While 2012 might have been a difficult year for the movie business overall, it was a very different story in 2013.
You could make a pretty good list of 10 family-friendly animated films, and still have plenty of live-action films left over. So the challenge in assembling a list for the top movies of 2013 is weaning it down to just 10 selections. These are by no means the only worthwhile family-friendly films released this year, but they do represent the best of a very wide selection of choices.
And here we go! The envelope, please …
You can always count on DreamWorks animated films to be both family-friendly and entertaining for anyone from pre-school to Social Security. This story of a snail who dreams of being a racer and winning the Indy 500 is no exception. It’s filled with high-octane laughs and a moral lesson about the importance of giving your best that parents will appreciate. Hollywood voices you’ll recognize include Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Paul Giamatti. Rated PG for some mild action.
While this powerful drama was not a big box-office hit, it was well-received by critics and is truly one of the under-appreciated classics of 2013. Jaimie Alexander, Sam Shepard and James Caviezel star in a story based on the life of legendary Aristocrat-turned-market hunter Ward Allen. Set in post-Civil War Georgia, Allen teamed up with freed slave Christmas Moultrie to build a business providing ducks to local restaurants. It’s the memorable story of a man trying to preserve a way of life as he struggles to hold to the love of his life. Rated PG-13 for brief sexuality.
From the creators of Ice Age and Rio comes this story of a teenager who finds herself caught up in an epic battle between good and evil. The 3-D CGI animation style takes a bit of getting used to, but the lush jungle scenes are impressive and particularly for that special young lady in your life, this is an impressive and uplifting film. Rated PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language.
Saving Mr. Banks
While you’re no doubt already familiar with the film Mary Poppins, you might not know how the story made it to screens. Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell and Emma Thompson star in this true story of how a promise Walt Disney made to his young daughters turned into a 20-year struggle to convince author P.L. Travers to allow him to make a movie based on his popular children’s book. It’s a fascinating look behind-the-scenes of Hollywood in the early 1960s and it makes the resulting Mary Poppins film seem even more magical once you realize how difficult it was to make. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.
Forest Whitaker stars in this film following the life of an African-American man who served as a butler at the White House from 1952 to 1986. It’s a fascinating look at the difficulties of finding dignity in a job that many people would consider degrading or not worthy of their talents. It’s an impressive, heart-felt film that manages to teach some valuable life lessons with preaching. Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking.
Despicable Me 2
It is isn’t often that evil can be made to seem harmless and even a bit cute, but Universal Pictures manages to get it done in this animated sequel to the 2010 worldwide hit. Steve Carrell is wonderfully pretend-evil and Russell Brand and Miranda Cosgrove also bring a light touch to the humor of the film. Rated PG for crude humor and mild action.
Percy Jackson: Sea Monsters
If your kids are a bit older, they’ll love this live-action sequel that continues to follow the adventures of half-God, half-human Percy Jackson. As the son of Poseidon, he continues on a quest to bring peace to the world by retrieving the mythical Golden Fleece. Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language.
A Fish Story
Actor Sam Roberts (who also wrote the movie) plays a devoted husband and father who dies suddenly. He’s given the chance to come back to his family and his beloved wilderness camp for a few days, but in the body of a petty criminal and thief (played by Warehouse 13 star Eddie McClintock). There are not a lot of surprises in the plot, but the acting is excellent and it’s a great modern take on the “If I had one last chance” genre of movies. Not rated.
The true story of the 2009 hijacking of a ship by Somali pirates is rated PG-13 for a reason. There are some gripping scenes of violence and some edge-of-the-seat scary parts. But for teens and parents this is a great story about bravery and one man’s determination to not let the evil in the world win this battle. As always, Tom Hanks is excellent as Capt. Phillips, but the real surprise is the level of acting shown by the men portraying the pirates — many of whom were not trained actors. Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.
Ashton Kutcher stars as the co-founder of Apple Computers and the complex businessman who managed to make technology seem friendly and indispensable. Rated PG-13 for some drug content and brief strong language.