Of course, with the magic of DVDs, you can settle down to watch films that WERE made to appeal to the whole family, or you can pick and choose more recent films that somehow managed to be tasteful, interesting, and appealing to a wide range of ages. Here are some we've enjoyed over the past few years, courtesy of Netflix. Although I've inserted links, these are for informational purposes; I am NOT advocating that you buy these unless you think you will watch them over and over.
Please share your recommendations, too -- feel free to add them in the comments section!
1. The Princess Bride (1987)
One of our kids' favorites -- a very unusual fairy tale, but also lots of humor for adults. Does have one torture scene that might scare young children.
2. The Muppets (2011)
A rare example of a recent movie that has humor for both adults and children, and nothing to beware of.
3. The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
Disney classic starring Fred MacMuray. Funny for both adults and kids - gives a surprisingly accurate portrayal of your average science professor. We thought the sequel, "Son of Flubber" was even funnier. Cannot recommend the Robin Williams re-make ("Flubber").
4. The Court Jester (1956)
Danny Kaye classic. Although it was (I think) marketed to adults, the kids thought it was hilarious, with lots of slapstick.
5. Apollo 13 (1995)
Most appealing to older kids, but nothing I would be embarrassed to show to any of my children. Helps teach the kids that there was a time when we went to the moon.
6. That's Entertainment (1974)
We found that most old movie musicals were great choices for family movies that everyone could enjoy. This is a compilation of greatest hits from the MGM musicals -- you can try it out to see if your family likes them. Part of a three-movie series.
7. Galaxy Quest (1999)
One of our kids' favorites. A clever spoof of the Star Trek phenomenon. One slightly scary scene, and slightly suggestive costuming and mild innuendo, but these went over our kids' heads.
8. The Three Stooges
(No Link necessary!!) Of course, this will be controversial - you either love them or hate them. Since my husband, as a child, was allowed pretty much unlimited access to TV after school, he is a lifelong fan (his proudest claim is to have seen the Three Stooges in person when he was 5-years-old).
9. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
Excellent adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic. Slightly scary in places.
10. Shaun the Sheep (2007+)
Manages to be hilarious for both kids and adults, despite no dialog whatsoever!
11. Rocky and Bullwinkle (1959-1964)
Watched these as a child. Viewing them now with my children, I realize that I never "got" most of the jokes! Well worth another view.
And don't forget other old TV series, from the era when it was safe to let your kids watch TV (pre 1980 or so). We like LIttle House on the Prairie, Lost in Space, I Love Lucy, The Dick van Dyke Show, and a few others. Some friends like the old Dr. Who shows, but we haven't tried those yet.