This holiday season offers a rare double feature of Steven Spielberg films: the swashbuckling big-screen adaptation of 'The Adventures of Tintin' and the intensely poignant drama 'War Horse.' But neither movie may be appropriate for your whole family -- both movies are for older tweens and up, or in the case of 'War Horse' perhaps even teens. Of course, that doesn't mean kids aren't ready to see the master director's work. Moviefone is here to help you decide when -- and how -- to introduce the youngins to the inimitably impressive filmography of the man responsible for such classics as 'E.T.,' 'Jaws,' and 'Indiana Jones.' Here are 11 Spielberg flicks and when to see them.
Kids (7 & Up)
'Close Encounters of the Third Kind': Spielberg's first "friendly alien" movie follows a Midwestern father and a single mother who both experience a "close encounter" with a UFO. The pair then feel compelled to travel to a mountain in Wyoming to await the arrival of an alien ship that has been subliminally communicating with a five-tone message. A few parts are a bit scary -- particularly when a young boy is abducted -- but except for E.T., these aliens are as friendly as they get in movies.
'E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial': There's something special about a kid seeing 'E.T.' for the first time -- a kinship between children and Elliot (Henry Thomas), who befriends a kind, peaceful alien with healing powers and a sweet tooth for Reese's Pieces. Nearly 30 years after its release, some of us original fans are now sharing the child-led sci-fi adventure with our own kiddos, who quickly discover that E.T. really does have the magic touch. The flying bicycle scene alone is worth the DVD purchase!
'Hook': We admit it's not Spielberg's best film, but it's one of his easiest for younger kids to enjoy. A twist on the typical 'Peter Pan' adaptation, 'Hook' is a follow-up to Peter Pan's original adventures. Having finally grown up (and forgotten his youth), Peter (Robin Williams) is a successful attorney living with his wife and two kids. But Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) will have none of it and kidnaps the children, drawing Peter back to Neverland. More amusing than a classic, it will nonetheless entertain your entire crew of boys and girls who don't want to group up.
'Indiana Jones' Saga: Few things would make a tween boy happier than an 'Indiana Jones' marathon (OK, perhaps, a 'Star Wars' marathon). Harrison Ford's legendary archeologist is one of moviedom's most beloved heroes, and his four globetrotting adventures (especially the first three) will endear young viewers to the point of obsession. Indy has spawned Legos, videogames, Halloween costumes, and countless one-liners that kids will never forget. Be warned -- younger fans may want a toy whip to practice their swashbuckling skills afterward.
'Jaws': All it takes is a few measures from John Williams' iconic score to instill terror in any moviegoer's heart. Spielberg's chilling tale isn't a schlock fest like today's "animals gone wild" horror flicks. There aren't any bikini-clad or buffed-up protagonists but instead a resort town's well-intentioned police chief (Roy Scheider), an alarmed marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss), and a hard-scrabbled fisherman (Robert Shaw) who team up to hunt down the man-eating Great White that has attacked several beachgoers. Watch it and share the thrill of that "da-dum-da-dum-da-dum" with your awed tween.
'Jurassic Park': Another one of Spielberg's epic thrillers follows a group of scientists as they visit a billionaire's extraordinary theme park where geneticists clone fossil DNA into living, breathing, predatory dinosaurs. Accompanied by the owner's two tween grandchildren, the three scientists are stranded in the park when a rogue employee shuts off the electricity. Chaos -- in the form of carnivorous T-rexes and velociraptors -- ensues, and viewers will hold their breath through the action until the very last shot.
Early Teens (13-15)
'Amistad': History will come alive for teens (and parents) as they learn about the true story of Cuban schooner Amistad's slave revolt, which caused an international legal battle when it dropped anchor off the Long Island coast in 1839. Abolitionists claimed the slaves should be freed, while the Spanish wanted the vessel and their "human property" returned to Cuba. But this is not a PBS special on the subject: there's action, violence, and at its heart, the stunning Djimon Hounsou as Cinque and young property attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey, who for once keeps his shirt on), who forge an unlikely friendship.
'The Color Purple': Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of one woman's quest to find dignity in the face of dehumanizing racism and sexism in 1930s Georgia isn't always easy to watch, but it's an important, beautifully acted depiction of what life was like for African Americans 80 years ago. As the long-suffering Celie, Whoopie Goldberg gave the best performance of her career, and teens will be blown away to see Oprah Winfrey before she became one of the most powerful women in the world.
'War of the Worlds': Spielberg's take on H.G. Wells' classic sci-fi novel is not for the faint of heart, but if your kid can handle 'Jaws,' he can probably deal with the terrifyingly gripping thriller. The Martians do NOT come in peace, so Tom Cruise's divorced father must flee as fast as he possibly can to save his teenage son (Justin Chatwin) and young daughter (Dakota Fanning, who screams her way through most of the alien invasion) from being captured or killed by the technologically superior aliens bent on world domination.
Older Teens (15 & Up)
'Saving Private Ryan': Sometimes the best comes to those who wait, and Spielberg's two WWII based stories are perfect for teens old enough to handle the mature material. In 'Saving Private Ryan,' Spielberg follows a group of American soldiers led my Tom Hanks from the Invasion of Normandy through a seemingly impossible mission to rescue the titular Private Ryan (Matt Damon), the only brother left alive in a family of four servicemen. Teens will find the unflinchingly violent chronicle of war both educational and inspiring.
'Schindler's List': The Oscar-winning Holocaust drama might be mandatory viewing in high-school world history these days, but even if it isn't, definitely have your teenager watch the shocking, heartbreaking film. Based on the true story of the profiteering industrialist Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), the black-and-white drama details how he transforms into a selfless humanitarian and ultimately saved more than 1100 Jews from dying in concentration camps. It's Spielberg's most personal film, and it's a masterpiece.
Gallery | Best Family Films of 2011
[Top photo: DreamWorks]
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