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 (see below) indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children.

o Forget It

+ Poor

++ Fair

+++ Good

++++ Excellent


+++ Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. With Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Angela Lansbury. Running time: 93 minutes. +++

PLOT A young princess escapes death in the Bolshevik Revolution, grows up in an orphanage without knowing her royal origin, then meets a con artist who enlists her to impersonate herself so he can collect a big reward.

MESSAGE A person can accomplish many things by staying true to her heart and ideals.

VIOLENCE Scenes of mayhem during the revolution; violence and terror posed by a demonic character who wants to kill the heroine.



++ Directed by Richard Friedenberg. With James Cromwell, Graham Greene, Joseph Ashton. Running time: 100 minutes.

PLOT An eight-year-old Cherokee orphan goes to live with his grandparents in rural Tennessee, where the family fends off public school authorities and government agents who want to destroy their moonshine still.

MESSAGE A child can face many challenges when growing up in a society that considers him different because of his ethnicity, class, and family background.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Mild fighting and defiance of authority.

PROFANITY A little vulgarity.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A major subplot about an illicit liquor operation.


Directed by Gore Verbinski. With Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Christopher Walken, Vicki Lewis, Eric Christmas, Maury Chaykin, Michael Jeter. Running time: 93 minutes. ++

PLOT Two quarreling brothers inherit a run-down estate from their father, but a tiny house mouse is prepared to defend his territory.

MESSAGE Although sometimes animals don't get along with people - and people don't get along with one other - solutions can be found to make everybody happy.

SEX Comic scene in which a mouse jumps down a woman's blouse.

VIOLENCE Slapstick violence.

PROFANITY Four mild profanities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Champagne at a party; cigars.


++ Directed by James L. Brooks. With Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear. Running time: 130 minutes. +++

PLOT An obsessive-compulsive writer makes life miserable for everybody around, but he starts to lose his obnoxious habits when acquaintances badly need his help.

MESSAGE A misanthrope can change his stripes under the right conditions.

SEX Strong innuendo; brief nudity.

VIOLENCE A secondary character is violently attacked and badly injured.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and many vulgarities; many racist and homophobic insults spoken by the main character.



+++ Directed by Martin Scorsese. With Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Gyurme Tethong, Tencho Gyalpo. Running time: 128 minutes.

PLOT The life of Tibet's spiritual and political leader, the Dalai Lama, from childhood until his flight to India after China's brutal invasion of his country.

MESSAGE Tibet has faced many problems in its modern history, but its religious faith and its ideal of nonviolence have provided sustenance.

VIOLENCE Brief but graphic depictions of Chinese brutality toward Tibetans, and explicit dialogue describing such horrors.



+++ Directed by James Cameron. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Bill Paxton, Kathy Bates, David Warner, Frances Fisher, Danny Nucci, Suzy Amis, Gloria Stuart. Running time: 197 minutes. ++++

PLOT The great ship's legendary voyage, as recalled by an elderly woman who fell in love with a young scamp and rejected her pompous fianc in the hours before the ship struck an iceberg.

MESSAGE The tragic sinking of the Titanic affected many lives in many different ways.

SEX Brief but fairly explicit sex; nudity.

VIOLENCE Much violence and suffering in connection with the sinking of the ship. One suicide.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and vulgarities.



+++ Directed by Alan Rudolph. With Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jonny Lee Miller. Running time: 113 minutes.

PLOT Two couples split apart and get involved in each other's lives, while coping with various stresses from the past and present.

MESSAGE Couples may be tempted toward ending their marriages or getting involved in extramarital affairs, but family ties exert a strong attraction as well.

SEX Numerous scenes of sexual activity; a preoccupation with sex and adultery in the story.

VIOLENCE Aggressive behavior and story material about grief and loss.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities; sex-related dialogue.



++ Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Pete Postlethwaite, Nigel Hawthorne, David Paymer, Stellan Skarsgrd. Running time: 150 minutes. +++

PLOT A group of abducted Africans mutiny against the slave traders shipping them into bondage, wind up in a Connecticut jail, and fight for freedom with help from a black abolitionist and a former president.

MESSAGE Atrocities occurred under slave system, but some right-minded people were against this.

SEX No sexual activity, but there is some nudity.

VIOLENCE Fighting, killing in the mutiny scenes; horrific views of suffering undergone by slave-ship captives; graphic depiction of drowning.

PROFANITY One scene with scatological dialogue.



++ Directed by Jim Sheridan. With Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Brian Cox. Running time: 107 minutes. +++

PLOT A prizefighter returns home after 14 years in prison for IRA activity, renewing his affection for a former girlfriend and entering a difficult relationship with his politically active neighbors.

MESSAGE Political troubles in Northern Ireland remain volatile and dangerous, impinging on private as well as public life.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Six graphic scenes of political terrorism (executions, explosions). A fire in which a child is burned. Three boxing matches.

PROFANITY Four dozen vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL 10 scenes with alcohol; four with cigarettes.


++ Directed by Gregory Hoblit. With Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Joy. Running time: 120 minutes.

PLOT A detective battles a fallen angel who commits awful crimes while inhabiting the bodies of ordinary people.

MESSAGE The supernatural realm holds deadly forces that can outwit mortals trying to defeat them.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Several killings, much fighting, graphic depiction of a gas-chamber execution.

PROFANITY Harsh four-letter words.



++ Directed by Dean Semler. With Howie Long, Suzy Amis, Scott Glenn. Running time: 100 minutes. ++

PLOT Forest firefighters match wits against a brutal killer who's escaped from a Wyoming prison with several accomplices.

MESSAGE Natural hazards and human adversaries are a formidable combination.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Killing, fighting, and harrowing forest-fire scenes.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.



++ Directed by Gus Van Sant. With Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgrd, Minnie Driver. Running time: 126 minutes. +++

PLOT A brilliant but aimless young man develops a complex relationship with a psychotherapist who's never gotten over his wife's death.

MESSAGE Troubled people can help one another if they open up to each other and learn to take responsibility for their lives.

SEX Two bedroom scenes, not graphic; the dialogue includes dirty jokes.

VIOLENCE Three instances; photos and dialogue related to harm inflicted by abusive parents.

PROFANITY 191 mostly harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL 14 scenes involving alcohol. Cigarettes smoked throughout the movie.

OTHER The great amount of coarse language could mar this otherwise intriguing film for some.


+ Directed by Kevin Costner. With Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Olivia Williams, Larenz Tate. Running time: 120 minutes. +++

PLOT Trying to survive the chaos and violence that dominate America after World War III, a drifter poses as a friendly letter carrier rebuilding links among isolated communities and becomes a folk hero whose message helps defeat an evil tyrant.

MESSAGE People's longing for community can help them survive catastrophic events.

SEX One scene of brief but explicit sex.

VIOLENCE 20 instances: executions, punches, knifings, cannons, lion attack. Some teen postal carriers are killed on their routes.

PROFANITY 40 instances of profanity, mostly the milder four-letter type.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL One instance of alcohol being swigged. Three scenes involving cigarettes.


+++ Directed by Barry Levinson. With Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson, Kirsten Dunst. Running time: 120 minutes. +++

PLOT Desperate to distract the public from a presidential sex scandal just before an election, a White House adviser hires a Hollywood producer to help him whip up an international incident complete with suspenseful situations, winsome heroes, and a media circus to publicize it all.

MESSAGE In today's media-saturated age, it's impossible for the public to know what's real and what's the product of politically motivated high-tech trickery.

SEX Sexual activity; explicit sex-related dialogue.

VIOLENCE Scenes of wartime mayhem concocted by media manipulation.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.



+++ Directed by Alan Rickman. With Emma Thompson, Phyllida Law. Running time: 110 minutes.

PLOT Four couples encounter small adventures on a freezing day in their remote Scottish village: an elderly woman and her widowed daughter, two aging neighbors, a pair of schoolboys, and a teenage boy and girl trying to decide whether they're meant for each other.

MESSAGE Emotions run deep among people of very different sorts, even on a freezing day in a quiet little town.

SEX Sex scene; brief nudity; sex-related dialogue.


PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.


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