4 Timeless Money Lessons From Children’s Movies

by Emily Guy Birken · 12 comments

movie money lessons

Growing up, you absorbed a myriad of lessons from popular culture. No matter when you grew up, it’s likely that one of the movies you watched as a child helped shape how you think about money—without you even realizing it.

Here are four iconic children’s movies from the past 40 years, and how they may have influenced your view of money:

children's money movies1. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Charlie Bucket lives in extreme poverty with his mother and father and both sets of grandparents. His life changes when he finds a golden ticket in a Wonka candy bar, giving him the opportunity to tour Willy Wonka’s zany chocolate factory.

The money lesson: Your integrity is more valuable than any amount of money.

Throughout the movie, Charlie shows that he values his integrity more than money. When Willy Wonka refuses to give him the promised lifetime supply of chocolate, Charlie simply gives the candy back to Wonka, who surprises him by offering to give him the entire factory. Clearly, there are some things more important than money.

The (additional, not-so-positive) money lesson: Money protects you from the consequences of your actions.

On the other hand, the story also makes it clear that being insanely wealthy (like Willy Wonka) means you can act any way you please — without repercussions. In addition to employing slave labor (the Oompa-Loompas), Wonka allows four different children and their parents to be seriously injured in his non-OSHA compliant factory.

2. The Princess Bride (1987)

The lovely and poor farm girl Buttercup finds and loses the love of her life, Westley. Five years later, the prince wants to marry and then murder her in order to start a war, and her kidnappers end up working with a very-much-alive Westley to rescue her from that fate.

The money lesson: Follow your passion, but get a side job to pay the bills.

Inigo Montoya is one of the would-be kidnappers of Princess Buttercup, but he’s only doing kidnapping work to pay the bills. His real passion in life is finding and killing the six-fingered man who murdered his father. But, as Inigo puts it, “There’s not a lot of money in revenge.” Inigo is smart enough to be practical about his choice of career.

3. Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin is a young street urchin in Agrabah, and he dreams of one day becoming royalty — particularly after he meets the beautiful princess Jasmine. After finding a magic lamp containing an all-powerful (but imprisoned) genie, Aladdin pretends to be a prince to win Jasmine’s hand.

The money lesson: Don’t let money change your relationships.

After Aladdin experiences the life of a rich prince, he has the opportunity to wish for it to be permanent. But instead, he wishes to free the genie, just as he promised. Despite the fact he’ll miss out on marrying the princess, he knows his friendship with the genie is more important than riches. In the end, making the decision that is right for his relationship with the genie means he impresses Jasmine’s father and gets the happy ending anyway.

4. Up (2009)

Carl and Ellie dream of adventure in faraway Paradise Falls, but sadly, Ellie dies before they’re able to make their dream a reality. Carl decides to take his entire house (and an accidental stowaway in the form of a local scout) on the adventure of a lifetime.

The money lesson: Save up for the things you want to do.

Throughout their life together, we see Carl and Ellie diligently saving for their trip to Paradise Falls — only to find that they need to break the piggy bank to pay for “life happens” moments. Even though the trip money is never used for their adventure, we find out at the end that Ellie felt her life with Carl was the greatest adventure she could have. Their savings still bankrolled their adventure together, even though it wasn’t the one they planned.

What other movies have you learned money lessons from?

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