Family Movies with Underlying History, Ancestry and Genealogy Themes

Movies tell stories of fiction and non-fiction on almost every genre and topic imaginable. Take a look at a few movies that can teach us about history, family values and the importance of family togetherness. Have you watched any of these movies and had some genealogy or ancestry thoughts come to mind?

Fievel: An American Tail (1986)

From this blog from December 2016, we reviewed a movie about an immigrant mouse and his family that emigrated from Russia to America. This movie could be a great way to introduce your children to the concept and maybe even tell them about how their ancestors came to America. While the movie is based on fiction, it has a lot of real world scenarios throughout the story.


Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

Here is a heart warming movie that involves a middle-aged woman, Evelyn, who befriends an older woman at a local nursing home. This woman, Ninny, tells Evelyn stories about her past that involves growing up in the Great Depression, racism, loss of family and friends and domestic disputes. Their relationship flourishes and Evelyn takes the stories and applies them to her own everyday life.

The movie plays out these stories that make you think about how life could’ve been like for the people living in that area during the Great Depression.

The lesson here is to always listen to the older generations and the stories that they tell. Once they pass away, so do their stories and memories. While this movie is fiction, it has story lines that could have really happened.


Back to the Future (1985, 1989, 1990)

Has anyone realized how much genealogy is involved in the Back to the Future movies?

This franchise has three movies full of action, comedy, drama and a touch of hidden genealogy.

  1. In the first movie, Marty goes back to 1955 and meets his parents and grandparents. 
  2. The second movie, Marty travels into the future to 2015 and meets his children.
  3. In the final movie, Marty travels back to 1855 and meets his second great grandparents who were Irish immigrants.

In each of these movies, he encounters his family and has to protect and save them from situations that could alter his own present-day existence. However, he cannot let them know who he is. During his time travels, he notices family traits that are carried on in the generations such as how he has a striking resemblance to his second great grandfather and how the various men in the family do not like to be called chicken.

Can we call this living the genealogy dream? Wouldn’t it be great if we could time travel like Marty did?


Addams Family (1964 TV Series, 1991 and 1994 full feature films)

Of course, they’re creepy and kooky but they’re still a family. They love and spend time with each other in ways others would find unconventional and weird but that’s okay. Don’t we all have weird relatives?

The Addams Family was introduced as a TV series in 1964. The Addams Family came to the silver screen in two movies released in 1991 and 1994.

Throughout the TV show and movies, there are a few scenes that involve the family cemetery. The family cemetery contains some interesting headstones of numerous Addams family ancestors. Just imagine if this was a real family and the stories these ancestors would tell. What would this family tree look like? What would research into their ancestors reveal? 


The Parent Trap (1961 and 1998)

We can’t forget the Disney movies “The Parent Trap”. The original was released in 1961 with a reboot in 1998. Each of these movies involves twins who are not aware that they have a twin which they run into by accident. These movies are full of comedy, mischief, and mayhem as they reunite with each other and even try to get their parents together so they can be real sisters.

How would you feel if you found out you had a twin that you never knew about?


This is Where I Leave You (2014)

On a more serious note, here is a movie with four grown adults whose father just passed away. As per the final will, his children must return to their childhood home and stay together for a week. The siblings don’t necessarily get along and the goal of the late father’s plan is to make them spend a week together to create a new sense of family unity and togetherness for the future.

Have you watched a movie that isn’t listed here that gave you thoughts about genealogy or learning about the history and past of the older generations? Maybe watched something that gave you some ideas on how to connect and relate better with your family. Has anything you’ve watched given you ideas on new research methods? Tell us about it in the comments!