For many parents, one of the great joys of raising children involves sharing experiences and traditions from their own upbringing. When it comes to movies and music, parents often hope these experiences will help mould their offspring’s taste to align with their own—making for seamless movie night selections. While some movies become dated over the years, this extra time together at home, due to recommended quarantine protocols, presents the perfect opportunity to revisit family-friendly flicks from the past few decades that have stood the test of time. These are some of the best childhood movies to watch with your little ones as you shelter in place.
The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is one of the most beloved family-friendly romantic comedies of the ‘80s. Adapted from the 1973 novel of the same name, this movie takes you inside the world of a storybook where a farmhand goes on an adventure to rescue the love of his life after she is kidnapped.
Get your kids ready for the live-action version of Mulan, set to come out in 2020, by watching this animated version of the film from 1998. Loosely based on a true story, this film follows a brave young woman named Mulan who pretends to be a man to take her elderly father’s place in the military.
It’s possible your kids will know the story of Annie and some of its songs from school musical productions. This musical film, set in the 1930s but released in 1982, follows an orphan named Annie as she waits for her long-lost parents to retrieve her from an orphanage in New York City, but unexpectedly finds a loving family in a wealthy man’s home.
The Wizard of Oz
Released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz is a film that your grandparents or parents likely introduced to you when you were young. Now, it’s time to pay if forward. After a tornado hits Dorothy’s home, she and her dog are transported to a magical land called Oz. In her effort to find the Wizard of Oz and return home, Dorothy learns a number of important life lessons and makes great friends with a scarecrow, lion, and tin man along the way.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
If your kids enjoy the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp, they’ll love experiencing Wonka’s wild world from a different perspective with the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Not only does the film teach the importance of being grateful rather than greedy, but it is incredibly imaginative and eye-catching for all ages.
Best reserved for tween and teenage kids, Sister Act follows a lounge singer named Deloris, played by Whoopi Goldberg, who is persuaded by the Witness Protection Program to pose as a nun after witnessing a murder. The film is comical, heartwarming, and full of great music. If your kids enjoy it, move on to the sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, when you’re done.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Your kids may have seen the more recent films in the Indiana Jones film franchise, but if you want them to get the full scope of Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr.’s story, you’ll have to go back to the first instalment, Raiders of the Lost Ark. In this film, Indiana is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis get it. This rated 13+ movie is definitely best reserved for older kids.
While several film adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women have been released over the years (most recently in 2019), you might be most familiar with the 1994 version. This movie beautifully depicts the March sisters’ experience growing up in post-civil-war America, and your kids will enjoy seeing recognizable grown-up actors like Claire Danes and Kirsten Dunst as children.
Now and Then
If you’re hoping to have a movie night with your tween or teenage daughter(s), Now and Then is a perfect choice. This coming-of-age movie follows four young girls during the summer of 1970 as they deal with crushes, changing bodies, and new family dynamics. It also shares glimpses of the girls as grown women in the ‘90s, providing a unique look at how friendships can be maintained for decades.
Angels in the Outfield
This is the story of a young foster boy who wishes that the Los Angeles Angels baseball team would win the pennant, so he can have a real relationship with his distant, widowed father. The film teaches kids to dream big and maintain hope in rough times. They might recognize the actor playing Roger, too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is now a well-known Hollywood film star.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Released in 1982, E.T. is a beloved childhood movie for many. The touching story of an unexpected friendship between a young boy, Elliott, and E.T. the extraterrestrial alien, transcends time and teaches children to care for others and open their hearts to new people and creatures.
Back to the Future
This movie ties in perfectly to the idea of seeing what things were like when your parents were young, and realizing your parents were once kids themselves. When teenager Marty McFly is sent to the past (his parents’ teenage years) through scientist Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine, he must find a way to get back home without making too much of an impact—to the point where he could lose his future.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
While parents might hope their kids don’t get any hints from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this childhood movie will allow them to experience the wonder that is a John Hughes movie. The film tells the story of Ferris, a charismatic teenager, who fakes being sick and spends the day exploring Chicago with his best friends, all while his principal tries to track him down.
Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope
Before your kids see the latest Star Wars movies, show them where it all began. Despite being filmed in 1977, this film holds up well in terms of story and special effects. Follow the adventures of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo—along with their companions R2D2, C3PO, and Chewbacca—as they attempt to save Princess Leia from Darth Vader, help the rebel alliance, and bring peace to the galaxy.
The Lion King
While numerous animated Disney movies have been released over the years, The Lion King stands out as a must-watch classic childhood movie. After his father is killed by his Uncle Scar, lion cub Simba is told to run away and never come back. In time, Simba must find a way to get home and reclaim his rightful place as King. Filled with music, humour, and tear-jerking moments, this movie has a little bit of everything.
While set at Christmas, Home Alone is fun to watch throughout the year. This film tells the story of Kevin McCallister, a young boy whose family accidentally leaves him behind when they fly to Paris for Christmas. Once “home alone,” Kevin must deal with two burglars who are trying to rob his home. When you’re done, follow it up with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
When Danny moves with his mom to a new city and finds he is a target for bullies, he seeks the assistance of Mr. Miyagi to teach him about self-defence through karate, but he ends up learning a number of life lessons along the way. The film’s central themes of feeling isolated and forming unexpected friendships will resonate with kids today, just as it did in the past.
The Little Rascals
Young kids are sure to appreciate the quirky crew in The Little Rascals as much as you once did. This 1994 remake of the classic TV show follows Alfalfa as he tries to charm his crush Darla, while keeping up appearances at his friends’ “He-Man Woman Haters Club.”
Your children will be incredibly thankful for their school and family after seeing this 1996 film. Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, Matilda tells the story of an intelligent young girl who doesn’t seem to fit in with her family. After discovering she has telekinetic powers, Matilda finds a way to turn things around and improve her life.