How to scout worthwhile movies for your kids

With summer in full swing , perhaps like me you’d like to watch a few good movies with your kids.  But with all the hair-raising stuff appearing onscreen, parents can use some good advance reporting on movie content.

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite voices on all things movie, Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S. P.,  director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, California. With a masters in media studies from the University of London, Pacatte does media literacy education for parents and teachers. We interviewed her a few years back at U.S. Catholic  magazine, and her down-to-earth wisdom about movies and TV and kids was refreshing. 

Pacatte’s website contains not only current reviews of some movies in theaters and recently on DVD, but also a list of movies chosen for her “Meeting Jesus at the Movies Program for Kids 2010.”   She also lists movies that embody the sacraments  as well as “Movie Bible Nights: The Ten Commandments for 2010” (many movies in these last two categories are for adults).

Pacatte is a wise, down to earth guide to Hollywood’s offerings.

Other movie resources:, which offers exhaustive content analysis for movies (language, nudity, violence, drugs, even “jump scenes”).  Free access to info about most movies; you can pay to subscribe to see reviews of new movies as soon as they come out.

The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also reviews movies in theaters and coming to DVD (you can find the list of the Vatican’s top 45 films at this site, too). And Nell Minow’s Movie Mom blog also reviews movies with a reliable parent’s eye.

How to screen your kids’ movies

My sister-in-law, a teacher, told me recently about the day she discovered to her horror that many of the 6-year-olds in her first-grade class had seen the movie “Saw.” 

Assuming for the sake of argument that none of us gathered here would do anything like that intentionally to our kids, here are three sites to ensure that you’re not inadvertently dragging your little ones to movies filled with gore,  sex, or violence. 

Nell Minow, the Movie Mom, rates movies at Beliefnet and recommends an age range for whom the movie is appropriate.   Down to earth, common-sense reviews. offers an exhaustive, detailed analysis of old and new movies (how many swear words, descriptions of each violent or sexual scene, etc). You can subscribe to get this data for brand-new movies; movies older than one week are available free at the site. If you don’t want to subscribe, click “no thanks” at the bottom of the home page to get to the movie database.

Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, California, has a wonderful blog on movies.  We’ve interviewed her here at our offices and I can say I’ve never met a funnier, livelier source on media literacy and finding themes of our faith in movies and on TV.  She even has a whole list of movies with themes mirroring the seven sacraments and conducts a National Film Retreat each year.