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FIRST-PERSON: Movies that spotlight family life

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Hollywood just doesn’t seem to be family friendly, does it? What’s more, the media’s bombardment of sensual imagery and political agendas often undermines family order. But movies have, upon occasion, presented some effective examples of family life.

The following list features movies with positive presentations of family life. You’ll find every era represented, signaling the fact that while sensibilities and haircuts have changed, people from different generations share the same desires.

(Note to teens: Don’t be afraid to view an old film. There’s no expiration date on art.)

Of course, since people who make most movies don’t turn to Scripture for lifestyle directions, it’s impossible to feature films not containing at least something objectionable. I have tried to present DVDs/videos that contain uplifting messages. (For a free copy of my choices for The Best Films of All Time, email me at [email protected].)

— “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946).

Fredric March, Myrna Loy and an all-star cast tell a sensitive story of returning World War II servicemen and how they must adapt to civilian life. This seven-Oscar-winning film also deals with prejudice and longing, but without offensive language or sexual explicitness. Real-life disabled veteran Harold Russell won two Oscars for this film — as Best Supporting Actor and a special award for “bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans.” Although some of the dialogue may seem strange to younger generations, this really is fabulous filmmaking. It also reminds us that when wars end, struggles continue for those who were willing to sacrifice their all for their country.

— “Bill Cosby -– Himself” (1982).

Cosby’s insights on marriage and children highlight this very funny stand-up routine. But perhaps the funniest bit is his take on a trip to the dentist. I rank this routine right up there with Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First.”

— “The Boy Who Could Fly” (1986).

A young girl moves next door to an autistic boy who believes he can fly. A moving fable parents will enjoy viewing with their kids. Lucy Deakins, Fred Savage. It is rated PG (two expletives and a couple of crude jokes, but it is a sensitive often funny fantasy).

— “Down In The Delta” (1998).

A Christian mother sends her substance-abusing daughter to relatives down South. There, she learns about responsibility and the importance of family. Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman Jr., Wesley Snipes Loretta Devine.

— “Father of the Bride” (1991).

Steve Martin stars in a sensitive, often hilarious look at a father dealing with his daughter’s impending marriage.

— “Father of the Bride” (1950).

Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor. Better version, but for those of you who don’t like black and white films, beware, this one is B&W.

— “Friendly Persuasion” (1956).

Charming Gary Cooper film about a Quaker family standing up for its religious beliefs while the country faces the Civil War.

— “Giant” (1956).

Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean — in his last film — give exceptional performances in this sprawling version of Edna Ferber’s novel about life on a big Texas spread.

— “The Good Earth” (1937).

Classic Oscar winner looks at the lives of a poor Chinese farmer and his family. Deals with the struggle between nobility and greed.

— “How Green Was My Valley” (1941).

This John Ford Oscar-winner concerns a young boy’s perceptions of family and community in a Welsh coal-mining town. Exquisite filmmaking. Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp Roddy McDowall.

— “I Remember Mama” (1948).

Irene Dunne stars in this gentle story of a Norwegian immigrant family’s conflicts while living in San Francisco at the turn of the century. Storytelling at its best.

— “Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation” (1963).

James Stewart takes the family to the beach for the summer. Made in 1963, teens may have difficulty relating to their counterparts, but Stewart is hysterical.

— “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995).

Richard Dreyfuss stars in this feel-good movie about a struggling composer who takes a job as a high school teacher. Soon it becomes his 30-year career, as he gives students a compass for life. It was a pleasure to view a film about a principled man, loyal in profession and marriage. Caution: the lead misuses God’s name once.

— “Once Upon A Time … When We Were Colored” (1996).

Al Freeman Jr., Phylicia Rashad, Leon, Richard Roundtree. A distinguished effort from first-time film director Tim Reid about black life in the South between the 1940s and 1960s advances the importance of family and biblical teachings. It is rated PG (no abusive language other than a Ku Klux Klan member using the N-word; a knife fight, but no one is injured; a brief scene featuring dancing girls in a tent show).

— “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” (1945).

Edward G. Robinson (outstanding), Margaret O’Brien. This sensitive look at rural life during the beginning of WWII contains a respect for Christianity, life and the price paid for freedom. Keep Kleenex handy for Margaret’s sacrifice toward the end of the film.

— “Places in the Heart” (1984).

A literate script showcases an Oscar-winning Sally Field as a determined widow bent on saving her farm during the 1930s Depression. It has one of the great film endings: A repentant adulterer is finally forgiven, when his wife, moved by the pastor’s sermon, takes her husband’s hand during the service, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ’s love. Just as we put our hankies away after that moving moment, another symbolic healing occurs. I won’t give that one away. Trust me, it’s powerful! Rated PG (some mild language, implied adulterous affair, but is not explicit).

— “Sarah, Plain and Tall” (1991).

This Hallmark Hall of Fame story stars Glenn Close as a woman in the 1880s who answers an ad to share a life on a Kansas farm. Nominated for nine Emmys.

— “Tender Mercies” (1983).

Robert Duvall stars as a country western singer on the skids until a religious widow and her little boy take him in. Rated PG for some objectionable language in the beginning. But when the Christian woman has an effect on his life, the profanity ceases. Oscars went to Duvall and writer Horton Foote.

— “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962).

This winning screenplay by Horton Foote of the Harper Lee novel about rural life, justice, honor and bigotry, as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl, stars Gregory Peck in an understated, Oscar-winning performance.

— “A Vow To Cherish” (1999).

This film pointedly examines the effect Alzheimer’s disease has on a family. It presents three-dimensional people who find fulfillment and strength through Christ. Made by World Wide Pictures (Billy Graham’s organization).

— “Waterproof” (2001).

From the folks at Cloud Ten Productions (producers of films geared toward families) comes a gentle drama concerning redemption and forgiveness. After a merchant is shot in a store robbery by an 11-year-old, the boy’s distraught mother stumbles upon the crime scene. Not wanting her son to be caught by police, yet worried about the old man’s condition, she takes them both to her religious mother’s home in Waterproof, La. Combining humor and drama, the story is very involving, with nice performances from Burt Reynolds, Whitman Mayo and April Grace. It contains some dynamic scenes in a black church, with a touching altar call and a baptism. Compelling and spiritually rewarding.

— “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938).

Frank Capra’s charming award-winner about an eccentric but loving family.

— “Yours, Mine and Ours” (1968).

Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda. Based on a true story of a widow with eight kids who marries a widower with 10. Lucy is very funny in this film for the whole family.
Phil Boatwright, at [email protected], reviews film from a Christian perspective.

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