The Bagel Bites are still frozen in the middle. Your friend with the popcorn popper sent you the patented "I think I'm going to bail on this one" text. Your uncle just got the entire "Hee Haw" series on Blu-ray and is a little too excited about it.
These are the things that can, have, and will go wrong on family movie night. Your best defense against movie night fails? Movies so impossible not to love that some states may have laws against not liking them.
So put those Bagel Bites back in the oven; bust out the microwavable kettle corn; ask your mom if your uncle is really related to anyone -- for it's time to please the whole crowd with your brilliant taste in movies.
'The Princess Bride' (1987)
OK, the MPAA is pretty solid -- we know "G" movies are good for kids, "R" for adults. Got it. But somewhere along the way, they forgot the "This Movie Is for Anyone on the Planet Who Has a Soul" rating. Because that's exactly what Rob Reiner's "The Princess Bride" is -- a soulful, joyfully swashbuckling romance, and a genuinely hilarious take on what it means to tell stories. A super-smart script from William Goldman -- the guy who wrote "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "All the President's Men" -- and iconic performances by everyone from Cary Elwes to Andre the Giant mean you'll be laughing and tearing up right alongside the kids, because this movie doesn't talk down to anyone. It wears its very big heart right on its very puffy sleeves.
'Moonrise Kingdom' (2012)
Who doesn't like whimsical things? People not named Wes Anderson, that's who. In a modern cinematic landscape that's constantly desaturated, Wes isn't afraid to bring us Crayola colors and framing that's so symmetrical it's weirdly comforting, like an old flannel blanket on a camping trip of yore.
That's exactly what "Moonrise Kingdom" is -- a raucous camping trip full of the warm fuzzies, but warm fuzzies that are sincere instead of pandering. Its 1960s setting will tickle the nostalgia bone of grown-up guests as they recognize realities that they lived, and for viewers with less years under their scout badges, "Kingdom" is the Technicolor camping trip that dances in their wildly imaginative, sugar-addled heads. It's a world where simple emotion and desire drive every beat, and everything is just a little magical. Plus, Tilda Swinton and Bill Murray never hurt anything. You should probably invite them to your movie night.
'Groundhog Day' (1993)
Did we mention Bill Murray? There are only two types of people who don't like Bill Murray: Aliens, and people who whisper, "Hail Hydra" in elevators. These are people you do not want at your family movie night.
What you do want at your movie night, though, is "Groundhog Day." Murray exudes that sort of world-weary dry humor that kids laugh at the same way they laugh at you stealing their nose. Adults will pick up on themes ranging from existentialism to the Buddhist notion of Samsara as Murray's beleaguered weatherman relives the same three days over and over and over -- until he gets them right. What some folks won't pick up on is that they're watching a ridiculously well-crafted romantic comedy; this is the rom-com for people who claim they hate rom-coms.
We're calling it now: "Groundhog Day" will be the next generation's "It's a Wonderful Life." Might as well serve it up with gingerbread cookies and pumpkin spice lattes, because it's a tradition in the making.
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' (2015)
There has been an awakening. You have probably felt it. You have felt it in your cereal. You have felt it in your Underoos. And it is called "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
At this point, the Star Wars theme might as well be our national anthem. It's our mythology, the song of our people. Everyone can tell you the story of Luke Skywalker, the same way they can tell you the story of Little Red Riding Hood or Superman -- and Harrison Ford dosage, your niece gets Daisy Ridley kicking insane amounts of Sith tail, and everyone -- even those who don't get into the film -- will spend the entire post-party dishing about what exactly is up with Kylo Ren.
When Maz Kanata says, "The Force, it's calling to you. Just let it in," she's talking about this movie, in your Blu-ray player, right now. And if Yoda taught us anything, it's that tiny old aliens always know exactly what they're talking about.
- "The Princess Bride": No. 23 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Film of All Time
- "Moonrise Kingdom" Movie Review
- "Groundhog" Almighty
- "Star Wars: The Force Awakens": What Critics Say