Keeping Up with Frank

What I Learned Watching the 100 Best Movies of All Time with My Son

April 16, 2019

Have you ever noticed how lively a dinner conversation becomes when the subject of movies comes up? Everyone has an opinion – usually a strong one – on whatever is currently playing in theatres. I find this especially true during awards season, particularly around the Oscars. Movies evoke strong emotional reactions, contributing to their popularity as a form of entertainment.

I have loved watching movies my entire life and have dabbled in the movie industry since the mid-‘80s. Watching movies is how I escape my daily life, which is often hectic and, at times, downright stressful. So, when my son expressed an interest in filmmaking, I was ecstatic. I have always loved the idea of being on the creative side, but my personal involvement has always skewed to the business side. Yes, I am slightly envious, but as his interest grows, I have a great opportunity to live vicariously through him. 

A few months ago, I suggested it might be a good idea to take the time to watch the top 100 movies of all time to familiarize himself with film history. Of course, I offered to watch these films with him. I have seen all of the top 100 before – and plenty of them many times over. That hardly mattered. Watching them one more time was not only fun, but the experience of doing it with my son turned out to be one of our greatest bonding experiences, ever.

Lively debates ensued

Over the course of several months, we watched most of the movies on the list (a Google search will net a few different versions, but we used the IMDB Top 100). We also watched some Academy Award winners that were not on the list. On weeknights we would watch a movie (after homework was out of the way), and on weekends sometimes two movies a night. 

My son has developed a critical eye for mistakes, often pausing the film and pointing out some error I hadn’t noticed. You’d be surprised how many little mistakes are not caught in the editing process. But more importantly, at the end of each movie, we discussed its merits and flaws. These debates were often lively, as our tastes are not always aligned. We mostly agreed on what films we both liked, but there were a few that we couldn’t agree on. For instance, I’ve always thought Apocalypse Now was a brilliant work of art, but my son just didn’t get it. I don’t entirely blame him – it’s a bit wacky, for sure. We are both attracted to the gangster genre and I always thought The Godfather should hold the No. 1 spot. But he disagrees, preferring Scorsese’s Goodfellas or Casino for the top spot.

So many timeless films

It was great to introduce him to films he had never heard of that were made before his time. I was a bit worried they wouldn’t appeal to him or would feel dated. But I was wrong. He loved Shawshank Redemption, Rain Man, Goodwill Hunting, American Beauty and many others. 

As our movie-watching relationship grew, it also evolved into helping him with some school projects. We spent an entire weekend discussing the art and symbolism behind The Shape of Water. We researched the history of the Cold War era and the discussion took us in many historical and cultural directions. We were so immersed in our research that the weekend flew by and the only break we took was to go outside to witness the super moon.

I want to share this story because this movie-watching experience created a great bond between me and my son. I don’t think your kids need to have a specific interest in filmmaking to try this. Movies have a certain magic, and many are timeless. You might be surprised to find your kids enjoy some of your older film favourites as much as you do. Even if you don’t have kids, try it with your significant other or a group of friends. Put some popcorn in the microwave, share the magic of great movies – and enjoy the conversation afterwards.