Film: Family Movie Guide

This guide includes family films, potential blockbusters, and movies that might interest young people. Only films with G ratings are tagged as all-family fare by Hollywood. Most have stronger MPAA ratings that call for extra alertness from parents.

The Family Movie Guide and the Monitor's more-comprehensive movie guide appear on alternate Fridays.

Our star ratings indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children.

Film Critic Monitor Panel Meaning

o o Forget it

+ + Poor

++ ++ Fair

+++ +++ Good

++++ ++++ Excellent


++ Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. With James Woods, Danny DeVito, Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, Rip Torn, Paul Shaffer, Lillias White, Charlton Heston, Amanda Plummer. Running time: 87 minutes. +++

PLOT After being stolen from his parents as a baby, the superstrong Greek god battles a villain named Hades, discovers his Olympian origins, and finds time to romance a damsel in distress.

MESSAGE Knowing who you are depends on accomplishing things and building good relationships as well as discovering your family history.

VIOLENCE Large amount of cartoonish fighting and other strong action, much of it involving villains drawn to look as scary as possible.



+++ Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, William Fichtner, Angela Bassett, James Woods. Running time: 140 minutes. ++++

PLOT After years of dreaming that humans aren't alone in the universe, an astronomer detects a purposeful signal from outer space and decodes its meaning, which leads to construction of a spaceship.

MESSAGE We humans are not alone in the cosmos, but even though some of us are dedicated and conscientious, it will be a very long time before we are ready to join superior beings and understand their ways of life.

SEX Two main characters are seen in bed together.

VIOLENCE A scene in which a huge technological apparatus is destroyed with much loss of life, and a space-travel scene with some harrowing moments.

PROFANITY 10 profanities, mostly mild.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Three or four instances of people drinking beer and/or wine; at least three instances involving cigarettes or cigars.

IN & OUT [PG-13]

Directed by Frank Oz. With Kevin Kline, Tom Selleck, Joan Cusack, Matt Dillon, Bob Newhart, Debbie Reynolds, Wilford Brimley. Running time: 105 minutes. ++

PLOT A high school teacher is called gay by one of his former students during an Oscar awards ceremony, and several people's lives are turned upside down.

MESSAGE Although they may not agree with your lifestyle, people will love you if you're a good person.

SEX A lot of talk about being gay; a scene with Tom Selleck kissing Kevin Kline.

VIOLENCE 3 instances of extremely mild violence: a comic war scene and two single punch scenes.

PROFANITY 6 instances of mild profanity.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL 5 instances of alcohol and beer; 5 instances of cigars; and 2 instances of cigarette smoking.


uuu Directed by Mike Leigh. With Katrin Cartlidge, Lynda Steadman, Mark Benton, Joe Tucker, Andy Serkis. Running time: 87 minutes. ++

PLOT Two women get together for the first time since they graduated from college six years earlier, and spend a weekend in London, where they run into various old acquaintances.

MESSAGE Old friends can be the best friends, although some are more successful than others at overcoming problems posed early in life.

SEX Dialogue about sex-related matters; brief but graphic sex scene with female nudity.


PROFANITY Several harsh vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Many drinking and smoking scenes in pubs, clubs, and their apartments.


+++ Directed by Richard Donner. With Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts. Running time: 135 minutes. +++

PLOT Convinced that modern America is crawling with conspiracies, an eccentric taxi driver teams with a government official to fight some very real enemies who want to kill him.

MESSAGE Fighting for what you believe in can be dangerous, but good will defeat evil in the end.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Several violent scenes including torture, killing, and fighting.

PROFANITY Foul language and vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Medications used for wicked purposes.


+++ Directed by Peter Cattaneo. With Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Barber, Steve Huison, Hugo Speer. Running time: 90 minutes. +++

PLOT Four unemployed men become so desperate for work that they decide to explore the male-stripper profession.

MESSAGE Unemployment can be so humiliating that people may consider solutions they would instantly reject in other circumstances.

SEX A little discreetly filmed sexual behavior; a small amount of nudity.

VIOLENCE A little fighting, not intense or serious.

PROFANITY Some vulgarities; anatomical humor.



+++ Directed by David Fincher. With Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Armin Mueller-Stahl. Running time: 128 minutes. +++

PLOT A wealthy, self-centered man receives a strange birthday present: a gift certificate for a dangerous "game," devised by a mysterious and possibly evil company, and tailored to the history and personality of each individual client.

MESSAGE People who know an individual's past can manipulate that person for good or ill.

SEX Sexual activity very heavily implied.

VIOLENCE Killing, shooting, chasing, and other suspense-movie violence, some of it quite intense.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, strongly implied drug use.


+++ Directed by Ridley Scott. With Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Anne Bancroft. Running time: 120 minutes. +++

PLOT A woman becomes the first female to enter a rigorous Navy SEAL training program, hoping for adventure and more control over her career, but she becomes a pawn manipulated by politicians and others who want to see her fail.

MESSAGE Fierce determination can overcome the most severe physical and psychological challenges; brutal, sadistic military training is a good route to strength of character.

SEX One scene of physical intimacy and brief nudity.

VIOLENCE A huge amount of bone-crunching violence in physical-training and war-game scenes.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words and other vulgarities.



+ Directed by Salvatore Stabile. With Tony Tucci, Michael Parducci, Thomas Brandise. Running time: 85 minutes.

PLOT Four young men scurry around Brooklyn trying to dispose of a corpse before the police get on their trail.

MESSAGE Irresponsible people can get into scrapes that are as absurd as they are tragic.

SEX Some strong innuendo.

VIOLENCE Much gunplay and other violent activity; the entire film has a menacing and unstable atmosphere.

PROFANITY A large number of harsh vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drug use and drinking.

Hoodlum [R]

++ Directed by Bill Duke. With Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth, Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams, Andy Garcia, Chi McBride, Clarence Williams III, Richard Bradford. Running time: 130 minutes. ++

PLOT Fresh out of prison, an African-American gangster fights to stop psychopathic mobster Dutch Schultz from taking over the numbers racket in Harlem during the Depression years.

MESSAGE Black people played an overlooked role in the mob wars of the 1930s.

SEX Nudity, sexual activity.

VIOLENCE A large amount of killing, shooting, fighting, and mutilation.

PROFANITY A large number of harsh vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drug use.


++ Directed by Neil LaBute. With Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy, Stacy Edwards. Running time: 95 minutes. +++

PLOT Stung by romantic problems, two self-centered yuppies decide to woo and flatter a vulnerable young secretary, then deliberately dump her as revenge against all women.

MESSAGE Men in today's business world can be despicable.

SEX Scenes of seductive behavior and some sexual activity.


PROFANITY A number of harsh expletives.



+++ Directed by Curtis Hanson. With Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger. Running time: 140 minutes.

PLOT During the 1950s, an honest cop and a tough cop become involved with an egotistical colleague, who conspires with a tabloid journalist to get the goods on headline-making crimes.

MESSAGE Concepts like guilt, innocence, corruption, and ulterior motives may become intricately intertwined in a modern city.

SEX Sexual activity, some lurid and some strongly implied.

VIOLENCE Killing, shooting, fighting, chasing, and other police-movie violence.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, drug use.


++ Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. With Mira Sorvino, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeremy Northam, F. Murray Abraham, Josh Brolin. Running time: 105 minutes. +

PLOT A brave scientist battles a hostile life form that invades New York, able to change its form and attack when least expected.

MESSAGE Science can play a role in both creating and overcoming new dangers to humanity.

SEX A small amount of sexual activity.

VIOLENCE A great deal of extremely violent action, much of it enhanced with special effects.

PROFANITY 26 profanities, usually uttered as exclamations.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some drinking.


+++ Directed by Bart Freundlich. With Julianne Moore, Blythe Danner, Roy Scheider, Arija Bareikis, Noah Wyle, Hope Davis, Laurel Holloman, Brian Kerwin, James LeGros, Michael Vartan. Running time: 93 minutes.

PLOT A family spends Thanksgiving together for the first time in three years, using the occasion to confront lingering conflicts and revive old quarrels.

MESSAGE Family life is very complex, especially when different generations get together.

SEX Several sex scenes, some fairly explicit.

VIOLENCE Some fighting and quarreling.

PROFANITY A number of four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drunkenness.


+++ Directed by Nick Cassavetes. With Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, John Travolta, Gena Rowlands, Debi Mazar, Harry Dean Stanton. Running time: 100 minutes. +++

PLOT Unable to control his combustible emotions, a man is institutionalized after avenging an assault on his wife, then returns home 10 years later and finds her married to a far more conventional fellow.

MESSAGE A life of surprise and volatility can be harrowing and scary but also stimulating and exciting.

SEX Implied sex and innuendo.

VIOLENCE A good deal of physically and emotionally rough behavior.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A great deal of boisterous drinking.

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