Judy Garland in her Easter bonnet, Charlton Heston in a chariot race, Snoopy dancing on the lawn with bunnies … it’s all part of the springtime festivities surrounding the Easter season. Take a look at ten movies guaranteed to cheer some bunny you love (yeah, I know, lame, couldn’t resist).
1. “Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade”
When dancer Nadine Hale decides to branch out on her own, she leaves partner Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) in the lurch. So he vows to take the next dancer he meets as his new partner. Fortunately for him, the girl he picks happens to be one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century, Judy Garland.
Details: Directed by Charles Walters and written by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Sidney Sheldon, this movie stars Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Peter Lawford, and Ann Miller. Released in theaters July 8, 1948; on DVD March 15, 2005. Not rated, but ok for all ages. 103 min.
Why It’s a Great Easter Film: Ok, so you could drive a truck through the flimsy storyline, but Astaire and Garland’s great chemistry more than makes up for it.
2. “The Ten Commandments”
When his Hebrew heritage is revealed, Moses (Charlton Heston) is cast out of Egypt. He makes his way across the desert where he marries, has a son and is commanded by God to return to Egypt to free the Hebrews from slavery.
Details: Directed by Cecil B. DeMille and written by Rev. J.H. Ingraham, Rev. A.E. Southon, Dorothy Clarke Wilson, and Aeneas MacKenzie, this movie stars Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter and Edward G. Robinson. Released in theaters Oct. 5, 1956; 50th Anniversary Collection DVD on March 21, 2006. Rated G. 220 min. (watch in installments!)
Why It’s a Great Easter Film: The parting of the Red Sea, the “Angel of Death” vapor, Moses leading the Israelites to freedom … they don’t make epic movies like this anymore. Filmed in Egypt and the Sinai with one of the biggest movie sets ever built, this is a love letter to the Old Testament.
3. “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown”
Easter is coming, and Charlie Brown is frustrated over the Christmas pre-sales at the local stores. Sally wants a new pair of shoes. Peppermint Patty is teaching clueless Marcy how to color eggs. Snoopy is shopping for a new bachelor pad for Woodstock. And Linus is busy telling everyone about the Easter Beagle, who rises up on Easter morning to give eggs to all the children (sound familiar?).
Details: Directed by Phil Roman and written by Charles M. Schulz, this movie features the voices of Dylan Beach, Sarah Beach, Liam Martin, and Greg Felton. Released on DVD March 4, 2003. Not rated, ok for all ages. 25 min.
Why It’s a Great Easter Film: Because it does your heart good to see Snoopy dancing on the lawn with his bunny pals.
4. “Ben Hur”
Charlton Heston plays a Jewish nobleman named Judah Ben-Hur. Enslaved by the Romans, he gets revenge during a high-stakes chariot race in the Roman Circus. More importantly, he witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Details: Directed by William Wyler and written by Lew Wallace, Christopher Fry and Gore Vidal, this movie stars Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet and Stephen Boyd. Released in theaters Dec. 10, 1959; on DVD Feb. 25, 2003. Rated G. 212 min.
Why It’s a Great Easter Film: Because nothing celebrates the season like a deadly chariot race – one of the best stunt scenes in cinema history! That, along with the final haunting scene of a shepherd driving his flock near the three empty crosses, makes this film a winner on all levels. No wonder it won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture in 1960. Not rated; ok for kids 12 and older. 214 min. (installments!). Get a load of that famous chariot race…
5. “Miss Potter”
This movie tells the story of Beatrix Potter, author of the beloved children’s books starring Peter Rabbit. She struggles for love, happiness and success at a time when women were not supposed to support themselves or have career
Details: Directed by Chris Noonan and written by Richard Maltby Jr., this movie stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Barbara Flynn and Bill Paterson. Released in theaters Dec. 29, 2006; on DVD June 19, 2007. Rated PG for brief mild language. 93 min.
Why It’s a Great Easter Film: It’s a live-action movie, but the whimsical little bunnies in Miss Potter’s drawings actually spring to life and jump off the page. Sweet!
6. “The Easter Bunny is Comin’ to Town”
In Kidsville, youngsters make their own laws, run their own shops, and stay up as late as they want. (In short, it’s total anarchy.) Each Spring, everyone – including Sunny the Bunny – pitches in to celebrate the season.
Details: Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, and written by Romeo Muller, this movie features the voices of Fred Astaire, Skip Hinnant, Bob McFadden, Allen Swift, and Ron Marshall. Released on DVD March 7, 2006. Not rated; ok for all ages. 50 min.
Why It’s a Great Easter Film: It’s fun, playful and retro, and it teaches kids about all those traditions like Easter Egg hunts, egg-rolling contests,
and Easter bonnets.
7. “The First Easter Rabbit”
This story begins with a little girl whose mother is forced to throw away all her toys, including her favorite plush bunny named Stuffy, when she becomes ill. However, Stuffy is saved and brought to life by a fairy. She sends him to Easter Valley where he’s supposed to become the first Easter Bunny; however, an evil creature named Zero threatens to ruin everything. As you might have guessed, only Stuffy can save Easter Valley.
Details: Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. and written by Julian P. Gardner, this movie is narrated by Academy Award winner, Burl Ives. Was first shown as a television special in 1976. Deluxe edition released Feb. 2010. Not rated; ok for all ages. 25 min.
Why It’s a Great Easter Film: This sweet classic is a classic good vs. bad story with a fun Easter twist.
8. “Alice in Wonderland”
Re-imagined by Tim Burton, this is a visually stunning new take on a classic story. Alice is living a fairly ordinary life until she falls down the rabbit hole smack dab into a madcap world complete with the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and the frantically late White Rabbit.
Details: Directed by Tim Burton, and written by Lewis Carroll and Linda Woolverton, this movie stars Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Mia Wasikowska as Alice. Released in theaters July 28, 1951; on DVD Jan. 27, 2004. Rated PG for for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar. 109 min.
Why it’s a Great Easter Film: It’s got a rabbit AND a hare. What more could you ask for at Easter time?
9. “Rolie Poie Olie: An Easter Egg-Stravaganza”
This 3-D series pays homage to the cartoon shorts of the early 1930s, telling the story of a young robot and his family, as they celebrate Easter traditions in their happy world.
Details: Directed by Mike Fallows and written by Erika Strobel, this movie features the voices of Cole Caplan, Kristen Bone, and Michael Cera (Yes, the guy from ‘Juno’ and ‘Arrested Development’). Released on DVD May 9, 2006. Not rated; ok for all ages. 75 min.
Why It’s a Great Easter Film: Because the sweet ‘bots are bright and colorful and perfect for little ones just learning about Easter.
10. “Barney: Egg-Cellent
Barney the dinosaur shines in three new Easter-themed episodes all available on the Egg-cellent Adventures DVD. The episodes feature special appearances by Mother Goose and the Easter Bunny.
Details: Released on DVD March 2, 2010. Not rated; ok for all ages. 42 min.
Why It’s an Excellent Easter Film: This is great introduction to Easter for pre-schoolers, and the DVD includes fun games as bonus features.
Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print and online publications, including The New York Times, People Magazine, Variety, Moviefone, TV Squad and more. Follow her on Twitter at @reellifejane.