12 Responses to “The Tween Years | Movies pt 2. (The Fun Part)”

  1. Sandra Says:

    April 22nd, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    We have a family movie night (really the afternoon) every Sunday. I’ve always been a huge fan of movies and you know that I’ve been attending the Toronto International Film Festival for 13 years now. We recently started taking the girl to TIFF Kids (the kids’ version with 112 movies from 31 countries over two weeks).

    I think that just as we want our kids to be discerning readers, we also need them to be discerning consumers of movies too. There’s a lot if dreck out there but also lots of great movies.

    It’s a lovely thing to do together as a family and as you note, it can spark discussion as well. A family tradition worth starting.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Dave and I are huge movie fans too! And yes, it’s a great family tradition. It allows family members to connect with characters and gives you all something to talk about over dinner.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    ps. SUUUPER cool about TIFF Kids. I wonder if there’s something like that here in the States?

    Sandrs Reply:

    I bet in DC at least. Seattle has one too. They had q&a’s with the film makers after. And if the movie was for kids who may not be fluent enough readers for subtitles, they had an adult reading them.

    And a fab digiplay space with all sorts of cool robotics and technology games.

  2. Caroline Says:

    April 22nd, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    This is a great list! We are inching in this direction and I’m having fun watching some older movies with Liz and Helen. I’m loving this series Jen! There’s nothing like it around and there’s a need for it!

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Thanks so much Caroline! Honestly, I was super intimidated to write anything after the initial great response. I get like that sometimes. Silly, I know, but I balk whenever I perceive an external expectation. Even though it’s all in my head.

    Anyway, did you see there’s a new Annie coming out soon? I bet your girls will loooove it! Ellie and I will be all over it too. Jonah says he’s going to pass. He’s not a fan of musicals. ha!

    Sandra Reply:

    I’ve seen both Annie’s – the one with Carol Burnett is less faithful to the original. The one with Alan Cumming as Miss Hannigan’s brother is my fave.

  3. Laura Says:

    April 22nd, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Maybe this pre-tween, but a huge hit here was Back to the Future. Getting ready to show Big. Later tween years: Ferris Bueller’s?

  4. Laura Says:

    April 22nd, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Maybe this is pre-tween, but a huge hit here was Back to the Future. Getting ready to show Big. Later tween years: Ferris Bueller’s?

  5. Kristin Says:

    April 22nd, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Oh great list. I’ll have to hand this off to a friend.

  6. Sandra Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Big, Splash, Akeelah & the Bee (as you noted), Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Andersen animation!), Karate Kid.

    We watched the Princess Bride – sad to say that it doesn’t hold up and the girl wasn’t thrilled with it.

  7. Molly Says:

    May 10th, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I’d add any of the Hayao Miyazaki movies (they are animated) – My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and the many others. You can’t go wrong with Miyazaki.

    My girls also love Singing in the Rain.

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