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Family Movie Recommendations: Films My Son and I Bonded Over

For as long as I can remember, as soon as school ended for an extended holiday break, my son and I would find ourselves snuggled on the couch, watching movies. An avid film buff, my now 17-year-old son is obsessed with filmmaking, particularly action movies made before the advent of CGI and visual effects technology. Basically, he loves trying to figure out how directors designed action sequences (read: blew things up) and he’s drawn to richly written screenplays.

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What I love most about this tradition is that it’s a time where we hunker down, usually with a huge bowl of popcorn, and we meet on common ground. It isn’t always easy to find a “language” that a teen boy speaks and watching movies has become a respite from the real world for both of us. And, over the years, I’ve been able to coax him into watching some of my favorites. Though he did so grudgingly, he willingly admitted after most of them that his mother knows a thing or two about movie classics.

Now, more than ever, with social distancing and concerns about coronavirus swirling around us, my son and I are relying on our cherished tradition to get us through the madness. Here are some of the movies we’ve enjoyed the most over the last few years:


Tom Hanks is at his acting best in this story of resilience and survival after a plane crash finds him on the proverbial deserted island. For my son, the fact that 90 minutes of the movie are carried solely by Hanks and his volleyball sidekick Wilson, makes this movie one of his favorites. And yes, I cry like a baby every time I watch Wilson float out to sea. Don’t judge.

When Harry Met Sally 

When I first broached watching this 90s classic with my son, he balked. “A rom com? You want me to watch a love story?” But, I persisted and coaxed him into watching the first 30 minutes with the promise that he could quit if he hated it. He didn’t. In fact, he smirked at the end and told me that it was one of the better movie storylines he’d ever watched. Definitely a mom win.

The Marvel Movie Franchise 

Last summer, at the beginning of summer break, I enrolled in “Marvel University” summer school: I agreed to watch all of the movies in the Marvel franchise, in release order, with my teens. We gave ourselves a deadline: we’d watch all of the films by Labor Day weekend. Not only was I surprised to discover how much I loved the movies, I’m also the first one to suggest rewatching some of them during our long days of quarantine. I recommend the Iron Man trilogy or the Captain America movies. (For the record, I’m Team Captain America forever).

Ocean’s 11

Two words: George Clooney. Two more words: Brad Pitt. That’s it. That’s my recommendation. Well, that and your teens will love the story of a daring heist of a Las Vegas casino.

Knives Out

This new movie, released in Fall 2019, was a surprisingly fun whodunnit for the whole family. Starring Christopher Plummer as a James Patterson-type, world-renowned author who turns up dead in his lavish home, this cast of quirky family members will not only leave you guessing right up until the end but will also have you laughing out loud.

The Martian

When my kids first suggested we watch this flick, I was skeptical. “Isn’t this basically Castaway but in space?” I asked. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was mesmerized by the plight of an astronaut, played by Matt Damon, who finds himself suddenly alone in a space station on Mars. Spoiler alert: you won’t look at potatoes in the same way again, though. You’ve been warned. Ahem.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  

Though the art of playing hooky from school has evolved since Ferris Bueller had his infamous day off, my kids never tire of hearing “Bueller? Bueller?” And what’s not to love about taking a trip down memory lane back to a time when Matthew Broderick gave us #DayOffGoals with his antics through the streets of Chicago? He’ll always be the Sausage King of Chicago in my book.

Back to the Future

My teens can’t get enough of Marty McFly and the Back to the Future movies, mostly because they love to point out that we had no idea what the future was actually going to look like when these movies debuted in the late 80s.

Forrest Gump

Okay, I won’t lie: a tiny bit of me feels like my kids are studying history during their quarantine days off when we watch Forrest Gump. From the sweeping love story between Forrest and Jenny, to the historical references, to the sweet humor from the gentle man we fell in love with back in the 90s, Forrest Gump is just as good as you remember (though my son likes to ruin how the visual effects guy animated the feather at the beginning).

Steel Magnolias

For as long as my kids have known me, I’ve referenced Steel Magnolias and I’m not ashamed to say that I can quote every single line. Even though I’ve seen this movie hundreds of times, I never get tired of those five, strong women—the “steel magnolias” the title is referencing. Though he was skeptical, my son agreed to indulge me with my movie selection. He was genuinely amused by Ouiser’s sharp tongue and Claree’s quick wit.

And, when I looked over at my son during the scene where M’Lynn says goodbye to Shelby in her hospital room and he had a tear running down his face, I realized that sometimes, even boys need a good cry, too. With no end to the quarantine in sight, I’m glad my son and I can use this time to share our love of film and revisit some of the movies that mean the most to both of us.

Christine Burke started the popular parenting blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops six years ago on a whim. Since then, her work has been featured on the Today Show, Scary Mommy, Grown and Flown and other parenting websites. In her spare time, she runs marathons, collects thrift shop finds and eats ice cream like it’s her job.

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