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The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  118 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
If a child can watch Barney, can’t that same child also enjoy watching Charlie Chaplin or the Marx Brothers? And as they get older, wouldn’t they grow to like screwball comedies (His Girl Friday), women’s weepies (Imitation of Life), and westerns (The Searchers)? The answer is that they’ll follow because they’ll have learned that “old” does not necessarily mean “next chann ...more
Paperback, 375 pages
Published February 13th 2007 by Anchor
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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter BiskindHitchcock by François TruffautPictures at a Revolution by Mark  HarrisThe Great Movies by Roger EbertAdventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
Books ABOUT Movies
31st out of 425 books — 166 voters
The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott ZicreeThe Great Movies by Roger EbertSaturday Night by Doug HillThe Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin GramsThe Cinema of Sidney Poitier by Lester J. Keyser
Books About Films and TV Shows
174th out of 336 books — 48 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 276)
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Aug 31, 2007 thefourthvine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who has a few spare spots on Netflix.
Shelves: non-fiction
Ty Burr definitely has the knack of making movies sound appealing; we read this book out loud, and when we were finished, we had added 100 movies to our Netflix queue. So, you know, fair warning: unless you've already seen all the old movies there are to see (and he does not focus on just the classics and the well-known ones, so don't think you're in the clear just because you have a substantial black-and-white collection already), you will probably end up watching a lot of old movies if you rea ...more
Feb 04, 2015 Whitney rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-read
An amusing read that held my attention (though I did skim some parts) and lengthened my to-watch list considerably.
Jun 03, 2014 Jill rated it liked it
This was the book I didn't know I was looking for but still hoped to find. The author is a movie critic for a paper in Boston and has also written for Entertainment Weeekly and other newspapers and such.

Once he had children he said he realized that the entertainment fare children are marketed was not what he wanted for his children. This book is for parents who want to expose their children to cultural icons of the past or just give them a good basis for selecting materials in their future.

Jun 22, 2015 Vivian rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I didn't READ this, but I did thumb through it and added a lot of films to my "to watch" list with my film-enthusiast teenage daughter. Sections are: 1)Starter Kits: First Old Movies to Watch with Your Toddler, Tweener, or Teenager; 2)The Kong Island Theory, or Old Movies NOT to Watch with Your Children; 3-8) genres--comedy/drama/musicals/action adventure westerns/ horror sci fi fantasy/ foreign-language classics (we call these "sub-title movies" in our family and 9)The People Who Made Them. An ...more
Mar 20, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Inspired Singing in the Rain and Bringing up Baby.
Would love to use this as a workbook.
May 23, 2015 Hope rated it really liked it
I was happy to find a copy of The Best Old Movies for Families in my local library. As a Christian and a mother I disagree, however, with many of Burr’s “family” choices. He writes that “Some Like It Hot” is one of the funniest movies ever made (and it may be), but I found the effeminate, lustful males and sensuous, brainless females to be highly inappropriate entertainment in a household where we are trying to train our boys to be honorable men.

If I needed any proof that Burr and I are not on
Jul 10, 2010 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, movies, nook
Wow, what a wonderfully fun book! Lots of great movies to expose the girls too, who already have a pretty good appreciation for B&W movies. They loved "The Kid", enjoy the 3 Stooges and really had fun with "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" (even if Burr disparages that classic).

Definitely going to show them "Bringing Up Baby" and "Meet Me In St. Louis" next. Wish more of these were available on demand as opposed to DVD rental, but hey, what can you do?

So if you love "old" movies, ev
Apr 10, 2009 Stacey rated it liked it
Recommended to Stacey by: Wild Things
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't really like watching movies. I would pick a good book any day. I would, however, be interested in exposing my avid movie-watching kids to some classics--and reserved some at the library. We will see how it goes. I agree with the author when he says that the contemporary movie culture has become stuck in a rut and uses the same tools over and over (flatulance to get a laugh?!?).

Also, I like what the author says in the introduction in regards to teaching kids that old stuff is good. We li
Larissa Borglum
Feb 09, 2009 Larissa Borglum rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Old people set in their ways
Recommended to Larissa by: No one. It was just on the coffee table and it looked interestin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 07, 2010 Cathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, kindle
What a terrific book! More than just a list of movies to watch with kids, Burr gives us intelligent reviews and background on classic films that even cinemaphiles without kids in the house could appreciate. It's beautifully written and full of thoughtful commentary on what children get out of films, how a director's fingerprints show on the screen, and the value of black-and-white in a high-def full-color world. He missed a few of our family favorites (what, no True Grit?), but his recommendatio ...more
Aug 18, 2012 Jen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference
I checked this out of the library but found myself wishing I owned a copy. I like the author's conversational, anecdotal descriptions of watching the movies with his daughters, and his description of things to watch out for (for example, he might point out a scene that could be problematic for younger kids) and fun points about the actors or directors to share with the family. I also liked the personally-curated style - this is not a giant tome, but a manageable number of movies to consider for ...more
Terri Lynn
My husband and I found this book in our favorite public library a few years ago. We enjoyed reading it because our family- all ages- loves and prefers old movies of all kinds. Ty Burr is spot-on in his belief that if you introduce children to good movies that they will enjoy a lifetime of quality entertainment and be more prone to choose well. This applied to our own family not just in movies but also in music, books, and food. This book has become a comfortable old friend and makes a fun read. ...more
Feb 13, 2015 Adam rated it really liked it
I'm the precise target audience for this book. I have kids, I like old movies, and I want my kids to like old movies too. This book gave tips and lists that were helpful in my quest to raise culturally aware children with enough understanding to not dismiss black and white or even silent films. Yeah. I know. I'm pretentious.
S.N. Arly
Jul 09, 2013 S.N. Arly rated it really liked it
Shelves: other
Great suggestions for old films to watch with kids, and these aren't specifically kids' films. He's done a nice job breaking things down in a variety of useful ways, including suitability by age, genre, actor, etc. He explains why he's recommending the films, and some interesting talking points.

I have many fond memories of watching old films with my dad, some good and others terrible. Arsenic and Old Lace will forever remind me of my dad. And I wanted to be able to start sharing these with my ki
Oct 05, 2008 Jill rated it it was amazing
This was such a fun little read that I just happened to stumble upon while looking for something else in the library. Many of the movies I had seen before and forgotten about, but he had so many other good suggestions for classics I had never seen (I still can't figure out why not - I mean, it's Citizen Kane, after all). The greatest part was that he separated it out by age groups - at what age it would be appropriate to show children - and a little plot diddy so you would have an idea of the st ...more
Mar 12, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it
Well-written summary of classic films that are appropriate for kids - wisely divided into age groupings and genres and with plenty of personal stories about the widely ranging reactions of the author's children.

Note: this book is written from a secular perspective, so if you're looking for a "safe movies to show my Christian homeschooler", this is the WRONG book for you. (Though it's still worth your time to consider how to use films with discernment & discussion to help you to raise though
Lauren Tomlinson
Aug 18, 2014 Lauren Tomlinson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Courtney Burns
Apr 05, 2014 Courtney Burns rated it really liked it
A great start for individuals or families who want to get to know classic movies, actors, and directors. Filled with essays about why classic movies are important and how to get your children to watch them. Each of the movies he recommends comes with a short synopsis, an age recommendations, a little bit of trivia, and suggestions on what you may have to explain to children before they watch it. Buying a copy of this today so I can begin marking it up as I explore these movies.
Moses Operandi
Apr 28, 2007 Moses Operandi rated it liked it
Shelves: readandenjoyed
I have always enjoyed old movies (and by that I mean black and white) but this book opened me up even more. On its reccomendation, we saw High Noon, with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, which was excellent. A truly gripping western, it took place in real-time, which made it all the more suspenseful. Anyway, I highly reccomend this book to everyone who is tired of the big-bugdet blockbusters of today.
Brandon Harbeke
Mar 10, 2016 Brandon Harbeke rated it liked it
This book has some good information and stories included with the recommendations. I would like to see a book cover the entire spectrum of movies, though, not just the ones from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The author explains why he doesn't, and that is his prerogative, but I would find such a resource more useful.
Jan 30, 2012 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book made me want to pull out some classics for my kids. Sadly, they are old enough that just throwing it in the machine and saying "Let's see what happens" won't work because they are old enough to get up and walk out. If they stay, duct tape is needed to keep the sarcastic comments behind closed doors. Sigh.
Apr 06, 2011 Kathleen added it
Shelves: favorites
Very helpful and entertainingly written. Who would have known/remembered there's a pedophile storyline in a Shirley Temple movie? Or that there are films noir and gangster movies kids can watch, enjoy, and not be scarred?
Nov 26, 2012 Kim rated it really liked it
Great book to jar my memory of all the old movies I loved as a kid, and can now watch with my kids. Also gave me some ideas of movies I have not yet seen, but want to (Funny Face being number one on that list).
Jun 07, 2007 Kristine rated it really liked it
Shelves: film
The book contains recommendations sorted by age group and gives a synopsis of the movie, odd trivia, and areas for discussion with your kids. It's a pretty good book, and I've given it four stars for originality.
Jun 23, 2011 Jenny rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2011
This book is rad! Go read it and then go watch an old movie with someone under the age of 50. I think this would be a good book to give as a gift or have on my bookshelf.
Nathan Schwartz
Feb 17, 2013 Nathan Schwartz rated it liked it
Useful lists of old movies for families and kids. Don't agree with all the recommendations by any means, but it is good to have something to start from.
Lynnea Taylor
Nov 09, 2009 Lynnea Taylor rated it it was amazing
Love this. A ton of fun and great recommendations for getting your kids into old classics. Interesting little trivia here and there also.
Jul 14, 2010 Gina rated it it was amazing
This is one of my new favorites. Breaks down the movies by age group and cues "things to look for".
Mar 29, 2009 Robin rated it liked it
Neat book for helping you decide which old movies to watch with your kids.
Abraham Ray
Apr 30, 2015 Abraham Ray rated it really liked it
nice book about old movies that kids would like.
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TY BURR is the film critic for The Boston Globe. For more than a decade he wrote about movies for Entertainment Weekly, and he has also served in the film acquisitions department of HBO. He estimates that after thirty years of serious movie-watching, he has seen on the order of 10,680 films. On a good day, he remembers 7,000 of them.
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