SINCE WE MUST REST AND PLAY, where can we do so better than here-in the suburbs of Jerusalem? It is lawful to rest our eyes in the moonlight-especially [since] we know where it comes from, that it is only sunlight at second hand."
C.S. Lewis didn't have movies specifically in mind when he put down these words in his classic essay on "Christianity and Culture," but his words well describe the collection of films contained below. Some movies are harmful, but good movies are second-hand sunlight, and to the discerning viewer-to the discerning family-they can be a vibrant and useful part of family life.
Containing some easy films and some more challenging (Lewis also said that "a little sense of labour is necessary to all perfect pleasures"), this list is designed to help families dig deeper in the vast film canon of the past 100 years. It attempts to reflect an emphasis on overall quality rather than the simple absence of offensive elements or presence of positive themes.
This list ignores two important categories: films aimed for the youngest children (say 3 and under), and films aimed at adults that may be deemed suitable for older kids (R-rated films such as Schindler's List). It favors movies with broad appeal, but recognizes that families with elementary-school children will look for different films than families with high-school-age kids. So the list is broken into three categories: 15 films for young children, 15 films more appropriate for older kids, and 20 films that we hope will split the difference.
This is by no means a list of the 50 best movies of all time, although many of these films would be serious contenders for that distinction. It is, however, a group of films selected because they will delight most viewers and show a pale reflection of the sunlight that is capable of challenging our minds, softening our hearts, bolstering our courage ... and yes, entertaining us along the way to Jerusalem.
Note: Film titles are followed by the year of release and director; films released or re-released after 1968 include MPAA ratings. Parents have a wide variety of standards and should preview films and be ready with fast-forward buttons. Some movies are objectionable in theater versions but are more likely to meet parental standards when edited for television.