Teaching From Home

Three Movies that Teach Character

by:  John Crowder

John Crowder, Owner of Crowder Education in Pocatello, Idaho

As the repercussions attributable to the coronavirus expand, Americans are finding that their children’s schools are closing. In some cases, the school year is over. Many parents facing this situation are now looking at continuing their children’s education at home.

Parents are asking, “How should I teach math or language skills?” While considering how to move forward, one aspect of education to keep in mind is character development. In fact, this may be the most important thing to teach your children. Why is this the case? Well, it really doesn’t matter how well your child understands math if he or she develops the bad character traits of laziness, carelessness, or lack of responsibility. These negative character traits severely limit one’s ability to be successful in the future.

Beyond that, we all want our children to be positive contributors to their communities. We’d like them to have the fortitude to stand up for what is right, or to be able to lead in tough times.

Here’s good news: Movies can be a fantastic way to teach these traits. After all, would you rather hear someone lecture you on doing the right thing, or watch someone live out a positive character trait in a great film? I now I’d choose the latter every time.

To that end, here are three of my favorite movies that teach positive character traits:

High Noon

High Noon is a 1952 American western starring Gary Cooper. It tells the story of Will Kane, a small-town Marshall who is newly married and ready to retire. When Kane learns that a notorious outlaw that he sent to jail has been released and is on his way to the town to seek revenge, he must decide between duty and his love for his new bride. Besides being a great work of cinematography, the film depicts the tremendous strength of character that allows one man to put duty first, even when he must stand alone.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The book, To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, is still required reading in many high school classrooms, and justifiably so.

The book was put to film in 1962, with Gregory Peck starring as attorney Atticus Finch. Finch is called upon to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman, at a time of great racial strife. Finch is a quiet man, but with deep convictions, and he exhibits his inner strength in the face of overwhelming hostility, even facing down a lynch mob at one point.

The film is a realistic, and frequently dark, portrayal of the racial prejudice that at one time existed in America…the trial does not have a happy ending. It discusses mature themes. For your older children, though, you’d be hard pressed to find a better illustration of what it takes to do the right thing no matter the personal consequences.

Twelve O’Clock High

Twelve O’Clock High is an American war film made in 1949. It stars Gregory Peck as Brigadier General Frank Savage, who must take command of an air wing during World War II. The air wing has suffered devastating losses of both men and aircraft. These losses are ultimately found to be the result of a lack of discipline brought about by the previous commander who had grown too emotionally close to his men to effectively command.

Twelve O’Clock High examines leadership, and why discipline is so essential, especially in times of crisis.


There you have it. Three of my favorite films on teaching character. I recommend that parents watch the films with their children, and, after each, discuss the important lessons taught in each. At the private school that I ran for over a decade I also had my students write an essay on what they learned from each film.

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