This summer In All Things is light-heartedly including recommendations, tips, and joys that we would love to share with you, readers, in the format of Top 5 Fridays, switching up our themes each week. Share a comment if there is a “Top 5 Friday” topic you’d like us to explore.
Like some families, you might have an established family movie night each week.
Your persistent dilemma, though, is trying to please everybody, while maybe also trying to find something new to you that’s not Disney, Marvel, or something you’ve seen multiple times.
I’ve had these dilemmas, and my deep-dive into a variety of films has led me to these gems. Each of these movies not only provides a world of wonder, but they may lead you to a half-dozen other good films for your family!
If you don’t know Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, you still might know him by his great titles: My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, The Wind Rises. His 1986 film, Castle in the Sky, is a typical blend of older European tales and Japanese anime that’s digestible for all audiences. The IMDB description couldn’t be more enticing: “a young boy and a girl with a magic crystal must race against pirates and foreign agents in search of a legendary castle.”
In the mid-late 1980s, Miyazaki had one of the most remarkable stretch-run of films ever made: Nausicaa in the Valley of the Wind, this movie, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Any of these other movies could appear at the top of this list.
Based on English poet Ted Hughes’ elegant book The Iron Man, director Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant now looks like the precursor to a lot of modern superhero films. In truth, it’s a Cold-War parable about friendship and the acceptance of strangers, in which a robot from space comes to Earth and meets an ordinary boy. Yet like the classic Spielberg movie E.T., when the government finds out about the robot intruder, it aggressively seeks to stop him. This film remains, after over twenty years, a beloved and poignant work of art.
You will want to watch this Brazilian film for the visuals alone. The movie’s plot seems basic—a young boy goes on a quest to search for his father—and yet it manages to touch on many aspects of modern society, including urban politics and environmental issues. Fable-like and fascinating—perhaps it is a touch abstract for smaller children—our family was humming its main theme song for weeks.
Seven Chances (1925)
For your family-movie night, I couldn’t recommend enough that you try the great comedic silent films. So many of them are still watchable, touching, and relevant—universal in their appeal. Near the top of the greats of the silent era is Buster Keaton. His Seven Chances is a personal favorite, equally ridiculous and inspiring. Buster plays a rich heir who is set to inherit millions, only there’s a stipulation: he must be married by 7:00pm, on the very day he receives news of his pending inheritance! Insanity ensues, as Buster tries to propose to just about any woman who crosses his path. This movie concludes with a remarkable chase sequence involving boulders and a mob of women in veils, ready to marry Buster!
Many of the great family films are nature-oriented. This is no different for this gem from Australia, about a boy who lives with his father on a remote beach. The father has left society, taking his son with him, who befriends a pelican and an Aborigine. The movie’s use of the pelican, which is an unusual film pet, is remarkable. Please note that I am referring to the original Storm Boy, based on a 1964 children’s book of the same name. You’ll also find a remake available, from 2019, starring Geoffrey Rush.
To find any of these films, I suggest you look up the movies on Letterboxd. Just click on “Where to Watch” below the film poster for each movie entry. All of the movies should be available to stream, somewhere and somehow.