In 2016, family movies for a range of ages topped the box office. Each week we brought you to the top theatre picks that would be suitable for families and broke down what would be appropriate by age. The top pick family movies for content and artistry from 2016 are now available in digital formats. They are excellent choices for home, church, and public libraries.
The top pick family movie is also the top redemptive movie for 2016–Ben-Hur. This powerful and engaging movie is based on the timely novel, Ben-Hur: The Tale of the Christ. The movie has been coupled with the updated Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ novel by Dr. Carol Wallace, who is the great-great-granddaughter of General Lew Wallace, who wrote the original Ben-Hur novel. The movie and book are timely with their eternal themes of reconciliation, restoration and redemption. It is a movie about the value of family love and most importantly, the greatest love of our Lord.
Both this updated movie of Ben-Hur and the 1959 film version with Charlton Heston, used the same Roman studio and location. However, the 2016 movie is updated. Director, Timur Bekmambetov, used 800 small cameras that were placed on the horses and chariots in the chariot race to enable the audience to feel as if they are part of the action.
Christ, and especially his actions, are also more highlighted in this movie than in earlier versions as Christ enables Ben-Hur in pivotal encounters, to release his hateful vengeance to experience reconciliation, restoration and redemption. In the earlier versions, audiences never saw Jesus’ face but in this movie, the audience sees Jesus and experiences His love.
This classic story with its universal themes of reconciliation, restoration and redemption is especially relevant for such a time as this. Sonoma Christian Home editors were invited to see one of the first screenings at the Ben-Hur Faith Summit in Hollywood at Paramount Studios. There they interviewed principal actors, producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, and principal directors and crew.
See Sonoma Christian Home for exclusive interviews with Ben-Hur principals. Ben-Hur is now available for digital download and on BluRay and DVD. This movie is most appropriate for teens through adults due to the historic Roman brutality.
The second top pick redemptive movie for 2016 is The Young Messiah. In this movie, Jesus of Nazareth is a boy of seven who, with his family, is leaving Egypt to return to their home. This captivating movie is inspired by Scripture and rooted in history, as it imagines a year in the boyhood of Jesus. This fine movie is appropriate for all ages.
Remaining true to the character of Jesus revealed in the Bible, this film is an inspirational story about the childhood of the Savior for the whole family. When the mystery of Jesus’ divinity begins to unfold in His early years, He turns to His parents for answers. But Mary and Joseph, to protect their child, are reluctant to reveal all they know.
The third top pick redemptive movie for 2016 is Miracles From Heaven, which features Jennifer Garner, Queen Latifah. and other remarkable actors. This film has been based on Christy Beam’s bestselling book about the amazing true story of her daughter who experienced a debilitating disorder for four years but was restored in a freak accident.
Golden Globe® winner Jennifer Garner stars as Christy Beam, a determined, devoted mother whose world is turned upside down when her daughter Anna (beautifully performed by newcomer Kylie Rogers) is struck with a rare, incurable, painful digestive disorder. With a mother’s tenacious determination, Christy does everything she can and beyond for her child through a medical maze.
When she struggles in her faith and when all truly seems lost, a series of amazing, documented events unfold that leave not only Christy, but doctors, family, and community at once baffled and profoundly inspired by the astonishing events.
In exclusive Red Carpet interviews with Sonoma Christian Home, actress Jennifer Garner (JG), producers DeVon Franklin (DF) and Bishop T.D. Jakes (TDJ), and the Beam Family (BF) share wonderful insights about their experiences making the movie. Sonoma Christian Home also presents an insightful and enlightening personal video interview with Jennifer Garner for this inspirational movie. This delightful movie is appropriate for all ages.
The fourth top pick for family is Finding Dory. The beautifully animated movie is appropriate for all ages. Finding Dory is about Dory finding her biological family. It is delightfully entertaining for all ages. It has no perverse elements and has moral themes. It is about love for family and friends.
Movieguide.org states in its review of Finding Dory that “… the animated sequel to the classic family movie Finding Nemo shows Dory suddenly remembering she has a mommy and a daddy and gets help from her friends–both old and new–to reunite with them. Finding Dory is another heartwarming, funny, whimsical fish story from Pixar and Disney showing that family and friends make life worth living.”
Walt Disney: An American Icon states “…Disney characters upheld ‘traditional’ gender roles and ideologies. His view of the family was also traditional and sentimental. Disney grew up on a farm in rural Missouri, and he used themes of virtuous American folk and stressed individualism in his productions. He believed in…the values of the US middle class…”
The fifth top family movie for 2016 is Moana. This is another amazing animated Disney movie that is appropriate for all ages. It is an action-packed movie with realistically fast-moving water in an ocean adventure story. Most importantly, Moana is also about love for and commitment to family, friends, and community. A significant theme is about social responsibility. Moana is a good role model for young people.
The sweeping CG-animated fantasy adventure based on Polynesian folklore and legends, follows the heroic journey of a Polynesian teenage girl to save Polynesian life and culture from annihilation.
Drawn to the ocean (which guides and protects her as an anthropomorphic character), Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) convinces the comedic demigod (half god, half human) Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson-Fast and Furious 6, The Tooth Fairy) to join her with her comedic side-kick on her mission.
Reluctantly Maui helps Moana on her quest to be a master wayfinder as they voyage across the open ocean encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds to save the Polynesian Islands.
This is a delightful, entertaining movie for all ages. Read the interview with key animator, Mark Henn, on Sonoma Christian Home about the latest in the meticulous animation process Disney uses for this movie.
The sixth top pick family movie from 2016 is Jungle Book. This amazing and delightful live-action Disney movie is based on the Rudyard Kipling book about an orphan boy, who is raised in the jungle with the help of a pack of wolves, a bear, and a black panther. CinemaBlend says Jungle Book “…seamlessly blends live-action with photorealistic CGI animals and environments, using up-to-the-minute technology and storytelling techniques to immerse audiences in an enchanting and lush world.” The movie is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and Disney’s classic animated film.
Jungle Book is an adventure film about Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a “man-cub” who’s been raised by a family of wolves. Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, determines to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Mowgli sets out on a journey of self-discovery, guided by his stern mentor panther Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley) and free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray).
Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to get Mowgli to give up the secret to fire. Due to jungle brutality, this movie is most appropriate for older children through adults.
The seventh top pick family movie from 2016 is Pete’s Dragon. This captivating Disney live-action movie has great heart. Robert Redford, as wood carver Mr. Meacham, brings warm, engaging acting to the movie. His daughter, Grace works as a forest ranger. The mysterious 10-year-old Pete has no family or home but comes into Meacham’s and Grace’s lives. This a movie about love for family and others.
This fantasy, family movie with no foul elements has many redemptive themes: value of the traditional and extended family; angels in disguise (Elliot the dragon is Pete’s guardian angel); needing eyes to see wonders; need to protect the innocent; value of loyalty and more. It is most appropriate for older children through adults.
The eighth top pick family movie from 2016 is Alice Through the Looking Glass. This movie celebrates traditional family values but has some creatures that may be too scary for little children. It is most appropriate for older children through adults. In this whirlwind of a live-action, Disney, Tim Burton movie, Alice returns to the magical world of Wonderland. Traveling back in time, she helps the Mad Hatter find his family.
The ninth top pick family movie from 2016 is Zootopia. In this delightful animated Disney movie that takes place in a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox work together to uncover a conspiracy. Movieguide.org states “ Zootopia has a strong moral worldview with strong redemptive elements… There are positive references to God, prayer and miracles… message extolling police work to fix a broken world… messages against bullying, against negative stereotypes and supporting getting along with different people…fun, uplifting time at the movies.”
The tenth top pick family movie from 2016 is Sing. (The movies above are all available in digital formats. Because Sing is still in theaters, its release date is set in April 2017.) Sing, an animated musical comedy, is about a Koala Bear named Buster Moons who puts on a singing competition at his failing theater.
Sing is appropriate for all ages. It has positive themes that include the value of the following: hard work, perseverance, using one’s passions and gifts, positive family relationships, and overcoming fear. (It has a few light crass elements.)
2016 was an outstanding year for family movies in theaters that are now good choices for homes and gatherings. Sonoma Christian Home editors have had the privilege of meeting, interviewing actors, writers, crew, and more for many of these fine movies and has followed them behind-the-scenes and on the screens. We can say from first-hand experiences with these fine movies that they come with the highest of recommendations. Happy New Year!
To learn more about this author, please visit Dr. Diane Howard