While eating dinner in front of the television isn’t something we recommend every night, sometimes a change of pace can help promote more fun, conversation and connection than the same old routine! That’s why we created our regular Dinner and a Movie feature. We’ve teamed up with our friends at Common Sense Media to choose family-friendly movies that can help you promote character building while enjoying some fun time together. When you pair them with our suggestions for food, fun and conversation, you can have a memorable Dinner and a Movie experience that turns screen time into family bonding time that everyone will look forward to.
Love is in the air! February is a great time of year to snuggle up with the family and spend some quality time together. And whether you do anything special to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, it does provide the perfect opportunity to pull out some love stories for your next movie night. Watching romantic movies together can also give parents a basis for exploring important topics like healthy relationships, dating behaviors, and sexual intimacy without (too many) eye rolls from the kids. Read on for age-appropriate movie recommendations, plus ideas for food, fun and conversation to make your Valentine’s Day family movie night memorable.
MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE FAMILY DINNER PROJECT AND COMMON SENSE MEDIA:
The Princess Bride (ages 8+)
Roxanne (ages 12+)
Dumplin’ (ages 13+)
Love, Simon (ages 13+)
Love and Basketball (ages 14+)
If your family has a favorite Valentine’s Day meal, go ahead and serve it during your movie night! Otherwise, you could take inspiration from the films. How about Dolly Parton’s own recipe for Chicken and Dumplin’s? Or you could make “MLTs” (Miracle Max’s “Mutton, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches” from The Princess Bride) – sticking with the more-traditional bacon if you prefer, or getting creative with other “M” fillings like mushrooms, meatballs, mozzarella, or even macaroni and cheese! Serve up a snacking platter of cheese and vegetables “au naturel” like the one from Roxanne, and set out some Oreos (Simon’s favorite “food group”) and peanut Buttercups (get it?) for dessert.
For a love-themed activity, make Origami love notes to share with the family, or play “20 Things I Love About….” Or play Higglety Pigglety, a silly rhyming game, in honor of Fezzik and Inigo’s favorite pastime in The Princess Bride. You could also make your movie night an active one with a quick game of hoops before you settle in to watch Love and Basketball.
Conversations about love, romance and relationships are important, and they should be ongoing – not just a one-time “talk” parents deliver to kids. Check out our tips for modeling and discussing healthy romantic relationships here, or find expert advice on handling conversations about sex and intimacy here. And if you’re not ready to put these ideas into practice yet, use your family movie night as an opportunity to start the conversation with these film-specific questions, suggested by our team and our friends at Common Sense Media.
If You’re Watching The Princess Bride:
- Do you think Buttercup is a role model? What else could she have done other than wait for Westley to rescue her?
- The Princess Bride is a fairy tale with a twist. Do you think Westley and Buttercup’s relationship is realistic? In what ways does it follow a typical fairy tale romance, and in what ways does it differ?
- In the movie, the Grandfather reads: “That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying ‘As you wish,’ what he meant was, ‘I love you.’ And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.” What are some different ways people might say “I love you” without using those words? Do actions count?
- Besides Westley and Buttercup’s romance, there are other characters in the film who demonstrate non-romantic love. Who else shows love for another character through their words or actions?
If You’re Watching Roxanne:
- What do Chris and C.D. learn about telling the truth and being themselves? Why is it problematic to start a relationship under false pretenses?
- What role does sex play in the movie? Do characters treat it seriously, casually, or both? Parents, this is a good opportunity to talk to your kids about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- In the movie, Chris finds it difficult to express his feelings to Roxanne. Can you relate? Have you ever felt shy, nervous or tongue-tied about talking to someone you’re attracted to? What was that like?
- C.D.’s character, like the original Cyrano de Bergerac, is self-conscious about romance due to his large nose. Can you think of other examples, from literature, movies or real life, where the message might be “beauty is only skin-deep?” How important do you think physical attraction is in a romantic relationship?
If You’re Watching Dumplin’:
- Families can discuss Dumplin’s rallying cry (credited to Dolly Parton): “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” What does that mean? In what way(s) is the concept relevant for you?
- Do you think the filmmakers portray Willowdean’s appearance with dignity? What about Aunt Lucy? Millie?
- One of the central relationships in the film is the one between Willowdean and her late Aunt Lucy, whose influence is felt even though she isn’t physically there anymore. Why do you think Aunt Lucy was such a strong influence on Willowdean? How did she show her love in ways that made a lasting impact – and how was her relationship with Willowdean different from Willowdean’s relationship with her mother?
- Willowdean experiences a romantic relationship with Bo, which is emotionally difficult for her because she is self-conscious about how her body appears to others. What do you think about Bo’s relationship with Willowdean? Do you think the movie would still have a positive message without a love interest involved?
If You’re Watching Love, Simon:
- Talk about how Love, Simon depicts teens. Are the characters and their decisions realistic? What about the consequences of those decisions? Does any of what happens in the movie ring true for you and your experiences?
- How does the movie depict bullying? What should you do if that happens to you? What should you do if you see it happening to someone else? Can you talk about a time when something like this happened in real life, and how you responded?
- Representation is important! What do you think about the way Love, Simon handles issues like crushes, dating and romance from the perspective of a gay teen? How does it compare to other similar romantic comedies with straight characters?
- Although there’s a romance included in Love, Simon, one of the most important themes in the movie is self-love. What helps Simon learn to love and accept himself? Are there ways you could support a friend or loved one in learning to love themselves, or things others have done for you that help you to feel more self-acceptance?
If You’re Watching Love and Basketball:
- Monica and Quincy’s relationship grows and changes over time. What are the different views they each have of their relationship at different ages? What was it that truly brought them together – was it basketball, or something else?
- Besides the central story of their relationship, Love and Basketball tells a story about Monica and Quincy as athletes, and their different experiences on that path. What does the movie say about gender roles in sports? It was filmed in 1992 – do you think things have changed dramatically since then? Why or why not?
- In addition to the romantic relationship between Monica and Quincy, the film also explores other dynamics – like the relationships between Quincy and his father, and Monica and her mother. Why do you think the filmmakers chose to include those storylines? How do their relationships with their parents shape Monica and Quincy, both as people and as partners to each other?
- Parents: Love and Basketball offers a perfect opportunity to reinforce your family’s messages about safe sex. Quincy and Monica’s first time together features no nudity, but it does prominently show the use of a condom. You can take this chance to mention your thoughts on that choice by the filmmakers, and also to explore the question: Why would the director choose to make Quincy’s use of a condom so clear in the scene? What messages does it send, both about his and Monica’s characters, their relationship, and the world they inhabit? What message does it send to its intended audience?
Did you enjoy your Dinner and a Movie experience? Check out our other Dinner and a Movie themes, and look for more ideas coming soon!