We’re getting to the time of year where kids get sick and have to stay home from school feeling yucky. Here is my cinematic recipe for health and comfort. Don’t forget the chicken soup.

Little Kids:

Annie, Oliver, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music.

Why: Kids love movies starring kids. These are not too scary for the little guys. They won’t understand about the Nazis in TSOM. The bonus for parents is the great music! Songs you can sing together forever! They will hear the songs and always remember snuggling up with you and watching those movies when they felt so rotten.

A Bit Older, past the nightmare stage:

The Wizard of Oz, for my money, is the greatest movie of all time. Everything you need to know about life can be learned from this movie. No matter how many times I watch it, I still get anxious over whether Dorothy will be okay. It IS a little bit scary – has there ever been a better witch than Margaret Hamilton? — so make sure your kids are at the age of reason where they understand it’s just a story.

The Borrowers: a good movie, but a truly great series of books.

Home Alone: my older son thought it was “too touching” but most people enjoy the humor.

Older Kids:

Stand By Me, Breaking Away, The Miracle Worker, Charlie, My Bodyguard

I like movies that teach kids a lesson while still being enjoyable and thrilling. I would suggest warning the kids in advance about the leeches in Stand By Me. I learned this the hard way.


The American musical is something for the whole family to enjoy! You planted the seed with Annie, etc. Now it’s time for the big leagues.

South Pacific: humorous, lively, plus a good lesson about bigotry. Great songs, of course.

My Fair Lady: a glimpse into a different world. Great performances and great songs. Where else can you hear “grammarian” rhymed with “Hungarian”?

West Side Story: Very cool story based on, of course, Romeo and Juliet. Another good lesson about bigotry and prejudice. Plus, GREAT songs.

Fiddler on the Roof: hilarious, poignant, touching, sad, and yes, truly great songs.

Newsies: Marvel at the young Christian Bale, a cute story and good songs,


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Hilarious classic. May give kids ideas on how to skip school, but worth it.

Risky Business: Everyone thinks this has an explicit sex scene, but it doesn’t! The scene on the train is so well done and so evocative that it gives the impression of explicity. It’s also a very funny movie.  Some favorite scenes: “Who’s the U-boat commander?” Also, “Never ever f*** with another man’s livelihood.” Yes, there is some cursing in this movie, but most teens have already heard these words (probably from you!).

Philadelphia: Unbelievable performances by Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Important lesson about tolerance and love. It made my teenager cry (always a good thing). The only thing I didn’t like about this movie was the 2-note song by Bruce Springsteen, which won an Oscar even though it sucked.

All Mine to Give: a tear-jerker from the 1950s. Corny but moving.

The Stratton Story: Jimmy Stewart, June Allyson and baseball – what could be better?

Can’t Buy Me Love: Have you ever seen Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey in his previous incarnation as a nerdy teen actor? It is very difficult to believe it’s the same person. He’s in a number of movies where he is just adorable and full of teen angst in a humorous way. Also try Coupe de Ville.

Forrest Gump: One of the greatest movies of all time. Every time I watch it, I see something new.

A League of Their Own: Right up there with Forrest Gump. If I am surfing around the channels and this is on, I am unable to resist watching it – every single time. Great movie for teen girls.

Back to the Future (all three of them): BTTF is a religion in my family. A rich, imaginative story that stays with you. Great cameo by Huey Lewis and the News.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop now. I have always loved watching movies on TV with my kids, whether they are sick or well. We use movie quotes in everyday conversation (“RE-fund? RE-fund?”) and the common experience of falling in love with a movie is a great way to bond. I believe it is a parent’s duty to introduce their children to these entertaining and valuable slices of life. It’s a wonderful way to keep your sniffly, sneezy kids amused and occupied while they are recuperating, and can be fun for you, too (definitely beats endless games of Candyland).  Happy viewing!



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