5 movies that teach empathy and compassion

Kids hugging at food bank
February 7, 2020
by Paul Morello

The Academy Awards are around the corner and if you’re anything like us, you are scanning the best picture list to complete your last-minute viewings. Movies can inspire and offer us new experiences that teach us something about ourselves or others.

At Feeding America, we’d argue we could all stand to have these experiences more often. Unless you’ve lived it yourself, it is hard to imagine what struggling with hunger is truly like. We know what it means to be hungry for lunch or even miss a meal, but many of us can’t wrap our heads around what it is like to not know how we are going to get our next meal.

That’s why we have put together a list of family-friendly movies we urge you to sprinkle into your Academy Award watch-list. Each is sure to teach your family about the importance of having empathy and compassion for others.

Inside Out (PG, 2015)

This adorable film won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It’s the story of a young girl’s emotions embodied as characters who help guide her through a tough time in her life. Not surprisingly, a film about walking, talking emotions does a great job of illustrating the importance of all emotions. It also teaches us why it’s important to empathize with others and understand their feelings.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (PG, 1982)

One of the all-time classics, E.T. explores the friendship between a boy and an alien stranded on Earth. The film is all about teaching empathy, compassion and understanding. The main character creates a strong bond with a being he can hardly communicate with, who is totally different from him and who others are afraid of. Ultimately, the film teaches us that it’s important to stand up for others who are commonly misunderstood.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PG, 2019)

This is the story of Fred Rogers’ real-life relationship with a reporter profiling him for a piece on cultural heroes. The film focuses on the pair building a relationship and in the process, the reporter opens his heart to father figures, including his own dad. 

Beauty and the Beast (G, 1991)

The “tale as old as time” was the first animated film to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Initially repulsed by the beast, Belle eventually loves him as she sees past his looks to uncover the kindness within.

Freaky Friday (PG, 2003)

In this family comedy, a mother and daughter are struggling to relate to each other and are forced to literally walk a mile in each other’s shoes when they switch bodies. When they must live each other’s lives they begin to understand more about their each other and themselves in the process.