Ben Gates is an historian and treasure hunter who’s a bit like Indiana Jones: He never gives up.
His entire adult life he’s been searching for the “Knights Templar Treasure,” which legend says contains not only priceless artifacts from history but also the greatest fortune ever amassed. In fact, Gates’ great-great-great-great-great grandfather – who lived during the Revolutionary War – also hunted for the treasure and left his descendants clues about its possible location.
But not everyone share’s Ben’s obsession. In fact, his father thinks he’s nuts. That begins to change when Ben (Nicolas Cage) gets a big break and discovers that the original copy of the Declaration of Independence – the one being closely guarded in Washington, D.C. — likely contains a major clue. His goal: steal the Declaration of Independence, decode the message, and find the treasure. Crazy? Yes! Impossible? Maybe not!
It’s all part of National Treasure (PG), the 2004 film that mixed a bit of history with a lot of conspiracies and legends. It also left history teachers across America pondering: What do we do with this? Most of them embraced the film, believing it could whet children’s attitude for history and lead them to want to discover the true story. That’s what I did with my kids.
National Treasure begins streaming Jan. 1 on Netflix. It is rated PG for action violence and some scary images. It also has a slight bit of sensuality, which means you might want to have a remote handy to skip a scene or two. It also has one instance of h—l and a handful of OMGs.
If you’re not a fan of National Treasure, there are plenty of other options:
Cars 3 (G, 2017) — Remember when Lighting McQueen ruled the Piston Cup – when he won championships at ease and celebrated by doing donuts on the infield? Of course: Everyone does! Sadly, though, time has caught up with him, and his winning days are over. But maybe he can make a comeback. Cars 3 was one of my favorite movies of 2017, and it had lots of great lessons for the family. Animated. Streaming Jan. 31.
Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World (unrated, 2017) – Five hundred years ago, a monk by the name of Martin Luther took a stance that change not only church history but world history, too. This documentary aired in 2017 on PBS and was directed by David Batty, who also helmed several excellent movies about Christ, including The Gospel of John (2014). Jan. 1.
Llama, Llama, Season 1 (2018) – Based on the delightful series of award-winning books by Anna Dewdney about a llama family. Jan. 26.
Also noteworthy for parents, with warning about coarse language: Apollo 13 (rated PG, but likely deserved a PG-13, 1995 – Jan. 1); The Truman Show (PG, 1998 – Jan. 1).
A Ghost Story (R, 2017) – A thought-provoking drama that likely should have been rated PG-13 and not R, A Ghost Story is the type of movie that sparks discussions about life, death, grief and love. Rated R for brief language and a disturbing image. Jan. 7.
Also noteworthy for parents, with warning about coarse language and mild sensuality: Freedom Writers (PG-13, 2007 – Jan. 1); Grantchester: Season 3 (TV-14, 2017 – Jan. 19).
The Parent Trap (G, 1961) – The classic tale about twin girls trying to reunite their divorced parents. Camera trickery allowed actress Hayley Mills to play both girls. Jan. 1
The Parent Trap (PG, 1998) – In this remake of the 1961 film, Lindsay Lohan stars as both twin girls. Rated PG for some mild mischief. Jan. 1.
Other notables: Duck Dynasty, Complete Seasons 10 & 11 (Jan. 1); Flip or Flop: Complete Season 5 (Jan. 1).
Also noteworthy for parents, with warning about coarse language and mild sensuality: Freedom Writers (PG-13, 2007 – Jan. 1); This Is Us, Season 2 midseason premiere (Jan. 10)
— by Michael Foust
Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Visit his website, MichaelFoust.com