Family Movies With a Message

Who says TV can't be a learning experience? We've found eight family movies -- beloved classics and newer additions -- that can teach your child life lessons.

  • Courtesy of Everett Collection

    Babe

    Rated: G

    Year: 1995

    The Message: You should always follow your heart, not what others tell you to do.

    Plot: An adorable piglet loses his mommy, and several animals on his farm, including a border collie, take over the job of raising him. But tragedy turns into triumph when Babe discovers his true calling in life: to herd sheep!

    Why Kids Will Love It: Talking animals are endlessly fascinating -- especially one that's cute and scrappy and has a squeaky voice that is as fetching as his little pink piggy snout.

    Highlight: Seeing Babe make like he's a sheepherding dog for the first time will be both thrilling and funny for your children -- and you. Plus, hearing the lovable piglet sing his happy tune is also pretty great.

  • Courtesy of Dreamworks

    Shrek

    Rated: PG

    Year: 2001

    The Message: If you love yourself, others will too. So be happy with who you are -- even if you're a big, smelly ogre who tends to scare others away.

    Plot: In this first movie of the series, a grumpy ogre just wants to be left alone in his swamp. But in order to do that, he must become an unlikely hero and rescue a princess who's trapped in a tower. Along the way, he makes new friends and discovers love that he didn't see coming.

    Why Kids Will Love It: Most of the snarky pop-culture references will go over young kids' heads for now, but they'll love how the movie twists all the classic fairy tales you've read to them.

    Highlight: Princess Fiona's secret. Shh! No spoilers here.

  • Courtesy of Everett Collection

    The Incredibles

    Rated: PG

    Year: 2004

    The Message: Parents are people too! Your mom and dad may seem like boring ol' grown-ups, but they're really quite, well, incredible

    Plot: As the parents of three, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible have retired from the superhero business and are living in the suburbs. Before too long, an evil villain decides to destroy the world and they have to suit up the entire family to save the planet.

    Why Kids Will Love It: How funny it is to see people with superpowers try to live a normal life while attempting (and failing) to hide their super strength and ability to fly, not to mention lots of other impressive talents.

    Highlight: Expect some belly laughs when the dad tries to squeeeeeeeze back into his old costume.

  • Courtesy of Everett Collection

    Happy Feet

    Rated: PG

    Year: 2006

    The Message: Everybody has something unique to offer, and it's okay to stand out from the rest of the pack.

    Plot: In Mumble's world, penguins must sing beautifully to attract their soulmate. However, poor Mumble can only dance. Even though he can really shake a tail feather, he's ostracized by his penguin tribe and ends up in a different land with a group of very welcoming feathered friends who are eager to learn his moves.

    Why Kids Will Love It: Seeing beautifully animated penguins dancing to soul music is sidesplittingly funny.

    Highlight: One of Mumble's pals sings a funny rendition of Prince's "Kiss."

  • Courtesy of Walt Disney/Pixar

    Wall-E

    Rated: G

    Year: 2008

    The Message: So many messages, so little space. But what your kid will pick up: We've only got one planet, so we need to treat it well.

    Plot: In a distant, bleak future, we've abused Mother Earth so badly that we've had to ditch the planet for life on gigantic spaceships. But one lonely cleanup robot is still plugging away back home and trying to make a difference.

    Why Kids Will Love It: He may be made out of metal, but this robot is all heart. Your child will love Wall-E in the same way that you adored E.T.

    Highlight: Every time his true love, Eve, calls out, "Waaaall-EEEEEE!" you'll melt inside just a little. Don't fight it.

  • Courtesy of Walt Disney

    The Princess and the Frog

    Rated: G

    Year: 2009

    The Message: No matter where you start out in life, there's nothing you can't achieve if you work hard.

    Plot: The classic tale gets a jazzy New Orleans-style makeover. Tiana, a waitress, wants to open a restaurant inspired by her dad, but a big, slimy wrench is thrown into her plan when Prince Naveen (who's been turned into a frog by scary voodoo) convinces her to kiss him. Instead of returning him to human form, she changes into a frog. And that's when the real fun begins.

    Why Kids Will Love It: It's a princess movie!

    Highlight: The toothless Cajun firefly may make you cringe at first, but he'll win you over.

  • Courtesy of Walt Disney/Pixar

    Up

    Rated: PG

    Year: 2009

    The Message: Don't give up! You're never too old to fulfill a dream.

    Plot: After many wonderful years with hubby Carl, Ellie passes away, leaving him alone and feeling like his best days are behind him. But he decides to finally take the trip he and his wife had been planning for a long time. Not wanting to ditch a house full of memories, he rigs thousands of balloons to his roof and floats off.

    Why Kids Will Love It: Who hasn't wanted to fly using a bunch of balloons? Bonus: Your children will enjoy all the funny mishaps that pop up on the journey.

    Highlight: The hilarious talking dog who says silly things that a mutt actually would utter if he could speak in real life, like "Squirrel!"

  • Courtesy of Dreamworks

    How to Train Your Dragon

    Rated: PG

    Year: 2010

    The Message: You shouldn't judge a book -- or dragon -- by its cover. Through tolerance and acceptance of others, you just might gain a true friend.

    Plot: A wimpy young Viking named Hiccup wants to please his father by becoming a dragon slayer. However, one day he encounters an injured dragon in the woods and discovers that the beast isn't much of a monster after all.

    Why Kids Will Love It: Dragons are awesome. Ones that you can ride? Even better!

    Highlight: Hiccup uses the knowledge he's gained from his new friendship to beat all of his stronger classmates in the final challenges at dragon-slaying school.

    Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Parents magazine.