While the majority of 2013's Oscar-nominated films aren't appropriate for family audiences, they do offer some valuable educational opportunities for mature tweens and teens. We've even rounded up several ways you can use the 85th annual Academy Awards to teach your kids some valuable lessons — and enjoy great movies together in the process.

1. Explore the Historical Context

  • Best Picture nominee Lincoln, which is rated PG-13, offers a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our nation's 16th president. After viewing, encourage your teens to explore the film's historical context by reading a biography of this notable figure.
  • Les Miserables, another Best Picture nominee (also rated PG-13), is set in France against the backdrop of the Paris Uprising of 1832. Ask young viewers to compare how different life was in that time and place than it is for us today.

2. Discuss Themes and Characterization

Teaching children to understand literary concepts like theme and characterization can sometimes be easier through movies than books. After watching a film, ask questions about which characters they liked and disliked, and what messages they thought the movie's director was trying to convey.

  • Brave, a nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, can be used to discuss issues like authority, rebellion, family dynamics, and mother-daughter relationships.
  • Wreck It Ralph, also nominated for Best Animated Feature Film, is a fun way to talk about characterization, and how filmmakers develop each character's unique qualities.

3. Don't Forget the Documentaries

Documentaries have an educational component built right in, so it's impossible to watch one without learning something. One of the hottest contenders in this category this year is Bully, which many parents feel has started powerful and necessary conversations about our national bullying epidemic.

4. Analyze Filmmaking Techniques

Today's teens already know quite a bit about how images and sound are edited, manipulated, and combined to create a film. But do they know as much about how the techniques a director uses can influence the themes that emerge and the way we experience the story?

The PG-rated Best Picture nominee Life of Pi has been praised for its beautiful cinematography and ability to tell a story through visual images. Pay attention to long shots, close-ups, and camera angles, and think about how these impact the overall film. Also try to read the book the movie is based on, and debate whether the film does justice to the original version of the story.

5. Explore Oscar History

Don't limit yourself to only watching this year's nominated films; many of them revolve around some pretty heavy topics. Did you know classic family favorites like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Mary Poppins, and The Sound of Music are all past Oscar winners?

The Sound of Music is an excellent film for teaching about the effects of Hitler's regime in countries throughout Europe, while all three films revolve heavily around parent-child relationships and can easily set the stage for conversations about trust and understanding in your own family.

Have you watched any of the 2013 Oscar-nominated films with your kids? Do you believe that movies (even the animated ones) can be educational?