If planning a date night feels like a lot of pressure, take heart, and keep it simple! Josie Ortega makes the case for spending quality time with your loved ones and a classic movie.
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I'm not heading out on the town this Valentine’s Day. And I’m more than OK with that. With kids on the scene, there’s little incentive for my husband and me to hire a babysitter and pressure ourselves to enjoy a pricey meal, staying up way past our bedtime. Who’s yawning with me?
On the other hand, although I embrace my homebody side with the best of them—sweatpants on!—even I get tired of the same old Netflix scrolling. When we feel like there’s nothing on TV, even though we literally have access to more content that we could ever consume in a lifetime, that’s our cue: watch a classic!
I’m going to recommend a few light-hearted, feel-good classic comedies for a change of pace—either with some carefully selected wine and cheese for a different kind of fancy date night, or just to switch up your weeknight TV routine.
Here are six of my top classic movies of all time:
If kids are staying up and watching, they’ll probably LOL at these screwball comedies right along with you. Or, at least you can feel that you’re building their character by making them watch something in black and white.
I honestly find each of the following films to be laugh-out-loud funny, and for the most part, appropriate for children. You’ll see innuendo and outdated stereotypes, which, overall, are less problematic than the annoying things my kids pick up from movies intended for them. (I’m talking to you, bunnies who sing, “Look at her butt!” in Sing. My son really loved that line.)
Check Common Sense Media for details on each movie, as well as some good questions to talk about with your kids. You might discuss the way slang has changed over the years, for example. Instead of discounting a great story because of one outdated idea or inappropriate behavior, using those instances as a springboard for conversation will prove to be more fruitful. One example: movies have led to our best age-appropriate conversations with our kids about alcohol and how drinking too much makes people sick.
With no further ado, choose a great film for your next date night or family movie night:
Crusty reporter Clark Gable encounters spoiled heiress Claudette Colbert, and in pursuit of a story, helps her run away from her life of privilege. They may or may not fall in love.
You get to see Clark Gable’s abs—shocking!—which allegedly hurt the undershirt business for years. There’s also a famous classic scene in which Claudette Colbert stops a car by showing a little leg. You’ll also see one of the best wedding dresses in film. Gorgeous.
It Happened One Night is one of only three movies to win all major Academy Awards: best picture, actor, actress, director, and screenplay.
(You may have seen the loose remake, Roman Holiday, with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Also wonderful.)
William Powell and Carole Lombard make an unlikely pair. She finds him, a bum on the street, in order to win a New York society scavenger hunt, and subsequently hires him as her family’s butler. Shocking as this may be: they may or may not fall in love. The mom in this one cracks me up. (There’s also a 1957 remake with David Niven, whom I adore—but the original is widely regarded as superior.)
Cary Grant plays a paleontologist who gets mixed up with Susan, an impulsive heiress played by Katharine Hepburn, as well as her docile pet leopard Baby, whom he misunderstands to be a dangerous wild animal. Hilarity ensues, and get this: they may or may not fall in love. Film historians often describe Bringing Up Baby as the defining “screwball comedy.” Watch and notice how the film’s physical humor and mix-ups influence later movies.
More Cary Grant, in another story that's so fun that it spurred multiple remakes, including the 1975 version The Front Page, with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Carol Burnett. More crusty reporters, more risking relationships to get the scoop. (The 1931 version of The Front Page is also available on Amazon Prime.)
This classic is absolutely one of my favorite movies, with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn at their best. Jimmy Stewart completes the love triangle. I also love the 1956 musical version, High Society, with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. (Plus Louis Armstrong!) You can’t go wrong with either of those.
Out of desperation, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis disguise themselves as members of an all-female band, where they meet Marilyn Monroe’s character Sugar. (People may or may not fall in love, and that’s the funniest part. That, as well as the cross-dressing.)
The bad guy mobsters in this classic could be scary for kids. And one historical note: the mafia execution that Joe and Jerry (Curtis and Lemmon) witness in Chicago before joining the band is the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. Therefore, it’s weirdly perfect for Valentine’s date night!
Each of these classic movies appears somewhere, or multiple times, on American Film Institute’s lists of top movies of all time. And you may have noticed that several of them were popular enough to be remade, several times. Bottom line: these are funny stories that are well told.
I hope you find a new classic for your family. What are your favorite classic movies and date night traditions? Tell us in the comments, and your relatives via FamilyApp.