Father/Daughter Movie Night - need help compiling a list!

I’ve been feeling inspired by the wonderful experience I recently had with my 11 and a half year old daughter watching and discussing Inside Out so I need some help! Summer is here and we have plenty of time to watch movies together so I’m looking to put together a nice, long list. Last Halloween, triggercut put Qt3 to work and crowdsourced a hellishly good list of horror films. So I’m hoping to do the same here. (But with fewer horror films.)

A few guiding principles:

#1) I want movies that are GOOD FOR HER SOUL.

Roger Ebert said, “Movies are a machine that generate empathy.” I love that. That’s primarily what I’m looking for here, a littlebig parenting assist. She’s at such a vulnerable age. This past school year her group of friends pushed her out with the white-hot cruelty that only adolescent girls are capable of. So I want to try and find movies that will be nourishing for her. For us. Movies that can open up a dialogue on issues she might be going through, emotions she might be wrestling with, the pains of growing up, etc. As she’s approaching young womanhood, I’m starting to feel like our age and gender chasm will be insurmountable but I know movies can help make it easier to talk about this stuff. Or just process it from a safe distance.

Other guidelines:

-PG-13 and under. Maybe a lightly R-rated movie can sneak in there, like Planes Trains and Automobiles or something.
-I want movies from as many genres and decades as we can find. Scary movies, documentaries, anything goes.
-I want to introduce her to some great directors

Mainly I want to share movies that mean something to me but I also want to share movies that might mean something to her so please suggest movies that mean something to you! THANKS!

The list so far:

Anything Pixar
My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, etc
2001 / Dr. Strangelove
Jerry Maguire / Almost Famous
Sixteen Candles / The Breakfast Club
Raising Arizona / O Brother Where Art Thou / True Grit
L.A. Story
The Elephant Man
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Harold & Maude
About a Boy
Freaks and Geeks (feel free to throw in some TV shows if they’re manageable)

Princess Bride led me to Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, and Stand By Me.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
A Shot in the Dark
Austin Powers
Groundhog Day
Napoleon Dynamite
The Jerk
The Naked Gun
The Iron Giant
Best in Show
Gates of Heaven
Grey Gardens
Galaxy Quest
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Back to the Future
Men in Black
Singin’ in the Rain
It’s a Wonderful Life
The Wizard of Oz
Mary Poppins
Some Like it Hot
Star Wars
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
To Kill a Mockingbird
Midnight Run
North by Northwest
Mrs. Doubtfire
Forrest Gump
Song of the Sea
The Triplets of Belleville
Babe / Babe 2
The Gods Must Be Crazy
My Life as a Dog
March of the Penguins
Winged Migration

Qt3 ideas:
Jaws (I’ll add Close Encounters / E.T. / Raiders)
The Princess Bride
Cold Comfort Farm
The Cider House Rules
Nancy Drew

The kids and I (including my 12 year old daughter) watched Jaws this last weekend and she really enjoyed it, despite being scared silly. Up next is The Princess Bride, which she started at school on the last day, but they could only watch the first half (not even sure why they bothered having a last day of school).

I’m going to suggest some Miyazaki, his stuff always has such strong heroines yet at the same time has a very humanistic, even pacifist streak. My daughter is only three, but I’m looking forward to watching stuff like Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service with her.

Oh whoops, of course I missed those on first read of your list.

My Neighbor Totoro is the gold standard. Mankind should form a religion based on the values and lessons of that film.

But you’re right… I need some more Miyazaki films.

Cold Comfort Farm
The Cider House Rules
Princess Bride


I never really got all the love for The Princess Bride but it obviously needs to be on the list.

Maybe some classic Pink Panther movies…

Woody Allen?

Yeah, that’s what I was going to say when Pogue was listing Miyazaki movies. It’s already on Mr. Morton’s list, though.

I’d add to that list a couple of movies I feel very strongly about based on your criteria of helping her through a specific time in her life and nourishing her soul. These are also both movies about the wisdom of parents at a time when a kid might be feeling a pull away from her parents.

  1. Coraline is a cautionary tale about the limits of fantasy. I think it’s Henry Selick’s best work, even better than Nightmare Before Christmas precisely because it contains a really important message. It’s also just so darn magical.

  2. Brave is among Pixar’s best for how it subverts the usual princess fantasies and is ultimately about how you should trust that your parents know the best way to love you. And it’s a grand adventure with an unforgettable heroine. I can’t imagine there’s an 11-year-old girl who hasn’t already seen it, though.

I also really like your pick of True Grit! Hannah is an awesome movie about fathers and daughters, but it’s pretty dark. It earns its R-rating, not with gore or anything, but just because it’s not at all a kids movie.

Keep us posted how it’s going.


I was about to suggest The Descent, but no…

One that is close to my heart is Nancy Drew, with Emma Roberts. Roberts play an eternally positive Nacy Drew, it is an essential antidote to teenage nihilism.

Hmm, The Descent. I don’t think I need her sleeping in bed with my wife and I and screaming in her sleep every night for a month. :)

Yes to Coraline. Saw it once in the theater… I recall the most vividly nightmarish moment came in Act 1 with Coraline trying to get the attention of her parents and they’re both busy on their screens. Chilling truthiness!

She’s seen Brave already but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

Added a bunch of ideas to my original post!

What’s a good Hitchcock? Woody Allen?
Classic western?
Keaton? Chaplin? Marx Brothers?

(By the way, I’m definitely planning to cull the list way down but for now I want as many as possible!)

My daughter was 12 when we sat down as a family and watched 12 Angry Men, and both my kids (12 year old girl and 15 year old boy) were enthralled, which really surprised me to be honest. To see the kids get that invested in the story gave me hope that the future isn’t simply going to be spent playing Sims and League of Legends forever and ever.

For Hitchcock, the “best” would be Vertigo, but it gets pretty dark, and it might zip past.

North By Northwest is breezy, awesomely fun Hitchcock that can take you on to a Hitchcockalike like Charade.

Here’s one for you, a favorite of mine that I think has been lost in the shuffle a bit: The Man In The Moon. I think it was 14-year-old Reese Witherspoon’s debut as an actress, and she just owns every second of the screen when she’s on it, and that’s playing next to Sam Waterson and Tess Harper. I also think this is Robert Mulligan’s last movie as director, and it’s just wonderful. Ebert hepped me to it. Recommended strongly. Also, be ready for very real daughter tears about halfway through. Just saying. Be. Ready. Try not to let out any daddy tears until later.

From Ebes’s review in 1991:

When this movie was over, I sat quietly for a moment so that I could feel the arc of its story being completed in my mind. They had done it: They had found a way all the way from the beginning to the end of this material, which is so fraught with peril, and never stepped wrong, not even at the end, when everything could have come tumbling down. “The Man in the Moon” is a wonderful movie, but it is more than that, it is a victory of tone and mood. It is like a poem.

From a few years earlier, but also a film championed by Ebert: Gregory’s Girl. So great. No idea where you’ll find a copy, but Bill Forsyth!

Ooh! Will she do subtitles? You and I both LOVE this one: My Life As A Dog. (Never mind, I see it on your list already. Make that a definite one, huh?)

I feel like I’ve gotten too serious here. How about The Goonies?

OK, you said TV shows might be acceptable. Let me lay this on you: the first three seasons of Gilmore Girls.

  1. Rory is cool. She’s also complicated. She’s smart. She’s independent. She likes what she likes, but she’s not afraid of the world around her.

  2. I know this is daddy/daughter watching, but this show will surprise you: it ADORES its male characters. Loves them. Cherishes them. Makes them real.

The story arc through the first three seasons is as good as anything that’s aired on TV in the last 20 years. The payoff of that last episode of season 3 is so absolutely, tremendously perfect that you’ll both be kind of teary.

Ooh! Another fun pick: Beetlejuice. No idea how well it’s aged, but I remember it being so wonderful.

Also a big seconded to Tom’s suggestion of Coraline. Loved that so much.

Charade – Funny, suspenseful, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn at their best. A great way to show a young person that old movies can be delightful.
Cry Freedom – Maybe wait a bit, depending on her maturity level. But it’s a searing portrait of humanity at its best and worst.
Heathers – Great movie about (in part) young women dealing with peer pressure
Clueless – ditto
Legend of the Drunken Master – Any human being, regardless of age, gender, or nationality, can enjoy this movie.

Goonies is absolutely a must watch. So is Princess Bride, you monster.

I quite like the first Kung Fu Panda.

For series watching, in addition to Gilmore Girls (so great) I’ll recommend 3 of the greatest cartoons anywhere:

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Toph is best)
The Legend of Korra (Toph is still best)
Adventure Time (Toph is not in this but is still best)

Maybe mix in some choice Power Puff Girls episodes (e.g. Bubblevicious, or most anything Mojo Jojo related but especially Meet the Beat Alls).

All of these things are 10000% great for the soul. Proven by science.

Since we’re talking about My Neighbor Totoro:

I just watched that movie for the first time with my kids (5 and 7) who watch movies with me all of the time. Even given all of the great kids movies these days, Totoro had them laughing more than any other movie we’ve watched as far back as I remember. Just guffaws of laughter. And it had the magical Miyazaki quality where every now and then their eyes would open with wonder. And the moral lessons that I hope are seeping in. I’m not sure if it’s a Japanese thing or more of an idealized Japanese trope, but the way everyone comes together to look for the younger daughter and everyone helping throughout the whole movie with watching the kids and things was wonderful.

Just a fantastic experience.

I see you’ve got Rushmore on the list, I’d definitely add The Royal Tenenbaums, and any other Wes Anderson movies you particularly enjoyed. I’ve never had or been an 11 year old girl, but I like to think Royal Tenenbaums could resonate with just about anyone who’s part of a family of any kind. It is rated R, but so is Rushmore.

Just looked at my collection - daughter is 18 in a couple of months so this is the last 6 years or so of viewing. Netflix had slowly cut into disk viewing.

All have been wonderful watching experiences. Don’t be afraid to watch something bad, that sparks conversations as well. But these are good ones.

Not sorted via age, but did my best to prep her for PG-13 not being a big deal and then R not being a big deal for the turn to 17, while maintaining proper values:

The Last Exorcism (the first one, or the first ‘last’ one) for horror. Starts slow, but gets interesting. Is a handicam film.
Insidious I and II (III a little meh)
The First Johnny Depp Pirates of the Carribean
The LOTR trilogy
The Hobbit Cartoon Film (not the movie)
Because of Winn Dixie
Holes (very young shia Lebouf)
The Cat Returns (Ghibli)
Spirited Away (Ghibli)
The Dark Knight (Heath Ledger)
Ella Enchanted
Batman Beyond Movie (Mark Hamil FTW), and early seasons (especially the episode on Splicing)
Batman The Animated Series (Especially the two part episode “Robin’s Reckoning”)
After School Special Disk set years 1974-76 Episodes: “18th Emergency” and “The Skating Rink”

These led to others. I will try to think of more.

a Couple More - these are on the early side

Paul Giamatti in “Big Fat Liar”
First Alvin and the Chipmunks (but we watched the cartoons earlier, so may not be appealing)

Not a Miyazaki film, but in the same vein:

From Up On Poppy Hill

Was suggested to me by a friend recently and I really loved it. She did, however, intentionally mislead me as to what the movie was REALLY about, but I’m glad she did. Nothing scary and no bad language that I remember. Most people like the music as well, though it was my least favorite part of the movie. I still want to watch it again, though.