WWII movies for young children? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 03-22-2010, 04:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Does anyone know of any movies (documentaries, educational show episode, or historical fiction) about WWII that are appropriate for younger children?

My sons are 5.5 and 3.5, and are very interested in WWII. They are pretty bright but they have normal emotional development for their age. I have let them watch things like Transformers (with a little bit of fast forwarding) but WWII is on a whole other level . . . Most WWII stuff would be way too traumatic for them.

I've told them stories about their great-grandfather flying a fighter jet in WWII, about how people didn't want to go to war because war is awful and lots of people die in wars, but that the we (the allied countries) decided we had to. They know a very little bit about Adolf Hitler ("one of the meanest people ever") and the holocaust.

My older son specifically asked me to get him a WWII movie. He is very visual and I think he wants to "see" it.

The only thing I could think of was The Sound of Music but I think they would get bored with all of the singing and dancing, and much of the dialogue would be lost on them. Really they want something with fighter jets and bombers and people like their great-grandfather being heroic. I think he will love watching Ken Burn's The War when he is older.

What about the movie I Am David? I read the book North to Freedom when I was about 10, but I don't know anything about the movie. I was thinking of getting that for them. Anything else?

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#2 of 22 Old 03-22-2010, 05:42 PM
 
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It may be tough to find films for children that young.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was out a couple of years ago.

Oorlogswinter looks pretty good, but I think it's for tweens/teens. It may be hard to locate too.

Perhaps some of the old wartime classics would suit. I wonder about some of the old Shirley Temple movies - didn't she do a couple to support the war effort? I think the propaganda of the time might be a little tough to swallow now.
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#3 of 22 Old 03-22-2010, 06:07 PM
 
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I wouldn't touch anything that deals directly with the Holocaust (like Boy in the Striped Pajamas) that's just way more pain than 3- and 5-year-olds are equipped to deal with. I can't think of anything dealing with the internment of Japanese-Americans that would be good for kids that young, either.

Hmmm, what about Sergeant York? Gary Cooper, Howard Hawks heroism AND pacifism, and it's old enough that it will not be too graphically upsetting. There's Sink the Bismark -- I can't remember how suitable that might be for kids.

It's WWI, not II, but All Quiet on the Western Front is brilliant -- sad as hell, though. Mrs. Miniver is a fun movie, but about the British homefront, so there's not much in the way of combat. The Great Escape might work for kids, although again, it's not focused on battles.
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#4 of 22 Old 03-22-2010, 06:15 PM
 
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Hey, how about The Longest Day? It's all about D-Day, so lots of heroism/combat, and it is (mind-blowingly) rated G. Tora! Tora! Tora! is rated G too (that one covers the attack on Pearl Harbor). AND there's Midway, about the battle of the same name. And there's A Bridge Too Far, but I can't tell from reading about it whether it would be good for little kids.
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#5 of 22 Old 03-22-2010, 06:22 PM
 
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We've been watching WWII movies lately, but my kids are older (6-10). We watched Sink the Bismark a few weeks ago. There was only one scene that was really graphic- towards the end of the movie when they actually sink the Bismark there are visuals of people being blown up and lots of blood. Other than that it's mostly drama.

This past weekend we watched Tora Tora Tora! and I definitely wouldn't recommend that one for preschoolers.

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#6 of 22 Old 03-22-2010, 07:02 PM
 
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You could always focus on the war in the Pacific.
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#7 of 22 Old 03-23-2010, 09:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post
Oorlogswinter looks pretty good, but I think it's for tweens/teens. It may be hard to locate too.
That movie looks really good but it might not be enough action to hold their attention. I think I will try to find it and watch it with DH and see. Thanks!

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I wouldn't touch anything that deals directly with the Holocaust (like Boy in the Striped Pajamas) that's just way more pain than 3- and 5-year-olds are equipped to deal with. I can't think of anything dealing with the internment of Japanese-Americans that would be good for kids that young, either.
I agree.

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Hmmm, what about Sergeant York? Gary Cooper, Howard Hawks heroism AND pacifism, and it's old enough that it will not be too graphically upsetting.
I haven't heard of that, I'll take a look, thanks!


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There's Sink the Bismark -- I can't remember how suitable that might be for kids.

It's WWI, not II, but All Quiet on the Western Front is brilliant -- sad as hell, though. Mrs. Miniver is a fun movie, but about the British homefront, so there's not much in the way of combat. The Great Escape might work for kids, although again, it's not focused on battles.
I've seen The Great Escape a lot and there is a lot of dialogue and generally would be hard for them to understand and might not hold their attention. The end is also hard because most of the escapees actually die before they reach freedom, if I remember correctly. Still, something they would be able to follow and really enjoy in a couple years or so.

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Originally Posted by Thalia the Muse View Post
Hey, how about The Longest Day? It's all about D-Day, so lots of heroism/combat, and it is (mind-blowingly) rated G. Tora! Tora! Tora! is rated G too (that one covers the attack on Pearl Harbor). AND there's Midway, about the battle of the same name. And there's A Bridge Too Far, but I can't tell from reading about it whether it would be good for little kids.
I will rent some of these and watch them with DH. There must be at least a couple that are suitable. Or I can do the old fast-forward edit. Thanks!

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Originally Posted by annethcz View Post
We've been watching WWII movies lately, but my kids are older (6-10). We watched Sink the Bismark a few weeks ago. There was only one scene that was really graphic- towards the end of the movie when they actually sink the Bismark there are visuals of people being blown up and lots of blood. Other than that it's mostly drama.

This past weekend we watched Tora Tora Tora! and I definitely wouldn't recommend that one for preschoolers.
Okay, good to know, thanks!

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You could always focus on the war in the Pacific.
In what way? Sorry, I'm feeling a little dense this morning.

Thanks, everyone!

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#8 of 22 Old 03-23-2010, 10:52 AM
 
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Arduinna, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect that the recommendation to focus on the war in the Pacific may be to avoid confronting subjects that would be very difficult for young children - the Holocaust, Japanese American internment, treatment of prisoners of war etc.

When people think of the Pacific war, it tends to be on the naval and air heroics...and I think a lot of films focus on that aspect.

For a more nuanced perspective, Clint Eastwood's recent movies (Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima) are very good, but not appropriate for young children.

Of course, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are easily avoided too, if you don't want to go there.

Overall, I think it's a really tough subject for children that age. Best wishes with it.
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#9 of 22 Old 03-26-2010, 10:25 AM
 
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I've remembered that there are some picture books about WWII that might be of interest. I don't know why I didn't think of them earlier - possibly because the OP asked specifically for films. In case it's of any use, perhaps look for the following;

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee Tai and Felicia Hoshino

So Far From the Sea by Eve Bunting

Home of the Brave by Allen Say

Sadako by Eleanor Coerr - a picture book version of the novel Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (there is a film version too).

The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin by Rubin and Weissberger

I thought there was a picture book version of Hana's Suitcase, a non-fiction book , but I couldn't find it. The book is based on a documentary, which you may be able to locate, but it's probably not something for 3 to 5 y.o.'s.

The Guests of War trilogy (The Sky is Falling, Looking at the Moon, and The Lights Go On Again by Kit Pearson may also be of interest, although they are novels.

HTH
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#10 of 22 Old 03-26-2010, 10:25 AM
 
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Not a movie, but I just read a book called Lonek's Journey that deals with a Polish boy's experience during WW2 and is geared at children older than yours, but still far less intense than The Boy in Striped Pajamas. It talks about conditions on the trains, and at work camp in Russia, struggling to get food, etc., but all the main characters in this one survive. I have been thinking of reading it to my kids so give them some perspective on what their great grandparents actually went through.

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#11 of 22 Old 03-27-2010, 12:28 PM
 
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actually i WOULD recommend stiped pyjamas movie. it is done in a very subtle style. it would go over the head of your 3 year old. but your 5 year old will enjoy it. dd saw it when she was 5 and it greatly impacted her. she is however a thinker kinda child who used to be way more sensitive - but that movie touched her in a v. v. deep way. it brought up a lot of issues for us whidh i really enjoyed talking to her about. of course seh is the kind of child who brought up the death penalty at 4.

however it is not a factoid movie.

i would include some charlie chaplin too. i cant remember which one. to show the impact of the war.

dd discovered slavery and the underground railway at age 6 and that deeply moved her too. however i figured out it was right for that age. it was a really moving experience for me to watch her thought process. esp. since i was amazed at all the things she brought up.

so what i am saying is i tend to introduce things a little on teh early side, if i think they are ready, because it really, really has a v. v. deep impact on them. i see dd's reaction at 4 to something is a little different than at 5. dunno. there is a subtle difference that i cant quite explain here. almost like before life touches them they can look at something and make pure judgement not influenced by anything else.

so what i am saying is i dont shy away from say something like the holocaust just because i think my child is too young. if i can find the right material like the boy in striped pj's - i would definitely introduce it early. it was one of the most sweetest time as a mother to see my dd to ask questions and figure things out.

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#12 of 22 Old 03-27-2010, 01:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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so what i am saying is i tend to introduce things a little on teh early side, if i think they are ready, because it really, really has a v. v. deep impact on them. i see dd's reaction at 4 to something is a little different than at 5. dunno. there is a subtle difference that i cant quite explain here. almost like before life touches them they can look at something and make pure judgement not influenced by anything else.

so what i am saying is i dont shy away from say something like the holocaust just because i think my child is too young. if i can find the right material like the boy in striped pj's - i would definitely introduce it early. it was one of the most sweetest time as a mother to see my dd to ask questions and figure things out.
Thank you, meemee, we are the same way. My oldest son is also sensitive and a thinker. We talk about death and "bad guys" and why people do bad things and have some pretty deep discussions for a five-year-old (and three-year-old). I think I will watch The Boy In the Striped Pajamas with DH and then see if it's something the boys are ready for.

And thank you jtbuko for all the other suggestions, I'll check them out!

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#13 of 22 Old 03-29-2010, 04:25 PM
 
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This isn't a war movie, but Bedknobs and Broomsticks is set during the war. The children move out of the city (where bombs were hitting) to live with strangers in the country. There is a battle scene, but it isn't scary. My kids love Sound of Music. Yours are probably at the perfect age for introducing musicals.
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#14 of 22 Old 03-29-2010, 04:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This isn't a war movie, but Bedknobs and Broomsticks is set during the war. The children move out of the city (where bombs were hitting) to live with strangers in the country. There is a battle scene, but it isn't scary. My kids love Sound of Music. Yours are probably at the perfect age for introducing musicals.
Oooh, I forgot about Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Good idea. I love musicals, I tried to groom the boys in that direction but it doesn't seem to have worked yet. Sometimes they tell me to stop singing. Lol.

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#15 of 22 Old 07-24-2011, 04:21 PM
 
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Hi, you must try the second Nanny McFee film - and also Goodbye Mr Chips has a German WW2 warplane crash in the school yard!!!

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#16 of 22 Old 07-24-2011, 07:05 PM
 
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WWII movies for 3 and 5 is a pretty big challenge!

 

I'm coming up with things along the lines of "Hogan's Heroes" or "South Pacific" or Cary Grant in his pink submarine in "Operation Petticoat".

 

"Hope and Glory" is actually a pretty light film about a young boy growing up in London during the Blitz and I recall it being very enjoyable.

 

If the interest is in fighter pilots --

 

There is "Battle of Britain" from 1969 -- lots of air battle scenes, but might be a bit violent for 3/5s.  Very dramatic!

 

There's also "A Yank in the RAF" -- that's from the 40's so its pretty child-safe, though more of a propaganda type film.  I remember it being not a great film, but probably the sort of thing you're looking for.

 

There is also a large segment on the Battle of Britain in Capra's "Why We Fight" series -- I saw it a long, long time ago, so I'm not sure how interesting/appropriate it would be.

 

In searching around to try to remember the name of "Hope and Glory", I ran across a mention of this movie (haven't seen, but sounds about right for you):

 

Son of Lassie
Joe Carraclough has grown into adulthood as a WWII RAF airman. And Lassie's son, Laddie, is so devoted to him that he secretly stows away on the plane when Joe leaves on a bombing run. When the plane is shot out of the sky over enemy-occupied Norway, Joe and Laddie parachute from the burning aircraft and begin their wartime adventures in this lively sequel.
 

The Great Escape is an absolute "NO" (at least in my view) -- the movie actually brings my Dad (who doesn't cry) to tears, as the prisoners we have gotten to know throughout the movie, escape, are recaptured and then gunned down by the Nazis.

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#17 of 22 Old 07-24-2011, 07:33 PM
 
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yup Great escape is NOT for a 5 year old. i watched it when i was 10 years old and i was very moved by it. i still remember it crystal clear and the beginning of my hero worship of steve mcqueen. i think my almost 9 year old is ready to watch it. 


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#18 of 22 Old 07-24-2011, 10:08 PM
 
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I would also question the idea that the war in the pacific was somehow not as bad.  The Rape of Manila, the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March...Japanese soldiers burning alive American POWs...  

 

I'm coming back to Hogan's Heroes for the 3-5 yo set!  You have the bonus of lots of episodes so it works better than a movie. 

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#19 of 22 Old 07-25-2011, 11:36 AM
 
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I would also question the idea that the war in the pacific was somehow not as bad.  The Rape of Manila, the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March...Japanese soldiers burning alive American POWs...  



Yeah, I was kind of stunned to read that post. I think though, that the level of violence, the extreme methods of torture, the suicide and murder of children (by their own families) to avoid being captured, and all of the events you mentioned - these are all things that we never learned about in school, and I assume many other Americans never did, either.

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#20 of 22 Old 07-25-2011, 11:50 AM
 
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I am dealing with the same WWII interest.  One single viewing of Sound of Music and Indian Jones has caused my son (6yo) to become obsessed with it.

 

I remember watching World at War (a PBS series I think) as a child but I have no idea if it is appropriate for kids that age.  Considering my family, it probably wasn't.

 

One that popped into my mind was Memphis Bell, which is 15 or so years old and it was about the US bombers.  I do remember some of the air fights show planes falling from the sky and it had a lot about the culture in England at the time.  I have no idea about the rating.  


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#21 of 22 Old 07-25-2011, 03:04 PM
 
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The first two of the new Narnia movies have a bit more war stuff than is present in the novels. Prince Caspian might still be a bit dark for young kids, though.

 

It might be worth checking out any movies based on Noel Streatfeild books? Ballet Shoes and so on? Most of her books, IIRC, are set casually during the war - the kids carry gas masks and talk about rationing and stuff. One of her books, When the Siren Wailed, is about evacuees, three siblings from London who go to the country... I believe my childhood copy had a "Now a BBC... something" cover on it. Don't know if it was a movie or TV show, though. Anyway, it might all be a bit girly for your sons, but it could be worth a shot?

 

Honestly, though, most WWII films will and should be too intense for a three-year-old! It's meant to be dark; it was one of the most horrific times of recent history; and it shouldn't be cutesied up, you know? I can think of several WWII films with light moments in them - La Vita e Bella, Mrs Miniver, The Great Escape, Mrs Henderson Presents - but they all show the horror of war in one way or another. I think to some degree, it's subject matter that's just inherently unsuitable for little kids.

 

That said, DH says that some of the Biggles books are set in World War II, although most are WWI. Your kids might go for that? There's also Chicken Run, although I guess the analogies would go right over their heads! And there's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which is kindasorta set in WWII... it's dieselpunk...


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#22 of 22 Old 07-25-2011, 03:20 PM
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Theater Shoes was set in WWII.  Ballet Shoes was set earlier.

 

It's probably a little on the strong side, but depending on your kids, Captain America might be OK.

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