The volume of things that come into and leave Netflix on a monthly basis can be staggering. Sometimes it can be hard to find films worth taking the time to watch. This month, however, I’m especially excited about these picks. Not only are they great films – but they’re great picks for a family viewing, as well.
Believe it or not, Disney doesn’t have the monopoly on classic animated films. You may not see Balto on many of those “best animated movies ever” lists, but it deserves a place there. Balto is a half-wolf/half-dog in an Alaskan village who desperately wants to be a sled dog. When the village experiences a horrible sickness that affects the children in the village, and the medicine is miles away in the rugged wilderness, Balto springs to the challenge. The film is beautiful, intense, and challenging, with a great supporting cast of characters, and a thrilling story that teaches some important lessons about racism, identity, and responding to adversity.
It’s somewhat rare that Hollywood gives us a love story that is deeply impactful. It’s even more rare that it’s through a creepy stop-motion movie about undead marriages, but that’s exactly what Corpse Bride is. Starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton, this film is weird and quirky, just like its lead creative forces. But what sets it apart is a story that ultimately finds value in love that is both selfless, as is the case with the corpse bride herself, and a result of intentional commitment, as is the case with Victor. The atmosphere of the film could be frightening for younger children, but the film is otherwise highly recommended, and a great way to spend an evening with the family.
The Nightmare before Christmas
Much like the previous film on this list (Tim Burton wrote Nightmare, although he did not direct it), The Nightmare before Christmas is both a Halloween film and a Christmas film. I’m recommending you break the unspoken rule and watch it even when it’s not around a holiday. Not only does The Nightmare before Christmas have arguably the best music of any animated film in the past twenty years, but it speaks to belonging and identity, and not needing to perfect someone else’s shtick, because everyone is different.
(Read our review of the film here.)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Speaking as a big fan of C.S. Lewis, I’m not going to pretend that the film is as good as the book is. It tries to be more adult (or young adult) than it should be, and the story is missing a certain light, childhood quality that Lewis’s narration brings to the story. But with all of that said, the film still succeeds where it’s most important to – at bringing a rich allegory of the sacrifice of Christ to the big screen. All of the theological elements of the story are done rather well, and with Liam Neeson and Tilda Swinton playing Aslan and The Witch respectively, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a good stepping stone to Lewis’s world, even though it’s best experienced through his written works.
(Read our review of the book here).
After her hit supporting performance in Finding Nemo, Dory returns for the story fans have been asking about for years – Dory finding her family. Sequels made more than ten years after their originals are hard to pull off, which is why the setting for this one is entirely different. Instead of replicating the vast animated world of the sea all over again, the writers opted for a more constrained and grounded story (though still far from Marlin and Nemo’s home). That’s to the film’s benefit, as is exploring the emotional story of how Dory was separated from her parents. I recommend this film with a caveat – it may not be great for adopted or foster children – but as a parent, I found the film moving and inspiring, even if it doesn’t quite stack up to the original.
(Read our review of the film here).
Are there any films we left out that you’re excited to see come to Netflix? Let us know in the comments below!