The answer to “can empathy be taught” is a resounding yes!

Given the state of the world, you might be wondering, “Can empathy be taught?” Right now, we’re living in a very polarized society; we’re isolated, and shared tables are literally off-limits right now. No matter where you are or what age you are, we think that empathy is both innate and learned. These 15 kid-friendly flicks are perfect to watch as a family to help open children’s minds, teach them to be more empathetic, and give you some warm and fuzzy feelings too!

Can empathy be taught? These movies say YES!

  1. Zootopia
    1. Best for Ages: 8+
    2. In a Nutshell: Zootopia is set in a world where all the animals up and down the food chain live in harmony. A bunny is newly enlisted to the local police force and enlists the help of a sly fox to crack her first case.
    3. Best Line: “The more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be.”
  2. Beauty and the Beast
    1. Best for Ages: 8+
    2. In a Nutshell: The animated “tale as old as time” is remade into a live-action film that teaches children to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate, curious, humble, and generous. As the beast begins to open his heart, you’ll find that the answer to “can empathy be taught” is a resounding yes!
    3. Best Line: “She warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within.”
  3. Inside Out
    1. Best for Ages: 6+
    2. In a Nutshell: A young girl makes a move with her family to San Francisco. As she grows and settles into her new city, house, school, and friendships, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness – grow, compete, and bond together too.
    3. Best Line: “You can’t focus on what’s going wrong. There’s always a way to turn things around, to find the fun!”
  4. Wonder
    1. Best for Ages: 10+
    2. In a Nutshell: A boy with a genetic facial difference navigates through life at his new school, encountering his fair share of bullies and friends. Can empathy be taught? Watch and see it happen before your eyes.
    3. Best Line: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”
  5. Soul
    1. Best for Ages: 8+
    2. In a Nutshell: A man dies and finds himself trapped in a world between Earth and the afterlife, where unborn souls reside until they’ve developed a lust for life and shining personality.
    3. Best Line: “Here in this place nobody worries about having their soul lost.”
  6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
    1. Best for Ages: 7+
    2. In a Nutshell: A peaceful but strange little alien is accidentally left on Earth where he is discovered by a young boy named Elliot. Elliot and E.T. make an unlikely friendship as they try their best to communicate and keep E.T. out of sight until he can return back home. Can empathy be taught, even if it means relating to an alien? You’d be surprised!
    3. Best Line: “I’ll be right here.”
  7. Tangled
    1. Best for Ages: 5+
    2. In a Nutshell: Tangled is a modern take on the classic tale of Rapunzel, only this time, the damsel in distress is a resilient and fiery young woman who does her own saving! Along the way, she meets new people and creatures from all backgrounds as they help each other to achieve their dreams.
    3. Best Line: “This is just part of growing up; a little adventure, a little rebellion.”
  8. Trolls World Tour
    1. Best for Ages: 6+
    2. In a Nutshell: A sequel to the popular “Trolls” movie, the world tour follows a group of trolls who must compete against other musical groups, protect their music style, and learn about all the differences in musical taste and cultural preferences.
    3. Best Line: “Happiness is inside all of us. Sometimes you just need someone to help you find it.”
  9. The BFG
    1. Best for Ages: 7+
    2. In a Nutshell: This is the live action version of a classic children’s book, The BFG. In this story, a Big Friendly Giant (BFG) captures an orphaned girl. Luckily, this giant who is an outcast among his kind keeps her safe and the two grow to become close friends.
    3. Best Line: “The matter with human beans is that they is absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is seeing it right in front of their schnozzles.”
  10. Wreck-it Ralph
    1. Best for Ages: 7+
    2. In a Nutshell: In this video game-themed movie, a “bad guy” deserts his game and develops a ragtag group of misfit characters to prove that he’s not so bad after all.
    3. Best Line: “There’s no one I’d rather be than me!”
  11. Pete’s Dragon
    1. Best for Ages: 7+
    2. In a Nutshell: In this remake of a Disney classic, a young orphaned boy is raised by a friendly and furry dragon. Together, they must convince other humans that the woods and all the creatures that inhabit it are worth protecting.
    3. Best Line: “I’ll be your candle on the water. My love for you will always burn.”
  12. Imba Means Sing
    1. Best for Ages: 8+
    2. In a Nutshell: This lively documentary follows members of the African Children’s Choir (Number 39) on an 18-month tour of the United States while teaching children certain African dances and songs.
    3. Best Line: Choir member Nina on why she wants to become a pediatrician “I love children and can’t imagine a world where children are in pain and not living long enough to fulfill their dreams.”
  13. Kindness is Contagious
    1. Best for Ages: 9+
    2. In a Nutshell: A kid-centered documentary that uses scientific and anecdotal data to prove that kindness pays off better than being “cutthroat.”
    3. Best Line: “Nice guys finish first.”
  14. My Life as a Zucchini
    1. Best for Ages: 11+
    2. In a Nutshell: An animated movie about a boy nicknamed Zucchini who goes to live in a group foster home after his mother dies. He soon learns about what family and love truly are, and how to trust others.
    3. Best Line: “He holds her tight because he’s afraid she’ll go.”
  15. Hugo
    1. Best for Ages: 8+
    2. In a Nutshell: Based in 1930s Paris, a young boy living in a train station partakes on a strange adventure using (and befriending) his late father’s automaton.
    3. Best Line: “Everything has a purpose, clocks tell you the time, trains take you to places.”

Looking for more activities to inspire empathy in your children? Try signing up for Mission I’m Possible! It’s a fun play-based weekly activity that’s paired with introspective empathy-building questions. Sign up for free and watch a movie in between challenges to keep the empathy rolling!

At H-A-P-P-Ē.Life we have created programs to support the continuous development of your psychological health and well-being. We are dedicated to helping you navigate life more fully and successfully through fun programs aimed at you and your child’s social, emotional, and mental health. The Mission I’m Possible series contains short videos designed to teach kids lessons about self-awareness and relationship development. They are enjoyable activities you can do together as a family that impart valuable skills. To sign up for the Mission I’m Possible series at no charge, click here.