Okay, I realize I don’t have kids yet, but I probably will eventually, so bear with me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way watching movies have changed. When I was a kid everything was on VHS. You owned a few (or a lot) of movies and you watched those over and over until you could pretty much recite them by heart. If you were lucky, on nights when a friend came for a sleepover, you might get to go to the video store, where you would get to spend hours perusing the shelves for the most interesting-looking VHS. Unfortunately, my kids probably won’t have that experience.
Even if there are a few video stores kept alive purely on nostalgia (like the one in Victoria, B.C.), John and I aren’t the kind of people who would bother buying a VHS or DVD player when we could just hook up our computer to a TV. So my kids will probably never have to watch the same show twice (unless they want to or I make them). Between Netflix and YouTube, there is an endless world of movies available. However, rather than let them just watch the newest flashiest shows around, I’ve officially decided I’m going to make them watch the classics with me. Here are a few movies that will be at the top of my list (for this particular list, I’ve decided to leave out cartoons to focus on the live-action films that have stayed with me through the years).
The Princess Bride
When I was a kid I LOVED The Princess Bride. The only thing was, I did not pick up on any of the sarcasm. In my little kid brain it was just this magical tale full of adventure, passion, and rodents of unusual size.
As an adult, I get to go back and laugh at the dry humour peppered throughout.
Yet somehow, even though I now know it’s a comedy, and I can laugh almost the whole way through the movie, the ending still gets me. In fact, I think it’s still one of the most poignant revenge plots I’ve seen.
The Miracle Worker
My mom always says that early films have some of the most passionate acting you will ever see because Hollywood actors were still used to stage acting and used their entire bodies to tell a story. While this over-the-top acting still makes my dad giggle and my siblings mock certain scenes in this movie, man, did it ever help this story hit home for me as a kid. I mean, that scene at the pump where Helen finally pieces everything together? It still makes me cry.
I also think Helen Keller’s story is an important one to hear. The stories of people with disabilities continues to be something we ignore. Even when we do share these kind of stories, it’s with an ableist condescension. Hearing about people like Helen Keller, who did things that few women did at the time (much less women who were both deaf and blind) helps us have respect, rather than just pity, for the people in our society who might not fit into the mainstream way of doing things.
The Sound of Music
I used to be obsessed with musicals, and since John enjoys a good musical too I’m hoping that we will be able to trick our kids into liking them too. While I probably watched at least half of the Rodgers and Hammerstein collection before I even hit high school, The Sound of Music is, without a doubt, the best film they ever put a score to. I remember watching it over and over as a kid.
I, like probably every other little girl who watched it, wanted to be just like Maria. In hind sight, I think one of the reasons that I loved Maria so much was because she wasn’t the beauty of the story, she was just herself and that was enough (although we all know that Julie Andrews is a goddess among humans).
Not to mention she wasn’t about to be pushed around by no man.
But The Sound of Music is much more than just the story of a girl who grows into her own skin. It also deals with the Nazi occupation of Austria. Eventually, the family realizes they will have to leave the country they love if they want to avoid serving an unjust system of government. As a child, even without knowing the full extent of horrors that Nazi occupation would bring, this movie made me realize how important it was to stand up against what you knew was wrong.
Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version)
Speaking of women who aren’t about to let themselves be pushed around,
I will, of course be introducing my kids to Pride and Prejudice.
No, I’m not talking about the Keira Knightly version where they cut out all the funny bits and she just goes around making this face the whole time.
I mean the classic, eight hour long BBC miniseries that basically follows the novel word-for-word.
Jane Austen is the queen of telling a great story through dialogue. Even in the novels, dialogue moves the plot forward far more often than her narrative voice. Consequently, her novels translate better to the screen than a lot of other books. The stories Austen tells also centre entirely around women’s lives during a time where women were pretty much powerless. Despite the economic and social restrictions that her heroines are inevitably restricted by, characters like Elizabeth Bennett are allowed to mould their own destinies and win themselves a happy ending.
It’s a Wonderful Life
I’ve actually mentioned this film on here before, because it’s a Christmas tradition in our family. It’s definitely a tradition that I plan to continue. While this film was originally considered too sentimental to be taken seriously, that very sentimentality is part of it’s contagious charm.
It’s a Wonderful Life reminds me of my dad and the way he looks at life as something to be treasured. I want my kids to see that kind of optimism and have the chance to be sentimental. Sentimentality is something that isn’t really very common with my generation (a group of people so tired of consumerism and corruption that we don’t know how to express an opinion unless it’s sarcastic or ironic). I want my kids to have some hope for the world before they start getting too jaded.
That’s my current list of classics that I plan to force-feed to my children. This list is by no means cumulative for me and, probably, it doesn’t even resemble the list of movies you would have on yours. I bet, however, that you do have a list. Movies have a way of encapsulating certain feelings and moments in time. We hope that going back and watching those movies with the next generation will allow us to pass on the moments and feelings that mattered most to us.
So tell me, what movies are you going to make your kids watch?