June 21, 2009 5:05 PM

Classic Movies for Boys - stir their masculine spirit!

samurai boy.jpgAs the mother of eight sons - the first string of four now grown men in their 20s - I can't emphasize enough how much I needed to learn to raise boys well.

You moms with young sons are in for a very special journey yourself if you allow God to teach you to step outside your own way of viewing the world. It takes a major paradigm shift for a woman to understand boys and to provide for their masculine potential.

There are many moments of surrender. I can remember so many times when my boys were roughhousing and I'd have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Be careful! Don't get hurt!" But instinctively, I felt like I wanted to do everything I could to avoid setting unnecessary limits on my boys.

As a former feminist I was used to looking at the word from the perspective that women were the norm and masculine behavior was deviant. Today, the once radical ideas of feminism have crept into our culture, suffocating our schools, which currently follow a learning template which girls can handle well but which is frustrating and stifling to boys. Boys learn best where there is physical activity and fierce competition.

But women, thinking competition "not nice" have seen to it that such opportunities are few and far between. Now every kid on the team gets a trophy so no one has hurt feelings. And all those medals and trophies and certificates have become cheapened and meaningless, leaving boys with nothing to strive for.

Their natural drive to compete gets them in trouble and they are made to feel ashamed about their drives, dreams and desires. Playground games, climbing structures, and in some schools even recess have disappeared.

And of course, the culture - through coarse and corrupt movies andTV - drives down their noblest impulses and replaces them with cheap humor and uncommitted sex.

Since I homeschooled my oldest sons, we were first of all able to break up the day and they had many more hours to be active, to explore and to find themselves as masculine creatures than they would have had in school.

I know they are grateful for that today.

Tripp and I also took a proactive approach - filling their hearts and minds with things that were noble and honest and true. A major part of that foundation was built on classic books and movies which would speak to their masculine spirit. Though I had a fairly extensive movie background, most of these were movies I'd never seen before having sons. And many I sill haven't seen - but the men in my family love nothing better than to watch them together.

This roundup of Classic Movies for Boys is a spin-off of a request for suggestions on books for boys which my husband Tripp put together. Zach - still recovering from his motorcycle accident/ankle surgery - was kind enough to link each to Amazon so you could read more about each movie. And even order if you like.

Many of these are available at your local library. All are available through Netflix - another good reason to join - as one MommyLife reader suggested, cut the cable and subscribe to Netflix for saving money and better viewing.

Note: a bold border indicates that the film may contain some mature elements not suitable for younger children.

John Wayne Westerns:

More Westerns

War /Epic/Adventure (past-present)

Japanese Samurai movies from which American Westerns were derived: Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Hidden Fortress (Star Wars derived from this)


Posted in Boys, Homeschooling, Movies | Permalink


One movie we found when our boys were little that they LOVED was The Great Race. It has old cars, planes, trains, cowboys, fencing and the best pie fight on film. It stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon with Peter Falk as the bad guys sidekick. The good guy is dressed in white, the bad guys are dressed in black and it has slapstick. It is long but sometimes that is an advantage.

Posted by: Jane Duquette | June 21, 2009 7:36 PM

Great post! Thanks for all the movie suggestions. We've got 2 boys, ages 12 and 9 (and maybe one more on the way!), and my husband had to work on me for a few years before I realized everything you just said is soooooo true. Now I'm actually able to watch them play rugby without flinching (much...). LOL

Posted by: Wendy in VA | June 22, 2009 8:50 AM

Momma and Zack: Thank you so much for gathering all of these resources for us!!!

As a mother of three boys I try to be very careful of what they watch. I don't want any of today's "girls rule, boys drool" mentality sipping into their young minds.

Now, perhaps for another post, could you elaborate into how to keep a good balance? I heard my son say something like "boys are better than girls" sort of comment and I didn't like that either.
How can I teach them that we are equal without going into extremes; for example, feminist say girls are better, 'machos' think they are better and women are to be their slaves. How did you raise your boys in terms of making allowances for them to be as masculine as they were created to be and to have an outmost respect for women? ( I deduct they hold women in high esteem just by looking at your family pictures and hear about their relationship with you, Sofia and Maddy, as well as Ben's commitment to his long time girlfriend and now beautiful bride....not to mention Zach's words about Anna during the rehearsal speech).

Thanks again for all you do! You are an awesome mentor.

Posted by: LadyLovas | June 22, 2009 10:13 AM

Barbara! Thank you so much for this list, and please thank Zach for his time and effort as well!
I did not grow up with brothers, and can use all the advice I can get on raising boys! The thing you mentioned about having a paradigm shift in thinking is sooooooo true!

To LadyLovas: There is actually a scripture in the bible about how God sees men and women as equal... I'll have to look it up in my concordance.:

Posted by: Lisa | June 22, 2009 4:00 PM

When my son, now 12 1/2 yrs., was younger, he was very "taken" with an episode of the Lone Ranger that we saw when staying overnight (we don't have cable or satilite at home). So, for his b'day we bought him the set of DVD's. He continued to be so influenced by the LR and pretended to be him so often (all of my children have always LOVED dress-up) that I would secretly use my hand to measure part of his face each evening as we were playing around before bedtime. In his stocking, I was able to gift him with a custom leather "black mask" that I had made for him. He was so cute in his hat, boots, and mask!

It is soooo important to encourage males to be masculine and girls to be feminine.

Thank you for gathering and posting this! I'll add many of these to my "boys" list.

I would love to see a similar list of books and movies for girls, too.....I always appreciate the input of families who are striving to raise their children to be who God intends them to be and with modesty, humility, patience, selflessness, etc.

Posted by: von | June 22, 2009 5:52 PM

Thanks so much for this post, perhaps an answer to my prayers - I have two sons, one almost 19 and the other 12 and they have outgrown my movie tastes. And I see why and need to make amends with them and get them some of these movies to watch so they won't have to watch unsavory movies that seem to tempt them or feel they have to watch girl movies with Mom and three sisters!!! This really has helped so much!

Posted by: kathy | June 25, 2009 8:39 AM

haha this looks like our movie collection. we have 7 boys :D

Posted by: Annette | July 20, 2009 7:11 AM

Great resource, I'm glad Google Reader suggested your link for today. I have two boys 7 & 4 but this will be great to add to my archives, there is just so much information out there!

Thanks again,

Posted by: Gabreial | July 23, 2009 8:38 PM

Just watched Defiance on Netflix. My hubby started it the night before when I went to bed early (one of the fun things about being pregnant- always being ready to go to bed:) and so I watched the last hour with him the next day. Even after only seeing the 2nd half of the movie, I was really moved by the brothers and their courage. Also by the perseverence of the people and their devotion and love of their Rabbi. All of it was very touching. We're buying it first chance we get, and I suggest you add it to the list for boys!

Maybe want to keep it for the 12 and up crowd though- there was a little sexuality (no nudity- really) and a lot of graphic violence, but the subject matter and the story (true story- good for a WWII history lesson for homeschoolers) make it really good for young men:).

Posted by: Sarah | August 17, 2009 10:52 AM

Wait, "Japanese Samurai movies from which American Westerns were derived: Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Hidden Fortress" - !!! - I think you mean that the other way around; "Seven Samurai" is the oldest, made in 1954. Whereas "Fort Apache" was made in 1948, "Rio Grande" dates from 1950; in fact, John Wayne was making westerns through the 1930s.

Nonetheless it's an interesting list and a very important subject (encouraging boys to grow into men). Have you considered adding "October Sky" or even "It's A Wonderful Life", both more subtle - but strong?

[Lynn, my husband and sons made that list. They were referring to modern westerns - e.g. The Magnificent Seven was derived from Seven Samurai. Not sure that John Wayne movies influenced Kurosawa, but Kurosawa definitely influenced the Westerns that came after him.

October Sky is on a list for boys I published elsewhere; it's omission was an accident, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

It's a Wonderful Life is on my list of Family-Friendly Films. I don't think of it so much as directed at boys/men.

Thanks so much for your suggestions!]

Posted by: Lynn | September 2, 2009 3:27 AM

We watched Ivanhoe while studying the Middle Ages. I will never forget my 6yo son sitting on a chair, wooden sword in one hand and wooden shield with Richard the Lionheart's emblem in the other. In one particular battle scene, he forgot himself and jumped up, swinging his sword and yelling, "FOR KING RICHARD!!!"

Posted by: Jackie | September 15, 2009 1:31 AM

"A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me".

"All I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother".

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time".

Quotes from Abraham Lincon

Posted by: Gail | October 2, 2009 9:59 PM

Hi all. Being a Dad and not a mom I don’t want to impose upon your page, but I couldn’t resist. I hope I am not breaking any rules here.

Some of you might know who I am. I’m David Hedrick, the Marine from Camas Washington who stood up to his Congressman in Washington State at a town hall. Many of you know me as the “Stay Away From My Kids” guy seen on Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I think this write-up is right on the money. Competition is a fundamental element in the lives of young men. This is true even in the classroom. I still remember my 8th grade history class with Mrs. Johnson. She had a board where she ranked the ten students with the highest grades in the class. I was number 1 on the list every week of 8th grade. Why? Because there was a list, that’s why! I can recall many times at night when I did not want to study or do my homework because of all the other options for trouble I could get myself into. Then, I would think about that list. Competing for that spot kept my nose in the book. As a young man, I needed that competition.

Thanks for this great article. You are doing great work with Mommy life Barbara.

God Bless all the 9/12 moms.

David William Hedrick

Posted by: David William Hedrick | October 7, 2009 3:54 PM

In most cases, the book these movies are based on are far better than the movies. In particular, the movie Captains Courageous is a mere shadow of the book, and barely merits the carrying the name. The book, however, should probably be on a must read book for all boys. It's life lessons have followed me since I read it.

Posted by: Paul | November 3, 2009 4:09 AM

I feel your viewpoint about boys can be potentially harmful, to both boys and girls. Yes, some boys love competition and physicality and I can totally appreciate your interest in trying to create venues where those boys can express those sides of themselves. However, some girls also thrive on being physical and competing, just as there are also boys who have little interest in engaging physically or in competing. I advocate for parents to follow and support the nature and personality of each individual child.
thanks for the discussion.

[Dawn, I hope you are not implying that I don't realize that there is a range of competitiveness/physicality within each gender and that there would be overlap - as though two circles had an area of intersection. I have 40 years of experience as a teacher, mother of 12 and grandmother of 12.

My main concern is that boys in our culture are not being allowed to be boys, that girls are considered the norm and boys aberrations, and that many mothers exert too much control over their boys and work to squash their masculinity. My writings and recommendations are offered as a way of opening minds to the unique needs of boys which are not being met as they were in previous generations. Boys need heroes and inspiration and the freedom to realize their potential as men.]

Posted by: Dawn Menken | November 7, 2009 4:51 PM

Dear Barbara,
I came to this site accidentally, and I am so thankful I did. Perhaps there really are no accidents. I am a single parent(Mom) of two amazing little beings! My daughter is 13 and my son is 11. When my kids were younger I didn't feel as pressured to find "masculine" entertainment for my son. But, as my son has gotten older I am learning that what you've said here is so true, and I am feeling very inadequate to parent a boy. I've never been a boy, you know:) Consequently I am always searching for new ways to be his parent without being such a "mom". I appreciate you affirming what I am finding to be true about letting "boys be boys". I hadn't thought of, but love, this idea of "male oriented" movies. My son loves movies and I see several here that I know he would love. I think it is time for my daughter and me to get in touch with our masculine side - we'll be watching these films as a family. Thanks!

Posted by: Suzanne | January 13, 2010 1:42 PM

Thanks so much for this post. I am new to your blog since reading a forwarded email from my homeschool group about your daughter being on American Idol. I'm so sad now that we don't have access to even basic tv channels or I'd watch just to follow her progress! My 13-year-old daughter's so disappointed!

Anyway... Again, thank you for this list and inspiration. I have 2 boys ages 11 and 8 and I have been at the end of my rope for probably a couple years now as to how to handle them. They are good boys - get compliments when we're out, but boy oh boy (ha ha) the roughhousing to the point of injuring each other, the fighting, the violence... You're absolutely right. I do need to learn more about mothering BOYS. I'm going to pass this list on to my husband as well, and I'm going to look into a good parenting book about BOYS.

God bless!

Posted by: Charlie | January 17, 2010 2:56 PM

Two old movies that my boys really enjoyed when they were young were Old Yeller and The Yearling. Also what do you think of David Copperfield--the old version and the newer one that Masterpiece Theater has done in which the Harry Potter guy played his first movie role and did an excellent job of it? I think these movies show boys as very strong, courageous and caring.

Posted by: CTM | January 24, 2010 2:13 PM

I stumbled onto your site looking for Boy Scout information. My son is 13 and has been in the Scouts since he was 7. It's a great organization. You have a lot of good advice about raising boys. I just wanted to add another movie to your list. The Red Baron (new release). My son loved it. It portrays honor and gives a good history lesson as well. There is some violence, so it may not be suitable for the younger ones.

Posted by: Lynn | September 10, 2010 8:01 AM

All my children are grown and moved out, but now as a grandparent, there still is the character building aspect. Although books are the main focus, a movie night with the grandchildren is awesome and your extensive list is so helpful. I am surprised, however that Chariots of Fire isn't included. The two main characters show an amazing contrast of standing up to one's convictions and being "bought" and the consequences of each.

A humorous one that could be considered a good boy movie (but also for girls) is The Princess Bride. I'd like to hear your feedback on this.

Posted by: kim | November 4, 2010 12:09 PM

I highly recommend an editing system called Clear Play (clearplay.com) It edits bad language and immoral images from many movies. It has 16 categories for editing. It helps protect our children from inappropriate images and language. I have had the system for 4 years and am extremely satisfied with it.

Posted by: Francis | December 13, 2010 1:47 PM

Looking over this list, those movies that we already own are our boys favorites! Thanks for the list to expand our favorites!

Another favorite...although a musical is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers! :)

Posted by: Mavis D | January 9, 2011 7:56 PM

I have five children, my son being in the middle. It is VERY girly at our house and this movie list is just what we needed. Thank you!

I would also add to this list "Secondhand Lions."

Posted by: Lisa | April 3, 2011 11:36 AM

Thank you for your interesting article. I grew up with 1 older sister & 5 brothers & loved it. My brothers were raised well to be solid, strong, humble, & thinking men. We all played all sorts of sports, studied & did well in school, attended Church, enjoyed the great outdoors, & enjoyed a great small town where we were taught to care for our neighbors. Thanks be to God, it has been a wonderful life. Please, remember to look up some good Christian movies & help them to know & love God, because when it all comes down to it...their relationship with God & their family is of the utmost of importance...& God helps us to be the best that we can be. Boys Town is a classic & the boys are not taught to be 'sissies' to use an old word. One of my favorite movies is Goodbye Mr. Chips with Robert Donat & Greer Garson. It shows boys in a boarding school & their professor during WWII. Donat won the oscar for it, beating out Clark Gable & many others in 1939, known as a year for great movies. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards for Outstanding Production, Best Director, Actor, Actress, Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Film Editing, & Best Sound. The whole family will like it. Enjoy!

Posted by: Gail | April 7, 2011 8:01 PM

I'm seconding so many of these suggestions! Especially The Princess Bride and Secondhand Lions. We also recommend Open Range (with Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner), Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, Inkheart, Master and Commander, and The Lord of The Rings trilogy.
Apologies if any of these are already on your list. :-)

Posted by: Laura | June 18, 2011 5:02 PM

Just stumbled upon your blog and glad I did... I actually just blogged this morning about this very topic and was looking for "Classic Boy Movie" ideas. So far this summer we have watched Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, and Old Yeller .... all as part of being "intentional" in our parenting of boys. Your post affirmed what we are doing over here and gave me some great movie ideas...thank you! ;)


Posted by: Cheri | July 23, 2011 2:03 AM

Okay....wait, wait, wait LOL... I just left you a comment and then popped back to your blog and perused a few of your pictures... and of course noticed the beauties with Down syndrome, so I looked further and then noticed your last name and instantly had to smile to myself because it dawned on me that you are the mother of my all time favorite American Idol contestant!!! LOL ... I even blogged about your daughter here http://raisingreid.blogspot.com/2010/01/heads-up-about-american-idol-tonight.html

I have 2 boys...my youngest is 4 and has Down syndrome! My entire family was/is enamored with your story. ...what a privilege it was to accidentally find you while searching for "Boy movies"!!


Posted by: Cheri | July 23, 2011 2:18 AM

I seldom recommend any movie since so few are free of sexual content which could be troublesome to anyone, not just children and young persons. I look at movies this way: would you tolerate this situation in your front room from visitors or family members, would you put this image on your front room wall or dining room wall? If the answer is no, why would you watch a movie where it is displayed? Movies like Pork Chop Hill I would recommend but there are so few like it. I would trim the list above to perhaps a dozen.

Posted by: Linus | December 16, 2011 8:16 AM

Linus -

By your standards, we shouldn't be reading the Bible because it contains many scenes and images of our sinful humanity. But just as God used stories to teach us, we can use a discerning eye to see which stories we can use to teach our children.

Also, just as Paul pointed out in the Bible, the limits God sets on you may be different than those He sets on your next-door neighbor. Just as parents see the individual needs of their children, so He sees ours.

So while you might feel led by the Holy Spirit to trim my list to 12 for your own viewing, that is not to say that I would be under the same directive.

Just some ideas to consider.

Posted by: Barbara | December 16, 2011 9:07 AM

A mom with an 8 year-old son, I've been trying to find non-cartoon movies showing people making moral and courageous decisions. Although some of these will need to wait until he is older.
I have found that the Stars Wars movies display heroism and also provide great opportunities for talking about good and evil, particularly how fear and a lack of trust (in God and His Will) can lead us to bad decisions and actions which allow evil to spread, not to mention damage our souls (i.e. as Anakin resorts to the "dark side" to prevent his wife's death).

I have found it frustrating that school does not build in enough time for physical activities to engage boys and feed their imaginations.
As another example of the non-competitive nature which seems to be deepening in our society, the school board for the district we live in voted last week (May 21, 2012) to eliminate the Valedictorian and Salutatorian from High School graduations going forward because it created "too much competition."

Posted by: Christine | May 29, 2012 12:36 PM

Praying for Barbara's family in this time of sorrow! God bless those who will miss her so much!

I would add to this great movie list OUR favorite classics of manly virtue: "Elfego Baca", "The Swamp Fox", and of course "Davy Crockett"! Others loved by our boys are "The Third Man on the Mountain", "Treasure Island", and "Swiss Family Robinson".

Posted by: caroline | October 31, 2012 11:39 AM

Praying for your family during this time.

What a great list of movies! Thank you so much!

Totally agree with Caroline above about Elfego Baca, Swamp Fox and the others.

Posted by: Christy | December 12, 2012 2:58 PM

I found your blog and I can't even remember how, but I'm glad I did. Very interesting and moving. Thank you for keeping it going.

Posted by: Venessa | February 2, 2013 8:56 AM

Love many of these movies and remember watching them with my dad (one brother/ six sisters, and all of us girls loved these movies too!). Here's a few of our favorites all based on real people: Cinderella Man, A Man for All Seasons, and Something the Lord Made.

Posted by: Julia | February 17, 2014 10:10 PM

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