About four in 10 Americans make New Year’s resolutions, according to The Washington Post. More research, by an outfit called Strava, alleges that many people are likely to punt whatever resolutions they made by Jan. 19.
But you know what? You don’t need to buy a new calendar to become a better person. Real change is slow and steady, and sometimes it’s filled with a few fits and starts. And you can always encourage your kids to new heights, too—no matter what the calendar says.
Still, this is a natural time of year to think about such things. And sometimes, the inspiration we can find on the screen can help give us just an extra nudge.
So with that in mind, let Plugged In offer a few suggestions of good family movies that just might inspire your kids to push themselves, explore new skills or even become kinder people. And hey, it’s possible that these flicks might even inspire a little positive change in you, too.
Finding Nemo (2003, G): This timeless Pixar film lavishes most of its attention on Marlin, Nemo’s desperate dad who travels the ocean blue to rescue his son. But Nemo is faced with plenty of challenges of his own. Born with an undersized fin, Nemo has long been sheltered by his overprotective pops, who promises Nemo that he’ll never let anything happen to him. But that’s a promise no parent can keep. When Nemo’s nabbed and taken to an Australian fish tank, he has to save himself (with the help of some of his tankmates) before his father can save him, and that’ll require plenty of courage and unexpected strength from the little guy. Finding Nemo reminds our kids (and us) that we’re stronger than we know. And sometimes, it takes new challenges to help us discover that God-given strength inside us.
The Karate Kid (1984, PG): Self improvement is hard. Just ask any character from a sports movie that features a Rocky-like “getting stronger” montage. And while we could’ve gone with Rocky here, I think The Karate Kid takes the lesson a little deeper. Not only does Daniel learn the value of hard work, discipline and perseverance here, he also learns that sometimes the best, most valuable lessons come in unexpected forms. Who knew that waxing his sensei’s car would pay off in a karate tournament? (A couple of content notes: This ‘80s classic has a bit more language than you might remember, as well as one scene of someone smoking marijuana in a school bathroom—plus all that karate, of course.)
Queen of Katwe (2016, PG): This overlooked classic introduces us to Phiona, a young girl struggling to grow up in the difficult slums of Uganda. When she joins a chess club to get a bit of free food, her fellow chess players initially mock her and tell her she smells bad. But Phiona shows an unexpected talent for the game. And with encouragement from her coach and a lot of really hard work, Phiona becomes a top-level player. If most sports movies emphasize improving one’s body to succeed, this one is all about sharpening the mind—while still holding true to your core values.
Toy Story (1995, G): Sometimes we’re our own catalysts for change. But sometimes change is thrust upon us, and the mark of true character is how we deal with that change. That’s what we see here in Pixar’s landmark classic, when Woody—perennial top toy for a kid named Andy—must deal with a shiny new interloper named Buzz Lightyear. Woody doesn’t take too kindly to the space ranger at first, but the cowboy moseys around eventually. It’s doubtful that anyone in your family will be threatened by an action figure, but 2022 will undoubtedly bring unfamiliar challenges to all of us: new schools, new family members, new environments, difficulties. Toy Story reminds us that those changes may feel bad at first. But if we approach them in the right way, they can turn out to be pretty good things in the end.
Groundhog Day (1993, PG): Funny how sometimes change can take place even when everything around you is frustratingly the same. Phil Connors understands that better than most—repeating Groundhog Day over and over again in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Over the course of this ever-repeating day, Phil slowly changes from a self-absorbed jerk into a kinder, more considerate person. And while Groundhog Day may be the most problematic film on the docket (be wary of some adult themes), it also embraces many of the qualities outlined in the movie above: hard work. Perseverance. Kindness. Even love.
Plus, it reminds us that even if we don’t succeed in enacting positive change one day, we always have another day to try to do better—even if it doesn’t begin with Sonny and Cher singing on the radio.