25 Movies With Valuable Life Lessons My Preteen Won’t Hear From Me

It’s time.  Time for me to fly the nerd flag…just a little.  I have so enjoyed the cooking part (my waistline will back me up on this), but today I’m going deeper.

I am currently weathering the wicked storm that is raising a preteen boy, thanking God he’s not a girl every day.  I’m not knocking all teenage girls, but I was one.  I know it could be far worse for me and I long ago accepted full responsibility for my father’s gray hair.  Anyway, we’ve reached the stage where I have apparently become just shy of “idiot” and I think he sometimes wonders how I manage to feed myself.  The words of wisdom I offer fall on deaf ears much of the time, so I just have to hope that the seeds I’ve sown have taken strong root.

Okay, most of the time he’s a great kid, but I realized that there are some lessons he just won’t hear from me anymore so I began looking for other options.  Yes, we go to church.  Yes, he plays sports.  Yes, he has some friends I feel are pretty good kids, but I realized there was another medium.  Film.  It all started with my being a history, classic TV and film buff, and simply wanting to share my favorites with them.  I soon realized that certain films had the power to teach valuable lessons which I could not.  That shows like “The Wonder Years” could reach him and make him feel less different than my assurances could.  It’s hard to admit this, but it’s true.

Aside from that, I have also been thinking about how certain TV and films touched me and I think as parents we owe it to our kids to show them that the music, TV and movies of the past have great value and artistry.  Plus, there’s nothing cooler than your kids joining your “fandom.”

I know I’ll miss a bunch and there will be a part 2, 3, 4, etc., but at least I won’t make you click through 25 individual slides like some sites.  I should also point out that this is not my collection of the greatest nerd movies of all time, just a few with some good life lessons.

Check the parent guides by clicking on the IMDB link in the title to make sure they are appropriate for your children.  Some of these are best for older kids.  You be the judge.

Here’s the Suburban Homestead Nerd’s list of must see Cinema for our kids and us to learn a little something, in no particular order.


1.  Star Wars: Episode IV-A New Hope– 1977

     Star Wars: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back– 1980

     Star Wars: Episode VI- Return of the Jedi– 1983

Duh.  Did you have any doubt that this would be on the list?  I’m lumping the first three together because they are like Lays Potato Chips.  You can’t watch just one.

I remember being 6 years old when I saw the original film for the first time.  We were in Bangladesh in a small theater (dining room outfitted with folding chairs) at the American Club and from the moment that first music note sounded, I was mesmerized.  I’m sure that if we’d had a VCR, my mother would have had this movie looping 24-7 just to get me to sit still for more that 5 minutes.

Episode 4 taught me that the universe was a very big place and that, if a whiny guy from Tatooine could become a Jedi, I could be whatever I wanted.

Episode 5 taught me that true friends will do anything for each other, loyalty was a beautiful trait and that Darth Vader was the biggest bada$$ in the galaxy.

Episode 6 taught me that good always wins, Ewoks are cute and solidified my belief that you should never hire a Storm Trooper as your body guard.

2. Batteries Not Included– 1987

This movie blew me away as a kid and blew my kids away last night.  It’s sweet, it’s gentle and it teaches us to look outside of our world and ourselves, to empathize with those we don’t normally even notice; the elderly, the lost, the lonely.  Most of all, it’s magical without the crazy, theater rocking action and violence we’ve grown so accustomed to in these times.

3. Simon Birch– 1998

This movie is a powerful one, but also fun and speaks to kids without speaking down to them.  It teaches that even the most different of us can be great with a little unflappable faith.

4. Psycho– 1960

I know, I know, what the heck can our kids learn from this one, right?  Ha!  Let me tell you!  I’m a bit of a stickler for watching ratings and parent guides, and I get a little tired of all the gore, sex and cursing that we can’t seem to make movies that aren’t cartoons without anymore.  No, I’m not a prude, but my kids didn’t seem to think a movie could scare or mystify you if it wasn’t full color gross like many of their friends watch.

They did not move through most of this movie, which is no small feat in this house.  At the end of Psycho, they both turned to me with the most dumbfounded expressions I’ve ever seen on their faces.

Psycho taught my kids the value of a real psychological thriller…and that a boy’s mother is his best friend.

5. Harry Potter– all of them

Yes, that’s broad, but I can’t always pick a favorite, so I’m lumping them together.  I would strongly recommend reading all the books first, but these movies taught us about friendship, loyalty, standing up for what is right even when you are the only one willing to do so, to never judge a book by it’s cover, the value of family and so much more.  And then there’s that fun magic stuff.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird– 1962

It’s an absolute must to read the book for people young and old.  You owe it to yourselves and your kids, but the movie is a wonder as well.

In it we learn the value of all life and the ugly truth about the past as it was in our country.  We have to remember, lest we forget and are destined to repeat history.  We also see the kind of person we should all strive to be; one who will stand up for what is right at any cost, to teach our children to be decent human beings.

7. Uncle Buck– 1989

I still can’t believe I live in a world which lost the comedic genius that was John Candy as early as it did, but I am thankful for what he was able to leave us.

This movie taught us that anyone can change and that, while it’s never too late to grow up, you might as well enjoy the ride.  It also teaches us about imperfect family love, that big pancakes rock and solidified my distrust of clowns, though this one was at least not homicidal.  I’m kidding!  I’m kidding!  Fingers crossed.

8. Stand By Me– 1986

Simply put; Steven King’s brilliant take on friendship, the loss of innocence and where we go from there.

9. The Mission– 1986

With a soundtrack able to make you weep, performances by DeNiro and Irons which are astounding, a message of courage and the power of the faithful human spirit, this film will move you at your very core.

10. Secondhand Lions– 2003

This movie might not have been an Oscar contender, but it was a wonderful coming of age tale that taught us you are never too old to be completely cool.  It is a nice example of being comfortable in your own skin.

11. The Princess Bride– 1987

The iconic film which taught us that true love does indeed conquer all, friendship can survive anything, grandparents are cool and that you might have a shot against a Sicilian, even if death is on the line.  Oh, and watch out for R.O.U.S.es.

12. Glory– 1989

If there is a more moving soundtrack, I’ve yet to hear it…okay, The Mission is a close second, oh, and Rob Roy, but you get my drift.  Add to that a powerful tale based on the true story of some of the unsung heroes of the Civil War, with unbelievable performances from some of Hollywood’s best and you have a recipe for greatness!

This movie still blows me away.  These brave men volunteered and fought prejudice from the South and their own Union Army.  The lessons are many: brotherhood, equality, perseverance, bravery, and history.  I can’t say enough about this one.

13. Gallipoli– 1981

Here’s another war movie (usually not my thing because I am far too easy a crier in my old age) teaching us little known history about one of the bloodiest battles of the first World War.  Bravery, patriotism, loyalty and family are just a few of the lessons in this moving coming of age story.  You will never forget this film.

14. The Breakfast Club– 1985

Do I really need to say anything?  This movie taught me that despite all of our differences, we are basically the same underneath.  We have the same insecurities and are all just looking to fit in.

15. The Karate Kid– 1984

We moved almost every year when I was growing up.  My father’s work took us all over the world, so I could totally understand Daniel Laruso’s life as an outsider in this movie.  I learned to stand up to bullies and to work hard for my dreams, but sadly, I never had a Mr. Miyagi.

16. Some Like It Hot– 1959

This was one of the first movies to teach me that black and white could still be awesome!  I saw what all the fuss was about surrounding Marylin- her beauty and sweetness, and fell in love with Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis.  I laughed my way to figuring out that at our core, most of us will do the right thing when push comes to shove and that love really can conquer all.

17. Up– 2009

This movie taught us more about love between two people in 8 minutes than just about any other has ever done in its entirety.  The rest of the movie is funny, sweet, beautiful and teaches us that we can be heroes at any age.

18. The Goonies– 1985

Friendship.  No matter who you are, how big a nerd or how awkward, this movie gives you hope.  We all need people and if the Goonies can find fellowship, we all can.  I would also like to find a pirate ship, please.

19. Grumpy Old Men– 1993

In a culture where we seem to value youth, technology and beauty, this film is another reminder of how awesome the elderly are.  Friendship, loyalty, the pursuit of happiness and loss are just a few takeaways from this timeless classic.

20. Rob Roy– 1995

While definitely not for small children, this movie is one of the most powerful when it comes to teaching honor.  The love between Jessica Lang’s character and Liam Neeson’s is beautiful.  You will learn of the evils men can do and be thankful for the good men who rise up to defeat those evils.  And the soundtrack is awesome!

21. Parenthood– 1989

This movie never ceases to inspire me.  I think it gave my kids a glimpse at what parents feel and that we never stop feeling this way.  Love, loyalty, loss, heartbreak, joy, redemption, lost causes, victories…it’s all here.

22. Awakenings– 1990

This movie offers, in my opinion, the greatest EVER performances from Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro.  I am never unmoved when I watch it.

Never stop hoping, even adults feel awkward and out of their element, always fight for what you believe to be right, don’t take this beautiful life and world for granted….just a few things you will take away from this one.

23. Life is Beautiful– 1997

This movie is one of the few about the Holocaust that isn’t terribly graphic, but is still unbelievably powerful.  As a parent, I was inspired by what this man did to get his son through one of the most hellish times in human history.  As children, my boys saw what a parent will do to protect their child.  Breathtaking.

24. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial– 1982

Who doesn’t dream of having a pet alien with powers?  Loyalty, standing up for what is right, valuing all life and family are just a few lessons to take away from this timeless wonder.


25. 13 Going on 30– 2004

As a kid, I remember chomping at the bit to grow up.  This film helped my boys realize that maybe being a kid isn’t so bad and that maybe being with the popular kids isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Also, any film where a room full of people dance to Thriller is ok in my book.

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