Sunday night should be everyone’s family movie night. So here’s my guide to a perfect evening with the family:
5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
When you watch this extraordinary effort today, you can see the company’s decades-old recipe for success forming before your very eyes: the heroine in peril, the moving musical numbers (“Some Day My Prince Will Come”), the humorous (Dopey), the horrifying (the Wicked Queen) and the happily-ever-after ending. It all starts here.
4. The Red Balloon (1956)
Albert Lamorisse’s featurette follows a child named Pascal, who encounters the title’s floating red object tied a railing. After untying the balloon, the lad and his newfound companion traipse around Paris, riling up his classmates and even meeting his female counterpart. Lamorisse treats childhood as one big adventure, with Pascal and pal wandering innocently throughout an urban landscape filled with adults to bother, buildings to explore and streetside bazaars to peruse. This is the city as a playground and a place where magic happens; even when tragedy strikes, The Red Balloon still has one trick left up its sleeve, ending in a sky ride that simply must be seen to be believed.
3. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
If you caught this movie upon its original release or when it hit these shores in a dubbed version in 1993, you’d almost have felt like you were seeing a kids’ movie for the first time. Hayao Miyazaki’s tale of two sisters who befriend a forest full of magical creatures—including a kindly, cuddly king of the “totoros”—never looks down on its young protagonists, sentimentalizes their predicament (Mom is sick in the hospital) or milks it for easy tears. It doesn’t treat the various spiritual-world denizens they encounter as monsters; even that odd-looking catbus couldn’t be friendlier. This one still moves us the most.
2. Toy Story (1995)
You didn’t have to own a cowboy doll or a space-ranger-ish action figure to appreciate Pixar’s first feature film. This is a movie that’s very much about the importance of having your buddy’s back. But it’s also about the bond that every kid has with the playthings of his or her youth, and how these inanimate objects are given life by a child’s imagination. The next two Toy Story films would build off this premise beautifully, but it’s here that the seeds of next-gen quality family entertainment are planted and the bounty reaped.
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
A girl stuck on a farm in dreary, sepia-toned Kansas dreams of a more exciting life somewhere over the proverbial rainbow; she gets her wish and then some when a tornado deposits the Midwesterner and her little dog, Toto, too, into a Technicolor wonderland. For over 70 years, this Hollywood classic has continued to wow one generation after the next.