With the celebration of Chinese New Year this month, this is a great time to enjoy all that is wonderful about Chinese culture. For the Lunar New Year, why not enjoy a family movie night? This list has animated classics for younger children, and great Chinese movies to enjoy with older kids and teens. Several of the Chinese movies for kids weren’t produced in China, but nevertheless offer a respectful nod to the culture.
Don’t see your favorite on this list? Tell me in the comments section!
The movie about a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man to enter battle in her ill father’s place delivers a positive message of staying true to yourself. Other than a couple of misplaced jokes about drag and cross dressing, this Disney animated film really holds up. Recommended for a movie night with your little princess.
Kung Fu Panda 1, 2, & 3
Excellent choices for your family movie night with kids of different ages. Jack Black as Po the chubby panda and extremely unlikely martial arts hero is funny and memorable. Plenty of slapstick humor, and a little on the formulaic side, but definitely crowd pleasers.
Common Sense Media has a positive take on this movie. Never heard of it? It’s the highest-grossing Chinese animated film of all time, and the result is pretty engaging: “Parents need to know that Monkey King: Hero Is Back is a 2015 Chinese computer-animated film in which Jackie Chan plays the titular hero who is inadvertently freed by a little boy 500 years after a displeased Buddha banished him to an ice cage beneath the mountains.”
It’s the Disney Junior Mickey Mouse Club House that we all love with a global adventure for your little ones. Along with countries like France and Egypt, Mickey and the gang visit China and have to figure out a hack for getting over the Great Wall. Enjoy this with your little ones 6 and under.
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Family-friendly National Geographic documentary about the Wolong Panda Center in China that emphasizes conservation. A straightforward documentary is a little slow for younger viewers but inspiring for its message.
King of Masks
I love this movie about an old street performer who seeks an heir to teach the ancient art of making and performing with extraordinary quick-change masks. He buys a son at a market where children are for sale, only to discover later that he has spent his small fortune on a girl in disguise. Outraged, he threatens to abandon her. Yet he cannot walk away so easily. Roger Ebert called King of Masks a “film of simplicity, beauty and surprising emotional power.” He also recommended it for children eight and up.
NOTE: Films contain adult themes and content.
The Blue Kite
A powerful movie chronicling a family’s journey through the Cultural Revolution as viewed from the eyes of a child. “The power of this film comes from its resolutely human focus,” said Roger Ebert. It’s a movie that portrays the simple daily existence and human interactions during this time of great upheaval. The film almost wasn’t completed due to censorship.
The Last Emperor
Winner of nine Academy Awards, this fabulous movie portrays the life of Emporer Pu Yi, who lives in the Forbidden City. It follows his life through decades of political turmoil from the age of three. A stunning visual masterpiece by the great Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci.
The Joy Luck Club
A touching film based on Amy Tan’s novel of the same title, exploring the lives of Chinese mothers in San Francisco and their grown Chinese-American daughters. A meaningful way for families to start a conversation about how different cultures adapt, or fail to adapt, to the American way of life.
Coming in spring 2017: DisneyNature’s Born in China
DisneyNature documentaries are fantastic. I can’t wait for this one in time for Earth Day.