I recently had the joy of taking one of my daughters to see a classic movie from my own childhood. I relish the times when I get to share what I loved as a child with my own children. We sat under the bright lights of the screen and were dazzled by talking candlesticks and singing teapots in the beautiful live-action revamp of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
It wasn’t long ago that you would have to pay me a hefty sum to take all four of my children to the theater, but now this is a happy outing we can share. However, with movie ticket prices being as high as they are, I also cherish the times when I can share the movies I love with them in our own home. There have been hits (“Hook”) and misses (I still don’t get why they didn’t like ‘The NeverEnding Story’) in sharing our former generation’s favorite flicks.
There are some movies my husband and I want the kids to cherish just as much as we do, so we made ‘Birthday Movie Marathons’ a tradition in our home. Some of the movies had to have age limits, taking into account sensitivity to graphic imagery, language, and other striking content. Mainly, we asked ourselves if there was anything we were not yet ready to explain. A parent knows their child best, and since you’ll be the one up with them in the middle of the night if you show them something too scary, it’s your call.
Here are the four epic sagas that we invite our children into, and I cannot begin to explain how excited they (and we) get when they know one is coming up. They begin talking about it months beforehand, and look at it as a rite of passage. We do one movie a night and spread them out across the weekend. The first movie is set apart time for the birthday child, mom, and dad alone. Then we let the older siblings and friends join in when we get to film two and so on. It becomes a family event, a semi legitimate reason to stay up late, and something that builds memories we already see them treasuring. We often provide themed snacks, and a small birthday present that goes along with the theme, but these aren’t necessary, they are just part of the frivolity.
1. “Star Wars”
The age we did it: 7
Movies in the series (in proper chronological order):
- “The Phantom Menace” (1999)
- “Attack of the Clones” (2002)
- “Revenge of the Sith” (2005)
- “Rogue One” (2016)
- “A New Hope” (1977)
- “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
- “Return of the Jedi ” (1983)
- “The Force Awakens” (2015)
- And more on the way!
Warning: The newer movies use CGI, so things are more realistic which equals scarier.
Suggested Snack: Pretzel sticks dipped in colored chocolate to look like light sabers, or any Star Wars licensed food that is out there.
2. “Pirates of the Caribbean”
The age we did it: 8
Movies in the series:
- “The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)
- “Dead Man’s Chest” (2006)
- “At World’s End” (2007)
- “On Stranger Tides” (2011)
- Coming soon: “Dead Men Tell No Tales” (2017)
Warning: If your child is afraid of skeletons. DO NOT watch these movies.
Suggested Snack: Pirate’s Booty and chocolate gold coins.
3. “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”
The age we did it: 10
Movies in the series:
- “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012)
- “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013)
- “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (2014)
- “The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), “The Two Towers” (2002)
- “The Return of the King” (2003)
Warning: Good vs. evil is an overarching theme in these, and the evil can be frightening.
Suggested Snack: Peach gummy rings, Keebler Elf cookies, and shortbread or pita bread (elven lembas bread).
4. “Harry Potter”
The age we did it: 11
Movies in the series:
- “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (2001)
- “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002)
- “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004)
- “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005)
- “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007)
- “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009)
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” (2010)
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” (2011)
- Bonus: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016)
- And more coming soon!
Warning: Forget Voldemort, the scariest characters in this movie are the Dementors! Then there are the snakes, the spiders, and Dolores Umbridge. Basically, there is a reason we waited on these. We told them, “You can handle Hogwarts when you are as old as Harry when he started.”
Suggested Snack: Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (sold by Jelly Belly, but half of them are gross), and Butterbeer (it’s non-alcoholic but so yummy).