The average American family spends $2, 827 on entertainment each year, including movies. That seems absurd, right?! If you're spending that kind of money, you want to have a quality experience. When it comes to family films, there are some plots that just don't do it for parents while there are others that run deep. These strategically-developed movies make an excellent gateway for conversation. Here's a list of films you and your kids can learn from and enjoy:
1. 'The Wizard of Oz': It's a classic. You might need to fast-forward through the evil witch and flying monkeys part, but otherwise, take advantage of the film's personification of courage, intelligence and empathy. This film covers the "good versus bad" battle with Glenda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West. You can discuss the character qualities, what they look like in others and how to develop them on your own as well as knowing how to recognize the good and the bad.
2. 'Inside Out': It's this year's hot ticket! If you haven't seen this movie at least once, it's time. Take a look inside your child's mind and soul, learning how they operate and maybe even remembering how you processed things as a child. The film offers a perspective shift that will get your family talking about communication, emotions and dealing with change.
3. 'Up': Most characters are often young children or families with grandparents playing a secondary role. In this film, you'll see an older gentleman as the star, dipping back into his childhood memories, desires and fears that lingered with him his entire life. You can discuss the important bond children and grandparents can share and how they can learn from each other. Even though a person grows old physically, they remain young at heart.
4. 'Finding Nemo': Hey, helicopter mom. Yes, you. You love your child so much and tend to watch or control their every step. Maybe you don't even realize it! This film shows the father doing the exact same thing, stemming from a great tragedy. The father and son move together through their own adventures, growing and changing into better individuals that ultimately make them a better father-son duo. This film presents an opportunity to talk about why rules are there in place, why it's important to stick together and how life goes on no matter what.
5. 'The Parent Trap': A cute comedy at the surface, this remake of a classic still dives into the concept of divorce. Parents have to make decisions based on what is best for them and what works best for their children. Sometimes those decisions aren't understood by kids, and it's important to find a time to discuss why things are the way they are following a divorce or separation. This film also introduces re-marriage, which can be a struggle for many children.
>> Read more: Divorce: From a Child's Point of View
6. 'Paddington': Families can look many different ways, sometimes incomplete. It isn't until a special someone comes along to complete a family, like an adopted sibling or unexpected visitor. This is a door to discuss adding a family member, welcoming guests and unexpected visitors and how to make friends by using patience and empathy.
7. 'Meet the Robinsons': This film sends a young boy into the future where he sees himself experience success by achieving his dreams and then some. But at what expense? Talk about your dreams and ask your kids where they'd like to see themselves in 10 or 20 years. This is a great time to establish or review priorities and values your family shares.
8. 'It's A Wonderful Life': Pull this one out over the holiday season to help pull the family together. Although it's black and white, it's still very easy to follow and understand. It's the classic plot of seeing oneself in a world without family or tradition. This film provides a little shock to viewers, asking "What if?" and showing that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Talk to your kids about their frustrations and annoyances, offering guidance on how to put them into perspective.
9. 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory': Either version of this film covers the same human weaknesses: gluttony, pride, envy and more. It shows different economic classes and backgrounds and parent-child relationships based on varying foundations. Ask your kids how your parent-child relationship compares and discuss materialism as well as wants versus needs.
10. 'Big Fish': It's a whimsical adventure interlaced with magic. It shows the journey of a young man, tapping into his ever-evolving relationship to his dad and how it changes as children grow. Children want to know their parents as the people they are aside from Mom and Dad. The film paints a picture of love and what finding love might look like. It sets the table for discussion on what love is and should look like and how love grows and evolves with relationships, including those with your children.
11. 'Pleasantville': Perfection isn't always what it seems. This film shows what a perfect life, town and day might look like to one person, but gradually adds color to demonstrate that a little chaos and mess can refine "perfect." This film will show examples of gender roles, sex and intimacy and innocence versus experience.
12. 'Matilda': Beginning with the love of reading, this film shows how powerful the imagination of a child can be. With a little magic and willpower, what can life become? Kids won't always like their teachers, their parents, their bosses, so it's important for them to learn how to handle those situations, obviously without magic. Talk to your kids about their independence, role models and dreams.
>> Read more: Recognize Red Flags by Asking the Right Questions
13. 'Labyrinth': Sibling conflict is a very common issue in many households. This film shows how the wish of one teenager is granted at the expensive of her family. She wants to take it back, but can't. Instead, she has to prove how strong her love is, to the evil doers and to herself. At the same time, the main character deals with jealousy, coming of age, a developing sexuality and love. Discuss how you see your role as a parent.
14. 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe': There's certainly a historical context to discuss here. You can also discuss the relationship of siblings and understanding how each child is special and different from the next. What qualities do your kids see in their siblings? It's also interesting to see children as the heroes, saving an entire realm, instead of some adults. Although kids always want to grow up so quickly, talk to them about the things they can do right now that they might miss when they're older.