Tweens are among the most enthusiastic moviegoers and fans. They are drawn to films that tell great stories and help them make sense of all the changes going on in their bodies and lives. As they navigate those difficult last few years before becoming a teen, tweens may be drawn to watching some movies over and over again. Be sure to gift your tween with movies that speak to them. When considering films for movie night or your kid’s next sleepover, try one of these films that are sure to delight tweens.
Sometimes a tween just wants to see another tween on top. These flicks celebrate the power that tweens have to change things for the better even if it’s just in their own little worlds.
The Parent Trap
Both the original 1961 classic version of The Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills and the 1998 remake starring Lindsay Lohan are excellent films for tweens. Twin sisters who were separated shortly after birth discover one another at summer camp, then conspire to reunite their parents. The Huffington Post recommends both versions of The Parent Trap as a top film for tweens and teens. The 1998 version is rated PG, but the original is unrated. These films may have a bit of fairy dust fantasy about them, but they feature lovable young people with sincere compassion for each other and their flawed parents.
Troop Beverly Hills
Troop Beverly Hills has become a cult classic since it debuted on cinema screens across the world in 1989. This fun, PG-rated film centers on the misadventures of a group of tweens who are Wilderness Girls under the guidance of the fabulous Phyllis Nefler, who is played to perfection by Shelley Long. The Huffington Post referred to Troop Beverly Hills as every ’80’s tween’s favorite film, but today’s tweens will fall in love with it every bit as much as kids did back then. With camping at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Phyllis’s outrageous outfits, and the catchy Cookie Time number, there’s a lot for anyone to love in this movie.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Stephen Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is an unforgettable tale of a tween boy’s encounter with an alien. This PG-rated movie quickly found its way to box office success when it was released in 1982, and it’s already considered a classic. Henry Thomas portrays Elliot, the preteen whose life is turned upside down in mostly wonderful ways by his friendship with E.T. Robert MacNaughton plays Elliot’s older brother who secretly has a heart of gold, and Drew Barrymore is memorable as young Gertie. This movie does contain some upsetting scenes when it comes to how E.T. is treated, and mild cursing happens a couple of times. Common Sense Media still rated the film as being one of the best for tweens.
Fairy Tale Romances
Sometimes movies are meant simply to delight the imagination and help young people imagine what their future may hold. These romantic films may feature adults, but they are created for the sensibilities of young people, including tweens.
Father of the Bride
Father of the Bride is a heartwarming 1991 romantic comedy that stars Steve Martin and then-newcomer Kimberly Williams. They are the father-daughter duo who clash and come together while preparing for and enjoying the young woman’s wedding. This PG-rated movie hits all the right comedic and sentimental notes, and it’s a joy for parents to watch with tweens. Common Sense Media, where both parents and kids rate movies, rates this film highly suitable for tweens, and reviewers at Amazon give it a 4.4 out of 5 stars. The gorgeous wedding and subsequent reception in Father of the Bride is a feast for the eyes, and the sweet daddy-daughter moments are unbeatable.
The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is a beloved movie from 1987 that has attracted a huge following. This PG-rated film is so popular that official merchandise, such as shirts and greeting cards, can still be purchased by fans new and old. Entertainment Weekly included The Princess Bride as one of the movies that your child must see before he or she turns 13. That’s with good reason. It’s a charming tale that is both a romantic fantasy and an adventure story. It centers on Buttercup, a beautiful young woman, and Westley, her true love.
The Brady Girls Get Married
Many American kids of all generations have enjoyed reruns of The Brady Bunch since it first aired, and the appeal of this romantic comedy is undeniable. The Brady Girls Get Married is a hilarious story of two very different couples who learn the value of compromise in order to enjoy a double wedding and later move in together. Jerry Houser and Ron Kuhlman are delightful as Wally and Phillip, the men that Marcia and Jan marry. Tweens will love the sweet romance, the smart jokes, and the timeless appeal of the expanding Brady cast of characters. It’s not rated but contains no offensive content; it’s family-friendly.
Growing up isn’t easy. That’s something we all know. These movies take this basic truth to a whole new level and showcase some of the best and worst experiences of growing up that are universally experienced by most tweens.
Vada Sultenfuss, portrayed brilliantly by Anna Chlumsky, is the hero of this PG-rated movie. She’s a very mature eleven-year-old who seems to be coping well with living in a funeral home. In My Girl, her loving dad is unintentionally neglectful as he doesn’t notice how she acts out for attention and mourns the death of her mother from many years before. Her father’s new girlfriend turns out to be a blessing in disguise, and her friendship with Thomas Jay takes an unexpected turn. Indiewire includes My Girl in its list of the best films about first love, noting that it "taught young girls that love comes in all forms, whether romantic or platonic, and that ultimately the love of a best friend is the strongest bond of all." While this movie is great for tweens, it does deal with difficult topics like death and sensitive subjects like getting one’s period for the first time.
The Man in the Moon
In The Man in the Moon, Reese Witherspoon plays Dani, a young girl who is dreamy-eyed and ready for love. At least she thinks she’s ready for love at 14, but she has a lot of learning to do. Dani and her older sister are close, but they face some unexpected sibling conflicts. Most tween girls will be able to relate to Dani’s struggles with confidence as she learns to accept herself, and it was recommended for tweens in Jeffrey Lyons’ 100 Great Movies for Kids. Roger Ebert gave it four stars and referred to it as "a poem." With a PG-13 rating, there are some adult themes, including Dani’s older crush denying her advances with somewhat vulgar language. A death of an important character and a scene where Dani is beaten by her father may upset some tweens, so parents may want to watch along with them to discuss the issues.
Teens as Heroes
Tweens have always loved watching teens. They flock to movies that depict an ideal vision of what high school may be like. Since high school is in their rather near future, tweens like to imagine what adventures are in store from them during those more grown-up years.
Back to the Future
Since it first graced theater screens in 1985, Back to the Future has found a very enthusiastic audience of young people. Tweens will cheer on teen hero Marty McFly as he handles the unexpected crisis of time travel and meeting his own parents as teens. This Oscar-winning movie can feel a bit like time traveling to the 1980s as well, and it’s still a joy to watch. Tweens who haven’t seen it before are in for a big treat. Parents should be warned that there is some violence in this PG-rated movie, but it’s mostly overstated and almost cartoonish. Scholastic recommends this movie for tweens and kids as young as eight.
Bend It Like Beckham
In Bend It Like Beckham, Jess Bhamra experiences a culture clash when she is recruited for a soccer team. Tweens don’t have to be soccer enthusiasts to fully enjoy this movie with a PG-13 rating. It’s a fantastic tale that’s sure to teach your child something as well. Jess is a strong role model, but she’s very fun and relatable. Today’s Parent referred to Bend It Like Beckham as one of its must-see movies for tween girls, and boys will also adore this flick. Some drinking and smoking does occur in the film, and there are references to sexualtiy, so parents may want to watch this one with their tweens.
The Harry Potter Series
While the PG-rated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone starts the series when Harry is a preteen, the series of movies progresses through his teen years. Tweens will be enthralled by this series every step of the way. Harry Potter is a wizard who never knew about so many of his family secrets until he is recruited to attend the illustrious school for wizards and witches. Timeout rates the original film as one of the best kid’s movies to watch as a family, and it has won numerous awards. These films are fantastic for tweens in so many ways, but they do include some harsh language and violence, including the deaths of a few key characters, so parents may want to watch all the films with their tween to discuss some of its tougher issues. While the original Harry Potter film is rated PG, some that appear later in the series are rated PG-13.
Sometimes the best way to express emotions is to break out into song and dance. Tweens know this, and so do the characters in any great musical. Here are some musicals that will be especially appealing to kids who are approaching their teen years.
Annie herself is a tween who saves herself and is the hero of her own story. Both the 1981 charmer Annie and its modern-day 2014 remake are fantastic, family-friendly films that will thrill young girls and boys alike. These movies are both rated PG. The appeal to tweens is its timeless music, dancing, and the young girl who relies on her inner strength and optimism to see her through some daunting dilemmas. Fandago pointed out how tweens will enjoy its fashion inspirations, and The Washington Post picked the remake as one of its favorite films of the year.
The Sound of Music
With a couple of tweens among the VonTrap family members, The Sound of Music is sure to appeal to tweens. The film celebrated the 50th anniversary of its release in theaters, but its timeless messages of love and standing up for what is right are just as relevant now as ever. Maria leaves the comfort of her convent life to come take care of the VonTrap children, never dreaming that she’d fall madly in love with their father. Before she does, she wins over the seven difficult kids who grow to love and respect her. Such song and dance numbers as My Favorite Things and Sixteen Going on Seventeen will have the entire family singing along. Entertainment Weekly urges parents to show this G-rated flick to their kids before they hit their teen years, and Parents.com lists it amongst their 50 Best Movies for Kids.
Singin’ in the Rain
While Singin’ in the Rain is about adults, tweens will likely be enthralled by the classic musical numbers, including Gene Kelly’s iconic dance in the rain and the high-energy Good Morning performance. Debbie Reynolds is enchanting as the heroine of the film, who suffers a blow to her pride when she finds out that her vocals will be dubbed when one of her movies is transformed from the silent screen to one with sound. This fun flick has been hailed as an excellent companion for a sleepover for kids of all ages. You may find your tween asking for tap dancing lessons after just one viewing of this G-rated movie.
Watch With Your Tween
When possible, watch movies with your tween. While you want to be diligent about which movies your child is allowed to watch, being there to discuss surprising themes that pop up can turn the situation into a teaching moment. After all, films can be a great way to introduce difficult subjects to your tween and help break the ice for a meaningful discussion. It’s also just a great way to bond and have fun with your kid before all the changes that come with the teen years.