Great Classic Films for Every Member of the Family

Classic Movie Gifts with a Message

Classic movies make great gifts, enjoyed not only by the recipient, but by everybody in the household. Here’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek list of great classic films for every family member on your gift list.

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For Mom - 'Mildred Pierce' - 1945

Mildred Pierce
Mildred Pierce. Warner Brothers

Ever worry you're not the perfect child your mother wants you to be? Wait until she gets a load of the thankless daughter in this soaper from a James M. Cain novel. You're an angel by comparison, trust me. Mildred Pierce dumps her cheating hubby, makes it in business on her own, sacrifices everything for her spoiled daughter and her sleazy boyfriend -- and gets kicked in the teeth for her efforts. Joan Crawford won an Oscar for her comeback performance in this melodramatic film noir.

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For Dad - 'To Kill a Mockingbird' - 1962

To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird. Universal

Make your dad feel like he's the greatest dad in the world…or just feed his insecurities by showing him the best movie dad ever: Atticus Finch. A moving film based on Harper Lee’s coming-of-age novel,

To Kill a Mockingbird

wrestles with issues of race, poverty and mental illness in the small-town South of the depression era. An American masterpiece starring Gregory Peck, with Robert Duvall in his first movie role.

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For Your Bratty Little Sister - 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' - 1971

Willy Wonka
Willy Wonka. Paramount

A delightful cautionary tale about the pitfalls of greed and excess among modern children. Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka, the quirky candy maker from the Roald Dahl book, who seems oddly unconcerned when children on a tour of his magical factory meet with very satisfactory accidents brought on by their own greed, selfishness and bad manners. With silly songs and amazing set designs, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 original, is subversive kid lit for the whole family.

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For Your Wonky Little Brother - 'The Absent-Minded Professor' - 1961

The Absent-Minded Professor
The Absent-Minded Professor. Walt Disney Productions

What kid wouldn't like to get his hands on a little flubber? That’s the rubbery, gravity-defying glop invented by Fred MacMurray of the title role in this sweet old Disney charmer. So wrapped up in his invention he forgets that he’s supposed to be getting married to his long-suffering fiancee (again), the absent-minded professor almost loses her to the campus wolf. Flubber to the rescue! It’s a little hokey, but still imaginative, satisfying, family-friendly fun.

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For Your Crazy Aunt - 'Arsenic and Old Lace' - 1944

Arsenic and Old Lace
Arsenic and Old Lace. Warner Brothers

Screwball comedy with Cary Grant discovering that his beloved aunts have been dispensing poisoned elderberry wine to elderly gentlemen who come to their rooming house, and sending them peacefully to the hereafter. Dear nephew Teddy conveniently believes he's Teddy Roosevelt, and buries the victims in his Panama Canal (the basement). As Cary notes, "Insanity doesn’t run in my family. It gallops!" Based on a hugely successful stage play, it’s about as frothy and fun as multiple murders get.

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For Your Fabulous Aunt - 'Auntie Mame' - 1958

Auntie Mame
Auntie Mame. Warner Brothers

Dazzling costumes, sparkling dialogue, jaw-dropping sets, catchy tunes and Rosalind Russell in the role of a lifetime as Auntie Mame, shepherding her beloved nephew Charley through an unconventional upbringing in New York. She runs through a couple of fortunes and a few good men, but no matter what life throws at her, fearless Mame conquers all with warmth, humor and boundless generosity - not to mention the support of a deliciously catty and utterly faithful best friend. Russell won an Oscar for this tour de force, appearing in almost every scene.

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For Your Bachelor Uncle - 'The Apartment' - 1960

The Apartment
The Apartment. United Artists

Jack Lemmon in the bittersweet tale of an office nebbish who lends his bachelor apartment out to his married superiors for their illicit trysts, in hopes of getting ahead in the firm. Mostly what he gets is a nasty cold from waiting in the rain outside his own apartment, and a nasty shock when he realizes his oily boss is messing with the elevator operator he's falling for himself (Shirley MacLaine). Billy Wilder wrote and directed this funny, sad and tender movie, and Lemmon is perfect in The Apartment, a film that might have faltered in the hands of lesser talents.

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For the Family Dog - 'Old Yeller' - 1957

Old Yeller
Old Yeller. Walt Disney Productions

Every beloved pet is a heartache waiting to happen, so be prepared to wipe away a tear with your big ol' paw at the end of this classic canine movie. Young Travis can't stand the big, ugly yellow dog when he first sees him, but Old Yeller works his way into the frontier family's lives and hearts. A huge 170-pound Labrador-mastiff mix named Spike played the leading role in this film, getting into woodland scrapes with various animals. Disney child star Tommy Kirk made his mark here as well.

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For the Family Cat - 'The Three Lives of Thomasina' - 1964

The Three Lives of Thomasina
The Three Lives of Thomasina. Walt Disney Productions

This is Old Yeller for cat lovers. Patrick McGoohan is a Scottish veterinarian, a cold, embittered widower who has no time for his daughter Mary when her precious cat Thomasina falls ill. Thomasina herself narrates the tale, along with her near-death trip to kitty heaven and her miraculous revival by the town "witch." An absorbing tale about love, loss and redemption, and the ability of animals to help us heal ourselves. Great acting and a terrific cast, with the children from Mary Poppins appearing here again as brother and sister.