Even in this age of instant gratification, there’s a reason going to the movies still holds a special place in our hearts: quite simply, the whole experience is a little bit magical.
We remember what a treat it was to go to the cinema with our parents, eat our way through a jumbo bag of popcorn and escape into an imaginary world for an afternoon. In fact, as adults, cinema trips are still top of the list when it comes to favourite ways to spend a few hours.
Films are so much more than just a fun family activity. They’re also full of important lessons for little ones – that adults can also appreciate.
Whether movies are showing us that no dream is too big to follow or how to get back up when we fall down, films are where many of us first learned those huge life lessons.
But there’s always more to learn. This summer, Cineworld is bringing the magic of family films to all of its 90 cinemas nationwide, with an exciting line-up of glorious feature-lengths for all of you. We’re talking this year’s most anticipated releases: Roald Dahl’s The BFG, Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory, the kitty-tastic Nine Lives and the fantastical Pete’s Dragon. So heaps of fun, lesson-laced things to enhance our morality, sense of self and understanding of what’s important to pick up. Win-win.
Here’s 10 of the best that we’ve picked up so far, from the classically old school to the brilliantly modern.
This 1947 Christmas movie is light years ahead of its time, with its feminist single-mum heroine, Doris, and her precocious eight-year-old daughter, Susan, confronting Kris Kringle, a man who believes he really is Santa Claus. Spoiler alert: he is! Not only does the film poo-poo the commercialism of Christmas, it serves to remind us what the festive period is really about: believing in something better. As Fred Gailey says in the film: "Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles." Amen to that.
In Finding Dory, this summer's sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo, our favourite fish are back together again: friendly, forgetful Dory, uneasy Marlin and spunky Nemo. This time, Dory's on the search for her parents – a rather complicated task because of her struggles with short-term memory loss – and goes on the ride of her life, reuniting with old underwater pals (Crush the laid-back, surfer-dude turtle and his sweet son Squirt) as well as a whole host of new characters like Destiny the whale shark, Bailey the beluga whale, Hank the octopus and Rudder and Fluke, two sea lions. Turns out family isn't just about who your parents are, but also the friends who help keep you going when you're lost and feeling down.
In this tale as old as time, we know the moral of the story is not to judge a book by its cover. And even though that's hard to do, Beauty and the Beast shows us all of the different ways we can misjudge people: muscular rogue Gaston is the village hero - despite being selfish and vain – while the Beast, despite looking terrifying, is just an insecure man. Meanwhile, everyone loves Belle for her beauty, but thinks she's kind of an oddball: bookish, thoughtful, devoted to her eccentric father and totally disinterested in the town hunk, people don't understand what makes her tick.
Because THIS: "You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew." In the simplest terms, Pocahontas just taught our childhood selves about Otherness – and the importance of recognising the validity of different perspectives and beliefs.
Marlin's pal Dory advises him to "Just keep swimming," and we can't think of a better motto to embrace. Times will be tough, we will all feel lost and afraid at different points in our lives and yes, we will want to give up sometimes - but we need to just keep swimming.
If only we all had an Albus Dumbledore in our lives: we'd never need to clean up again, (there's a spell for that!) we'd have 150 years of experience to glean from and we'd always have pearls of wisdom dropping into our palms. From his views on dreaming ("It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live") to his thoughts on the written word ("Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it"), Dumbledore has an answer for everything. Our personal favourite? "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."
Home Alone taught us some of the greatest lessons of any movie: how to terrify a pizza delivery guy, how to raid our brother's room and how to use the contents of our cellars to maim bad guys. The secret of the movie's success is that it taps into that feeling every kid dreams of: having no rules and being able to do whatever you want – if only for a limited time. It also highlights that even though they might get on your nerves sometimes (or all the time), your family – and all of their craziness – is kind of amazing.
We all know that life's not a fairytale. Even Gisele in Enchanted finds this out the hard way when she's dropped out of her cartoon bliss into the cold, harsh reality of New York City and starts to discover emotions like anger bubbling under the surface. One of the powerful messages of this comedic gem is that your destiny isn't predetermined, your fairy tale ending isn't always what you think it is and it's important to take risks and move your story where you want it to go. That's even cooler when you end up rescuing your prince instead of being the damsel in distress – and when your prince is a divorce attorney, not Prince Charming.
As we grow older, we constantly wrestle with our sense of identity: how we relate to our family members, friends, classmates and the world at large. Who we are isn't black or white, as action-hero Wreck-It Ralph finds out: always the baddie, he's expected to be the bad guy and wreck everything, even though he knows he's a good person and wants to be recognised for that. Powerful stuff.
As parents of all children know, it's not so easy to get them to tidy their rooms, do their reading and eat their Brussels sprouts all the time. But somehow if the emphasis shifts ever so slightly – cleaning up while dancing to a favourite song, letting them read that gross book about farts instead of the history of the Great Fire of London - and there's harmony again. Translation? As Mary Poppins said, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down," i.e. a little bit of fun goes a loooong way.