How Do You Get Your Kids to Appreciate Classic Movies?

I’ve had some success and some utter failures over the last few weeks to get my kids to appreciate some classic movies. I love classic movies, but I have had the hardest time getting my own kids interested in watching older films. Sometimes the pacing is just too slow, and other times the subject matter not very interesting to them, other times it is simply the artificial look of technicolor, but they have had no interest is watching some very good classic movies with me.

In the fall I thought my son would enjoy “Ben Hur” since it won so many awards and told the story of a Chariot Racer. He watch the first 15 minutes and became bored and only joined me again to watch the chariot race scene near the end of the film. He liked the movies “Gladiator” and “300” so much, I tried to get him to watch “Spartacus” with me. The pacing was just to slow for hom. A few months ago I rented the movie “The Robe”, the very first movie shot in CinemaScope. However, I guess my kids have grown up too much with the fast moving, fast cutting of movies of today that they had no appreciation for the many long wide shots that marked the look of the film.

The only areas where I’ve had some success in getting them to watch older movies with me has been with Christmas themed movies. It took many years to get them to watch the original versions of “Its A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle On 34th Street” because they were turned off by the fact that they are in black and white. When they finally did watch them, they loved the stories. Perhaps the fact that Steve likes these movies and was willing to watch them with us helped encourage them to sit through the movies.

Over the last two weeks I tried to get them to watch two other classic, but extremely long films: “Gone With the Wind” and “The Ten Commandments”. With “Gone With the Wind” they complained about the look of Technicolor and the fact that it didn’t have enough action. In “The Ten Commandments” I made them sit through the first hour thinking that they would be engaged enough in the story to want to continue after that time. However, when the full hour came around, they were begging to turn off the movie and watch something else, even after Steve joined us about half way through.

My only recent success in getting my kids to watch an “older” film was getting my son to watch “Schindler’s List”. I guess if there was a movie with social and historical significance that I would most want him to watch, this movie would be at or near the top of my list. I had to twist his arm to get him to watch it with me. Actor Liam Neeson and director Stephen Spielberg created a movie that with fine acting, deliberate black and white photography, and use of cinematic techniques was engaging enough from the start to hold the interest of an antsy 13 year old boy. The fact that while being so engaging as entertainment it was also able to convey such an important message about hate, prejudice and the survival of the human spirit, is a testament to the skill and artistry of everyone involved with the project.

I guess I’ll keep trying to get my kids to have the love of classic cinema that I have, but in the mean time I may be relegated to watching some of these great movies on my own.