Are you wanting a family movie night but aren’t quite sure what movies are appropriate for your tween? You aren’t alone. Having a tween in the house can change things up when it comes time for movie watching. For one, they’re pickier. They’re done with the baby-ish movies. (So long, Cinderella!) Instead, they want movies that resemble real life, movies that will make them laugh, think and wonder. For parents, this is a great new stage, because it means you don’t have to watch the little kid stuff anymore. The challenge, though, can be finding movies that acceptable for the tween age without too much violence, bad language or mature scenes. Well, look no further (for now). Here is a great list of tween-approved movies, old and new, that yours may really love!
Ralph Breaks the Internet: This newer movie is rated PG and the sequel to Disney’s Wreck-it Ralph. This movie features a strong story of friendship that takes place within a world of video game characters, popular websites and social media platforms. There are strong themes of empathy, courage, perseverance and self-control, and while it can appeal to all ages, the themes and messages are suited more for tweens and up.
*Be aware: Several scenes in the movie take place inside a driving game called Slaughter Race that’s full of weapons, creepy clowns and a lot of danger.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween: Rated PG, this movie is sometimes scary, but mostly a funny adventure about Halloween decorations coming to life and terrorizing a neighborhood. The scare factor is not terrifying, but definitely creepy (and a bit milder than the first movie).
*Be aware: The menacing ventriloquist dummy that won’t die is probably the creepiest thing that may stick with younger kids for a while, but the rest of the content is very mild.
The Princess Diaries: This sweet movie about growing up is rated G and a wonderful flick for the tween crowd. The story is about a 15-year-old American girl who discovers she’s a princess in a European kingdom. The movie offers positive messages about the importance of friendship, being true to yourself, popularity and caring about others.
*Be aware: The main character undergoes some mild verbal bullying from popular kids, and there is some teen kissing.
Hidden Figures: This inspiring true story of three African-American women who worked at NASA (and made calculations and contributions that helped launch the manned spaceflight program) is rated PG. This movie offers a realistic look at the racial tensions of the Civil Rights era and educates viewers about what these three women had to overcome to move up the ladder in NASA. Along with the excellent role models, this film is full of positive messages and themes.
*Be aware: There’s a little bit of romance, including a few kisses and flirty comments, and a bit of language, but nothing over the top.
High School Musical: This made-for-TV movie is not rated, and it’s hugely popular with tweens. Its depiction of high school is a bit sanitized and sugary sweet, but tweens will acquire strong messages about acceptance and being true to yourself and your friends.
*Be aware: There are some near-kisses between the lead couple, but it’s very tame.
Hugo: Rated PG, Hugo is a wonderful book adaptation for tweens and up. This adventure about the art and magic of movies may be a tad too sophisticated for younger elementary school-aged kids (8 and under). Middle schoolers who watch will take away messages about perseverance and overcoming fears. Budding filmmakers will especially enjoy the second half of the movie.
*Be aware: There is a little bit of flirting and hand-holding, one drunk (adult) character and a few insults.
Hairspray: A fun musical with a message, Hairspray is rated PG and is a bit tamer than the original, with less cursing and fighting, but the themes are the same, including accepting people’s differences. Kids younger than 11 may not understand much of the meaning, but they will still be entertained by the characters and production.
*Be aware: Some song lyrics are mildly sexually suggestive. African-Americans are called “Negroes” because the story is set in the 1960s. There are a lot of insults based on weight and once case of parental abuse (Mrs. Pingleton ties Penny to her bed and calls her a devil child.) In one scene, three “bad girls” are smoking in the school bathroom.
The Great Gilly Hopkins: This PG-rated movie is based on Katherine Paterson’s classic 1978 middle-grade novel about a feisty foster kid (Gilly) who finally opens up to others after being placed with a caring older woman who is already fostering a little boy. This is a story about how family is more than blood and how even a lonely and hard-to-like person can find a place to belong.
*Be aware: The main character has a harsh tongue, uses plenty of mild insults and tween swear words. She makes racist remarks to her teacher.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Rated PG, this movie about alien encounters is a Steven Spielberg classic that’s uplifting and optimistic, with themes of perseverance and humility. A mother’s toddler son disappears. Earth is enveloped by strange events (storms, unexplained shaking and UFOs), and dead animals appear on quiet country roads. The movie does have many scary, spooky moments (before the aliens’ true nature is revealed). This flick is mostly for the older tween crowd (11+) and definitely not for the elementary-aged kids.
*Be aware: There are curse words scattered throughout.
When looking for your next great movie for your tween to enjoy with family or friends, check out this great website (and app): CommonSenseMedia.org. It offers everything you need to know about age-appropriate movies, what each one is about and things to watch out for (language, nudity, etc.).
Gina Klein is a writer/author who resides in Kansas City with her husband and two daughters (one teen and one tween), and they all love family movie nights!