When you think of movies from your childhood, you probably have some pretty fond memories of movies you have seen dozens of times. They’re the movies that you loved, that made you laugh and made you cry.
Do your kids have movies like that?
As a parent, it got to the point where I thought if I had to watch another animated movie I was going to scream.
When I look through the library of current family or coming of age movies, I find it difficult picking a movie that will have the same type of impact on my son that the movies I grew up with did for me.
So, I reactivated my old Netflix red envelope DVD subscription service and started getting the movies that I watched when I was young. So far, it’s been a huge hit.
See if some of the movies that I grew up with ring a bell for you.
I’m sure your kids will love them too. And not a single one of them is animated, or a musical.
Kids 10 and Under
Movies that your kids, especially the younger ones will really enjoy.
The Goonies (PG)
The Goonies might very well be the all-time best kids movie. It helped to launch the careers of Sean Astin, Kerry Green, Josh Brolin and Corey Feldman.
The plot of the movie revolves around a group of kids who live in a neighborhood, nick-named the Goondocks, that is being torn down to make way for a new fancy country club to serve the richer clientele in their town.
This group of kids go on an incredible, yet somehow believable journey to find a long lost treasure in hopes of saving their homes.
For added fun and suspense, they are doing this all while running from escaped convicts who want to kill them.
Steven Speilberg created a wonderful story that is funny, a little scary and is very kid-friendly while it has just enough ripe language to grab your young pre-teens attention as well.
This film has become such an iconic movie that it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Watch The Goonies on Amazon.
The Never-Ending Story (PG)
The Never-Ending Story is a movie about a teen boy, Bastian (Barret Oliver), who escapes the realities of his life through a book that takes him on a magical journey into the incredible mystical world of Fantasia.
He follows Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) on his quest to save his land from “The Nothing,” which threatens to destroy everything. Bastian soon realizes that Ateyu can’t do it without his help.
This movie really pulls on your heartstrings at times and comes as close to touching on the feeling of total despair as any kid movie I’ve ever seen. It’s quite an emotional journey.
Watch The Never-Ending Story on Amazon.
The Last Starfighter (PG)
In The Last Starfighter, a teen boy (Lance Guest) who lives in a trailer park, breaks the record on the resident video game machine but soon discovers that it wasn’t a video game at all.
Suddenly, he’s being recruited by an alien to become an elite starfighter to save the planet and the universe.
This movie is great for kids that find Star Wars a little too outer spacey. This movie has many of the same principles but keeps it a little closer to home.
Watch The Last Starfighter on Amazon.
Explorers is about three boys (Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix and Jason Presson) who find an extraterrestrial bubble that guides them into creating their own spaceship out of old junkyard material.
What they find when they go on their expedition into space is fun and unexpected.
This is an enjoyable movie that is lighthearted in nature, and any kid will love.
Watch Explorers on Amazon.
Flight of the Navigator (PG)
In Flight of the Navigator, David (Joey Cramer), a 12-year old boy, accidentally falls and loses consciousness in the woods. When he wakes up and returns home, he realizes that 8 years have passed, but he is still the same age and has no memories of those 8 years.He is then taken to NASA to find out what happened.
The movie turns into an incredible journey through space and time and, of course, involves a super shiny spaceship.
Space ships seem to have been a very popular theme in the ‘80s.
Watch Fight of the Navigator on Amazon.
Gremlins is like an introduction to the genre of horror, but for little kids.
Stephen Spielberg definitely knows how to appeal to kids, and he walks that line between too scary and just scary enough.
In the movie, Billy (Zach Galligan) is tasked with a huge responsibility of taking care of a lovable, adorable creature called a Mogwai. This new pet, Gizmo, came with three rules; no food after midnight, no water, and no bright lights.
When these rules are broken, Gizmo reproduces into Gremlins that try to destroy the town, and it’s up to Billy and his girlfriend (Phoebe Cates) to stop them.
This movie is as funny as it is scary. However, it could be a little too scary for younger viewers. Use your discretion.
While you may have just missed your opportunity for this year, the movie is technically considered a Christmas movie, so put it in your queue for next December.
Watch Gremlins on Amazon.
Pre-Teens and Older
These movies are wonderful choices for those slightly older, hard to please pre-teens. Your kids are too cool for everything except these awesome movies.
The Monster Squad (PG-13)
The Monster Squad is a movie that’s great for kids in that tricky 8-13 age group when they are too old for those baby Halloween movies, but too young for really scary movies.
It’s about a group of kids (Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Ryan Lambert) that try to save their town from the most notorious monsters in history that have come together to end the world.
This movie will give your kids an introduction to Dracula, Frankenstein, the mummy, the creature from the black lagoon, and the swamp thing if they aren’t already familiar with them.
It’s a wonderful pick for a Halloween movie.
Watch The Monster Squad on Amazon.
In Big, Tom Hanks plays Josh, a teenager in a man’s body, who has suddenly woken up to find himself grown-up after making a wish to be big.
He gets help navigating this world of adulthood with his still-teenage friend played by Jared Rushton. Of course, there is a love interest in the film played Elizabeth Perkins.
This Penny Marshall directed classic is a great movie for your whole family, and it’s a delightful reminder for adults not to let our kids grow up too quickly. There’s something to be said for always being a kid at heart.
While this movie is amusing and carefree and rated PG, there are a few sexually implied scenes that are sort of weird and awkward, being that the boy is only 13 in his mind.
You may find them uncomfortably hard to explain to your younger child, which is why I have it grouped with the movies for slightly older kids.
Watch Big on Amazon.
Better Off Dead (PG)
It would be impossible to create a list of great coming of age movies from the ‘80s that didn’t include a John Cusack movie.
While many of his classics (One Crazy Summer, The Sure Thing, Say Anything) could be on this list, I chose Better Off Dead because it is the most universal for both boys or girls and is by far the funniest.
In Better Off Dead, Lane Meyer (John Cusack), an aspiring skier, gets dumped by his girlfriend for the captain of the ski team.
Lane then contemplates how lousy his life is, and he would be better off dead, but he fails miserably at any suicide attempts.
Then he meets his neighbors’ new foreign exchange student (Diane Franklin), and things start to turn around for him.
Yes, it’s PG, but there are references to suicide and issues that involve high-school-aged characters that younger kids would not find interesting.
So it is better off being viewed by older kids.
Watch Better Off Dead on Netflix.
This is the movie that came out before the musical.
You might think of this movie as a musical, but it actually isn’t. No one sings, but there is a lot of dancing and it has a fantastic soundtrack.
Footloose was a huge stepping stone for Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer.
When Ren (Kevin Bacon) moves from the city to a backward, in the middle of nowhere farm town, he soon learns that all forms of dancing and any fun music have been banned by the conservative local preacher (John Lithgow).
Of course, the preacher has a beautiful daughter (Lori Singer) who catches Ren’s eye.
This isn’t just a love story, but it is also a story about standing up for what you believe in, and it shows that there is nothing wrong with having a little good clean fun.
Watch Footloose on Amazon.
Dirty Dancing (PG-13)
There’s not much I can say about Dirty Dancing that you don’t already know.
But just in case you need a refresher, here it is.
“Baby” (Jennifer Grey), a teenager who is getting preparing for college, spends the summer at a Catskills resort with her family in the ‘60s. She begins to hang out with the dance instructors who work there.
As she falls in love with Johnny (Patrick Swazey), the head dance instructor, she learns about more than just dancing.
Your middle-school-age daughter will watch this movie non-stop for years. I know I did.
Watch Dirty Dancing on Amazon.
Stand By Me (R)
Stand By Me follows four boys (River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman) on a journey to find a dead body in rural Oregon in the late ‘50s and is based on a Stephen King novella, “The Body.”
Rob Reiner’s direction of this film is a great example of how he is able to take a story that takes place during a certain time period and make it relatable to kids of any generation.
The film is rated R primarily for a ton of foul language with some sexual undertones, but if you don’t mind that it is a fabulous coming of age story that both boys and girls will enjoy.
Watch Stand By Me on Amazon.
The Shining (R)
The Shining represents yet another Stephen King story turned into a classic movie.
This movie is for those kids that complain that kid’s movies aren’t scary enough. While this isn’t technically considered a kid’s movie or a coming of age story, it’s just a straight-up scary story, and my kid loves it so I think yours will too.
The reason I like this movie is that it achieves a high level of suspense and fear without being violent or overly graphic.
Stanley Kubrick did a great job creating that feeling you get when you just don’t know what is going to happen next, and Jack Nicholson shows you what crazy really is.
The Shining was also selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Watch The Shining on Amazon.
Any Age, Especially the Young at Heart
These movies are classics for any age. They are the movies you can watch every year and never get sick of the plot. Introduce your children to these classics and start getting them in your movie night rotation sooner rather than later.
The Princess Bride (PG)
Rob Reiner makes another appearance on our list with another period piece, and he really pulled out all the big stars for The Princess Bride.
This epic comedy has a list of talented actors that could go on forever. The leads are played by Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn and many others.
The plot of this movie entails a Grandfather (Peter Falk) who is keeping his grandson (Fred Savage) entertained by reading a love story about a princess and a farm boy. The farm boy Westley (Carey Elwes) falls in love with a princess (Robin Wright) and vows to come back for her someday.
The story follows the farm boy through his adventures with pirates, crooked royalty, thieves, swordsman, scary rat-like creatures and a whole lot more. — all for his quest of true love.
This movie is hilarious and yet sincere and endearing all at the same time.
There are cameos throughout this movie from wonderful comedic actors and it’s just a great time all around.
Not surprisingly, this film has also been inducted into the National Film Registry for its cultural significance.
Watch The Princess Bride on Amazon.
Back to the Future (PG)
Back to the Future was the movie that made Michael J. Fox famous.
Marty, played by Fox, accidentally gets swept into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean. While he is there, he has to find his crazy Scientist friend (Christopher Lloyd) and enlist his help in getting him back to the future.
His plans for returning get complicated when he bumps into both his parents as teenagers, which messes up the natural course of his life.
This Robert Zemekis film is not only appealing to your kids but is still very entertaining for the adults as well.
Back to the Future is another film that is so iconic it has been inducted into the National Film Registry.
Watch Back to the Future on Amazon.
The Karate Kid (PG)
Ralph Macchio has become so synonymous with The Karate Kid you may have forgotten that he actually was in other movies.
This is the story of a teenage boy, Daniel (Ralph Macchio), who moves into a new neighborhood and finds himself the target or some very brutal karate adept bullies.
He enlists the help of his landlord Mr. Miyagi played by Pat Morita to learn Karate to defend himself and catch the girl (Elizabeth Shue).
It’s a great story of the underdog overcoming all odds and being able to achieve anything without being a jerk.
Watch The Karate Kid on Amazon.
Ghostbusters is a comedic Halloween classic that even comes with its own iconic song.
Every adult has seen this movie; it’s definitely time to share it with your kids.
Who doesn’t love the misfit foursome of Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson who reluctantly become poltergeist exterminators as the city becomes increasingly overrun with ghosts?
Sigourney Weaver plays Dana Barrett, who becomes possessed by a demon who wants to take over the world. Our ghostbusters must step up to save the day.
This movie is entertaining and humorous and even ridiculous at times. It’s a great pick when you are looking for something that offers nothing more than pure entertainment value.
And without a doubt has also been preserved for its iconic status in the National Film Registry.
Watch Ghostbusters on Amazon.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (PG)
Since we have already established that Stephen Speilburg really knows how to make a kid’s movie, we can also assert that he knows how to make everyone movie. E.T. The Extraterrestrial is an everyone movie.
It’s the story of how a boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) becomes emotionally connected to a lovable alien whose family accidentally left him behind on a recent excursion to earth.
Everyone should see this movie regardless of their age.
It has fun, adventure comedy and yes, it’s quite the tear-jerker. Not to mention it has one of the best John Williams movie soundtracks of all time.
It was nominated for nine academy awards and won four and has also been included in the National Film Registry for culturally significant films.
That’s not a bad showing for a little film about an alien.
Watch E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on Amazon.
It’s Movie Night
Now there are no excuses.
You have a library of movies that will appeal to everyone in your family.
So gather everyone around, make extra popcorn and have a good old-fashioned movie night.