Greatest hits: Movies for kids

Many months ago, on the internal “parents” mailing list at work, someone asked for “movies that a 3 year old could watch that are also fun for the parents.” I wrote the following, which elicited from one list member the gratifying response, “This has to be the coolest kids’ movies list I’ve ever seen.”

Some recommendations in addition to the usual Disney/Pixar/HBO-Family stuff:

Animals Are Beautiful People
Remember the narrated documentary bits from The Gods Must Be Crazy about flora, fauna, and tribal life in the Kalahari desert? This is a whole movie of just that (by the same narrator and filmmakers), humorous in many places and a minimum of nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw.
Apollo 13
If you skip the preliminaries and go straight to the blast-off, and keep your child informed about what’s happening in the story and that it all happened in real life, it’s great.
Batman (1966)
A ton of fun, if you don’t mind your 3-year-old watching cartoonish fistfights.
Some small kids will be frightened by the peril of the (spoiler) kidnaped children, but you can assure them that (spoiler) it all turns out OK.
Chicken Run
From the Wallace and Gromit folks.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Clearly some of the filmmakers behind Mary Poppins were trying to reproduce that film’s success, and missed — but not by too much.
The Court Jester
Plenty of great Danny Kaye silliness if you don’t mind the (cartoonish) sword-fighting and jousting.
Curious George (the Ron Howard movie)
Much maligned by Curious George purists, but we love it.
A Hard Day’s Night
You can’t start ’em on Beatles fandom too early.
The Muppet Movie
When your kids O.D. on typical inane children’s programming, show them this as an antidote.
The Music Man
Teach your kids to lithp along with little Ronnie Howard — fun! Then tell them he grew up to make two of the other movies in this list and blow their minds.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Apart from its numerous other charms, it includes a play on the word but/butt. Three-year-old gold.
A Pocketful of Miracles
Actually most of this one will probably bore your three-year-old, but it’s a Christmas tradition at our house and my kids seem to tolerate it well enough.
School of Rock
Like all other parents, I’m hoping to get a couple of musicians out of the deal.
Silent Movie
You’ll have to read the title cards for them, and (if you’re like me) edit out the running “Fags!” gag.
Singin’ in the Rain
If your kid isn’t red-faced with laughter after “Make ’em Laugh,” consult your pediatrician.
Star Trek: the animated series
Not-half-bad kid-oriented sci-fi stories from the 70’s with the original cast doing voices and plenty of respect for science, alien races, etc.
What’s Up, Doc?
Very young kids will of course get a lot less out of this than older ones, but they still get plenty. This one’s in frequent rotation at Casa Glickstein.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Pure magic. And for the record, I love Johnny Depp, but he can’t hold a candle to Gene Wilder.
Yellow Submarine
The Blue Meanie invasion of Pepperland is a little much, especially if you’re a gun-averse parent. But see “can’t start ’em on Beatles fandom too early” above.

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