20 Best (Almost) Family Movies From 2013
The term “family movie” usually implies animation with a musical number and a happy ending. Well the days of “happy” and “Hollywood” being synonymous have all but disappeared, however that doesn’t mean there still aren’t great movies to enjoy together as a family. I’m still a sucker for a happy ending, but what I enjoy even more is an opportunity to share a movie with my kids that stimulates discussion and teaches us something new. Add a few laughs and it gets even better. So after consulting with our other reviewers, Kerry and Donna, here’s the list of movies we think are worth your time and money. Be sure to heed our age recommendations and, if you have any concerns, watch the movie before sharing with your children. (Most of these are on home video, and that makes the selection easier.)
And, with the exception of two, they all have happy endings.
42 - Rated PG-13
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Alan Tudyk, Lucas Black
Racial prejudice meets the major leagues in this story about Jackie Robinson. Signed on by the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson was the first black player in the majors. Expect some racial violence, derogatory language and a blast of crude sexual remarks. Best for teens and adults.
The Book Thief - Rated PG-13
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Ben Schnetzer
WWII fictional story of a young German girl who looks for a way to deal with the horrors of the Nazi dictatorship by reading what few books she can find… or steal. Making matters more tense, she shares the stories with a Jewish refugee who is hiding in the family’s basement. Some mild war violence and little else for content concerns. Best for teens and adults.
Captain Phillips - Rated PG-13
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Max Martini, John Magaro
A stellar performance by Tom Hanks and other cast members in this “based on a true event” movie about a US freighter that is boarded by Somali pirates. A powerful lesson on persistence and putting one’s life on the line to protect others, this movie does include some violent altercations but with brief scenes of blood and infrequent profanities. Best for older teens and adults.
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 - Rated PG
Cast: Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Will Forte, Neil Patrick Harris
Not quite as polished as its predecessor, however still a solid animated film with a creative twist. (You’ll never see a taco in the same light!) Also portrays a great father-son relationship. Characters are often in peril which may be scary for some kids, and expect a little bathroom humor. Best for older children, teens and adults.
The Croods - Rated PG
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman
Our favorite animation from 2013! This stone age family’s “road trip” provides excellent examples of parent/teen relationships along with some very funny moments. A few moments of peril may be scary for young children. Best for older children, teens and adults.
Despicable Me 2 - Rated PG
Cast: Steve Carell, Al Pacino, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove
The minons are back! This time Gru is a little more mellow and is enjoying raising his three adopted daughters. However when a call comes for him to get back into the spy game, he can’t resist. Another movie with positive family relationships and some very funny moments. There is some violence and scary moments that are a bit more intense than The Croods or Cloudy 2, but most ‘tweens, teens and adults will be okay.
Ender’s Game - Rated PG-13
Cast: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley
It’s difficult to find action films suitable for adolescents. Thankfully Ender’s Game dials down the violence found in the book and offers a great story with a thoughtful ending. Ignore the other critics—this is worth a watch. Best for ‘tweens, teens and adults.
Frozen - Rated PG
Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Idina Menzel
The “big” Disney animation for 2013, this tale follows the life of a young queen cursed with a hand that freezes everything she touches. Her younger estranged sister seeks to save her and bring her back to her frozen kingdom. Perhaps not Disney’s most memorable movie, but still a solid pick. Best for children (especially girls) and adults who appreciate Disney princesses.
Gravity - Rated PG-13
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Basher Savage, Eric Michels
Perhaps the most unique movie of the year, Gravity is edge-of-your-seat excitement about two astronauts stranded in space. Great lessons on the sanctity of life, ingenuity and persistence. There is little dialogue, but sadly some infrequent profanities (including a sexual expletive) are still included. And, of course, it’s very intense. Best for teens and adults.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Rated PG-13
Cast: Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood
If you’ve read the book you’ll want to see the movie. Expect the usual middle-earth violence—impaling, dismemberment, decapitation—but it sounds worse than it is because there’s little blood. And the Orks aren’t people anyway (or are they?). All orking aside, this is best for teens and adults. You may want to let younger Hobbit fans wait a couple of years.
Man of Steel - Rated PG-13
Cast: Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon
A more serious telling of Superman, this film’s deeper view into the Man of Steel’s childhood was intriguing and a refreshing change from other superhero movies (although New York still gets blasted in the 3rd act). Others will appreciate the Christian allegory. Scenes of mostly bloodless violence make this best for teens and adults.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - Rated PG-13
Cast: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Robert Hobbs, Terry Pheto
No matter your political beliefs, this movie is a thoughtful view of one of the past century’s most prominent leaders. Scenes of disturbing violence, some sensual moments and profanities make this film a better choice for older teens and adults.
Monsters University - Rated G
Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julia Sweeney
Ever wonder how Sulley and Mike met? In university of course! Watch these two go from classmates, to enemies to life-long friends in this film that also teaches a great message about dealing with bullying. Some mildly scary moments and jokes that may leave little ones bored make this best for a slightly older crowd than the original—‘tweens, teens and adults.
Parkland - Rated PG-13
Cast: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti, Jacki Weaver
A quiet release in theaters, this film details the fateful day of JFK’s assassination from the perspective of those who were on staff at Parkland Hospital. It’s a thought provoking concept, but not for those who don’t like blood. Hospital scenes show explicit injuries. Best for older teens and adults.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - Rated PG
Cast: Logan Lerman, Nathan Fillion, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson
Being a teen is hard enough, but what if you were half Greek god and half human? In this second movie in the Percy Jackson series, the gang is forced to journey to the Sea of Monsters. With moderate action violence and hardly any profanities and no sex, this is a great action film for ‘tweens and teens.
Philomena - Rated PG-13
Cast: Judi Dench, Mare Winningham, Michelle Fairley, Steve Coogan
This story of an aging Irish mother seeking her illegitimate estranged son is heart wrenching, thoughtful, surprisingly humorous and offers stellar performances. It deals with mature topics of involving unwed pregnancy and includes various profanities. This film is best for older teens and adults… young children will be bored anyway.
Planes - Rated PG
Cast: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Val Kilmer, Gabriel Iglesias, Brad Garrett
Pixar’s second release this year isn’t their best effort, but it still flies high above many other animations. A little crop-dusting plane is determined to win an international race, but in the end he discovers far more important lessons. With the exception of a short scene where war planes are shooting at each other, there are few content concerns. However parents would be best to view this with young children. If flying solo it’s best for older children and ‘tweens.
Saving Mr. Banks - Rated PG-13
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti
Who’d think a story about acquiring film rights to a book could be so captivating. With Walt Disney vs. the author of Mary Poppins, things get very interesting. Don’t let the PG-13 rating scare you—there is little content in this film that looks at the role fathers play in our lives. Children will yawn, so it’s best for teens and adults.
Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Rated PG
Cast: Ben Stiller, Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt
Based on the popular short story about a daydreamer, this movie shows baby boomers that life ain’t over in the digital age. There are some moments of peril, verbal bullying (that leads to an imagined physical confrontation) and drinking alcohol before piloting a helicopter is depicted in a humorous manner. A little slow at times, but still very enjoyable, it’s best for teens, adults, and teenaged-boomers.
Turbo - Rated PG
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Samuel L. Jackson
Okay… the premise of a snail winning the Indy 500 seems way over the top. But this little animation placed much higher than we were expecting. It has some great messages for older children about teamwork and working toward a goal. Best for older children and ‘tweens.