Ahhh . . . movie night. It’s one of the most beloved parts of our family routine. Our kids don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but we do plan on watching a movie together as a family just about every week. We started off watching mostly Disney animated movies, but as the big kids have gotten older, the husband and I were SUPER excited to share with them OUR favorite movies from when we were their age.
Perhaps you, too, have figured the kids were ready to share in the joy and wonderment of all your hip eighties movie favorites only to dive for the remote while sharing horrified glances with your spouse. Goonies, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, E.T., Indiana Jones, Beetlejuice, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Short Circuit, Harry and the Hendersons, all really awesome movies, obviously. But all with really significant swear words in them. Like . . . the BIGGIES. Perhaps you’ve resigned yourself to just giving up the genre entirely.
Or maybe you’re thinking, what’s the big deal? I all watched those movies as a kid and *I* turned out just fine. And that’s true. I happen to think you’re a perfectly lovely human being. And I can see that argument, really I can. Because bad language, in itself, is not a sin. Bad words are really just bad manners, inasmuch as they are intended to shock or make someone uncomfortable or offended. Perhaps if the use of bad language stems from genuine wrath, it could be sinful, but that’s not how bad words are usually used in family movies.
The old Baltimore Catechism has a section on language to avoid, and the big four letter words aren’t a part of the discussion.
In fact, the language that’s actually most problematic for a good Catholic isn’t even recognized as all that bad to begin with. We think of “swearing” and “cursing” as just synonyms for bad words, but really they aren’t.
Swearing is a no no. When Billy Madison says, “I swear to God I’m sick! I can’t go to school,” that’s potentially a mortal sin, because he calls on God to witness to his illness, but he’s NOT really sick, of course. (He would have to know it was a sin though, and probably he doesn’t.)
Cursing (the calling down of some evil on a person, place, or thing) is quite specifically forbidden by the Catechism and the Bible. So this exchange in Hocus Pocus: “Billy: Go to hell! Winifred: Oh! I’ve been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely,” is of concern on many levels, but it doesn’t sting the ears.
Taking God’s name in vain, is right there in the second commandment. We’re against it. So when Cher says, “Oh my God! I love Josh. I am majorly, crazy in love with Josh,” unless she means that as a prayer, valley girl though she is, that’s not cool. But we’re so used to hearing it we hardly even notice.
So, the four-letter words that shock us in those eighties movies are, actually, not as bad, Catholic-wise, as plenty of other not-so-bad sounding language. And it’s going to be close to impossible to find a movie to watch without any swearing, cursing, or taking of God’s name in vain.
So what’s a responsible parent to do?
Well, that’s going to have to be your call. A few of the movies on that list above, we have watched with our kids. But most of them, we’ve decided to skip. The husband and I are, at this point, 100% potty mouth-free. So are our close friends and family members. Most of my weird unsocialized homeschool kids have never EVER heard those words, and I really think that’s sweet. As fun as those movies are, I don’t think they are worth ripping away that little piece of innocence.
And even if they ARE just bad manners . . . I want my kids to have good manners. I really don’t want to be the mom of a kid dropping four letter bombs at the grocery store or during Mass. If he doesn’t know the words, he can’t say the words. And that’s only addressing the language part of the movies, there is also plenty of surprisingly sexual content in some of those PG movies, plus complicated family situations like divorce and remarriage and kids out of wedlock that really aren’t a part of my little kids’ frames of reference at this point.
But. I cannot give up the movies of my youth entirely. And we don’t want to give up on all movies entirely.
So, here are a few that I remember fondly and my kids have enjoyed . . . that, to the best of my recollection, won’t get your kid’s mouth washed out with soap. (Linked movie titles will take you to Netflix.) We watch movies as a whole family, so even though most of these are more appropriate for older kids, our little kids watch them too. Our kids aren’t particularly sensitive to scariness, and we don’t have a problem with them watching war-type or cartoonish violence. If you’re worried about stuff like that, you might want to preview these.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have The Princess Bride memorized, and those that do not. I can only hope my children will follow me onto the right path. (You’ve seen THESE, right?)
My sister and I used to “play” NeverEnding Story by sitting on the ground with long skirts spread out in a circle around us. Good times. My kids loved Falcor, obviously.
If you’re looking for something to get the Frozen soundtrack out of your kids’ heads. . . . Fair warning: there is some bad behavior by Miss Hannigan. She’s a drunk and a, let’s say, flirt in addition to being a liar, kidnapper, and all around terrible person. I find it not problematic, since she is CLEARLY a bad guy. But it might be too much for you. I’m pretty sure there isn’t language though. 😀
If your kids have already seen and enjoyed Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, this is a good one.
If your kids haven’t already seen and enjoyed Star Wars . . . what is your problem? Show them Star Wars for goodness sakes. The original ones, I mean. My kids love them. Unfortunately they also like the prequels.
And a few newer but still adventurous movies that big kids and parents can both enjoy . . .
Very violent. And gory. And scary. But an extraordinary story of sacrifice and friendship and courage. Also very long and complicated. But in nine hours and eighteens minutes worth of movie there’s not a single bad word.
Reminiscent of the pack of kids movies from the eighties, but smarter and less profane.
If Goonies and E.T. had a baby, it would be this movie. We watched it a couple weekends ago and really loved it. There are a couple double entendre type moments, but it felt acceptable to me.
My favorite resource these days for vetting family movies (and books) is Common Sense Media. I appreciate how detailed the reviews are, so even if they’ve given a blanket recommendation for or caution about a movie, I can look at the specifics and decide if their problem with the movie would be a problem for me.
Share your favorite hits and misses in the comments!