Now that we’ve moved into the 20th Century there are many movies you can watch to gain a feeling for the eras we’re studying. As a family we love to watch movies together, and it’s fun to watch movies to learn about the Great Depression. I’ve got some real favorites from that time period, and it was fun to share the ones the Great Depression movies they were old enough for with the kids.
Great Depression Movies for all ages
- Kit Kittredge: An American Girl – This is based off the American Girl doll books, and Jeff gave this to me a few years ago. There’s a few tense scenes, but no swearing, no real violence, no sex, and it gives a good idea of what life was like for a kid in that time period.
- Shirley Temple, America’s Sweetheart Collection: Volume One (Heidi / Curly Top / Little Miss Broadway)– I don’t know about you, but I loved Shirley Temple movies as a kid.
- Most of them are not period specific, but you can pretend you’re in the Depression and you’ve saved your money to go see a “Talkie.”
- Cartoon Rarities of the 1930s– Watch some cartoons from the time period. After all this is when Mickey Mouse first came out. I love the classic Mickey Mouse cartoons.
Great Depression Movies for elementary age
- Seabiscuit- This is a great movie because it actually happened, and Seabiscuit really did give hope to everyone at that time. The movie (and the book) do a great job of interweaving historical facts into the story so they parallel each other. When we watched there was one scene in Mexico we fast-forwarded through where Tobey Maguire’s character saw a prostitute. Other than that, there is very little language and no violence.
- Radioland Murders– This is quite solidly an upper elementary movie because of some sexual innuendo, and some of the implied violence (not shown), but it’s a great look into a radio station during the time. The comedy is great in this movie.
- It Happened One Night– A great situation comedy about traveling during the time period, will give you some great quotes and insight into slang of the time period. Some mild sexual innuendo, but your kids will need to have some attention span because it’s in black and white and isn’t non-stop action like other movies.
- It’s A Wonderful Life – A Christmas classic, but it shows in a very real way some of the troubles people went through during this time.
- Singin’ In the Rain– A musical classic. I love this movie, and have ever since I saw it in college. This shows the transition of new technology and how it changes people’s job and lives. Admittedly, it’s about the introduction of talking movies, but it’s still a great example of people not being able to adapt to the times. And besides singing, and puns…… So much fun.
Great Depression Movies for older kids
- Cinderella Man – Another movie that actually happened, and like Seabiscuit gave great hope to the people that the common man could overcome. This is rated R for violence, some language, may be sexual content between a husband and wife.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Special Edition)– This could be for elementary kids (we let our kids watch it), but it’s right no the edge, so I moved it up to here. This more gives the flavor of the time period, and also lets them see some of the backdrop leading up to World War 2.
- Swing Kids– Watch this one if you’re studying world history, set in pre-World War 2 Germany, it lets you see what it was like for the youth of the day. It deals with very heavy issues (Nazism, start of the Holocaust, persecution of handicapped), and I do not recommend it for anyone younger than 13.
- Grapes of Wrath– In terms of content, you could probably watch this with all of your kids, but I don’t think elementary kids will really understand all of the issues brought up in Grapes of Wrath.
Did we watch all of these? Not by a long shot, we watched: Kit Kittredge, Seabiscuit, Indiana Jones (Jeff’s eagerly been waiting to show it to the kids), and some silent movies that were really more for the 20s. It worked great. I should probably go back at some point and write a post on movies to watch for the 20s, but there weren’t as many we could watch because most I know of are geared for older kids.
Check out some more Great Depression ideas:
Depression Simulation for kids, part 1
Depression Simulation for kids, living as hobos
And then head on over to All Things Beautiful to check out her history linkie.
Head over to iHomeschool Network’s a Movie and a Big Idea
Phyllis at All Things Beautiful says
Hee hee, I was just about to edit this and add in links to my other posts, and link back to you. I forgot to link my last posts to your linkie last week, and was going in to fix that.
We are actually studying the Dustbowl and the Great Depression right now. Thanks for the suggestions.
Perfect timing then. This is twice now I’ve made movie recommendation at perfect timing for a friend. I commented on my FB page we were watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks to go with WW2, and it helped another friend out.
maryanne @ mama smiles says
I still need to see Seabiscuit – thanks for the reminder!
After watching the movie I bought the book, and I love both of them.
Great list! I want to see Seabiscuit too. I love It’s a Wonderful Life – the scene with people rushing to a bank to get their money is so gut wrenching. Almost happened just a few years ago too!
Oddly enough, I’m not a huge It’s a Wonderful Life fan, probably because I watched it in college with a bunch of people who were huge fans and built it up into THE BEST MOVIE EVER! I need to try watching it again without that extra pressure.
Great list! I’m so looking forward to doing modern histroy with my guys-so much fun!
Oddly enough, I’m looking forward to getting back to Ancient times with mine. There’s so much complicated stuff I can’t really get into about the 20th century with mine being so young.
Lindsay @ Bytes of Memory says
Great list! I will be sure to remember when we get to that time period!
These are great recommendations, I just wanted to let fellow moms know that Swing Kids is a great period film, it’s heavy, and that, if I recall correctly, there is a scene where the guys( teenaged) look at a pin up and there’s nudity from that. Also, there is a suicide, but it’s relevant to how those with disabilities were looked down on in that era in Germany. For more details, I would recommend looking it up on IMDB, under parental advisories. I also highly recommend ClearPlay, it’s a DVD player that filters movies to your specifications. The filters are downloaded to a filter stick that comes with the DVD player. It’s been a great blessing to my family, especially when I want to show a movie that may have language or a love scene(Cleraplay will mute the language and just skip right over the inappropriate scene) that other wise would be ok to watch. You can also set it for violence level. To find out more google ClearPlay DVD player.
I think you are correct, I don’t think they show the pin up (it’s been about 10 years since I saw Swing Kids), but if they did she was in a bathing suit.
There is a suicide, and they do show him dead in the bath tub, but that’s part of why I said at the very least 13, because many 13 year olds are already starting to deal with those issues with their friends and what they’re hearing.
ClearPlay DVD is a great option if you want to watch the movie but are unwilling to let them see parts of the movie.
Samantha Shank says
Glad to see Seabiscuit on here! And, I’m glad you include movies that are not 100% clean, but have enough merit to include here. (AKA anything above rated PG) I mean, I always have a fast-forward button 🙂
That’s my thoughts, and I also figure some people have older kids than mine. Just because my kids are not old enough to watch them, does not mean your kids aren’t old enough. There are some hard things that happened during that time, and kids need to see it’s not all bubbly and happy.
Samantha Shank says
P.S. – Great clean WWII movies are:
All ages / elementary
Molly: An American Girl (G) (WWII Homefront, 100% clean)
Valiant (G) (Animated Disney film about WWII carrier pigeons! It has some tad violence, but most people wouldn’t have a problem)
Upper elementary/middle school
Life is Beautiful (PG-13) (Pluggedin, who is very strict about movies, recommends it as a teen movie night. Very amazing film! No sex/language and offscreen violence. https://www.pluggedin.com/~/media/PIO/PDF/MovieNights/Teens/2013/LifeIsBeautiful.pdf )
Boy in the Striped Pajamas (PG-13) (Believe it or not, no sex, language, or violence. However, I would NOT NOT NOT recommend this for anyone younger than fifth grade. Perhaps older, depending no the kid. Good movie to introduce kids to the subject)
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (Hallmark Movie, True story about a Catholic social worker who smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and each one survived!)
The Hiding Place (Story of Corrie ten Boom)
And for high schoolers, The Pianist and Edges of the Lord are really good. Both have no/little sex, little language, but a decent amount of violence. Both are rated R. The Pianist is a true story and is a really fantastic film.
It’s like you foresaw one of my later posts. I’m planning a post on WW2 movies in a few weeks when I start to post about WW2, that and books for that time period. Especially books that cover the Holocaust in an appropriate way for younger kids.
Samantha Shank says
Books for younger children (IMO, under 8) about such a touchy subject are more difficult to find.
I can only think of 4 right now.
The Cat With The Yellow Star by Susan Rubin
Twenty and Ten by Clarie Bishop
(Haven’t read them, but I know they’re both for those under 3rd grade)
Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto
Irena’s Jars of Secrets
(Both picture books about Irena Sendler)
Of course there is American Girl, and I would preview beforehand. Holocaust for kids is a very touchy subject.
Some of these seem like quite a stretch. If the depression is what you were going for why wouldn’t you just have them watch The Walton’s? The whole series is a family living in the depression.
Since I’ve never seen the Waltons, I didn’t know that’s what the show was about. I”ll add it in later on.
The Depression isn’t a time period people tend to want to remember as well, so there aren’t as many movies about it, or at least not ones I’ve seen and knew of, so some of these are a stretch, most of them are to give you the flavor and the idea of what the time period was like. For straight up, Depression life, you watch: Kit Kittredge, Seabiscuit, and Cinderella Man, depending on the age of your kids.
Just so you know Cinderella Man is PG13 not R : )
Thanks! I guess, I personally, was rather disturbed by some of the fight scenes, so I assumed it was rated R.