A list of the top period films available on DVD and to stream that are Family Friendly and take place during the Tudor era, Stuart era, Georgian / Regency eras, Victorian era, Edwardian era, First World War, Interwar, Second World War, and beyond. Costume period dramas filmed in England, UK and other countries set in that time period that are safe for children to watch, with family values. Television mini-series, PBS, BBC, Masterpiece Theatre productions, historical dramas, heritage films, movies based on classic books and literature. Jane Austen adaptations. More to come!

Willow and Thatch needs your help with this list, and would appreciate your feedback and opinion on what period films are family friendly. You can email or leave a comment under Creating the Period Film List. Please understand that all families are different and this list is only intended to be a starting point for deciding what is suitable for your children.

For the lists of the best period dramas and recommended documentaries in additional eras, wander over to: What To Watch: The Period Films List

Please note that all of the lists have multiple pages. 

Click on the TITLE to stream the movie or buy the DVD.

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A Bear Named Winnie (2004)

A soldier develops a strong bond with a cub before he is sent to fight in World War I.

The heartwarming family film A BEAR NAMED WINNIE dramatizes the true story that inspired one of the most beloved children's book characters of all time. On the eve of World War I, Canadian soldier Lt. Harry Coleburn (Michael Fassbender) adopts an orphaned bear cub and, after naming her Winnie (for the city of Winnipeg), decides to make her the unofficial mascot of his army regiment. When Harry and his troop are deployed to the trenches of France, Winnie is temporarily housed at the London Zoo, where author A.A. Milne meets the bear and uses her as the inspiration for his children's stories, WINNIE THE POOH.

Starring Michael Fassbender, Gil Bellows, David Suchet, Stephen Fry, Jonathon Young.

Rated PG

A Dog of Flanders (1999)

In 19th century Belgium, a boy named Nello becomes an orphan at the age of two when his mother dies in the Ardennes. His grandfather Jehann Daas, who lives in a small village near the city of Antwerp, takes him in. One day, Nello and Jehann Daas find a dog who was almost beaten to death, and name him Patrasche. Due to the good care of Jehann Daas, the dog recovers, and from then on, Nello and Patrasche are inseparable. Thanks to the support of a loving dog that he helps nurse back to health, an aspiring young artist never gives up hope, despite the hardships.

Starring Jack Warden, Jeremy James Kissner, Jesse James, Jon Voight, Cheryl Ladd.

I would recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a traditional good family film. It is beautifully set, sentimental to a point, and an endearing memory to hold. - Viewer

Parents need to know that this video shows many deeply affecting scenes involving a beaten dog, and the death of a grandfather. It also depicts the death of a dog-abuser by a windmill blade, which some younger children may not understand. - Common Sense Media

There is also a A Dog of Flanders (1959) starring Monique Ahrens, Theodore Bikel, Max Croiset, Katherine Holland, John Soer. Both films have a revised happier ending than that of the original book.

Alice in Wonderland (1986) BBC

BBC brings its whimsical 1986 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland to DVD! One of the most well-known stories begins one golden summer afternoon. Alice is sitting on a riverbank with her sister when a fully-dressed, talking rabbit runs past her. She follows the rabbit down the hole and enters a nonsensical world where it seems the normal rules of logic do not apply. In Wonderland, Alice participates in a winnerless race, alternates between being tiny and giant, hears riddles at a "mad" tea party, plays croquet with live flamencos, and attends a trial where the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen's tarts. Join Alice as she encounters the Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and others as she makes her way through Wonderland!

Extremely faithful to Carroll’s work, and nearly all of the dialogue (including a number of songs) seems to have been lifted directly from the original text, and it covers most of the book. Having suffered through the plastic Tim Burton movie, Carroll scholars will surely find this a worthy adaptation based on the dialogue alone. What sold me on this Alice was the dawning realization that Letts and Dicks are seemingly paying homage of sorts to the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz. The styles used to achieve the two productions are similar, even though they’re separated by decades and tools. Today, the painted backgrounds used to frequently bring Oz to life would be unthinkable, as would these flat CSO backgrounds – but the end results aren’t terribly different if you analyze them sans prejudice. We (hopefully) make allowances for Oz when we watch it today because it’s an understood classic, and forgive that it’s a product of its time, just as this Alice is of its time, and just as importantly, its place: BBC TV. - Ross Ruediger

Starring Kate Dorning, Mark Bassenger, Jonathan Cecil, Ysanne Churchman, Claire Davenport.

Note: You may also be interested in Alice Through the Looking Glass (1973) BBC: "While both programs present frequently disturbing visions that no doubt haunted the children of their respective days, it seems unlikely that kids weaned on the production values and dramatic pacing of today would find much to appreciate here. No, from today’s vantage point, this is fare for adults who can appreciate the conditions under which these shows were created, or people who just want to soak up as many screen versions of Carroll’s literature as possible." - Ross Ruediger

The special effects for both films were produced using what would now be considered primitive green-screen work.

Also see Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the 1972 British film version all-star musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic tale starring Fiona Fullerton, Peter Sellers, Michael Crawford and Dudley Moore, and the timeless black and white Alice in Wonderland (1933) starring Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Richard Arlen, Leon Errol.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Tumble down the rabbit hole with Alice for a fantastical new adventure from Walt Disney Pictures and Tim Burton. Inviting and magical, Alice In Wonderland is an imaginative new twist on one of the most beloved stories of all time. Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now 19 years old, returns to the whimsical world she first entered as a child and embarks on a journey to discover her true destiny. This Wonderland is a world beyond your imagination and unlike anything you ve seen before. The extraordinary characters you ve loved come to life richer and more colorful than ever. There s the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) and more. A triumphant cinematic experience Alice In Wonderland is an incredible feast for your eyes, ears and heart that will captivate audiences of all sizes.

Tim Burton was born to bring Alice in Wonderland to the big screen. Ironically, his version of the Victorian text plays more like The Wizard of Oz than a Lewis Carroll adaptation. On the day of her engagement party, the 19-year-old Alice (a nicely understated Mia Wasikowska) is lead by a white-gloved rabbit to an alternate reality that looks strangely familiar--she's been dreaming about it since she was 6 years old. Stranded in a hall of doors, she sips from a potion that makes her shrink and nibbles on a cake that makes her grow. Once she gets the balance right, she walks through the door that leads her to Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Matt Lucas), the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and the Cheshire Cat (a delightful Stephen Fry), who inform her that only she can free them from the wrath of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter channeling Bette Davis) by slaying the Jabberwocky. To pull off the feat, she teams up with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp in glam-rock garb), rebel bloodhound Bayard (Timothy Spall), and Red's sweet sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway in goth-rock makeup). While Red welcomes Alice with open arms, she plans an execution for the hat-maker when he displeases her ("Off with his head!"). Drawing from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Burton creates a candy-colored action-adventure tale with a feminist twist. If it drags towards the end, his 3-D extravaganza still offers a trippy good time with a poignant aftertaste. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Produced by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter.

Note: Parents need to know that Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland might be rated PG, but it's pretty intense and scary at times for younger kids, especially because it's in 3-D. This trippy adaptation -- in which Alice is a young adult -- includes some fantasy violence with scary monsters that attack people, a cruel Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) who frequently sentences people to death, and a climactic battle scene between sword-brandishing humans, animals, and beasts. Some parents might want to know that a caterpillar (played by Alan Rickman) smokes a hookah, but this is as Lewis Carroll depicted the character. The language includes taunting insults like "stupid," "imbecile," "idiot," "bloody," and the like, and the sexuality is limited to one kiss between a married man and another woman and some aggressive flirting. - Common Sense Media

A Little Princess (1986)

Amelia Shankley shines as Sara Crewe in this faithful adaptation of the beloved children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden). Produced for London Weekend Television, this mini-series fully captures the spirit of the original novel and brings all of its extraordinary characters to life.

Sara Crewe has always been the pampered darling of her doting father, a British Indian Army captain, and the exclusive boarding school she attends. But when her father dies and her fortune is lost, Sara becomes the victim of hardship and cruelty. Through friendship, imagination and her own resolute nature, the “little princess” finds her way back to happiness. As seen on PBS “Wonderworks” – WINNER, Parents’ Choice Award and BAFTA Award for Best Children’s Program

Starring Maureen Lipman, Miriam Margolyes and Nigel Havers.

Parents need to know that Burnett's novel is a beautiful, fanciful, old-fashioned story with a complex heroine. The book is sweet and uplifting throughout, but Sara does suffer a terrible loss and is ill-treated by Miss Minchin, which could upset very young children. This classic novel also contains some old-fashioned attitudes. Becky asks if a new neighbor is a "Chinee" because his skin is "yellow." Sara recalls her time living in India, where she had an "ayah who adored her," and servants bowed to her. These passages carry a note of racial stereotyping, but Sara's goodness to all people overshadows her outmoded perspective. The novel has been made into two very good movies: the 1939 version starring Shirley Temple, and a lovely remake from 1995 (see below). Though neither film is true to the plot of the book, both versions are wonderful and faithful to the spirit of Burnett's story and characters. - Common Sense Media

A Little Princess (1995)

In this sumptuous adaptation of the beloved children's classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a young girl reared in the jungles of India lives an enchanted life filled with wealth, exotic adventures and a father's love. But when tragedy strikes, she must rely on her will and imagination to relive the joy of her wondrous childhood. Set in 1914.

After the critical success of 1993's The Secret Garden, Warner Bros. returned to the novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett to create this 1995 adaptation of A Little Princess, which instantly ranked with The Secret Garden as one of the finest children's films of the 1990s. Neither film was a huge box-office success, but their quality speaks for itself, and A Little Princess has all the ingredients of a timeless classic. A marvel of production design, the film features lavish sets built almost entirely on a studio backlot in Burbank, California. The story opens in New York just before the outbreak of World War I, when young Sara (Liesel Matthews) is enrolled in private boarding school while her father goes off to war. Under the domineering scrutiny of the school's wicked headmistress, Miss Minchen (Eleanor Bron), Sara quickly becomes popular with her schoolmates, but fate intervenes and she soon faces a stern reversal of fortune, resorting to wild flights of fancy to cope with an unexpectedly harsh reality. Rather than label her fanciful tales as escapist fantasy, A Little Princess actively encourages a child's power of imagination--a power that can be used to learn, grow, and adapt to a world that is often cruel and difficult. It's also one of the most visually beautiful films of the '90s and creates a fully detailed world within the boarding school--a place where imagination is vital to survival. A first-class production in every respect, this is one family film that should (if it's not too stuffy to say it) be considered required viewing for parents and kids alike. --Jeff Shannon

Starring Eleanor Bron, Liam Cunningham, Liesel Matthews, Rusty Schwimmer, Arthur Malet.

Parents need to know that this movie includes images of war with dead men strewn about trenches and explosions in the background. Sara loses her father in one of the battles and mourns him for much of the movie. Her mother also is dead. One scary scene shows Sara almost falling to her death. Sara is a remarkable character, however. She sticks up for herself and others at all times and captivates all the school girls with her imaginative stories. - Common Sense Media

Amazing Grace (2006)

Amazing Grace tells the inspiring story of William Wilberforce and his passion and perseverance to pass a law ending the slave trade in the late 18th century. Several friends, including Wilberforce's minister, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, urge him to see the cause through.

Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Romola Garai and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Parents need to know that a former slave and a former slave ship captain describe slavery in direct, no-holds-barred language. Flashbacks and dream sequences also involve slavery. A horse is beaten in an early scene. Instruments of physical abuse -- chains, restraints, clamps -- appear on screen. Men smoke pipes, and several characters drink liquor at parties and sometimes alone. Wilberforce suffers from colitis and takes opium-based medicine to treat it. Mild language ("hell" and "damn"), plus one very pointed use of the "N" word. - Common Sense Media

Amelia (2009)

Two-time Academy Award Winner Hilary Swank delivers an unforgettable performance as Amelia Earhart, the legendary American aviatrix who boldly flew into the annals of history. Richard Gere co-stars as her charismatic business partner and adoring husband George Putnam. Bound by ambition and love, their enduring marriage could not be broken by Amelia's determination to fly -- nor her passionate affair with Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor). Equal parts gripping drama, stirring romance and epic adventure, AMELIA will take your breath away and send your spirit soaring!

An extraordinary life of adventure, celebrity and continuing mystery comes to light in "Amelia," a vast, thrilling account of legendary aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. After becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Amelia was thrust into a new role as America's sweetheart -- the legendary "goddess of light," known for her bold, larger-than-life charisma. Yet, even with her global fame solidified, her belief in flirting with danger and standing up as her own, outspoken woman never changed. She was an inspiration to people everywhere, from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to the men closest to her heart: her husband, promoter and publishing magnate George P. Putnam, and her long time friend and lover, pilot Gene Vidal. In the summer of 1937, Amelia set off on her most daunting mission yet: a solo flight around the world that she and George both anxiously foresaw as destined, whatever the outcome, to become one of the most talked-about journeys in history.

Starring Hilary Swank, Richard Donat, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Gere, Thomas Hauff.

Rated PG

Note: Some found this to be a dull movie, others praised it for its cinematography. Time Out said that it is "Inoffensive, arcane and ultimately rather sweet, 'Amelia' is one to take your grandmother to." Might be good for homeschooling?

A Mother's Gift (1995)

In her small frontier town, Abbie finds herself being courted by two different men, Will and Ed. After promising Ed her hand, her true love, Will comes back from the war asking the same. Abbie choses Will and the pair leave town for land out West. With only the pearls her mother gave her as a wedding gift and her love of singing, Abbie discovers that life on the prairie is tough on her marriage and her dream.

A Civil War veteran (Adrian Pasdar) and his wife (Nancy McKeon) face hardships as pioneers settling farmland in 1800s Nebraska. based on the 1928 novel A Lantern In Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich.

Starring Nancy McKeon, Adrian Pasdar, Adam Storke, Lucy Deakins, Jeremy London.

Anne of Green Gables (1934)

A spirited orphan with a vivid imagination endears herself to the older couple who take her in...and everyone else around her.

In this film adaption of Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novel, aging siblings Matthew (O.P. Heggie) and Marilla Cuthbert (Helen Westley) await the arrival of an orphan boy they've secured to work on their family farm, Green Gables. Much to Marilla's chagrin, the orphanage sends a girl named Anne Shirley (Anne Shirley) instead. When Anne falls for her new classmate Gilbert (Tom Brown), the son of a rival family, it may test the Cuthberts' patience -- and threaten the stability of her new life.

Freckle-faced Anne Shirley, whom Mark Twain once described as fiction's dearest child since Lewis Carroll's little girl, reaches the screen in an enormously fine and touching bit of homespinning called "Anne of Green Gables." Here, in the authentically catholic sense, is a magical family entertainment, manufactured with such genuine humanity and feeling and humor that it is equally fascinating for old and young. A gentle and immensely pleasing Arcadian idyll of an orphan girl on Prince Edward's Island, it is certainly the peer of last season's "Little Women" and an irresistible Christmas carnival as well. - NYT

In black and white.

Starring Anne Shirley, Tom Brown, O.P. Heggie, Helen Westley, Sara Haden.

Note: If anyone here knows when this version is set, please drop a note. It appears to be later than the Edwardian era, in which Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel was written, though the story seems to begin in the Victorian era.

Anne of Green Gables (1985)

Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Anne of Green Gables, previously filmed in 1934, was afforded a TV-movie treatment in 1985. Megan Follows stars as 13-year-old Anne Shirley, an orphan girl sent to live with a foster family on Canada's Prince Edward Island. Though she has great difficulty controlling her temper, impulsiveness and vivid imagination, Anne eventually wins over her new guardians, domineering Marilla Cuthbert (Colleen Dewhurst) and Marilla's shy brother Matthew (Richard Farnsworth). Anne's secondary adventures concern her "bosom friend" Diana (Schuyler Grant) and her supposed enemy Gilbert Blythe (Jonathan Crombie). Anne of Green Gables was offered on American television as a 3-part presentation on PBS' Wonderworks, 1986.

Age 7+ "Faithful, sensitive take on classic novel is great for kids." - Common Sense Media

A startling beautiful film of style an substance. - San Francisco Chronicle

Starring Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farsnworth.

Note: Anne of Green Gables is followed by Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (Anne of Avonlea) which was well received and Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, which was not. The BBC has their own 1975 version of Anne of Avonlea based on the books "Anne of Avonlea" and "Anne of the Island" and is a 6-episode, 5-hour 1975 BBC mini-series. The 1972 BBC adaptation of Anne of Green Gables doesn't appear to be available on DVD but does still air on BBC. You may also wish to check out Anne of Green Gables (1934), called "magical family entertainment, manufactured with such genuine humanity and feeling and humor that it is equally fascinating for old and young". - NYT

Parents need to know that this generally very faithful adaptation of L.M. Montgomery's beloved novel about red-headed orphan Anne Shirley has hardly any iffy content. Anne does accidentally get her best friend drunk in one scene, but it's due to an honest mix-up, and there are consequences. Other scenes include some mild peril and conflict, but overall this is a lovely, leisurely, kid-friendly story of another time. In fact, some younger kids may find it a little too leisurely, but if you spread the viewing out over several afternoons or evenings, they'll probably get sucked right in. If they do, they'll be delighted by Anne, whose imagination, impulsiveness, and thirst for love and friendship make her a very sympathetic, relatable character. - Common Sense Media

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (2008)

Inspired by a short story, Isabella Caldwell is a high-society woman in late-1800's New York. When Isabella's estranged daughter Mary becomes ill and is too proud to ask her mother for assistance, Mary's daughter, Tilly, takes it upon herself to contact her grandmother and plead for help. Isabella's arrival causes an upheaval in many lives, but may also lead to reconciliation within the family. Based on the short story by Louisa Mae Alcott, author of Little Women.

Dove awards the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal to this DVD, for all ages.

Starring Jacqueline Bisset, Helene Joy, Tatiana Maslany.

A River Runs Through It (1992)

The Maclean brothers, Paul (Brad Pitt) and Norman (Craig Sheffer), live a relatively idyllic life in rural Montana, spending much of their time fly fishing. The sons of a minister (Tom Skerritt), the boys eventually part company when Norman moves east to attend college, leaving his rebellious brother to find trouble back home. When Norman finally returns, the siblings resume their fishing outings, and assess both where they've been and where they're going.

Set during a span of time from roughly World War I to the early days of the Great Depression, including part of the Prohibition era.

"Based on writer Norman Maclean's autobiographical story of growing up in Montana, this is a moving, powerful drama that combines gorgeous cinematography with earnest, heartfelt performances." - Common Sense Media

Starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Lloyd.

Rated PG

A Room with a View (1985) Merchant Ivory Productions

Merchant Ivory Productions, led by director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant (Howards End), became a household name with A Room with a View, the first of their extraordinary adaptations of E. M. Forster novels. A cherubic nineteen-year-old Helena Bonham Carter plays Lucy Honeychurch, a young, independent-minded, upper-class Edwardian woman who is trying to sort out her burgeoning romantic feelings, divided between an enigmatic free spirit (Leaving Las Vegas’s Julian Sands) she meets on vacation in Florence and the priggish bookworm (Lincoln’s Daniel Day-Lewis) to whom she becomes engaged back in the more corseted Surrey. Funny, sexy, and sophisticated, this gargantuan art-house hit features a sublime supporting cast—including Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Judi Dench (Philomena), Denholm Elliott (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)—and remains a touchstone of intelligent romantic cinema.

This is incredibly fresh and arresting film-making: moving and amusing, swooningly romantic and socially ferocious – nothing less than a full-frontal (in every way) assault on your soul. - The Guardian

Note: The 1985 Oscar-winning Merchant Ivory production of A Room with a View is one of the best loved British films of the past few decades, and for good reasons: it is lovely to look at, the story makes us think and feel, it is brilliantly acted and an apt adaptation of the book.

May be suitable for older children.

Parents need to know that this movie deals with issues of intimacy and self-repression. There's nonsexualy male full-fruntal nudity as men bathe in a pond. A man is killed in a very brief knife fight. - Common Sense Media

A Room With a View (2007)

A fresh and poignant adaptation of E.M. Forster's classic novel, A Room with a View tells the story of the coming of age of Lucy Honeychurch in 1912 Florence, Italy. Longing to burst free from the repression of British upper class manners and mores, she must wrestle with her inner romantic longings to choose between the passionate George and the priggish but socially suitable Cecil.

"[Elaine] Cassidy gives an exceptionally natural performance as Lucy, engaging in the age-old and very Jane Austin-ish internal battle between heart and head." - Brian Lowry, Variety

"As always with these English productions, the scenery is sumptuous, the settings lavish, the acting impeccable." - Robert P. Laurence, SanDiego.com

Starring Elizabeth McGovern, Timothy Spall, Sophie Thompson, Elaine Cassidy, Laurence Fox.

Shown on Masterpiece Theatre. An IWC / WGBH Boston Co-production.

Note: The screenplay for this adaptation was written by Andrew Davies ("Without spoiling the period feel, we wanted A Room with a View to feel modern in terms of the relationships and emotions.") It was not received fantastically well, on two accounts: 1) The Merchant Ivory 1986 film was just so splendid, and this version seems pale in comparison, and 2) based on a postscript Forster wrote in 1958, imagining what might have happened to the characters, Davies has written a new ending.

"But, despite the Davies-isms, conversely, his version is more true to EM Forster's novel and its themes and it brings out the class issue more." - The Guardian

May be suitable for older children.

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Get ready for phenomenal fun, spectacular adventures, and nonstop action as hilarious megastar Jackie Chan (SHANGHAI NOON, SHANGHAI KNIGHTS) dares to do what no one has done before -- beat the clock in a race around the world. Traveling the globe by land, sea, air, and even in-line skates, Chan and his buddies are greeted with impossible obstacles at every planned and unplanned stop along the way, making their fantastically speedy voyage more frantic and heart-pounding than ever! Filled with amazing stunts, humor, and the importance of friendship and following your dreams, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS is one trip the whole family will enjoy taking together.

" ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ is a delightful surprise." -SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

"It’s an unexpected buoyant spectacular." -LOS ANGELES TIMES

"Tons of fun for everyone in the family." -SUMMER MOVIE MAGIC

"…beautifully photographed and sweetly comical ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ is guaranteed to amuse parents as well." - BOSTON HERALD

Starring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cecile de France.

There is a lot of slapstick, cartoon, and action-style violence, including many crotch injuries, but no one is seriously hurt. Characters use mild bad language ("bloody hell"). There is some crude and vulgar humor, including bathroom jokes, drunkenness played for comedy, a weird cross-dressing joke, and a comic situation involving a man with many wives. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of women and minorities who fight stereotypes and prejudice; however, some people may find some of the portrayals in the movie itself offensively stereotypical. - Common Sense Media

Au Revoir les Enfants (1987)

This intensely personal film from Louis Malle tells a heartbreaking story of friendship and devastating loss concerning two boys living in Nazi-occupied France. At a provincial Catholic boarding school, the precocious youths enjoy true camaraderie—until a secret is revealed. Based on events from writer-director Malle’s own childhood, Au revoir les enfants (Goodbye, Children) is a subtle, precisely observed tale of courage, cowardice, and tragic awakening.

In 1943, Julien (Gaspard Manesse) is a student at a French boarding school. When three new students arrive, including Jean Bonnett (Raphael Fejto), Julien believes they are no different from the other boys. What Julien doesn't know is that the boys are actually Jews who are evading capture by the Nazis. While Julien doesn't care for Jean at first, the boys develop a tight bond -- while the head of the school, Père Jean (Philippe Morier-Genoud), works to protect the boys from the Holocaust.

There is such exhilaration in the heedless energy of the schoolboys. They tumble up and down stairs, stand on stilts for playground wars, eagerly study naughty postcards, read novels at night by flashlight, and are even merry as they pour into the cellars during an air raid. One of the foundations of Louis Malle's "Au revoir les enfants" (1987) is how naturally he evokes the daily life of a French boarding school in 1944. His central story shows young life hurtling forward; he knows, because he was there, that some of these lives will be exterminated. - Roger Ebert

In French with English subtitles.

Starring Gaspard Manesse, Francine Racette, Philippe Morier-Genoud, Stanislas Carre de Malberg.

Rated PG - may be suitable for older children.

Ballet Shoes (1975) BBC

Ballet Shoes, the movie adaptation of Noel Streatfield's classic story, traces the travails of a refreshingly functional if hardly traditional English family. There's Sylvia, the financially strapped lady of the house; her three benevolent boarders; Nana, the housekeeper; and, most important, the three orphaned girls in Sylvia's charge. When the household pulls together to secure the penniless but loaded-with-potential girls (Paulina, Petrova, and Posy) a scholarship at a rigorous, no-wimps-allowed arts academy, the girls' natural proclivities fast emerge: Posy's a gifted dancer, Paulina's a precocious actress, and Petrova has a way with engines. All three share boundless ambition and, early on, vow "to get our names in the history books without the help of relatives." Close to two hours of triumphs, tough knocks, and tantrums follow; Petrova gets discouraged, Paulina gets too big for her britches, and Posy gets the rug pulled out from under her when her masterful teacher is hospitalized. Through it all, Sylvia, Nana, and the others unselfishly cheerlead, but then the girls' road to greatness comes dangerously close to unraveling. Sylvia, no longer able to afford school necessities, may need to sell the house. Naturally, she doesn't--just in time, a plum deal plops in the girls' laps. This tidy, overlong movie ought to be sewn up then, but instead, true to the tale, it tacks on a happy, hopeful ending for all. Ballet Shoes is best suited to starry-eyed 9-year-olds and parents who wish to keep their kids' pulses low. --Tammy La Gorce

This older version of the film was made in 1975 and in my opinion is a much truer tribute to Streatfeild's classic novel. While the style is old-fashioned with long explanatory dialogues not really seen in movies nowadays, the parts are all portrayed with honesty and innocence. I especially enjoyed the performance of Mary Morris as Madame Fidolia, the classical Russian ballet teacher that features in all ballet stories of the era, played just as I feel Streatfield would have intended. - Viewer

In 1977 Ballet Shoes was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Special.

Starring Angela Thorne, Jane Slaughter, Elizabeth Morgan, Sarah Prince, Barbara Lott.

Ballet Shoes (2007)

Dreams do come true…Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter) stars in Ballet Shoes, a heartwarming and uplifting film based on the beloved, best-selling novel by Noel Streatfeild and featuring an award-winning cast that includes Emilia Fox, Victoria Wood, Richard Griffiths and Eileen Atkins.

"We three Fossils vow to put our name in the history book, because it is ours, and ours alone…" With these words, three orphans, raised as sisters, leave their sheltered lives and embark on an exhilarating journey that takes them to the heights of the stage, screen and sky!

Based on the Noel Streatfeild novel Ballet Shoes, this is a 2007 BBC Northern Ireland production starring Eileen Atkins, Peter Bowles, Richard Griffiths, Gemma Jones, and Harriet Walter. The Fossils are an unconventional British family living in 1930's London. Orphans Pauline (Emma Watson), Petrova (Yasmin Paige), and Posy (Lucy Boynton) are being raised by an elder sister Sylvia (Emilia Fox) and her Nana (Victoria Wood) in the absence of their eccentric great uncle Matthew (Richard Griffiths). As Sylvia struggles to educate and support her three charges on very limited funds, she is forced to let rooms and enroll the girls in the Academy of Dance and Stage Training in hopes of furthering their education and preparing them to earn a comfortable living. While at the academy, each of the three ambitious girls discovers her own personal calling and labors intensively to achieve her dreams: Pauline studies to become a star on the stage, Petrova gravitates toward a career in aviation, and Posy trains to become a great classical ballerina. Their paths are difficult and full of adversity, but the sisters' steadfast support of one another and common resolve to earn a place in the history books based on their own merits propels each of them toward individual success. A compelling and inspirational film that encourages young women to strive for their dreams, Ballet Shoes is most appealing to ages 9 and older. --Tami Horiuchi

Starring Emma Watson, Eileen Atkins, Peter Bowles, Richard Griffiths, Gemma Jones.

Parents need to know that for children interested in the performing arts, this family-friendly movie and its emphasis on a rigid training regimen as a road to sure success will be appealing. A loving family comprising three girls adopted from around the world and their guardian and nanny is depicted, working together to overcome tough economic times in Britain in the 1930s. One child runs away but returns without harm. Expect plenty of era-appropriate smoking as well. - Common Sense Media

Becoming Jane (2007)

Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs) gives a radiant performance as a young, love-struck Jane Austen in the witty and engaging romantic comedy Becoming Jane. It s the untold romance that inspired the novels of one of the world's most celebrated authors. When the dashing Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy, Atonement), a reckless and penniless lawyer-to-be, enters Jane's life, he offends the emerging writer's sense and sensibility. Soon their clashing egos set off sparks that ignite a passionate romance and fuel Jane's dream of doing the unthinkable--marrying for love. Becoming Jane, also starring the acclaimed Maggie Smith, James Cromwell and Julie Walters, is an enchanting and imaginative film you'll fall head over heels for.

Starring Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, James Cromwell, Julia Walters, Maggie Smith.

Parents need to know that this film is a delightful exercise in imagination. No one truly knows whether Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy shared a grand passion, but the movie makes a great case for it. It's a romantic, often funny tale that tweens and teens will enjoy, though there are parts that could prove dicey for younger audiences, including a sexual interlude between Jane's parents and a brazen flirtation between an older woman and a younger man. (The banter may also go a little too fast for them to understand.) The language is sometimes complicated for younger audiences ("impecunious"), but it's fairly innocuous, except for one expletive ("s--t"). - Common Sense Media

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

Experience the extraordinary animation, enchanting music and Academy Award-winning special effects (1971: Best Effects, Special Visual Effects) of Disney's beloved classic BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS -- now fully restored and remastered in this Enchanted Musical Edition with dazzling new bonus features! Hold on tight for a magical, musical, fun-filled journey! When young Charlie, Carrie and Paul move to a small village during World War II, they discover their host, Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), is an apprentice witch! Although her early attempts at magic create hilarious results, she successfully casts a traveling spell on an ordinary bedknob, and they fly to the fantastic, animated Isle of Naboombu to find a powerful spell that will save England! All-new fun is brewing in this Enchanted Musical Edition, including "The Wizards of Special Effects" feature. Also starring David Tomlinson (MARY POPPINS) and Roddy McDowall, BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS is a heartwarming adventure your family will love sharing again and again!

Starring Angela Lansbury, Roddy McDowall, Reginald Owen, David Tomlinson, Sam Jaffe.

Parents need to know that the framework of the movie -- World War II, Nazi invasions, and bombings in London -- is about as un-child-friendly as it gets, but the film manages to take a lighthearted approach. Main characters never seem frightened by the war or soldiers, though the children talk briefly about losing their parents to the war. The climax of the film involves a drawn-out battle between the main character and a small group of invading Nazis in which the enemy soldiers wield swords and machine guns against her. Despite this apparent violence, no blood is shed, no one is hurt, and the main character retains a smile throughout the entire battle. - Common Sense Media

Belle (2013)

Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing.

Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar's son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson.

Parents need to know that Belle is a deeply affecting, fascinating drama that brings to light a true story about a mixed-race woman -- the illegitimate daughter of a British admiral in the late 1700s -- who becomes an activist (and a worthy role model!) by educating herself and her uncle on the perils of the slave trade. Though the movie has no curse words and no overtly sexual situations (there's one kiss), the subject matter is complex and perhaps too heavy for very young kids. But older kids, tweens, and teens would do well to see it, as it explores issues of race and gender equality with sensitivity and grace. There's much to learn here from the struggles of 18th-century England, with lessons still applicable today. - Common Sense Media

Belle and Sebastian (2013)

Based on the beloved children’s book, this exciting tale set in the picturesque French Alps follows the friendship of a 6-year-old boy and a stray dog who prove to be heroes when they help defend their occupied village from the Nazis.

Set in the Second World War era.

In French with English subtitles. The film is dubbed in English in the streaming version.

“BELLE AND SEBASTIAN is a beautiful, heartfelt drama that will be as appealing to adults as to kids. It’s visually stunning, and the acting, especially by young Bossuet, is superb. Although the themes are intense and there are quite a few tense, suspenseful scenes, the story never delves too deeply into WWII details that would be inappropriate for children. As war stories go, it’s a somewhat gentle introduction to heavy themes, which can open a dialogue for parents and tweens. But there are many heartrending scenes that may be too intense for younger or more sensitive kids. Parents looking for a positive, historical film with wonderful role models (heroes, really) will love Belle and Sebastian. And parents can enjoy it without feeling like they’re watching a children’s film, though you may want to watch the original, subtitled version if you’re watching alone or with older kids, as the English dubbing is sometimes a bit awkward.” – Common Sense Media

Starring Félix Bossuet, Tchéky Karyo, Margaux Chatelier, Dimitri Storoge, Andreas Pietschmann, Urbain Cancelier, Mehdi El Glaoui, Paloma Palma, Karine Adrover, Loïc Varraut, Jan Oliver Schroeder, Tom Sommerlatte, Andrée Damant, Pasquale D’Inca, Eric Soubelet, Michel Pellé, Jean Blanc, Matthieu Warter, Jean-Hubert Vasina, Pascal Bison.

Not rated.

Berkeley Square (1998) BBC

A classic coming-of-age tale on par with Anne of Avonlea and Little Women, Berkeley Square is worth watching over and over again. This 10-episode British miniseries will awe you with its erudite script, wonderfully believable characters, high-caliber production values, meticulous Edwardian details, and topnotch acting. In fact, you will join the growing multitudes who puzzle over why the BBC decided to stop after only 10 episodes.

In 1902 three young nannies find jobs in well-to-do London households and get to know each other. Naive farm girl Lydia finds an unfamiliar world both in city life and with the progressive-thinking family who employs her. Earnest, rule-abiding Matty is a hard-working East End girl who slowly learns to loosen up. And, after a tragic affair with the eldest son of a grand Yorkshire family, Hannah's life in London is full of chilling secrets and grave life-and-death decisions. -Tara Chace

Starring Victoria Smurfit, Clare Wilkie, Tabitha Wady, Hermione Norris, Emily Canfor-Dumas.

Note: For Willow and Thatch, discovering and watching this series felt like a splendid, long Christmas. Two teacups up! "A warm-hearted family drama."

May be suitable for older children.

Bright Star (2009)

From Academy Award® winning writer/director Jane Campion (Best Original Screenplay, The Piano, 1993) comes an extraordinary film based on the true story of undying love between renowned poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw, The International) and his spirited muse Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish, Stop-Loss). In the wilds of 19th century England, a forbidden passion draws the two lovers ever closer—even as fate conspires to tear them apart. Bright Star takes you to a world where, though life may be fleeting, great art – and great love – last forever. Let this sparkling gem of romance illuminate your heart.

Bright Star is the rare period movie to convey--without being insistent--what it was like to be alive in another era, the nature of houses and rooms and how people occupied them, the way windows linked spaces and enlarged people's lives and experiences, how fires warmed as the milky English sunlight did not. And always there is an aliveness to place and weather, the creak of boardwalk underfoot and the wind rustling the reeds as lovers walk through a wetland. Poetry grows from such things; at least, Jane Campion's does. --Richard T. Jameson

Starring Abbie Cornish, Edie Martin, Claudie Blakley, Gerard Monaco, Samuel Roukin.

Parents need to know that this moving period romance is tame on the surface -- there's virtually no violence, sex, strong language or other iffy content -- but it has an undercurrent of sexual longing fueled by social barriers that complicate the characters' ability to be with the people they love. And though the story is told with a great deal of grace, it does have a bit of grit (but virtually no violence, sex, strong language, or other iffy content). First, there's the consumption that finally claims poet John Keats -- its progression is delicately but truthfully depicted. Also, Keats' best friend is dismissive of those with no interest in poetry (i.e., Fanny, who's passionate about sewing instead), and there's some discussion about Fanny's virginity, but the conversations are oblique (and nothing more than kissing and hand-holding is shown on screen). - Common Sense Media