Common Sense Media gives us their top picks
Ready to go green for your next family movie night? Then you’ve come to the right place. These Earth Day movies are full of beautiful images and powerful themes about nature and the environment. Want more choices? Check out Common Sense Media‘s entire list of family and environment-friendly films to find even more family movies perfect for your budding eco-friendly crew.
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Although this winning Pixar adventure is thoroughly charming and, yes, romantic, the youngest viewers may get a little restless during WALL-E's atmospheric, virtually dialogue-free first half-hour. They'll still enjoy it, but—unlike older kids and grown-ups—they won't be that impressed by how much is said with so few words. But the action (which includes some robot fights, weapons being fired, explosions, and chase scenes) picks up soon enough. Underlying the whole thing are strong environmental messages: Reduce, reuse, recycle, and think about what you're doing to the planet (and yourself).
Age: 5 & up
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
This is a 40-minute IMAX film about the unique biodiversity of the island of Madagascar, particularly the lemurs. Although there are references to certain lemurs being endangered, there's no violence—except some potentially threatening wildfires—to scare off younger viewers. Despite the brevity of the documentary, audiences of all ages will learn a great deal about lemurs and their importance to Madagascar and the world. This is a great family-friendly nature film to see while at a museum or any theater with an IMAX screen.
Dr Seuss: The Lorax
This 1970s animated version of the iconic Dr. Seuss book tells a timeless story of humanity's relationship with the land, water, air, and animals that will appeal to kids. There are instances of cartoonish violence as the Truffula Trees are chopped down—Seussian machines abound—but the lesson imparted by the Lorax as he speaks for the trees and all of nature should spark positive discussions on what can be done to protect our planet.
Ages: 5 & up
School House Rock! Earth
Parents need to know that heavy issues, such as our oceans being poisoned, our planet in peril, and our weather patterns spiraling out of control, might weigh on sensitive minds. But such is the state of our planet that our children are inheriting, sadly. On the other hand, great practical ideas and catchy tunes make this DVD an important educational tool, encouraging families to make changes in their homes to reduce the impact on the environment.
Though this film is basically kid-friendly and introduces kids to the idea of environmentalism with a light, engaging touch, there are parts that may be disturbing, especially for kids six and under. For example, a male polar bear nearly captures (and eats) one of the cuddly baby bears with which viewers may identify. In another scene, while trying to save Seela the walrus from a predator, her sweet "aunt" dies and her carcass is eaten in full view.
Parents need to know that the wildlife documentary Bears is family-friendly overall, but a few moments/scenes might be too tense and potentially scary for preschool-aged viewers. None of the animals die, but there are several scenes in which the lives of the mother bear and her cubs are in danger, and in one it seems like a cub has been eaten by an adult male bear. Other threats include predator males, a gray wolf, and the environment itself—all providing for dramatic sequences. Children who can get past that part of the movie will learn a good bit about the brown bears of Alaska and get a close-up look at how mama bears treat their cubs.
This stunning nature documentary portrays how animals around the world are born, live, and, yes, die. Although there aren't any grisly shots of predators ripping apart their prey, there are disturbing scenes in which animals are chased and attacked. In a few cases, the predators win; you see them grip their catch with their teeth, but then the scene quickly changes. Other than those possibly upsetting scenes—plus another in which an animal dies of starvation and exhaustion—the film is appropriate (and educational) for kids of all ages. It's worth noting that the movie uses footage from the acclaimed TV series Planet Earth, so if you've seen that, you've seen the images included here.
March of the Penguins
This popular documentary includes stunning but also occasionally disturbing imagery of penguins walking, mating, and dying. Morgan Freeman narrates as the penguins make their annual march from the Antarctic shore in Antarctica. Some penguins die along the way, and others freeze during the long winter as they huddle to protect pregnant females and then eggs and babies, and still, others are killed by predators.
To the Arctic
To the Arctic is an educational 3-D nature documentary about the animals that thrive in the world's harshest climate. Filmed in IMAX, the movie puts a special emphasis on polar bears and the plight they face as global warming continues to extend the arctic summer season. There's nothing objectionable in the documentary, but some very young kids might be disturbed by the tense scenes when a male polar bear pursues a mother and her cubs or when the white cubs get bloody from eating freshly hunted seal meat. The narrator also explains that some cubs and caribou newborns have died because of the elements or starvation. Since the documentary is only 45 minutes long, it's just the right length to educate and entertain kids about life in the arctic's frozen world.
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