The most successful and popular movies of all time generally tend to be the ones which appeal to the largest audience while maintaining the characteristics of a genuinely good motion picture. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why many of the contenders for best films ever made tend to fall into the family category. To be a success, a good family movie must be appealing to mom, dad, brother, and sister. But what makes a family movie great, exactly?
Such movies tend to have a little something for everybody. Dad likes subtle humor, whereas mom enjoys surprise and suspense. Sister wants an emotional rollercoaster, while brother wants over-the-top visuals. These are admittedly generalizations but you get the picture.
Now take this hypothesis and apply it to a list of best family movies ever made. Whether it’s Toy Story, The Wizard of Oz, or Big, the film includes several examples of the aforementioned. Few moviegoers walk out of the theater without finding something redeemable about what they just witnessed.
Of course, these days families are less likely to spend the night at the movie theater and more inclined to sit on the couch together in front of a giant HD television. Thanks to streaming and affordable Blu-ray as well as on-demand digital purchases, families can pick a classic family film from eras long past. The fact families continue to sit together to watch Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory or one of the original Walt Disney animated features just goes to show the power of a good family film.
Does this mean the charm of a good family film is a thing of the past? When glancing at the Complete Guide to Movie Awards ceremonies it’s hard to find a recent event which highlights a family film garnering massive attention, but that doesn’t mean they don’t. The sleeper hit success of The Lego Movie franchise is a testament to the continuing success of movies which not only please the little ones but are enjoyable by parents as well.
Then there’s the fact that modern movie studios have grasped the financial security of a family-friendly film versus something which can only be viewed by an older audience. The revival of classic franchises like Star Wars and production of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been carefully crafted to draw on the nostalgia experienced by parents while generating new elements for youth. The goal – which has proved both doable and lucrative – is to get everyone in the household interested in seeing the same series of movies.
Perhaps there is a risk of family movies becoming too derivative and uninspired. Referring to the previously mentioned list of classic family films, the common threads which expose the similarities of the titles don’t detract from what makes each one unique. Few would argue with the fact that a movie about toys coming to life is a very different concept from one about a boy meeting a reclusive candymaker, even though both have things in common.
These days it’s more likely to see the same genres again and again when comparing recent popular family films. It’s still good that families are spending time together by watching movies, but how many involve larger than life heroes facing off against villains in an existential battle for survival? Whether it’s Star Wars or The Avengers or Harry Potter, the plot basically boils down to this same sequence of events over and over again.
Here’s to the hope that family films of the near future once again embrace a willingness to be a bit different from anything seen before, a sure sign of enduring charm.