Best Under-14 Movies List

Back in 2005, the British Film Institute published a list of “50 films that children should watch by the age of 14.” The idea was a good one — people usually debate which movies kids shouldn’t see, so the BFI wanted to get everyone talking about which movies they should see — and it’s great that the films selected aren’t only English-language.

I consulted the BFI’s list — among others — when putting together the various movie lists in UNBORED (Best Ever Animal Movies, Best Ever Car-Free Movies, Best Ever Musical Movies, Beset Ever Sports Movies, Best Ever Movies from Around the World, Beset Ever Stop-Action Movies). However, if you ask me, several of the BFI’s selections aren’t appropriate for kids under 14 — even though they’re movies about and featuring kids that age.

The BFI’s Top Ten list includes The Wizard of Oz and Toy Story, which are so iconic I didn’t bother mentioning them in UNBORED. It also includes Kes (1969), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Where is the Friend’s Home? (1987), and Spirited Away (2001), all of which made it onto one or another the UNBORED lists. So far, so good.

The other four Top Tens are: Bicycle Thieves (1948), a tragic movie about an unemployed man who takes one of his sons along with him as he stalks the streets of postwar Rome, looking for a stolen bicycle; The Night of the Hunter (1955), in which a corrupt minister turned serial killer marries a widow and murders her, then pursues her young children; The 400 Blows (1959), in which a troubled and persecuted 12-year-old boy runs away, only to be thrown in jail; and Show Me Love (1998), about 16-year-old girls who fall in love with one another (which is fine — what I object to is the drunkenness and virginity-losing).

Don’t get me wrong, these latter movies are amazing! They’re brilliantly written, directed, acted, and shot. But the majority of kids under 14 don’t want to be exposed to this kind of sex, violence, trauma, substance abuse, and despair.

As for the other 40 movies on the BFI list, it’s a similar breakdown. Several of them (e.g., Finding Nemo, Singin’ in the Rain, Star Wars Episode IV, Raiders of the Lost Ark) are too iconic to bear mentioning; some of them are terrific, relatively obscure, and appropriate for kids under 14 (e.g., The Kid, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, The Red Balloon); and far too many of them (e.g., My Life as a Dog, The Outsiders, Walkabout), much as I like them, aren’t movies I’d show to kids under 14. In the cinematically gorgeous and dreamlike Walkabout, for example, a father tries to murder his children.

Some families watch violent thrillers with their young kids, but don’t approve of sexual content; others might watch (fairly) sophisticated movies, i.e., when it comes to sex, but they don’t approve of violence. I don’t mean to impose my own value judgments on anyone. I probably sound very conservative — so if I told you some of the movies I’ve let my kids watch before they were 14 (e.g., Bad News Bears, over and over again; and Kes, for that matter, is pretty dark), you’d call me a hypocrite.

My point is this: Not all movies featuring young kids, even famous and beloved classics, are appropriate for your kids to watch. So regard all movies-for-kids lists with suspicion. Except for the movie lists in UNBORED, of course. CLICK HERE for a list of 21 movies listed in UNBORED that can be viewed online, for free (if you subscribe to Netflix).