You know the deal- the kids have been busy all day and want to chill out watching a movie. As the supervising adult, you need to consider a few things.
First up, interest....
These days, movies are seen pretty soon after they are released. With all the streaming sites available, and quick cinema-to-DVD turnaround, chances are kids will have seen lots of the movies you're thinking about. That aside, you need to think about interest and type of movie across a range of ages. Movies aimed at tweens might be engaging for older kids, but the story-line will go right over the heads of younger kids. Disney and Pixar do "family" movies well, catering for a wide age range of kids. Of course older children (10+) might turn their noses up, but may still like it if it has an engaging story.
This is a big one. If you have responsibility for children who are not your own, you need to consider this carefully. People have differing views on what is ok to watch in their family. Some kids will say "I'm allowed to watch that at home" even if you think it is not suitable. Get recommendations of tried and true movies from other parents; it's a good starting point, but you still need to check them yourself.
- violence (both graphic and implied or 'cartoon')
- substance use (portrayal of alcohol and drug use)
- sexual content
- adult themes
Movies coming in to New Zealand are censored first. A panel from the Office of Film and Literature Classification reviews them and rate who it is appropriate for. They follow guidelines in the context of New Zealand culture. See here for more information on what the classifications mean.
As a rule, it is wise to only show films rated G or General audience for most children under 10 years old.
If you can review the movie yourself before showing children, it can save a lot of trouble. I've been caught out more than once as a parent; in a moment of nostalgia turning on a movie from my childhood. Cue the cringing when I realised that though rated G (general audience), there was inappropriate stuff that my kids couldn't 'unsee'. Be aware- some movies get reviewed and recensored when they are re-released later. The advice from the NZ Office of Film and Literature Classification around G- rated films is: "Not all G level films are intended for family audiences and it is always a good idea to look at reviews and plot information before taking children to any film."The rating PG (parent guidance recommended) implies that you are watching it with the child, so you can provide explanation or censor if needed. It states parent-guidance is recommended for younger viewers. But you might still want to check it out yourself first. Here's one list of PG movies that should be rated R (restricted). This one also has a few surprises.
A good starting point is checking in with parents of other children- what do they think is suitable. Bear in mind, though, that everyone will have different values and ideas about what is OK. I've learned from my own parenting faux pas moments to try and read reviews beforehand, as even the trailers can be misleading sometimes. I do this especially if I'm not familiar with the movie. There are heaps of review sites and different commentaries available. Here are 3 to take a look at:
IMDb is a general entertainment website to search reviews, view trailers and find out information on celebrities, movie cast and back stories.
Common Sense Media has a great website with over 8,000 movie reviews available. You can select age ranges and genre and it's very easy to use. It also has categories around topics and character strengths in the movies reviewed.
The review website pluggedin.com, by Focus on the Family, is really comprehensive. It's a good one for getting down to the nitty-gritty of a movie. I've watched some movies with the kids that I wasn't happy with how the movie message was portrayed, even though there wasn't any 'bad' stuff to speak of. These reviews cover every aspect of plot so there's no surprises.