Movie nights are a great way to spend some time together as a family. Not only is it fun if you prepare a bit beforehand and choose a movie with care, but it can also be a time to discuss important topics and values together as a family.
Depending on the movie, you can find a natural and exciting way to touch on topics like destiny, life goals, living for something greater than yourself, dreaming big, courage, perseverance, character, and all the different challenges you might face in life.
Here are some of our top selections sent in by moms around the world. If you’d like to add to this list, please fill out the form through this link.
Cuddle up and grow together!
- McFarland USA
- Evan Almighty
- The Big Green
- Finding Nemo
- Iron Giant
- Lion King
- The Sandlot
- Star Wars (original trilogy)
- The Wizard of Oz
- Sound of Music
- Toy Story
- The Karate Kid
- How to Train Your Dragon series
- Frozen I
- Frozen II
- Lord of the Rings series
Below are examples of questions to ask after the movie and discussion topics. More to come!
Discussing Life’s Most Important Lessons: Disney’s “The Lion King”
Disney’s “The Lion King” essentially re-tells the age-old biblical story of Cain and Abel by way of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (but that’s another story). The movie is replete with beautiful imagery, lovable and annoying characters, and a story that strikes at the heart of the human experience. In the story, there are important themes of responsibility, our “proper position” and questions about how we best face adversity.
What are the most important things in life? Who am I? What are my purposes in life and my community? What can I take away from the story for my own life?
It might be best for parents to watch the movie with some idea in mind of questions they might want to ask their kids afterward. Here are a few sample questions to get a discussion started:
1) In the movie, Scar was simply an evil character, but we all sometimes have those feelings of jealousy, envy, and wanting what others have in real life. What do you think Scar should have done as the younger brother of the king? What would you have done in his position?
2) What were your favorite and least favorite parts of the movie?
a) Favorite: Why was it your favorite?
b) Least favorite: What did it make you feel?
Most likely, the least favorites were scary, uncomfortable, and unpleasant situations. Still, it is so important to learn to articulate specific feelings that we feel and learn how to communicate them to others. This is true even for (or especially) adults.
3) The entire scene when Simba ran away and learned to live a life of “Hakuna Matata” looked fun and was funny. Yet, it made him forget his true self and his actual responsibilities. Do you think sometimes we do this? Run away and distract ourselves? But in the meantime, this affected the whole kingdom. What do you think Simba should have done? What would you do?
4) Simba saw that his father “lived” in him. What do you think this means?
Stories constantly surround us in our lives. How we understand them shapes the way we understand life itself. Taking time to watch and discuss a movie together both 1) creates a shared understanding as a family on essential values and 2) helps one develop critical thinking skills.
The Land Before Time
The Land Before Time is a movie about a ragtag group of young lost dinosaurs, moving in search of the “Great Valley” to be reunited with their families. It is a story of friendship and overcoming stereotypes but deeper still it is about family and particularly the parent-child relationship. We can see how much the main brontosaurus protagonist, Little Foot, misses his mom but how much more must God miss being with His own children?
It has enough action and endearing characters to keep even young watchers engaged. I suggest reading through these questions before watching the movie together to help you think of some questions you might come up with along the way.
Watching this story together gives you a chance to talk about deeper things including death, challenging misconceptions and the good that can come from overcoming difficulty.
1) Early on in the movie, the young triceratop’s father proclaimed that “Three horns never play with long necks.” Little Foot asked his mother why this was the case. How did that scene make you feel?
2) If Little Foot and Cera hadn’t gotten separated from their parents they would have never become friends. Do you think sometimes difficult situations can become a good experience?
3) The movie touches on the death of a parent and the idea that Little Horn’s mother “will always be with you as long as you remember the things that she taught you.” Discuss this idea. How are the people we love, our family, with us even when we are apart?
Some suggestions on follow up:
- Even though we do not see God, He is always with us as well when we practice His love and truth
- Things we cannot expect happen to use but we can take with us the love and lessons of our family
- No Matter What is a shortboard book you might consider reading later together at night
4) In the movie, it was important that Little Foot find his way to the Great Valley in order to keep the “circle of life going.” We might say that this is like the traditions and values that we have as a family. What are some of those family traditions and values we appreciate?
5) Petrie was never able to fly but learned only when he really had to. Why do you think this was so?
6) In the movie it was easy to see how Cera was being silly: being too prideful to admit when she was wrong and nearly led the whole pack into danger (and the wrong direction) as well as missed the opportunity to become good friends with the others. It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong but when we fail to do this there are both dangers and opportunities that we miss. Let’s keep this in mind to think about when we might be acting like Cera.
- Who was your favorite character? Why?
- Who was your least favorite? Why?
- Who do you think was the bravest?
- Who do you think learned/changed the most from the beginning to the end?
We’re constantly surrounded by stories and we always will be. Taking time to watch and discuss a movie together both 1) creates a shared understanding as a family on important values and 2) helps one develop critical thinking skills.
If you tried it, what did you think? What are some questions you came up with? Feel free to share with other FPA families by email.
The Cinderella Story: Let’s Not Miss the Point
No one likes to talk about Cinderella anymore. Not really. It seems to me that people often express disdain towards Cinderella as a helpless, poor but pretty young woman who is waiting to be rescued by her Prince Charming. But this would be a superficial examination of a much more complex lesson about life and human relationships.
Anyone who has undergone a situation similar to that of Cinderella might protest – nothing is harder than working in the shadows, unacknowledged and unappreciated in and out, from day to day. Most people go through these situations but often with very different results. Who doesn’t feel – at times – unrecognized for his or her efforts? Who doesn’t feel the weight and the pressure to perform, to carry out orders and instructions whether from your boss, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your husband, or your wife?
Yet what makes the Cinderella story exceptional is the way that she handled the situation. The story isn’t worth telling if it were an ordinary one. What makes the story is Cinderella’s attitude towards her unfortunate circumstances. Rather than become a victim (“I don’t deserve this,” “This is unfair!”) to the way her life had turned out, she turned it around by accepting her burden, making the best of the situation, and making friends along the way.
Granted, she still sighed and wasn’t without her complaints, but she didn’t let those trials and tribulations twist her character. She didn’t become bitter, she didn’t lash out at those around her and she found ways to channel her frustrations into productive endeavors. Isn’t this a lesson for all of us?
Interestingly, running alongside this lesson on attitude, the story also becomes one of the contrasts – the comparison of true beauty and its false opposite. For this, we can look to the entire stepfamily – the stepmother and stepsisters and their approach to life for lessons on what not to do.
The stepmother married a wealthy man but after he passed, exceeded their means in frivolity and excess. Lacking the wisdom and foresight to make good decisions, the stepmother plunges the entire estate into difficult financial circumstances. She was also cruel and “bitterly jealous”, viewing Cinderella as a reminder of everything her daughters lacked – grace, beauty, and all the feminine charms. From one dimension, this envy was about external beauty – Cinderella was pretty in contrast to her stepsisters. Yet what made Cinderella truly beautiful to those around her was her kindness, patience, and grace.
There was a stark reminder of this where the stepsisters were in their music and voice lessons. For all the music lessons they may have taken, the sisters did not produce anything beautiful and perhaps this was a reflection of their clearly spoiled and ungracious character. This scene then cuts away to find Cinderella, in her rags and cleaning the floors on her knees, singing the same song in a beautiful and charmingly unselfconscious way. Her “performance” was unaffected and sweet, singing as she worked and making those around her smile with pleasure.
It is at the end of the story that the results of cultivating a beautiful character becomes clear: in all of her relationships with those around her: the horses, the mice, the dog, and the birds. Certainly, Cinderella didn’t make friends in hopes that they would someday help her. She simply made friends while making the best of the cards life had dealt her. Nevertheless, as with many things in life, it was in becoming the best person we can be – in spite of our circumstances – that led Cinderella to the life of her dreams. Her friends freed her to claim the life that she deserved precisely by having become the kind of person that deserves good things.
We could look at the scene where the stepsisters were trying on the glass slipper in its original context to understand this a little more deeply. In the original Cinderella story, both stepsisters cut away parts of their feet in trying to fit into the slipper. In looking to see what this might mean, we can see that this is about more than actual feet. The stepsisters, after a lifetime of habits and attitudes of ingratitude, trivial pursuits, and petty jealousies, could not hope to “fit” into the feminine ideal that was this glass slipper.
The Cinderella story is not really very exciting. It doesn’t really even have all that much of a climax and yet it holds very important lessons about life, perhaps most particularly for women. Life will invariably hold lessons and challenges for each of us. We will always find ourselves in circumstances that will grate on our nerves, test our patience, and make us shout or sigh in frustration. These situations are not the real tests of life. Rather – how we respond to these situations becomes the true test of our character and who we become in life.
Will we take up the challenge to become better, wiser, more beautiful in character and heart? Lucky for us, we can decide…
Some Prompts for Discussion:
1) Cinderella had a difficult story: orphaned at a young age with a cold stepmother who forced her to work in her own house even though she was still very young. Most people don’t have such a difficult situation and perhaps it makes you conscious of how you have a very lucky situation. Take a few minutes to list off a few (3-5) things that you are lucky to have as compared to Cinderella. What are you grateful for in your life?
2) Do you ever feel sorry for yourself? In the movie, the stepsisters were complaining about their situation (they have nothing to wear, everything they have is old). When you watched the stepsisters, how did they make you feel? Compare the situation with Cinderella, who did not complain and instead helped others.
3) Growing your heart and developing your character seems to happen most quickly in difficult situations. Think about a specific situation in your life where you felt sorry for yourself. How can you turn things around? Is there something you can do differently? Is there a situation that you wish you had acted differently? Share your thoughts with each other – learn from your and others’ mistakes.
Moana: Strength, Courage and Inspiration from our Heritage and Original Value
I watched Moana with my kids the other day and found it so relevant to the different issues of our time. Much like many of us might feel ourselves today, the movie tells the story of a tribe that is faced with a crisis to their way of life. I was inspired by the fact that Moana, a young, up-and-coming chief, is inspired by the legends of her ancestors to set out to seek new opportunities. Rather than discarding the past wholescale as one might have been tempted to do, she looked to the past to help guide her actions for the future of the community.
Her quest begins with sophomoric confidence, which then stalls due to self-doubt. It only restarts once she connects to her true identity, her innate value, and the mission she is tasked with for the sake of her people. This all inevitably comes to a head when Moana clashes with Maui. Maui, despite being a demigod, had never quite come to terms with himself and always sought to gain approval from others. We learn later that these flaws had, in fact, caused a series of events that led to an inter-island blight.
By contrasting the differences between Moana and Maui, the movie shows the importance of both strong power and soft power. Moana surprises us with her agility and strength in major confrontations with monsters and pirates, but what really saves the day is her ability to see the true essence of Tafiti, the island goddess who had taken on an unrecognizable monstrous form. And despite Maui’s limitations in terms of self-awareness, his cooperation and many talents were essential in resolving the crisis. It is a reminder of the need for many different kinds of people and talents. Perhaps we need this gentle reminder that it is in our differences that we can find unique contributions to different challenges.
I found myself drawing parallels to what we are undergoing as a global community with COVID-19, and also the places where many nations are in conflict. I also found relevant lessons for my own family as we continue to grapple to define our family traditions. I also started sifting through the many narratives that I have shaped my sense of identity. In the process, I discovered what I would like to pass down to my own children as they set out on their own personal quests and missions in life.
Moana is a good movie to start discussing your family’s legacy and heritage. We want to be able to share and discuss with our kids what has defined us in who we are, what values we cherish, and what we would like to leave for generations to come.
Here are some key ideas and questions you can discuss with your children as you watch this touching movie:
- What is the crisis for Moana’s tribe? What are some challenges you see in your life today?
- How did Moana take the challenge and make it an opportunity to solve the problem? How can you do that with your current challenges?
- What inspiration did Moana get from her grandmother and ancestors to start her quest? What inspirations can you get from your ancestors, spiritual figures, or people in history that can help guide your problem-solving?
- Compare and contrast Moana and Maui as heroes. Which aspects of them would you like to embody as a hero in your story?
- There is a part of the movie that Moana wants to give up. What helps her keep going? Do you have times when you wanted to give up? If not yet there probably will be. What are some things that you can look to in order to keep going when things are tough?
- Moana saw the best in people and helped them become better. Give an example of how you can help people do the same.
- Moana discovered that her ancestors were Wayfinders. It was helpful in finding new solutions to their problem. What are some traditions you hope your descendants will carry on? How will they be useful?