The 5 Best Under-the-Radar Movies for Kids of All Ages
Ideas for Presents
Whether you're putting together a gift basket, trying to please picky nephews and nieces, or just trying to share your love of cinema, movies make wonderful presents for kids. Children young and old appreciate a well-told story, and movies offer a chance for the whole family to spend a relaxing evening together. Everyone loves free movies, in particular, so consider buying one for a child's birthday, Christmas, or any event.
Hollywood blockbusters are fun, but children have an even greater appreciation for films that seem like secrets they have discovered themselves. Under-the-radar movies often aren't classified as the best movies ever, because they often lack the budget of the larger films or deal with advertising constraints. Rather than have the exposure, these movies often have the substance. Here are five lesser-known movies for kids of all ages.
The Secret of Kells
If you like evocative animation, rich in memorable images and cultural allusions, consider buying a DVD of The Secret of Kells. This 2009 movie is about Brendan, the Irish boy behind the story of the legendary Book of Kells. The real Book of Kells is held at Trinity College in Dublin, and is one of the most important artifacts of Irish history. This animated film tells how Brendan meets the fairy Aisling in a dark forest, while he is on a mission to assist in the actual writing of the Book of Kells. An imminent theological and physical clash with barbarians creates real tension, but the movie as a whole is mystical and memorable, particularly during an amazing song sequence by Aisling. After watching The Secret of Kells, any child or adult will be thinking about this movie for weeks, if not months.
This film has been nominated and has won awards, but surprisingly, too few people have seen it. The Secret of Kells is definitely worth a look, particularly for children 7 and up.
The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal is a Jim Henson/Frank Oz film from 1982, which is why most children today have never seen it. It's a rich fantasy done with puppetry, but not at all like The Muppets or Fraggle Rock . Instead, The Dark Crystal explores a strange, distant world in a distant time, pitting the orphan Jen against bird-like lizards called Skeksis, all of whom desire the power afforded them by a shard of the crystal. Unusual creatures and landscapes abound in this unique story. Some of the small visual touches in this live-action movie will be sure to stick with you for years.
The Dark Crystal is at times a risky and dark adventure, and isn't best suited for very small children. Close calls and weird monsters make this film better for kids 10 and up.
One of my personal favorites, The Waterbabies is a half-animated, half-live-action movie from 1978, so it's virtually unknown to children today. Despite its age, however, The Waterbabies is a strange and wonderful journey; it chronicles the travels of little Tom, the apprentice chimney sweep, who makes his way in 1850s England. Tom is in the care of an abusive and criminal-minded James Mason (nothing too upsetting, so don't worry) when he's accused of theft. In an attempt to escape the unfounded charges, Tom jumps into a river, starting an animated epic journey.
Full of memorable songs and a Wizard of Oz-like story format, The Waterbabies lives on as a tale of innocence and redemption. It's suitable for kids of all ages.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Fantastic Mr. Fox is probably the least under-the-radar entry of the list, considering it's a 2009 puppet-animated movie with the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep. It's different enough, however, to warrant a spot here. If you haven't seen this movie yet, get moving. The Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on a book by Roald Dahl, chronicles the adventures of Mr. Fox as he returns to the thieving ways of his youth. Nearby farms offer too much temptation for the quirky fox in this funny, odd-ball film, and eventually, a clash between farmers and animals becomes an all-out battle.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox is fun for all ages, and contains several instances of humor adults will cherish.
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Velveteen Rabbit, a 2009 half-animated, half-live-action film, is a surprisingly wonderful homage to the beloved book by the same title. Unlike The Waterbabies , The Velveteen Rabbit mixes both formats seamlessly throughout the movie. Set in England, Toby is sent to live with his grandmother by his distracted, workaholic father for the holidays. Unhappy with his isolation, Toby begins to be drawn in by the "magic attic" once enjoyed by his own father as a boy. Ultimately, Toby will have to fight against losing a sense of the real world over his imagined fairy-tale existence, and his cherished rabbit plays a key role. Love and gratitude highlight the lessons learned in this timeless story.
The Velveteen Rabbit is appropriate for all ages, and while it deviates from the original book, it is still sure to conjure up familiar images for adults.