Recently, I was discussing movies with a friend. Not “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” or anything out in theaters lately like in the present century. The movies we were talking about weren’t more recent than 1999 because that was the last time I stepped foot in a movie theater. (O.K. I exaggerated. The last time I saw a movie in the theaters was in 200o, the year before I gave birth to my first child.)
Our discussion centered on all the movies we loved as kids that we’d now like to pass on to the next generation. At 7, 9, 10, and 12, our kids are finally old enough to appreciate something other than Disney princesses, and for that we are grateful.
So I went back to my roots. I plumbed the depths of my cinephile soul to compile a list of fantastic, fun-for-all, Disney-free, family films of the 80’s accompanied by my notes to help you gauge the suitability/compatibility factor for your kids. Here, now, I give you:
10 Summer Movie Classics for the Whole Family
E.T. Any list would be remiss without this all-time classic. An undisputed king among family films, E.T. has not lost it’s magic or the cute factor from a little Drew Barrymore. The movie does come with one, teeny, tiny word of caution. As a child (the exact age I can’t remember), I vividly recall being sickened by the sight of E.T.’s frail, ghostly white, maggoty body while he grew closer to death. Other than that it’s a work of cinematic genius, and most likely your kids will love it as much as mine did. Also, I should probably note I was a bit of a squeamish, scaredy cat when I was a kid.
Raiders of the Lost Ark My son first saw this movie when he was about 8, and ever since he hasn’t stopped watching it or the sequels whenever they’re replayed on T.V., which is quite frequently, so that’s an added bonus. The movie does have some violence and a gruesome scene toward the end where one of the bad guys has an unfortunate encounter with a plane propeller, but the actual bloody death occurs off camera, and over all it’s a fairly innocent, quick-paced, action-packed entertaining movie.
Ghostbusters I absolutely loved this movie when I was a kid. I still quote it to this day. Or scream it like when I shout out, “Mother pussbucket!” a phrase as useful now for parents attempting to abstain from a life of profanities as it was then for pre-teens forbidden to curse. I also proudly belt out the lyrics – “If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?” – of the theme song whenever I’m listening to CBS FM (a good station, and one of the rare few that still plays “Ghostbusters”). With a lively song like that, Slimer the friendly neighborhood ghost and an all-star cast lead by a young Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, you can’t go wrong unless your kid gets frightened easily and believes in ghosts as we discovered our son does after watching the movie. He now refuses to watch Ghostbusters II, which I own because I bought the complete, two-movie set off Amazon. And I feel horrible. Because a perfectly good movie is going to waste. Also, I feel bad about scaring the bejesus out of my son. But it wasn’t my fault. It was my husband’s fault. He played the movie one night when I wasn’t home, and I came back to find a terrified boy sitting up in bed, bug-eyed and pale-faced, while the rest of the house was sound asleep. But don’t despair, my fine film aficionados. My 12-year-old daughter loved it, and I’m pretty sure most 10 year-olds wouldn’t find it scary. There’s only one part that’s a little bit frightening, but the special effects are so bad it’s hard to take seriously.
Goonies After watching Ghostbusters my son lost faith in my movie recommendations and refused to watch Goonies, which I feel is a terrible mistake. I keep telling him it’s not a scary movie, but he won’t listen to me. My daughter’s review was, “meh,” but that just makes her a weirdo and possibly not even my child because that movie was awesome.
Back to the Future This might be my all-time favorite family movie. After not seeing the movie for some 25 years, it hasn’t lost it’s charm. It’s a truly timeless film, as good as it was when it first debuted. Both my kids enjoyed it, but my son was absolutely captivated by the funny, clever, suspenseful drama. He has since seen the sequels and manages to work the movies into nearly every conversation, quoting Biff or McFly whenever possible.
Big Just a cute, sweet movie that will have you nostalgic for a simpler time, that of the 1980’s, and a boardwalk fortune teller machine that can change your life for a quarter.
Mr. Mom One of the best movies ever made. O.K., that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but how I do love this movie. Perhaps I appreciate it even more now that I am a parent, but I’ve always held a fondness for this film. It’s witty and insightful writing and and fully-formed, human characters played by Michael Keaton and Terry Garr captured an era. But this is another one that seems just as relevant today with memorable lines permanently imprinted in the brain to be quoted long into the future because scenes like kids running around a public bathroom throwing toilet paper all over the stalls, screaming “One punch, one punch!” because their dad just knocked out his jerky, former co-worker will never get old.
Ace Ventura Pet Detective I haven’t seen this with my kids yet, but it’s next on my play list. My friend watched it with her 7 and 9-year-olds, and gave it two thumbs up.
Men in Black I just took my kids to see an outdoor scening of this film because to me there’s nothing better than watching movies outside under the stars in the cool night air. I still can’t understand how drive-ins went out of business. Although my son had to turn his head for half the movie because he got scared of the aliens, the next day he proclaimed, “Last night was awesome!” Another note of caution, BIM had a significant amount of cursing. Nothing extremely profane but enough that your kids should be a bit older.
Jaws Unless your kids are solidly in their teen years, I wouldn’t attempt it. My kids have been asking me to watch Jaws for a couple of years now, but I don’t think they’re ready. In fact, my son may never be ready. He keeps inquiring as to when he’ll be old enough to see it, and my response is, “When you’re 18.” He’ll be a legal adult then, and there’ll be nothing I can do to stop him. Still, I’d provide him with a word of caution. That movie, viewed all those years ago by me and my sister, is responsible for destroying the beach experience for her. Although we saw the movie as children, she has honestly never been in the water since.
So pick your movies wisely, people. They can have a real devastating and lifelong impact. This is why I thought to give you a little run down of each. Now that you know, you can go and view with confidence.