If you're scratching your head over what movie to get for your children to watch, here is a list of our recommendations.
As there are just too many wonderful movies, we've come up with two lists – top 10 musicals and top 10 animated movies.
Top 10 musicals (in no particular order):
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
This movie, starring Angela Lansbury (of TV series Murder She Wrote from the 1980s), has live actors in an animated set. The story is about Miss Price (Lansbury) who is in the midst of taking a correspondence course on witchcraft. She is assigned to take charge of three siblings. Miss Price and the three youngsters take off on an adventure as they try to find a magical spell. It's got a flying bed and goes underwater. So, there are scenes with people surrounded by animated fish in the ocean. How cool is that?
This movie, starring the adorable Mark Lester, is the famous tale of an orphan boy named Oliver who runs away from an orphanage where children are mistreated and starved. He hooks up with a group of boys who work as pickpockets for an elderly mentor named Fagin. Will Oliver ever find a nice family and home? Lots of lovely songs and huge scenes with dancing and singing cast (look out for the market scene).
Mary Poppins (1964)
This movie is positively supercallifragilisticexpialidocious! And, if that word alone doesn't put a smile on your face, then you have to watch this with your kids! Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) is the original Nanny. Before Fran Drescher's nasal nanny and Emma Thompson's Nanny McPhee, there was Mary Poppins! She could dance, sing and fly (thanks to her umbrella) and she fixed a lot of things with just a spoonful of sugar! This one will have you and your kids singing along in no time. Julie Andrews pairs up wonderfully with Dick Van Dyke.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
This movie is about Jeremy and Jemima and their dad – inventor Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke). The family meet and get to know beautiful Truly Scrumptious, whose father owns a confection company. Caractacus tries to sell his toot sweet to Truly's father. Meanwhile, Caractacus rebuilds his old car which he nicknames Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and tells the children a story about a tyrant ruler who wants to steal Chitty (the car in the story can fly). Lots of lovely songs, a flying car and gorgeous sets.
The Sound of Music (1965)
Who hasn't watched this wonderful classic? This is one of those movies that I can watch again and again and again … and again and never tire of it. The movie is about Maria (Julie Andrews) who is at the convent to become a nun. However, Mother Superior sends her to be a nanny at the home of Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) for his seven children. While there, Maria falls in love with the Captain. The Austrian countryside, beautiful songs, amusing children and the wonderful voice of Julie Andrews – that's a recipe for success.
Orphan Annie is an adorable red-head who lives in an orphanage where the conditions are deplorable. Annie runs away but is caught, brought back and punished. She runs away again and meets a stray dog. The duo eventually end up at Daddy Warbucks' home. Will Annie be allowed to stay or will she end up going back to the orphanage? Cute girl, cute dog and lovely songs. As orphan musicals go, I prefer Oliver!
My Fair Lady (1964)
Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) has a bet with his friend that he can take a girl selling flowers, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), and turn her into a presentable lady for high society. What follows is his training – getting her to speak properly, enunciate all her words, walk properly and be able to communicate with people from the high society. In the process, Henry and Eliza develop feelings for each other. Audrey Hepburn is a delight and the scenes where she's trying to pronounce her words are quite funny.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Charlie Bucket is a poor kid who lives with his mother and all his grandparents (four altogether). He soon hears about a contest organised by candy maker Willy Wonka. There are five golden tickets in the candy bars. The winners of the golden tickets will be allowed to have an exclusive visit to the highly secretive Willy Wonka chocolate factory. By a stroke of luck, Charlie finds a silver coin and buys a candy bar which holds the last golden ticket! The lovely chocolate factory and the oompa loompas are definitely worth watching.
The King and I (1956)
Mrs Anna Leonowens and her son arrive in Siam (now known as Thailand) where she is to teach English to the children in the royal palace. There she finds the King of Siam (Yul Brynner) quite challenging as he has many rules to adhere to – mostly involving showing respect to him. He, meanwhile, finds her difficult as she is opinionated, unlike local women. Watch out for the scene where she teaches him to dance. Lots of cute Asian kids in the palace make this a good watch.
Melody (a.k.a. S.W.A.L.K, 1971)
This movie reunites Mark Lester and Jack Wild who were both in Oliver! The story is about a girl and a boy who “fall in love” and decide they want to get married now. Their parents and teachers try to knock some sense into them. As the adults are opposed to the idea, the two youngsters decide to run away together. The story is told from the children's perspective. I love the Bee Gees songs and the whole idea that children can teach adults a thing or two about life and love.
Top 10 animated movies (also in no particular order):
The emperor of China declares that each family should send one male representative to fight in the war. As Mulan is the only child and a girl, her father has no choice but to go to war even though he is not young or agile anymore. To protect her father from having to go, Mulan dresses as a boy and goes in his place. At camp, Mulan must undergo rigorous training. It is there that she falls for her commanding officer. Great movie about empowering girls and teaching them that they can do anything that boys can do.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Children who love books and reading will love Belle – the heroine in the movie. Belle's father is captured and imprisoned by the Beast in his castle. As her father is ill, she offers herself to replace him. Beast allows the switch. Slowly, he grows to have feelings for her as she tries to bring out his gentler side. Unbeknownst to Belle, Beast has very limited time to get someone to fall in love with him so that the spell (which changed him into a beast) can be broken. Nice story – love someone for who they are and not for their looks; never judge a beast by his furry exterior. Nice songs. Belle is so sweet. How can you not like this movie?
Kids will be dancing along to this one (especially the 'I Like to Move it' song). The story is about four animals in the New York Central zoo – Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the hypochondriac giraffe and Gloria the hippo. All four end up being transported to Madagascar by mistake. At first they think they're finally free … until they realise none of them know how to live in the wild. In the subplot is the tale of the penguins who plot their own escape. All the characters are adorable. I laughed till I cried through many parts of this movie.
If Madagascar made me cry in laughter, Up made me cry in sadness – the parts about the elderly Carl Fredricksen reminiscing about his late wife were too touching for me. The story is about Carl who decides he wants to do the one thing he and his wife always dreamed of doing all their lives – move to Paradise Falls in South America. He decides to take his whole house with him and fly there – by attaching lots and lots and lots of balloons to his house! Well, he manages to do it – believe it or not! There is only one problem – eight-year-old Russell who is still standing on his porch and inadvertently ends up going to Paradise Falls with him! Moving story about following your dreams and living life to the fullest.
Toy Story movies (1995, 1999, 2010)
The first movie starts off with Buzz Lightyear being the new toy in Andy's room. He creates competition to the old favourite Woody. Buzz has a shock when he eventually learns he's only a toy and not really a space ranger. In Andy's room, the toys must learn to get along and work together, even as Woody and Buzz compete for top position in Andy's heart. The second movie (not as great in comparison) has Woody going to cowboy camp with Andy. That's where he meets some other cowboy toys – Jessie the cowgirl and Stinky Pete. In the third and last movie, Andy has grown up and by mistake, mum throws his toys out. Andy, Buzz and the gang end up in a daycare centre and wonder if this is their fate – living with the reject toys.
A green ogre called Shrek finds his swamp is invaded by fairytale creatures because of an order by Lord Farquaad. Because he wants to regain his solitude, Shrek goes in search of Farquaad. Along the way, he is joined by Donkey. Farquaad offers to take back the fairytale creatures if Shrek can go rescue Princess Fiona who is held captive by a dragon. Shrek and Donkey have a lot of witty banter. The cute fairytale creatures are also amusing. Who knew an ogre could be lovable?
Lion King (1994)
King Mufasa proudly shows off his new lion cub Simba to the kingdom. Scar, Mufasa's younger brother, wanting to be king, devises a plot to get rid of both his brother and his nephew. Scar gets the hyenas to try and kill Mufasa and Simba. Mufasa manages to save Simba but is thrown off the cliff and is impaled. Scar tricks Simba into thinking he is responsible for his father's death and convinces him to leave the pride. In the jungle, Simba makes friends with other animals, grows up and realises he has to return to the pride to claim his rightful place. Lots of animals, nice message about family, pride, honour and friendships, and, of course, Timon and Pumbaa (the hilarious duo).
Monsters, Inc (2001)
This movie proves that monsters can be really cute and yes, there are monsters under your bed, or rather, in your cupboard. In Monstropolis, the monsters generate power for the city by scaring children. One day, while going through their routine of scaring kids, Sulley and Mike accidentally leave the door open and a little girl named Boo enters the city! Sulley and Mike must find her and return her to her world (through the closet door) before anyone else spots her. Reasons to watch – Sulley who is so huggable, Boo who is so cute and generally all the cute and funny-looking monsters.
A Bug's Life (1998)
Once a year the grasshoppers visit the anthill to eat what the ants have gathered for them. This year, Flik accidentally drops the seeds into a river. The grasshoppers give the ants a chance to make amends. Feeling responsible, Flik meets up with some bugs from a circus and convince them to return to the anthill to fight the grasshoppers. Cute bugs, a love story (between Flik and Princess Atta) and great moral about putting aside your differences to band together against bullies.
James and the Giant Peach (1996)
James ends up going to live with his horrid aunts after his parents are eaten by a demonic rhino. He dreams of life in a better place, specifically New York City. One day, a stranger appears with a bag filled with magic crocodile tongues – they are supposed to somehow make his life better. However, James trips and the tongues fall to the ground where an old peach tree is. Magical things start to happen that change the lives of James and the others living in the vicinity. This Tim Burton production, using stop-motion animation, is done beautifully. And, with a Roald Dahl story … you can't really go wrong. Kids will love this!