How to Choose a Great Family Movie

Updated on March 8, 2018

Family Movie Night

There is something special about sitting down as a family to a great movie. Here is a good method of how to choose a great family movie that everyone will enjoy while staying away from content that is not appropriate for your clan.

It's hard to know which movies will include content that is both compelling and appropriate for all ages these days. Even animated movies are not guaranteed to be age appropriate. Just follow this quick process to pick out a good movie every time.

Family Friendly Ratings

For parents with children, especially young ones, these ratings will help.

G - OK

PG - Do your homework

PG-13 - No way for small kids

R - Best to stay away

NC-17 - No way

What Do Movie Ratings Mean?

Before picking out a movie, know what the ratings really mean. The Motion Picture Association of America has created ratings to help people, including parents, to know which movies are a good fit for them and their family. Here is a quick summary of what they mean.

G - This rating is for General Audiences which basically means it should be appropriate for anyone. It would be very unusual for a parent to object to content in a movie rated G, so even parents with young children should feel quite comfortable with this rating.

PG - This stands for Parental Guidance Suggested, and this may be the most difficult rating to work with since the range is rather broad. In the PG space you will find everything from a very innocent movie to one that contains brief nudity or bad language. A bit of homework is required before assuming that a PG movie is OK for kids.

PG-13 - You can pretty much count on the fact that movies in this range were made for teenagers and above, and the content will contain some strong language or sexual situations in many cases. For parents with young children, it is almost certain that this rating is not a great idea.

R - Movies rated R are for adults, plain and simple. This movie will contain something adult in nature, so it is pretty much out as a family movie unless all of the kids are adults.

NC-17 - Forget about this rating for a family flick. This is the old X rating and is not going to work.

Unfortunately for parents, even within the descriptions of these movie ratings there are examples of movies in each category that seem to be misplaced, and many people are puzzled about how one movie was rated PG while another just like it was rated R. Much of that is due to the fact that humans set these ratings based on a wide range of factors and what is most objectionable to you may be equal to something else in the eyes of a reviewer. The only way to be safe is to do some homework.

Take some time to pick out the best family movie possible.
Take some time to pick out the best family movie possible. | Source

Movie Ratings Have Changed

It is important to note that the PG-13 movie rating was added in 1984, so older movies that may have used this rating could very well be rated PG still today. Because of this, be careful with the PG rating, especially in older films.

View Online Movie Trailers

When searching for that special movie, start with a quick online movie trailer. A good place to start is or with a simple search on the internet for the movie name to get to the official movie site. You can also find trailers, especially for movies in theaters now, at IMDb.

Watching the trailer only takes about 2 minutes or less and can give you a very good idea of what audience the movie maker is going for. It is typical for a movie trailer to show you some of the edgy scenes or violence in the form of explosions or suspense since they are attempting to gain an audience.

Watch the trailer first and see if you still want to research the movie further. If you have found content in the trailer that you know is not right for your family, it's time to move on to another film.

Viewing a trailer is a great start but is not enough. As an example, the trailer for the movie Gremlins showed that it contained some chases of some type and could potentially be scary for young kids. That is true, and parents would pick up on that in the trailer. However, they might not appreciate that this is a horror movie and that the gremlins now shown in the trailer are scary, nasty, and kill people, or that they get killed in several ways in the film. Only by reading further would this be apparent.

Your Movie Review Method

How do you review movies?

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Where to Find Online Family Movie Reviews

Once you are past the trailer, check out a few reviews to see what others are saying. Two great ways to do this are to either visit open review sites, and/or visit sites dedicated to reviewing movies for a family.

A good place to go learn more about a movie that has reviews is IMDb, as noted earlier, or the Family Dove website.

At IMDb, just look up the movie and navigate to the page. The section that you want takes a bit of work to see, but it's there. Just scroll down the page until you see the link to the Parent's Guide. This page is very useful and contains a very nice layout with information that parents would want to know about the movie before letting their kids watch. It even contains direct quotes as well as themes so that you can get a great feel for the safety of the film.

The Family Dove website is one of the best for parents. They have their own rating system and give movies the "Family Dove Approved" label when they deem it appropriate for families. The site also contains specific examples and lines of text from the film, with ratings in each of several categories that would be of interest to discerning parents. With a quick search on this site, you will have the Dove rating in seconds and can quickly make your final decision.

If you still aren't sure, ask friends or family that you trust who have already seen the movie. Since you know what type of people they are, you can get some great information this way. Of course, for newer movies, you may be the first one of the group to watch, so this may not be an option.

Talking to Kids About Movies

Even with good research, parents will find themselves in front of a movie scene that makes them uncomfortable at some point. The best thing that can be done in those instances is to discuss it with your kids unless you are sure they did not even notice.

Some suggestive comments can easily go right over the head of children, especially young ones, and in this case parents may choose to ignore the offense. Let's face it, most movies contain these lines to entertain the parents while they sit through what may be considered a children's movie. This is not exactly a bad thing, but depending on how far the film goes, it may require a quick talk.

Like everything in life that does not line up well with your beliefs, such events create a teaching opportunity. Take this opportunity to teach kids right from wrong. Such lessons can be more effective when put into context in the way the movie may have. Despite your best reviews before family movie night, a line or scene may slip through, so just be ready to deal with it if you need to.

Selecting a Good Family Film

It may take a small investment of time, but with a little bit of research you can find the perfect movie for the entire family. Let's review.

  1. Watch the Trailer
  2. Read Family Reviews
  3. Ask Around

If you do this, there's no reason for your next family movie and popcorn night to leave you disappointed.

Questions & Answers


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