by the Northwest Film Forum Staff
Who better to suggest movies for you to watch with your kids than the staff of Northwest Film Forum? In celebration of our 15th annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle, running Feb. 27 to March 8, we recommend that FIRST you bring your kids to Northwest Film Forum for the big screen experience of watching some of the 175 amazing films from 47 countries that we have assembled for the fest. There is something for every age — from gentle animation for our tiniest audience members to thoughtful international fare about big issues for older kids — in this don’t-miss-it film extravaganza. After you see the world and feed your mind we recommend renting the following from Scarecrow for movie nights at home!
THE RED BALLOON (picked by JONAH)
My parents sparked my love of film by checking out The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse, 1956) and a 16mm projector from the library when I was about four. I can still go back into that memory, hear the sound of the projector, and see the images flickering in our living room. I was a big fan of imagining the secret lives of inanimate objects as a child, and totally fell in love with the story of a spirited balloon who befriended a curious boy. The film’s short length (36 minutes) and minimal dialogue also make it great for younger children. All ages.
NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (picked by DICE)
This is my favorite film so far. It is the epic science fantasy adventure film which was released in 1984, and is still really famous and popular all over the world. This is the second feature film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. I would recommend it for kids 7+ years, but even adults can fully enjoy and learn something from it since the plot has a hidden backstory.
It isn’t a Disney movie, but this 1997 “animated musical historical fantasy film” sure comes off like one! I watched this more as a teenager, hilariously enough, but this film is a loose adaptation of the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, and her potential escape from the execution of her family. Yeah, it’s sad, but it also has Rasputin! It’s a wee bit dark, but better off for the older kids, perhaps! Don Bluth and Gary Goldman; Ages 9+
WALT DISNEY’S FANTASIA (picked by CARL)
I haven’t seen it in years, but it is one of my earliest memories of seeing a movie that completely blew my mind. I had never seen anything like it. It’s like sitting through an amazing orchestral concert while watching the most splendid and, frankly, terrifying visuals unfold on screen. There’s nothing quite like watching Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer conducts a mob of zombie brooms. It’s epic, beautiful, fun, and scary. What more could you want from a family film? All ages.
BABE (picked by LOUIE)
This is a sweet and touching film that’s good for all ages. It also has some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard. The barnyard has a fun family of characters and Christine Cavanaugh’s performance as Babe the pig, at times, is enough to make a grown man cry. Directed by Chris Noonan; Ages 5+
BABE PIG IN THE CITY (picked by LIZ)
A masterpiece by George Miller, and his best film. It is everything: fiendishly entertainly but also completely subversive — posing huge questions to kids: How would they get along in the big city without adults around? How would they feed themselves? What’s the pecking order? Who would tell them what to do? Grim humor coupled with outlandishly fantastic production design and cinematography lends the film a magical, dark fairy-tale aesthetic. The farm is bathed in golden hues, and the vibrant colors of the fantastical animal hotel pop; the city itself, a post-modern amalgamation of dozens of famous locales, is hyperkinetic and unpredictable. Ages 10+
THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS (picked by BRENAN)
Possibly the funniest documentary ever made, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is the story of two men competing to be declared the world champion of the ’80s video game Donkey Kong. Although it’s a documentary about a bizarre and hilarious competitive rivalry, the film follows interesting characters who perfectly fit into Disney-character molds. Steve Wiebe is the straight-up underdog hero, while Billy Mitchell is a conniving antagonist bent on controlling the world. That, and that the world of competitive gaming is filled with so many obtuse and ridiculous characters, you don’t need to be a video game buff to be totally sucked into the fun. King of Kong is how docs should be: fascinating, emotional and engaging, but the theatricality of its story is the perk that truly seals the deal. Perfect for lovers of video games and competitions. Directed by Seth Gordon; Ages 10+
TEX AVERY’S DROOPY (picked by CHRIS)
Not a film, but a Tex Avery’s Droopy cartoons taught me what cinema was (for better or worse), and even more, taught me how to both laugh and be utterly creeped out at the same time. There is just something so sinister in the omnipresent darkness of a cute little downer dog that could crawl under my skin, and yet I couldn’t stop rooting for the little specter of death. Each and every Tex Avery short featuring Droopy is a rapid-fire gag machine that is always willing to break the fourth wall and chide you for finding this tomfoolery hilarious, and that was exactly the antidote to the soft moralizing of Disney that I was drawn to. Ages 10+ (according to Chris)
CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO (picked by PAUL)
Everything the world ever LIED TO MY FACE that I would find in a Bond movie, I found in Castle of Cagliostro, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. A true classic of swashbuckling action-packed adventure, impelled by ludicrous physics and gadgets, fabulous slapstick comedy, a sublime combination of invincible heroism and myopically greedy villainy, tied together by a uniquely platonic screen romance. A great introduction to Miyazaki! Ages 8+
RETURN TO OZ (picked by RANA)
One evening circa 1990 I begged my parents to stay home and watch this for the nth time on TV in lieu of joining them at a community gathering with food and music and friends. Nothing could compare to the mystique and wonder that washed over me every time I watched it. Maybe I saw something of myself in that young Dorothy, in her contemplative curiosity. She was courageous, empowered. Maybe I’m projecting. Either way, I’d make the same choice to stay home and watch this again, today. Directed by Walter Murch; Ages 12+
THE POINT, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and SOUNDER (picked by LIZ)
From my own childhood — it’s a tie from 1971, with another serious runner-up from 1972:
The Point, now in a new BluRay release. This animated Harry Nilsson film (!) film, narrated by Ringo Starr tells a beautiful story of friendship and is from start to finish a joyous celebration of individuality and nonconformity. Every child should see it often. All ages.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, in the only version that should exist, is another luminous musical about the things that matter most in life — being kind and acting with integrity, telling the truth, not being a brat, and also letting your freak flag fly. Gene Wilder, little Charlie Bucket, and Grandpa Joe will make me cry every time. Directed by Mel Stuart. Ages 7+
Sounder, directed by Martin Ritt, and starring Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, and Kevin Hooks, was adapted by acclaimed African-American actor writer Lonne Elder III from the Newbery Medal-winning novel Sounder by William H. Armstrong. Taj Mahal recorded the soundtrack. It is about the pure power of love and family. A tear-jerker, because every kid should know that movies can make them cry. Ages 11+
And one more bonus pick!
TRUE GRIT (LIZ)
Pick your version, either from 1969 or 2010, they are both fabulous. The only western you really need, about a fearless girl who won’t take no for an answer, and the foolish and flawed men she inspires to help her in a quest for justice. Age 10+