Since the very beginning of the medium, filmmakers have set out to teach and inform.
Binge-watching can be great for escapism during these trying times, but movie choices can offer an opportunity to explore and teach wellness and sustainability practices.
While most children’s films tout lessons of friendship, honesty, overcoming fear and the notion that all there is to life is a happily ever after, there are also ones that plunge into complex themes about mental and emotional health, and environmental awareness. These all-ages films serve not only to uplift spirits, but set foundations to encourage a healthy and conscious life.
Films Fit for All Ages
1. “Inside Out”
This 2015 Pixar film is a master course in emotional wellbeing that even the youngest of minds can understand. The story explores the difficulty of balancing emotions while growing up.
On another interesting note, the movie makes a case for two conflicting emotions coexisting, which is a great lesson for the present time. It can be hard to enjoy happier moments when there is so much grief and sadness around, but “Inside Out” lets the audience know that it is OK.
What appears to be a story about two robots finding love in this 2008 Pixar film really sends a message about protecting the environment. If you haven’t seen this delightful film, you’ll be moved by the nuanced storytelling weaved in about humanity’s inability to correct their shortcomings in wellness and environmentalism.
This movie, adapted from Diana Young’s book, explores the plight of a pristine rainforest due to human interference. Not only is it the late Robin Williams’ first animated voiceover role, but portions of the film’s proceeds were donated to such organizations as Greenpeace, the Rainforest Foundation Fund and the Sierra Club.
For youngsters, death and loss can be some of the most difficult topics to navigate. “Coco,” another Disney-Pixar entry, broaches these topics with an imaginative spin on the Mexican tradition of honoring those departed. Death is a prominent theme throughout, but it is not scary. The film teaches us that we are still close to those who have left us.
5. “The Lorax”
Dr. Seuss felt impassioned about the environment when he published this classic children’s book in 1971. It has several movie adaptations. Whichever one you chose, from the 2012 Disney version to the 1972 original television special, you’ll be in for a treat.
This origami stop-motion masterwork offers viewers the powerful message of learning through loss. It may not be suitable for the youngest of viewers as there are action sequences, wounds that bleed and some darker themes.
Nonetheless, the overall appeal of this film is how to process through emotions after death. Other than being astounded by the visuals and the story unfolding, viewers walk away feeling that loss can be a good long-term outcome, despite the hurt.
Wellness and Sustainability Films for More Mature Audiences
Aside from the many nature documentaries that press upon the importance of saving the environment, there are plenty of other films that provide messages of wellness and sustainability. These ones, however, are not definitely not for kids.
In this dazzling animated film from the Japanese Studio Ghibli, environmental destruction is layered under human greed of natural resources that unleash a supernatural force. Life is on display in all its facets, and the lesson that good and bad can exist in all people is a great educating point. Relating to the environment and to how we view others are important developmental lessons.
There’s a reason this film stands as a guide to wellness. Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir, the film explores life after an unhappy marriage. Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts, imbibes in soul searching through a whirlwind trip around the world, exploring herself without limits in spirituality, cuisine and romance. It’s a master lesson in taking care of yourself.
Icelandic eco-activist Halla unleashes a one-woman war against an egregious aluminum company. She maneuvers shifting passions when she is finally granted the opportunity to adopt a child. As her spirited fight against greedy corporations coincides and clashes with motherhood, it is inspiring to know that the ups and downs of life can coexist.
This 2006 movie is an entry on selflessness. As a homeless father, Will Smith’s character is based on the real story of Chris Gardner. Despite a series of unfortunate setbacks, Gardner works hard to provide for his son. The human spirit in this film is unyielding
11. “Love, Actually”
The opening monologue of this Christmas classic is what earned it a place on this list. Just read it, and if you’re still not convinced, watch it.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there — fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge — they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
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