Learning doesn’t have to be boring. Kids can learn from movies – especially if you take the time to prep them to watch and to have a discussion afterwards about what you hope they discovered.
Persistence is something I am trying to help instill in my own grandchildren. It is, I feel, THE most important characteristic to have to get where you want to go.
Below are a few of my favorite movies to teach tweens about persistence.
Unstoppable PG-13 (2010) Starring Chris Pine & Denzel Washington
In this thriller, a runaway train must be stopped before it hits a populated area and goes off track and explodes. Denzel is Frank, the experienced train engineer running engine 777 with Will (Pine) as his conductor – just out of training.
Frank and Will initially try to get their engine 777 out of the way of the runaway – heading straight towards them on the main track. Once the runaway passes, Frank decides to try backing up to hook onto the end of the train to slow it down so that someone can climb on and take control. Through multiple challenges, and in direct opposition to what the bosses are saying, and even though he has been notified that he is being retired early, Frank persists in trying to stop the train.
Will initially lets home problems interfere with work, causing him to make mistakes. Frank persists in demanding that Will pay attention to work and teaches him to do it right. In the end, Will, with an injured foot, jumps from the engine (going 70 MPH) into a truck bed which carries him to the front of the train where he is able to climb aboard the runaway engine
Wall-e G (2008) – Disney Pixar animation Starring voices of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin
Wall-e, Eve, Burn-e and the little robot who cleans up Wall-e’s messy tracks all consistently persist in their goals. Wall-e and Eve try and try to get the little green plant to the spot on the ship that will take the ship back to earth. Burn-e overcomes many frustrating problems to replace a light bulb on the ships exterior and the little robot who cleans the floor is practically anal about keeping it clean!
Pursuit of Happyness PG-13 (2006) Starring Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a risk taker who put his life savings on the line to buy portable medical scanners to resell at a profit. He persists in selling the scanners, even though they are hard to sell. He sees a chance to try for a financial broker internship (which turns out to be unpaid and highly competitive) and takes it once his wife leaves him.
In spite of doing multiple really stupid things (like leaving his expensive portable scanner with a stranger on the street), Gardner persists in keeping his son by his side through homelessness, getting thrown in jail for traffic tickets and other adversity and works smart and hard to meet his goal of winning the financial broker job.
Secretariat PG (2010) Starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Margo Martindale
Penny (Diane Lane) inherits a race horse from her parents and sets herself a goal of getting the horse to race and win. She goes against wishes of her spouse and her brother and multiple horse ‘experts’ to reach her goal.
My Fair Lady G (1964) Starring Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway
In this classic musical Eliza demonstrates remarkable persistence in learning how to change the way she speaks so that she can become ‘a lady in a flower ship’ instead of a street girl selling cast off flowers to passerbys. She succeeds in spite of working without any acknowledgment of her efforts.
Ratatouie G (2007) Disney Pixar animation Starring voices of Brad Garrett, Lou Romano, Patton Oswalt
Remy the rat (Patton Oswalt) has a dream. He wants to become a great French chef despite being a rat and going against society’s inborn phobia of rodents as well as his rat family. He persists despite the ridicule of his family, not knowing how to cook, the need to team up with humans and the disapproval of his father.
Chicken Run G (2000) Dreamworks animation Starring voices of Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Phil Daniels
Ginger the chicken (Julia Sawalha) tries and tries to find a way to organize a great escape (for all the fowls) from the chicken coop. When Rocky the rooster (Mel Gibson) comes flying over the fence, she just knows he can teach them all to fly. However, she soon finds out he is shot from a rocket at the local fair and can’t fly at all. Ginger persists in searching for ways to free them all and eventually succeeds, following several mis-steps.
A League of their own PG (1992) starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty
Although Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) is the ‘star’ of the movie, it is really Kit Keller (Lori Petty) her sister who is the persistent one. When major league ball takes a hit due to the men going off to fight in WWII, league owners organize a women’s league. Kit gets wind of it and is stoked to join up, but the recruiter is more impressed with big sister Dottie. He finally agrees to take Kit if she convinces Dottie to join up. But once on the field, it is Dottie who becomes the persistent one – finding ways to bolster flagging ball game attendance by showing the women how to be more flamboyant players. Along the way, the women convert has been player, now coach – Jimmay Dugan (Tom Hanks) from being a drunken side stander to becoming an active and involved coach.
Erin Brockovich R (2000) starring Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, David Brisbin
Former beauty queen and unemployed Mom – Erin (Julia Roberts) persists in convincing Ed Masry (Albert Finney), the lawyer who unsuccessfully defended her in a car accident case, to give her job as a legal assistant. When he hands her a case, expecting her to do some simple followup, she goes on the road for days to interview the plaintiff and gather facts. She persists in developing the case against giant PG & E despite being ridiculed in the office, doubted by her boss, and beset with child care issues. Due to her persistence, folks who suffered cancer due to PG & E illegal dumping of toxic wastes, end up getting financial compensation to help with medical bills.
True Grit G (1969) starring John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell
Teenager Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) is seeking vengeance against the murderer of her father. She is in town to pick up her father’s belongings to take them home, but decides to hire the best qualified person to help her hunt down the murderer – Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Wayne). This teen age fire ball, in a time way before women’s rights, speaks out, stands up and fights for what she wants – over and over again. She persists at every turn when society, Cogburn and others try to dissuade her from her goal. she hires her man, fights to go with him, and speaks her mind at every turn.