Good family movies appeal to kids of all ages. Great family movies appeal to people of all ages. The best movies will often include elements that only the adults will understand, while still providing entertainment for the kids. As a result, there will be times in these movies that reduce parents to a quivering mess – here are six that get me in the heart button every damn time.
The Iron Giant
The Iron Giant is hands down the greatest animated film of all time. I cannot stress enough how brilliant yet under-viewed, this movie is. Admittedly, it can be hard to come across, but if you ever see a copy of it please buy it. Be warned, though, that you will cry an absolute bucket of tears at the end. The emotional power of the film’s final minutes, as the titular Iron Giant (SPOILER ALERT) sacrifices his life to save an entire town who moments ago had the army on hand to try and destroy him. It’s as heroic as heroic gets. What’s more, he does it with a smile on his face as he finally gets to live up to his best friend’s view of him as being a real-life Superman.
It’s a little easier to get a tear-jerker ending after spending 90 minutes investing us in characters, but it’s a tougher assignment to get a tear-jerker opening. Pixar are clearly up to the challenge, showing us a full life in a little over four minutes, including some foreshadowing, but most of all, making us care for Carl. This scene is particularly powerful for how simple it is. With a flat tyre, a broken leg, and a whole bunch of ties, we are all reminded of our own inevitable mortality.
The Lion King
Cue the sound of every ’90s kid’s heart breaking all over again. Mufasa is one of the best dads in Disney movie history, and it’s fair to say his death halfway through The Lion King traumatized a whole generation. Murdered by his brother, he died with his own heroism and love for his son turned against him. Even sadder than this lion king’s actual death is how his cub, Simba, tries to wake him up.
Mufasa may have left us more than two decades ago, but it’s still. Too. Soon… and then we had to relive the trauma of our childhood in the live action flick last year. FAR too soon.
Harry & The Hendersons
If you love someone, sometimes you have to let them go. No truer words have been spoken in relation to this film. This is another powerful act of self-sacrifice, but this time of the emotional kind, not physical. In order to save Harry from the government, John Lithgow has to abuse him to the point of no-return. He knows it will destroy Harry emotionally and that he won’t understand, but he knows there is no alternative. Lithgow could have been forgiven for phoning it in for a family movie, but look at him here, his face wretched with pain. In close up, it could just as easily be a scene from Schindler’s List.
Toy Story 3
You either cried when you watched Toy Story 3, or you’re lying. It was damn lucky that this film was widely watched in 3D and the glasses provided some obstruction from view for any dates you might have had with you. I’m sure I’m not the only person who had an inner monologue along the lines of:
“No, they won’t kill them. They can’t. It’s a Pixar. Oh…they’re holding hands. They’re saying goodbye. Oh man, the look in Slink’s eyes…they’re going to do it. Those sons of bitches are going to kill them.”
Toy Story then doubles down with the final scene of Andy giving his toys up. Anybody who’s ever had to move on from something they love will have felt dryness at the back of their throat and moistness in their eyes.
Never Ending Story
Forget the false advertising claim Lionel Hutz put in against The Never Ending Story, their ultimate act of betrayal was their cover; OK, fantasy movie. Pretty looking girl, probably to be saved. Some ugly looking troll dudes, and a boy flying on a magical dog/lizard. Can’t possibly be anything too traumatic in that, can there? There might be some close calls, and a good bit of survival, but it’s not like they’re going to spend a good 3 minutes drowning a horse in a swamp or anything.
Written by Mitch Grinter