Top 10 family movies:
1. The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book. There’s a freedom and grooviness here that’s largely absent from previous Mouse House features, as if the studio let down its hair and got with the beat once the old man was gone. The finished product is the least Disney-like Disney, with its distinct lack of wholesome, heteronormative values. You could even go further and read the film as a paean to the gay lifestyle. What is the story about if not a bunch of bachelors seeking to co-opt a fresh, young arrival into their ways of life? Until a pesky female comes along and spoils it all “He would have made one swell bear,” sights Baloo.
As for Rudyard Kipling, he’d have choked on his kedgeree to see the postwar liberties taken with his colonial fables. Disney instructed his writers not to bother reading the book.But liberated hippie-era viewers dug it, and so has pretty much everyone since. For one thing, The Jungle Book is just about the only kids’ cartoon with songs a grown-up would happily sing along to. Just as Baloo is powerless to resist King Louie’s beat, the musicality of the movie is infectiously inhibition-conquering.
This movie really swings. Few animated characters have ever danced so joyously, and there’s a jazzy rhythm to the dialogue that almost makes it feel like beat poetry. And it was hip enough to even reference The Beatles!Even with Kipling’s “heavy stuff” removed, there’s still a serious side to The Jungle Book. Gay allegories aside, the story of a child seeking his place in the world, sampling the lifestyles of others, having his naivety exploited and learning who to trust, speaks to us all. And there’s something masterful about the way the weather reflects the emotional tone – the sky turning greyer as Mowgli approaches his lowest and loneliest point, before the decisive thunderstorm. When Mowgli finally does find his place with the humans, it’s not exactly a happy ending – more a bittersweet one. It’s a reminder that the fun has to end some time. Whether we like it or not, we’ve all got to grow up.
2. Someone like Hodder
The Nordic countries have a reputation for making some of the best live-action family films in the world and Someone like Hodder more than reinforces this theory. The world of nine-year-old Hodder Jacobsen is a strange place to live. It’s a solitary, routine existence featuring a daily trip to the bakers for a rum whirl, the random and seemingly impertinent questioning of his teacher, Miss Asta K, and a perplexingly optimistic approach to difficult circumstances.
As the established class scapegoat, Hodder finds that relationships with his peers don’t come easily but his life develops a sense of purpose when a fairy appears to him and tells him that he has been chosen to save the world. Frederik Christian Johansen as Hodder perfectly captures the silent strength but inner despair of the boy who finds reality and fantasy blurring around him in this amusing and offbeat story. Director Henrik Ruben Genz deals bravely with the themes of childhood loneliness and loss while also making something uplifting and wonderful.
Top 10 family movies
Hayley Mills in Pollyanna is one of Hollywood’s most loveable child characters in film for a reason. An orphan sent to live with her rich Aunt Polly, she’s unbelievably positive, and brings the town together in that way that makes you want to throw her up on your shoulders and cheer her name. (The town folk actually do this toward the end of the movie.) The flick oozes positivism, but in a non-annoying way, and is so tender that it will resonate with people of all ages. Don’t miss other Hayley Mills classics, like The Trouble with Angels and The Parent Trap.
4. Toy Story
Until Cars ruined the record in 2006, the Pixar logo at the start of a movie was the nearest thing in cinema to the kitemark. Audiences could rest assured that the level of wit, storytelling and technical prowess would be incomparably high. Toy Story in particular was startlingly fresh. It wasn’t only that, as the first full-length computer-animated feature, the technology was zingy back in 1995. It wasn’t even that the narrative concept — toys come to life, with their own grudges, affections and hierarchies, when we aren’t looking — was groundbreaking. Rather it was the aplomb and inventiveness with which these elements were combined.
No distinction was made between the sensibilities of viewers young and old.Some of the animation has inevitably dated as badly as the mobile phones of the era. Pixar hadn’t really mastered humans back then. But given that the main characters were Woody, a toy cowboy, and Buzz Lightyear, the snazzy interloper who steals the affections of Woody’s fatherless owner Andy, that hardly mattered.The emotional core of the movie, centred around Woody’s efforts to restore himself to Andy’s arms, was horribly attuned to the displacement fears of the younger members of the audience, though it never became mawkish.
The worst you could say is that the script overlooks the irony that the supposed villain of the piece, Andy’s dysfunctional neighbour Sid, is actually the thriving creative element here. Unlike goody-two-shoes Andy, he dismembers old toys and fuses them into eccentric if freakish new hybrids. (He’d get a job at Pixar in a shot.) But the movie is such a riot of ideas and colour that this is no deal-breaker. The rest of the feast includes gold-standard voice work (as Woody, Tom Hanks gives arguably his greatest performance); a smattering of acute, original songs by Randy Newman; and a screenplay (Joss Whedon is among the writers) full of jokes that pop like champagne corks.
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The UK’s favourite boy wizard has been a literary phenomenon, and the big-screen franchise marked a turning point for the British film industry and its place as home of the best visual effects in the world. Seven books became eight films and this, the third instalment, marked a darker, more mature approach, the result of the appointment ofAlfonso Cuarón as director. The brilliant performance by Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, the escaped prisoner of the title, and the introduction of the terrifying dementors add a new sinister layer to the story, and this is the film that maps out the template for what is to follow, leaving behind the breezier, more childish opening films. Michael Gambon takes over the role of Dumbledore from the late Richard Harris, bringing his own sense of flare.
Top 10 family movies
6. Up (2009)
Pixar’s first film in digital 3D begins with a tear-inducing backstory and is followed by a breathtaking scene where thousands of balloons lift octogenarian Carl’s house into the skies and take him on a journey of exploration, adventure and ultimately self-discovery in the jungles of South America. Carl has to be one of animation’s most unlikely heroes: an elderly widower determined to defy an order to send him to a retirement home and keep his independence.
On paper, this is a project that should never have worked but it is a true family film with something to appeal to the youngest and oldest ends of the scale. The fact that it was greenlit at all is testament to a studio who are prepared to take risks, and who push their creative team to tell the best story possible. In the safe hands of director Pete Docter, Upcontinued an extraordinary run of critically acclaimed Pixar films.
Set in 1899, this Disney Musical about a singing and dancing troupe of newsboys who strike when the price of their papers is raised 1/10 of a cent, isn’t exactly historically accurate. But if your kids love music, they won’t be able to turn it off. The soundtrack is full of toe-tapping tunes (many sung by the sweet, angelic voices of boys with heavy Brooklyn accents), and the plot is strung together with impressively choreographed song and dance. The cast includes Robert Duvall, Ann-Margret and a young Bill Pullman and Christian Bale, so there’s something for you, too.
Top 10 family movies
8. The Watcher in the Woods
If you feel like going spooky—but not too spooky!—check out this Disney ghost story about two girls who move into an old mansion that’s hiding some bizarre secrets. Frightening flashes of light and glimpses of the supernatural (including several flashbacks of a blindfolded little girl—yikes!) make it delightfully spooky for kids ten and up, and you may just jump in your seat, too.
9. The Muppets (2011)
It was always going to be a risky proposition to bring the muppets back to the big screen after a period in the wilderness, but the combination of Jason Segel’s enthusiastic and accomplished script, great songs from Bret Mckenzie and the introduction of Walter, a muppet in need of discovering his heritage, was enough to relaunch it both to those of who loved them already and a new generation discovering Jim Henson’s creations for the first time.
The story sees Walter tracking down Kermit the Frog and a subsequent journey to reunite the muppets in order for them to play a charity telethon in aid of preserving the old muppet theatre and saving it from the hands of a ruthless Texas oil baron. By keeping the tried and tested ingredients of big-name cameos, a road trip and plenty of hens, The Muppets is huge fun throughout and British director James Bobin, fresh from TV’s Flight of the Conchords (2007-), provides a nice balance between the nostalgic and the contemporary.
This 1942 story of a fawn growing up to be prince of the forest is the apotheosis of a five-feature run of Disney films each worthy of that overused word “masterpiece”; its predecessors are, chronologically, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia and Dumbo. No other animation studio — not Pixar, not even Studio Ghibli — managed five knock-outs straight out of the box like that. It is also one of the strangest and most sensually avant-garde of animated movies, with minuscule adjustments in light, shading and sound playing the part that emphatic characterisation and narrative would later be expected to occupy. Imagine the film facing the focus groups and test screenings of early 21st century Hollywood.
It would wobble on its tiny legs in the face of such orthodoxy.And of course, the picture is still the most upsetting of all Disney animations. The murder of young Bambi’s mother by hunters is not only a model of visual skill and economy (no humans are ever seen) but the cinematic childhood trauma by which all others are judged. By the time the studio tried to replicate that scene with the demise of Simba’s father in The Lion King, it had forgotten what madeBambi so piercingly special: subtlety, elegance, understatement.Not forgetting the tender and pioneering drawn-cel animation techniques.
The film may be cherished by younger audience members for its cutesy-pie woodland characters such as Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk, even if those same viewers will need the word “twitterpated” explained to them. (Clue: it has nothing to do with social media.) But the real triumph is the animation’s unprecedented level of realism. The film’s colours are vivid and true. Like the emotions.
Top 10 family movies