Movie Previews for Children

Movie Previews for Children

I don’t generally like to suggest movies for other people’s children.  Everyone has different standards for entertainment and I have no desire to set the standards for your family.  But so many of y’all have asked what I thought of “War Horse” that I wanted to first tell you how we choose movies.

We believe that as parents it is our job to protect our children’s purity.  While they need to be prepared for the world, they don’t need that at a young age.  When they are young they need to use their incredible minds to soak up wisdom and godliness, goodness and fruits of the Spirit.  Then, when they are ready, this is the foundation upon which they will build their lives.  So we are careful what we put into their hearts and minds.  It is with that in mind that we preview every movie before we allow any of the children to watch it.

Also, we do not try to teach fairness or equality.  There are some movies that one child can see but their brother cannot.  Each child has different needs, strengths and weaknesses.  We make decisions about who can see a movie based on each individual child and not the group as a whole.  Also, each movie is handled differently.  Sometimes we will allow some of the kids to see it once, but we don’t buy it or bring it into our home.  Sometimes we’ll Netflix it, which means they might watch it a couple of times then out it goes.  Sometimes we’ll decide it’s OK to see once at home but not in the theater on the big screen.  It just depends on the movie.

These are some of the things we look for….

1.  Violence.  Is it necessary? Is it too intense?  Is it sending a message?

Of course, more sensitive children react differently than others and you have to know your own child.  An example would be “Prince Caspian.”  It had sword fighting and danger so we were careful which children got to see it.  Our boys react much less sensitively to war than our girls.  We are careful to respect their God given differences.  In this case, the boys and the older girls got to see it (not the little boys, just the ones over the age of 8).

2.  Witchcraft/sorcery/magic.  What is its source and what is its purpose?

We don’t mind some magic in movies as long as it has a positive message.  We like the “Narnia” movies because their source of magic is very defined and the whole story is an allegory of Christ.  Another example, we never, ever would watch nor allow our children to watch the “Harry Potter” movies.  They are, in our opinion, about evil.

3.  Sensuality and romance.  This includes flirting, intimacy (even kissing between unmarried people) and immodest dress.

If a movie has any cleavage or tight clothing on women, we will not watch it.  Even Disney characters tend to be immodestly dressed.  If there is any intimacy, we do not watch it.  Last year 2 movies came out that were centered around swimming, “Dolphin Tale” and “Soul Surfer.”  “Dolphin Tale” had no immodesty in it and the kids were generally respectful to their parents so we did let our kids see it.  “Soul Surfer” on the other hand had too many bikinis in it so we didn’t let the boys see it and the girls only saw it once.

4.  Swearing.

We do allow the older kids (as in, 17 and up) to see movies with some swearing in it.  They are grounded enough by then to keep from using foul language even though they hear it occasionally.  We will not, however, purchase a movie with swearing in it.  Seeing it once on Netflix or at the theater might be OK, but we don’t want it playing in our home over and over.  One example where swearing kept us from allowing our children to see a movie is “The King’s Speech.”  It was a great movie in every other way but the swearing was horrible so we didn’t let them see it….not even once.

5.  Drunkenness or drug use.

We want to avoid any film that makes drunkenness look appealing or fun.  I’m not talking about a single drink, but getting drunk or high.  Yuck.

6.  Family relationships.  How do the children talk to their parents?  Is the father absent or treated like the family idiot?  How do the siblings treat one another?

This is one of our BIG requirements.  A film must have either positive family relationships or be leading to that in the end.  We don’t watch a movie that shows the kinds of children that hate their brothers and sisters and slam their door with a “Keep Out” sign on it.  Parental disrespect is something we are careful to avoid.  “How to Train Your Dragon” for example, is the classic story…the parent is uncaring, selfish and dumb so the child takes matters into his own hands and saves the day.  This is not the message we want beaten into our children’s minds.  We did allow the children to see it, but not over and over.

7.  Message.  What is the overall message of the film?

Even if #1-6 are fine, we still want to be careful of the message a movie is sending.  For example, “Secretariat” seemed like it filled all of the requirements, but when you step back and look you realize that the whole movie was about a woman that left her family without the blessing of her husband and did whatever she wanted.  She spent large amounts of time with another man (even though it was a strictly business relationship) and she only served her own desires.  The overall message is not one that we could support, so we didn’t let our children see it.

With those things in mind we preview every movie before our children see it.  We never assume it is good no matter how innocent it seems on the surface.  I have previewed three movies recently.  Here’s what I thought of them.

“War Horse” was very violent.  The love of a boy and his horse, the determination and strength was uplifting, but it was way too violent, intense and upsetting for young children.  We won’t let any of our kids under 13 see it.

“The Adventures of Tin Tin” was interesting.  The animation was incredible and the story was an old fashioned Nancy Drew style adventure/mystery.  The problem I had with it was that one of the main characters was either drunk or seeking alcohol for the entire movie.  He gets so desperate at one point that he drinks rubbing alcohol from a first aid kit.  We will let the kids over the age of 10 see the movie once, but we won’t buy it.

“We Bought a Zoo” was a simple family movie.  It was nice how the family did something different, but the son is extremely disrespectful and there is a swear word that will keep me from allowing our children to see it.  There is also a kiss, which might not have stopped me from letting the older kids see it, but it adds to the negative column.  Two thumbs down for that one.

If you have any movies that you are wondering about feel free to ask me.  It can be hard to decide sometimes, but the main point to remember is that it is just entertainment and we don’t need it.  If in doubt, skip it.  A bad experience cannot be undone.


  1. This was so good, Lisa! I know often times it is hard to share opinions such as these.
    I just wanted to add a little bit here.
    We do not have cable nor satellite t.v., but we do have the basic stations. And one of the things that I have found, short of most PBS programming… nothing is beneficial out there as far as programming. And having kids in our home, ages 17 to 3, means we can’t let the 17 year old watch things, even though he is older, because some things are too much this or that for the 9 and 3 year old.
    And I for one, am disgusted, { is that a strong enough word? } with viewing options. All of the things you listed….are everywhere! I am 41 and I remember when MTV first came on the scene….way back then. And the other night, my husband and I noticed a new music station added into our channel line up. IT WAS CRAZY! I HAD NO IDEA how far we have sunk! They were main stream videos from mainstream artists and it was outrageous!

    My point?

    After spending so much time not seeing these types of images….my jaw was hanging on the floor, and it proved that when It is all too easy to become desensitized to words, influence, and images without even being aware of it!
    And…it’s so important to realize that just because another family thinks a movie or program is fine for them, it’s OK if it’s not for us. Which I know you stated above, as well.

    My husband and I have watched movies that are rated PG-13 that have been fantastic.
    We also have watched ones that we couldn’t even finish, that we would never let our 17 year old watch, that were clearly more rated R then they professed.

    I love that you take the time to watch the movie first!
    I have to be honest in saying that it did not occur to me to do this, even with Disney, until you mentioned it.

    And I think of the times before when I have cringed at images, words, crudeness, implications…..that have popped out in what appeared to be a great movie.

    So….thank you for sharing this post and the way YOU all do it at your house and why.
    I loved it!

    Also~ I did not watch War Horse, but did buy the book. I was considering it for a read aloud for my 9 year old son. We have horses. We love horses. BUT! The book is sold as a “young reader”. And I want to say that for us, it was way too violent for my guy at this point. Along with the troubles between father and son, and why and how Joey was sold to begin with.
    The key as you mentioned…is knowing the heart of your child. My 17 year old would love the intense sequences of war violence….my 9 year old would have nightmares about the violence, and the loss of horsey lives.

    So….discernment in individual kiddos and situations is best!
    Thank you, Lisa!
    So good.

  2. Can I just click the “like” button on Kristin’s comment?

    We haven’t always been as discerning as we should have been and it’s really tough to say “hey – forget what you just saw right there…”

    We’re doing much better now, but it’s hard (though necessary) to tell our kids “we messed up in the past and now we’re doing better – what was once OK may no longer be”.

    On the up-side, we were able to recoup a little money off of DVD’s we sold at our garage sale last fall…

  3. Do you know what a ClearPlay DVD player is? We have one (had one for 3 years) and it allows us to filter out some of the junk from DVDs. I think we pay $8.95 a month to be able to download filters for our DVD player. This takes movies like “We Bought a Zoo” and makes them ok and it is done really well so if it deletes a scene you don’t usually notice is unless you know the movie really well. (we haven’t seen this) For our family it is awesome, we don’t have cable, just Netflix and ClearPlay. It is worth checking out.
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom!!

  4. Kristin, great point! Our kids don’t watch any TV ever, so it isn’t an issue I thought about. You are so right, we become desensitized to it and then it seems normal. I want my kids to have their jaws drop when something ungodly and sinful happens. Isn’t that the way we’re supposed to be?

    Steph, thanks for mentioning that. I love what you added to the conversation.

    We have considered ClearPlay in the past but decided against it. Like I said and I hope it comes across….I don’t think my way is the only way but just what the Lord has showed to us, so if you do something different with a clear conscience then we can support each other, right? So with that said, this is why we don’t use ClearPlay…. We feel that a movie should stand the way it is. We weren’t interested in filtering out parts of a movie since it’s just an entertainment and not necessary to our lives. Also, when they visit their grandparents and other family members without Clear Play and might say, “Oh yes, we are allowed to watch that movie,” without realizing it has bad stuff in it. Or they may tell their friends that a movie is fine without realizing that there are problems. We don’t want them to think any movies are OK that have objectionable material in them.

    But I do appreciate your comment! There might be others that would really benefit from knowing about it and it is a good point that there are alternatives to just not watching. Thanks!! 🙂


  5. Great post again! (Even if I don’t always comment, I read your blog!) I purchased “The King’s Speech” via (for $6 when there was a special), which sells edited dvds. You might want to check it out. I also bought “The Help” from them (also a special). If we lived closer, I’d let you borrow them to see what they’re like. Maybe that could be arranged sometime when y’all are coming down to the Big City. (We live off exit 546 south of 46 in Boerne…) Just thought I’d add my 2 cents!

  6. I’m surprised that you didn’t like Soul Surfer. It is mostly about a family’s desire to spread the gospel. In the extras they talk about how the public platform of the shark attack gave them that opportunity. We don’t let our 12 yo wear bikinis either but we thought the message in the movie was inspirational enough to overcome that.

  7. Rene, Hi! 🙂 I am sorry if I left the impressions that I didn’t like Soul Surfer. I thought there were some good things about it. I just didn’t let me boys see it. We have to draw a line somewhere and for us it is bikinis. Even though they did talk a little bit about the gospel, there were enough other problems, like the way the parents let their daughter make her own choices without any guidance, that we decided not to watch it more than once and only with the girls. But like I said, I don’t think I have all of the answers and my goal with this post was to encourage other parents to think first before just letting their kids see movies, not to push our standards. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I can totally see why you liked the movie!! It had a lot of positive things about it. Lisa~

  8. Amen and amen!! It is sooooo refreshing to see another family who is quite careful about the influences they allow in their children’s lives! I just love that you are discussing this. So many parents out there don’t even give this topic a second thought…and then they wonder where their kids pick up some of their negative behavior/words/viewpoints.

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart on the matter – and I’m definitely passing this on~!
    Good advice!

  9. WOW Lisa! You really know how to make one think! Sometime I think that I am overboard with LOTS of my thoughts on movies, our clothing and other things. Then you post something and I’m like “See I’m not crazy!!” lol I know that we are called to be different from the world, but what I am constantly struggling with is how can we be completely different than the world AND go and make disciples? If we are too different then we seem so out of place (or is this a figment of my imagination?) …yet being worldly is not on my agenda at all. I want so badly to be set apart from the world (and we are in many ways), yet be able to interact with it at the same time. Thanks for your blog and all of your wisdom!

  10. Great post! Since my boy is just a baby, the modesty issue hasn’t been major for us yet (my know our stand on modesty). For me language and disrespect are major issues. WAY too many movies/shows show disfunction in families. Stupid parents and brilliant children – not the model I want in my children’s minds. I have often gone to Focus On the Family’s Plugged In site for movie reviews (many times that protects me from having to listen to bad language or viewing inappropriate images).

  11. Hi Lisa
    I just wanted to let you know that we also screen the movies we watch, and that they don’t all get to watch the same movie either. We go to Focus on the Family’s site, Here the movies are already reviewed by content, ie: sexual, violence etc. I know it has helped us not to rent an expensive movie so often.

  12. Great points. We ditched our TV for just Netflix and the Roku for these and so many reasons! It’s also important to note that some DVDs for kid movies can have previews for much more violent/scary things. I picked up a discounted little kid DVD (one of the penguin cartoons? possibly even Max & Ruby) from TJMaxx…. and there was a Harry Potter preview on it! (Confession: I read and watched all the HPs, but they are far too dark for kids, I believe.)

    What’s interesting is how much more shocked I am if I catch what’s on, after not having watched “real” TV in a while. I’m utterly flabbergasted by 99% of what’s on television. Media has changed so, so much — but children and their needs have not. It’s insane, and watching people try to defend most of what’s on is even worse. Don’t get me started on women’s magazines, either.

  13. Here is a guide to most movies that come out. They tell yoiu whjat kind of violence, language etc is used. They give ratings to movies also. enjoy.

  14. Hi Lisa,
    I came across your blog by chance and really enjoyed reading some of your posts. I am Australian and a practising Catholic, happily married and mum to three teenagers.

    I especially liked this post about how you decide which movies you allow your children to watch. I also am very concerned about the content of many of the movies and TV shows around and have always been careful about what I allow my children to watch.

    I have a question for you though: how do you decide that the Harry Potter movies are evil if you haven’t seen them? I’m honestly not asking for any reason other than genuine curiosity. Does your church review them and then advise you or do you read summaries or reviews of some kind and then decide?


  15. Hi Felicity! Thanks so much for your lovely comment about choosing movies. I appreciate your question and am so glad you asked.

    You are right, I didn’t see the Harry Potter movies, but I did read about half of the first book. I wanted to see what the hype was about and once I was satisfied that the books were filled with evil I stopped reading. Plus I will look at movie review sites and see what they suggest. That’s how we decided not to have anything to do with the Harry Potter series.

    But I do try to give movies a chance and not just trust the reviews. If there is a possibility that I could be misjudging and the kids are interested in seeing it then I will go watch it by myself. There have been many times I walked out after 15 minutes of a movie because it was already obvious that our children weren’t going to be able to see it.

    But I don’t mind. It’s all just a part of protecting my kids. Thanks! Lisa~

  16. I found your website through homeschooling organization, and love your parenting tips and movie reviews. I feel like finally, I’ve found someone who I can trust with movie reviews for my children’s viewing. We are also conservative Christians, but we’re living in liberal California and it’s hard to not be influenced by our society. I so appreciate that you and your husband have viewed many movies and give your honest opinions about how appropriate they are for the ages of your children. Would you please consider putting a short list of top 20 movie picks? We’d love to give our kids the option to watch a movie now and then, but don’t know which ones are worth buying, the ones that are good for their hearts to watch over and over. Thank you Lisa!