Below is a partial list of the movies we recommend you watch with your children after the age of twelve. What we looked for was: good triumphing over evil, love over hate, cultural (or historical) value, and no implied or explicit immoral conduct.
The purpose of exposing our daughter to a wide variety of “good” movies was manifold. Chiefly, we were applying the principle which also applies to money. That is, it has been said that bankers give their children real money to play with, so that as they get older they will recognize counterfeit money, having already become familiar with good money. Inevitably, your children will encounter the world’s preoccupation with TV watching and movie going. Introducing them early on to quality films will help them to better discern the good from the bad, the acceptable from the unacceptable.
- Ben-Hur, 1959, based on the 1880 novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.From Amazon here. Don't rent it, buy it! You will likely see this movie multiple times. One of many movie reviewer comments on this film:
- I own over 2,000 movies on DVD or VHS. I have gone to many many more movies that have not been worthy of my collection, thus my exposure to film has been extensive. I mention this because through every film I have seen; I still come back to a film from 1959 as the greatest achievement in cinematic history... While the modern films are wonderful and have a fantastic richness to them, they still are a "small" notch below Ben-Hur.
- The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, 1958, based on the true story of Gladys Aylward, a tenacious British maid, who became a missionary in China during the tumultuous years leading up to World War II. Plot summary here. You should own the DVD but a low quality video version is available on YouTube here.
- The Treasure of Lost Canyon, 1952, loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Difficult to find film for purchase, but can be viewed online (and/or downloaded) here.
- The Little Princess, 1939, loosely based on the novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Watch it on YouTube here. The film was the first Shirley Temple movie to be filmed completely in Technicolor. It was also her last major success as a child star.
- Seabiscuit, produced by American Experience. Seabiscuit (May 23, 1933 – May 17, 1947) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse in the United States. A small horse, Seabiscuit had an inauspicious start to his racing career, but became an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many Americans during the Great Depression. You can get Seabiscuit on Amazon here or watch a low quality video version on YouTube here. Or, you can get the full set of videos of "American Experience: The 1930s" from here. Please note: Do *not* get the modern, 2003, version with Tobey Maguire, which is a waste of time.
- The Black Stallion, 1979, based on the 1941 classic children's novel The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Beautifully filmed. From Amazon here.
- Winged Migration, 2002. The movie was shot over the course of four years on all seven continents. It was shot using in-flight cameras, most of the footage is aerial, and the viewer appears to be flying alongside birds of successive species, especially Canada geese. They traverse every kind of weather and landscape, covering vast distances in a flight for survival. The filmmakers exposed over 590 miles of film to create an 89-minute piece. In one case, two months of filming in one location was edited down to less than one minute in the final film. Watch the low quality video on YouTube here. Better yet, get the DVD from Amazon here.
- Hidalgo, 2004, based on the legend of the American distance rider Frank Hopkins and his mustang Hidalgo.
Silent film era
- The General, 1926, adapted from the memoir The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger. The General is an American silent comedy film released by United Artists inspired by the Great Locomotive Chase, which happened in 1862. Watch it on YouTube here.
Black & White era
- The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1934. The film is about an eighteenth-century English aristocrat who leads a double life, appearing as an effete aristocrat while engaged in an underground effort to free French nobles from Robespierre's Reign of Terror in the French Revolution of the 1790's. Watch it on YouTube here.
- The Son of Monte Cristo, 1940. An American Adventure film. Watch it on YouTube here.