Top 5: Movies to Entertain (almost) Every Age

Nothing is harder than selecting one movie that will keep older kids and adults entertained, and yet not terrify or totally baffle the very young. Ever since Walt Disney practically invented the ‘family film’, covering both ends of the age spectrum has become a tightrope-walk for film producers dreaming of huge dividends. Unfortunately the youngest viewers often get the short end of this stick, as too many of these movies are overflowing with clever cultural references that only their parents will appreciate, and scenes of terror and violence aimed squarely at their teenage brothers.

In general, you will always do well with Pixar flicks, as they are all so intelligently done that they are sure to delight everyone. In fact Pixar occupies 3 spots out of my list of 5 below. Some of the Pixar films, however, are a little more violent and aimed a little older – I’ve picked the best titles for youngsters below.

Here are my picks for pleasing every age group. Click on titles to read full reviews.

1. Wall-E (2008) – age 4 to adult

Little ones will adore Wall-E himself; teens will guffaw at the dystopian vision; parents will appreciate the environmental message.

2. Finding Nemo (2003) – age (brave) 4 to adult

Little ones will love the characters and strange sea creatures; teens will like the scares and dentist humour; parents have a message aimed at them – let your child have adventures and don’t worry so much. Plan a trip to an aquarium afterward.

3. Yellow Submarine (1968) – age 5 to adult

Little ones will find it bizarre and funny; teens will pick out the deadpan puns delivered by the way too-cool Beatles and enjoy the music, which still holds up (in my opinion anyway); parents will love the nostalgia factor and 60s art design. Looks and sounds like no other movie.

4. Toy Story (1995) / Toy Story 2 (1999) – age 5 to adult

Little ones will love the walking talking toys; teens will enjoy the smartassed dialogue; parents will find the themes of abandonment and existential dilemmas strangely moving.

5. The Iron Giant (1999) – age 6 to adult

Little ones will love the friendship between boy and robot; teens will love the beatnik, the outsider angle, the bathroom humour, as well as the destruction and battle scenes; parents can ponder the paranoia of the Cold War era and and cry over the ending… no, everyone will cry over the ending and then get a happy surprise at the very, very end.


The Iron Giant (1999)

The Iron Giant

Rated: PG – for fantasy action and mild language

Length: 86 minutes

Age: 6+              Commonsense media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: plenty!… fishing boat goes down in storm (fisherman survives); the robot gets zapped at power station in a loud scene; scared boy runs away from robot; stressful scene in which robot is hit by a train; government agent menaces boy and threatens to take him away from his mom; boys fall from building but robot saves them; big ending has lots of action as army attacks robot and he returns fire; a nuclear missile is launched, heading directly for the town

Intense Scenes: robot learns about death when he sees a stag shot dead by hunters; during battle it briefly appears as if Hogarth is dead but he is soon pronounced unconscious; the moment when townspeople realize they are all going to die when the missile lands is quiet but intense; plus final climax in which robot saves the town is very, very sad and moving (but hang on for the ending!)

Language: “oh my god!”, a few “hell”s, and “you just blew millions of government dollars out of your butt!!” – these warranted the PG?

Bad Behavior: villain smokes a pipe, a boy drinks a little too much espresso and goes a little haywire in a funny scene

Interests: science fiction, robots, action, history (Cold War era)

Next: book The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, other movies written/directed by Brad Bird: The Incredibles, Ratatouille





by David Wiesner

New York: Clarion Books, 2006

Age: 5+

Interests: ocean, ocean creatures, nature, beaches, photography, magic

Also by this author: Free Fall, Tuesday, Sector 7, The Three Pigs


The Dragon of an Ordinary Family


The Dragon of an Ordinary Family

Margaret Mahy, author

Helen Oxenbury, illustrator

London: William Heinemann, 1969

40 pp.

Age: 4+

Interests: dragons, fantasy, travel

Also by this author: A Lion in the Meadow, The Seven Chinese Brothers, The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate

Also by this illustrator: The Quangle Wangle’s Hat, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Farmer Duck


Chanticleer and the Fox


Chanticleer and the Fox

by Barbara Cooney (adapted and illustrated by)

New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1958

32 pp.

Age: 3+

Interests: folktales, farm animals, roosters

Also by this illustrator: Miss Rumphius




by Roald Dahl

illustrated by Quentin Blake

London: Jonathan Cape, 1988

240 pp. – 21 chapters

Age: 6+

Interests: kids who are bookworms, school, magic, psychic powers, revenge!

Also by this author: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches


The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost

by Oscar Wilde

originally published in 1887

64 pp. (1987, Oxford Univ. Press edition)

7 chapters

Age: 7 +

Interests: ghost stories, haunted houses, humour


Why Kill Off the Parents? Or, The Role of Grownups in Children’s Stories


Even parents who are fans of Disney films are often bothered by one aspect of them, namely: “Why do they always have to kill off the parents?”  We spend our days providing safety and a sense of security for our children, but as soon as we pop a kiddie movie into the player BAM! Our wee ones are faced with terror, violence, death and somebody becoming an orphan, all usually within the first fifteen minutes. More

Top 5: First Chapter Books to Read Aloud to Preschoolers


Whenever your preschooler expresses an interest in longer stories, or if you’re eager to introduce one-chapter-a-night bedtime reading, you should look for: engaging stories that don’t need too much explanation, short chapters, enough action and humour to keep them involved, and a few well-done illustrations. This is a starter list, I’m always finding new titles, so there will be other similar lists in future posts.

Here they are, in order from totally non-scary to slightly more adventurous:

1. Winnie the Pooh and sequel The House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne – 10 chapters apiece

These are so gentle and funny that they are suitable for very young listeners. (Good for travels too: there’s an excellent audiobook 3 CD set starring Stephen Frye, Judi Dench, et al.) Particularly if they’ve seen the Disney film (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, 1977), and are familiar with the characters, a 3-year-old will sit enraptured by these stories.

2. My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett – 10 chapters

I’ve raved about this one before: brave boy on a quest to save dragon faces and outwits jungle creatures in a very funny adventure story.

3. The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary

A mouse befriends a boy staying at a motel and drives the boy’s toy motorcycle all around the place, getting into numerous scrapes. A great story for a range of ages; the mere idea of a mouse zooming around on a tiny motorcycle is fascinating for all.

4. Aditi and the One-Eyed Monkey, by Suniti Namjoshi – 16 chapters

A princess and her animal friends (elephant, ant, and one-eyed monkey) set out to confront a dragon who is terrorizing the land. Classic fairy tale in form, but very modern in approach, as they are always looking for peaceful solutions to their various problems and obstacles. In one chapter, however, the elephant has a bloody fight with some lions, but all survive.

5. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum – 24 chapters

This is a longer read, and notably different from the classic movie, but with same main characters on the same quest. There are numerous battles along the way, but perils are quickly overcome and good wins out. An entrancing, magical adventure for all.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

by Beverly Cleary

New York: Harper, 1965

158 pp.

Age: 4 +

Sequels: Runaway Ralph, Ralph S. Mouse

Also by this author: Ramona the Pest, Ramona and Her Father, Dear Mr. Henshaw


Previous Older Entries

All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.