Seven family movies to spark conversations about money

Family Day and winter weekends often include flicks at home, so I’ve compiled a list of age-appropriate films with a financial literacy theme.

If watching TV or movies with your kids is anything like it is at my house, the process involves a lot of questions. “Why would Darth Vader do that?” “What does ‘inconceivable’ mean?” “Is this real or make-believe?”

So, next time you’re looking for a movie the whole family can watch together at home, why not choose one that can leverage your children’s inquisitive nature and potentially start a discussion about finances?

Here are a few possible titles, most of which can be streamed through Netflix, iTunes or other online services — and, depending on where you live, might even be available to borrow from your local public library:

Star Wars (original trilogy 1977–1983, PG)

That “scoundrel” Han Solo finds out the hard way that unpaid debts lead to a world of pain (such as being frozen in carbonite by Darth Vader and sold to Jabba the Hutt), and that friendship, loyalty and love trump monetary rewards.

Millions (2005, PG)

Seven-year-old English boy Damian finds a bag with hundreds of thousands in stolen cash and he and his nine-year-old brother, Anthony, try to figure out what to do with it. Directed by Danny Boyle (who also made Slumdog Millionaire), this film is much more innocent, but just as powerful. Worth it for this gem of dialogue alone:

Anthony: We can’t tell Dad about this! We can’t tell anyone about this.
Damian: Why not?
Anthony: Tax. If the government were to find out about this, they’ll take 40 per cent of this away. Forty! Do you know how much that is? Nearly all of it!

You Can’t Take It With You (1938, G)

If you’re a fan of the 1946 holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, you’ll probably enjoy this earlier Frank Capra film, which also stars Jimmy Stewart. Themes include the triumph of kindness over greed and the importance of putting family before possessions.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988, PG)

This Francis Ford Coppola biopic stars Jeff Bridges as 1940s auto maker Preston Tucker, and chronicles the struggles of a visionary entrepreneur in an industry dominated by large corporations. Lots to unpack here in a post-screening conversation.

A Little Princess (1995, G)

Based on the 1905 novel of the same name, this film serves as a welcome antidote to the girl-is-saved-by-handsome-prince storyline. (Because that always happens, right?) Here, seven-year-old Sara is sent away to boarding school during World War I, but must become a servant at the school when she learns her father died. She continues to believe she — and all girls — are princesses, just as her father taught her.

Catch Me If You Can (2002, PG-13)

This is Steven Spielberg’s fast-paced account of Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the biggest fraudsters of all time. He starts forging cheques at the age of 17 and later pretends to be a doctor, lawyer and airline pilot, but the law does eventually catch up with him. A cautionary tale for teens (it’s not appropriate for younger children), proving there are no shortcuts to wealth.

Maxed Out (documentary, 2006)

This is another one I’d limit to teens, but it’s particularly eye-opening for high-schoolers soon heading off to university or college. A startling look at the predatory practices of credit card companies and the effects of debt on individuals and families.

Keep the conversation going

What’s your favourite movie about money? Will you watch it with your kids? Post your comment below.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.