Last month, we went to France (you can find posts about the trip here). I had grand plans about all the things I was going to accomplish on the flight. Reading, writing, embroidering, catching up on sleep, etc. I did a tiny bit of the first, and some of the last, but mostly, I just watched movies. If my children have taught me anything, it’s that tiny seat back movie screens will cure what ails ya on a long flight.

But, the good news is that I really enjoyed all the movies. Wait, no, I really recommend all the movies. One I did not enjoy. But I think I should have watched it, and I think perhaps you should too.

So, whether or not you find yourself encased for hours upon end in an aluminum tube traveling through the air at 600 miles per hour, here are some movies to consider.

1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller is great as Walter Mitty, a nondescript desk-jobber whose heroic daydreams inspire an actual adventure.

It turns out to be an excellent example of a movie that is true to the spirit of its source material, but is pretty much completely different in every other way. The plot is completely unlike that of the short story upon which it is based (which I also like), but it’s a great translation of Thurber’s concept into modern times.

The visuals are a stunning mix of on location panoramas and clever computer generated shots. My favorite is Walter’s imagined superhero-style street flight with the jerk consultant sent to transition Walter out of his job.

He’s a truly unique protagonist, and easy to root for. No gore, no language, no funny business. There is a moral issue with his love interest, who has an estranged husband. But maybe he’ll die? Or their marriage wasn’t valid? Yeah, let’s hope for that second one. It’s rated PG and I think would be appropriate for middle schoolers and up. I don’t think my kids younger than that would find much to care about in it.

Anyway, I loved it. As did Iris at A Country Girl’s Daybook. And SHE even figured out how to make Walter Mitty’s Mom’s Clementine Cake. It looks really tasty.

2. The Book Thief

I watched this movie a second time on the airplane and still liked it. I can’t speak to how it compares with the book upon which it is based, because I still haven’t read it.

But, I loved the acting and the characters really resonated with me. They felt really real and believable and un-idealized. Their reactions to the complicated and tragic world events of WWII in Germany felt true to me.

We see the regular people of one German town, some of whom are terrible, most of whom just go about their lives, and some of whom are really heroic in small and meaningful ways.

I loved the portrayal of the husband and wife who take in Liesel, he is henpecked, she’s a bit of a shrew, and yet, they do love and support each other. No language, very little blood or even violence, especially considering its setting, no love scenes, some sadness. The cinematography is really beautiful.

It’s rated PG-13. I would also let my middle schoolers watch this one, but there are deaths in it that would make them pretty sad.

3. Twelve Years a Slave

Whew. This movie.

This is the one that I can’t say I enjoyed, but am really glad I watched.

It’s based on a book as well, the autobiographical story of a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The inhumanity and degradation is really hard to watch. I have found that sort of thing really not worth the discomfort it causes me to watch in some TV shows, but I thought it was worth every flinch here.

I spent last summer reading a lot about George Washington and other founding fathers, and about their ownership of slaves. I had kind of managed to convince myself that, obviously, slavery was wrong, but that there were still good people who owned slaves and that there was a way to treat them compassionately, if a slave owner chose to do that.

Watching this movie really showed me otherwise. It showed how every single person involved in slavery is necessarily dehumanized. One character is a good man who refuses to acknowledge the truth about the slave he owns. He sees that Solomon is clearly an educated man, but in the end values his investment more than doing the right thing. There is a psychopath who requires not only labor, but also entertainment from his slaves, and who uses the words of the Bible to further his own interests. There are overseers who are as broken as the men they must subjugate. There are wives who must spend their lives pretending like all of this is okay and normal. And that’s just the white people.

We also see what the institution of slavery did to the slaves themselves. Solomon loses his physical freedom, but he also loses the emotional and moral freedom to stand up for what is right and what he knows he believes. We see black men and women who have abandoned morality for creature comforts or a bit of prestige. It is truly heartbreaking and stomach turning to watch. But, really, it’s worth it. I think everyone should know.

Really the only heroic characters in the whole movie are another kidnapped man who tries to stand up for a woman who’s going to be sexually assaulted, and he gets murdered, and . . . your friendly neighborhood Brad Pitt, who shows up in what’s basically a glorified cameo to tell us that, and pay attention now children, slavery is WRONG and we should not do it. Gee, thanks Brad Pitt.

But, really, a great and important and well-done movie that you should make yourself watch even though it contains violence and nudity and sex because it wouldn’t be as powerful or as true without those things. I would let older teens watch it, I think. So that they would know.

4. The Blind Side

Somehow I missed this movie when it came out, but, wow, I thought it was great.

Sandra Bullock really IS amazing as the sassy, non-nonsense Tennessee mom who ends up adopting a gentle giant of an abused, abandoned high schooler.

It has a great message of love and family.

It’s rated PG-13. The overall story has a very positive message, but it includes some heavy subject matter like drug-use and racism, so again I think I’d reserve it for older teens.

5. The Lego Movie

I had seen this one already (and reviewed it here), but I watched it again and loved it even more.

It’s just exactly my sense of humor.

I especially appreciated the Batman-as-jerk-boyfriend subplot on my second viewing. Really, the whole thing is just so clever and well-done.

It’s PG. All my kids have seen it, but I think it’s best appreciated by the six and over crowd. It’s an intense action movie with a pretty complicated plot.

6. The Monuments Men

All the famous people are in this movie. Except Brad Pitt, I guess. C’mon Brad Pitt, don’t you also want to explain to us how it’s bad to destroy art?

Anyway, this movie was great to watch as we headed to France, where part of our trip was devoted to the beaches at Normandy and other WWII sites. But I think I would’ve enjoyed it even in my own living room, as kind of a cross between Oceans 11 and Saving Private Ryan.

It explores the question of whether beauty and culture are worth preserving in a time of war, even at the expense of human lives.

George Clooney’s character says modern Western society is founded on Catholic art. Which it IS, of course. I just never expected to hear it from George Clooney.

The characters are flawed and interesting and endearing, and the story is compelling. The violence and gore and language is minimal, considering that it’s a war movie. And there’s no funny business. It’s rated PG-13, but I’d save it for older teens.

7. Annie

When I was a girl, Frozen was called Annie.

When MY mom threatened to duct tape my mouth shut if I didn’t stop singing those songs over and over again, they were songs from Annie.

So, maybe it was shortsighted to suggest that my girls watch Annie on the plane. But they loved it, and it was all nostalgic for me. And at least there’s now a little more variety in the constant musical numbers around here.

There are some moments of peril that worried Anita, and some very confusing magical powers (hey, it’s sounding more like Frozen all the time!), and bad guys do bad stuff, but what else would you expect from bad guys? It’s rated PG. I thought it was fine for four year olds.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think? What other movies should be on my list for this summer?

And . . . Happy Feasts of the Sacred Heart (Friday) and the Immaculate Heart (Saturday).

The feast of the Sacred Heart is a solemnity . . . on a Friday, so, live it up people:

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