You can explore with your kids (depending on age) Die Hard and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, jam packed with action sequences or a magical world of wizardry that almost every kid (and adult) will want to experience. Why are these movies important to the holiday season? Each of these films produces their own special message that can translate well later in life.
Now, let’s dive into two films that can find their own special place in your family’s hearts.
Die Hard (1988)
Length: 2 hours, 12 minutes
R Rating, via Motion Picture Association of America: “Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian – Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.”
This movie is NOT appropriate for young kids. I remember seeing this movie as a boy (pre-teen) and loving every moment of it. The vulgarity was surprising, but even as a kid, it made sense. Hey, there are a ton of terrorists who have seized a building, and they’re trying to kill John McClane – who wouldn’t curse fifty million times. So, this is a movie you’ll really have to consider your own kid’s maturity to determine if they should watch this film.
I grew up a massive Bruce Willis fan, and it wasn’t from Die Hard. I wanted to see Die Hard, because I was a fan of his starring on the television series, Moonlighting. So, that’s a little geeky parent backstory on why I wanted to see the soon-to-be blockbuster film – shall I say, greatest action movie ever. If your older kids (pre-teen/teens) are mature enough for the obscenities, gunfire, massive explosions, bloody injuries, and people being killed – wait, I think I might be talking myself out of this Christmas movie plug.
So, Die Hard has all of the components you should expect with an R-rated action film. Now, you have to consider whether your kids mature are enough to recognize the greater themes that are present in this film. Loyalty and dedication play a HUGE role in this film. One might say that John McClane is extremely stubborn and sarcastic, since “only John can drive somebody that crazy” (IMDb), but his persistence to do the right thing (while avoid being killed) is endearing and comical at times.
This “family” movie does provide a positive outlook on helping others. The relationship between McClane and Sergeant Al Powell, played by Reginald VelJohnson, is an extraordinary thing to watch. A bond is quickly formed, despite McClane and Powell never having met before. The chemistry between these two characters grows as the film moves along, and the trust they share in each other makes them more like best friends. “Welcome to the party, pal!” Okay, so perhaps not the best first impression. I’m guessing the old adage, “Never trust a book by its cover,” never involved hundreds of bullets flying through the air. Needless to say, Powell and McClane depend on one another – McClane trapped in a building, while Powell’s trapped by a memory of a life-altering moment: shooting an unarmed kid. This is a surreal moment to hear, but it’s an important moment for kids to understand that certain mistakes can have ultimate consequences.
I don’t remember what age I watched this movie, but there’s a chance I might’ve seen this movie in theater or shortly after. My kids are ages 4 and 6. Clearly, they won’t watch this movie now, but would I let them watch it at age 8 or 9? I’m not sure I have an answer for that. This movie is probably suitable for most teens. It’s important for kids or teens to see adults learn from their mistakes, or more importantly, admit them out loud. It always stuck with me how John understood his flaws and wanted to make it right by at least acknowledging his feelings on mistakes he’d made or things he didn’t say.
Also, if you’re looking for humor, there are plenty of things Willis says in this movie that will definitely get your attention and make you laugh. If you haven’t seen the movie, trust me, wait until you hear him talking to 911 Dispatch asking for help. If your kids are old enough to watch this movie, they’ll probably laugh as much as I laughed when I was younger. Die Hard has its main character placed in an impossible situation, outnumbered and outgunned. With some ingenuity and relentless determination, John McClane gives the ultimate gift for the holidays – humor, action, and a character worth rooting for in the end.
Also, the late Alan Rickman plays Hans Gruber, arguably one of the greatest villains ever seen on the big screen. If you came to watch Willis, you’ll also stay for Rickman. Gruber is a clear message for everyone that a sharp-dressed man doesn’t mean he’s charming on the inside. A façade like Gruber’s will make any person second guess the next suit and tie who walks into a room. Hopefully, a character like this will instill some kind of gut instinct for your kids to stay alert of anyone at any time. After all, if you hear someone coming down the chimney on Christmas eve, you might want to see Santa’s reindeer before believing he’s actually jolly old St. Nick. Who knows – there might be a Gruber under that red outfit.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Length: 2 hours, 32 minutes
PG Rating, via Motion Picture Association of America: “Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children – Parents urged to give ‘parental guidance.’ May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.”
On a cheerier side of things, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is one of the best family movies to turn on, especially during the holiday season. As this movie progresses through the first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the family will watch Harry Potter as the seasons turn. You will get to watch the leaves fall and eventually snow, too. This natural element gives you even more reason to want to cozy up to a fire or underneath a blanket, while watching “the boy who lived.”
This movie does have some scary elements that could be upsetting for younger kids, such as a large troll attempting to bash Harry and his friends, Hermione and Ron, with a giant club. There is also a scene of a cloaked figure crouched over a dead unicorn – draining its silvery blood – and could be problematic for any kid who hasn’t seen live-action movies involving death, especially of such a beloved creature like a unicorn. So, there are certain moments worth watching ahead to determine if your kids are old enough to sit through the film.
Harry Potter presents friendship in a positive light, while echoing the effects mocking can have on another person – just because they speak differently. This film highlights how friendship and learning to depend on others can build trust in ways that will last forever. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are three peas in a pod, and I think it’s important for kids to recognize that boys and girls can be each other’s best friends. I think it’s a wonderful baseline for kids to understand that boys and girls can be anything when they grow up, and seeing someone as a close friend allows kids to understand that point so much easier. Granted, Ron does mock Hermione early in the film, but it’s her relationship with Harry that illustrates a wonderful relationship worth emulating.
Common Themes with Classics
It’s safe to say that Kris Kringle (Miracle on 34th Street) and George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life) might resemble John McClane more so than Harry Potter. Both Kringle and Bailey have difficulties dealing with stress and lash out in anger. Obviously, both of these films have nothing as violent as Die Hard, but the core of the characters do express something simple – everyone is flawed, even Santa Claus.
Overall, there’s a connection of wanting to do the right thing. People want to believe in Kringle as the real Santa Claus, while Bailey has a town come to his rescue after years of helping others. Big, memorable movies have characters who understand the scope of their limits, while still wanting to reach for the stars and do more. McClane wanted to rescue his wife and save a tower full of hostages. Harry Potter wanted to discover who was attempting to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone, while also learning how to have friends and believe in them as much as they believe in him.
These characters are filled with doubt, much like most kids of any age, including some geeky parents. It’s important to let their imaginations run wild in a fantastic movie and see how these imperfect characters find a way to be perfect in their own minds. In the long run, understanding a fictional character’s good heart and flaws will allow us all to better understand our own.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.