Watching Musical Movies With a Loved One Living With Dementia

by | June 14, 2021 | Care Tips, Resources

Tips for watching musical movies together, helping your family stay connected during the Alzheimer’s journey.

Watching musical movies together can be a wonderful way to connect with your loved one living with dementia. You may be able to enjoy a non-musical movie together, especially if the film features comforting elements such as babies, children, animals, and familiar settings. Musical movies, however, will likely be more helpful in connecting your loved one with special memories, and they provide opportunities for creating new memories as you join in singing together.

Here are a few movie-watching tips to help connect your loved one with memories and emotions.

Eliminate distractions.

Close the windows. Dim the lights. Move clocks or other visual distractions out of the line of sight. Keep the focus on the movie.

Turn on the subtitles.

Seeing the words on the screen may make it easier for your loved one to follow along and better connect with the movie. So, turn on captions or subtitles, or look for a singalong version of the movie. (We found singalong versions of three of our favorites. See links below.)

Keep one hand on the remote.

Be prepared to pause the movie if your loved one wants to ask questions or talk about the movie. Remember, you’re watching the movie to help them connect with memories, so be ready to let them share some of those memories. You may even want to mute the non-musical scenes of the movie, so you can talk with each other between songs. If a song is a particular favorite, use the rewind button and sing it again.

Pop some popcorn.

This is a simple way to engage all five of the senses, helping your loved one connect with memories. Let them hear the familiar popping sound. Then put it in a nice wide bowl so they can see and smell it, then feel it and taste it.

Find the right movie.

It may take a while to find your loved one’s favorite. Be prepared with a few different options. Your local library probably has a collection of musical movies on DVD. If you are renting online, have a few different titles ready to go before you start. If a selection doesn’t resonate after the first two or three songs, try another.

You can find comprehensive lists of musical movies on sites such as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Here are three helpful lists I found:

We enjoyed watching musical movies with my mother-in-law, Trish, while she was living with Alzheimer’s. Here are our personal favorites, with links to purchase on Amazon. (Note: As an Amazon Associate, Songs & Smiles earns from qualifying purchases. We may receive a small commission if you purchase items after clicking on a product link or image.)

Annie 30th Anniversary Sing Along Edition (Blu-ray HD Digital Copy)

We like the 1982 version starring Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney, and Carol Burnett. Familiar tunes include “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard-Knock Life.”

The Sound of Music Sing-Along Edition

This 1965 film starring Julie Andrews is filled with singable songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein, including “Do-Re-Mi” and “My Favorite Things.”

The Wizard of Oz – Singalong Edition [Blu-ray] [1939] [Region Free]

This 1939 film never gets old. Judy Garland gets the story started with “Over the Rainbow.” Then the real fun begins with the “Munchkinland Medley” and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

The Music Man [Blu-ray]

Meredith Wilson wrote the music for this 1962 film, including singalong favorites “76 Trombones” and “Pick a Little, Talk a Little.”

Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition

Julie Andrews lights up the screen in this musical movie from 1964. The singable soundtrack features “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”

Watching musical movies together was one way our family started Facing Alzheimer’s With Songs, Smiles and Joy. We hope you and your family find ways to stay connected with your loved one, creating new memories along the way. Share Your Story with us, and add your favorite musical movies in the comments section below.




    This list of musicals was delightful! I bought a box of popcorn for when needed! Thank you.

    • Eric Kolb

      We’re glad you like our list. Good idea with the popcorn!


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Filed Under: Care Tips | Resources
Author Bio: Eric and his wife, Sheryl, founded Songs & Smiles to support families during the Alzheimer's journey. He loves singing and smiling and helping people living with dementia connect with beautiful memories.

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