Little Miss E recently inquired as to whether or not I remembered enjoying the animated film Frozen as a youngster. To her great amusement, I informed her, “It didn’t exist when I was a little kid.” What were my favorite movies as a child? “Okay then Mummy,” she asked. Labyrinth and The Goonies and An American Tail and so many more besides were all discussed with her. It reminded me of all the wonderful films I saw as a kid in the 1980s. Some of the best films ever made, with memorable one-liners that have become part of the national lexicon; films that may seem old in comparison to today’s visual effects, but were revolutionary at the time. Films that, now that I’m a parent, call out for a second viewing.
Now in alphabetical order are 22 1980s films that my children should see before they leave elementary school at age 11. Would you have any suggestions to make it even longer?
1. An American Tail (1986 – U)
Even as a youngster, this movie brought tears to my eyes, and now that I’m a mother, my feelings are even more heightened, I know I’ll have no hope in seeing it again. My favorite part of this book was following Fievel Mousekewitz and his family as they fled Russia for the United States in hopes of a better life. Even the thought of tiny Fievel and his sister singing Somewhere Out There in those squeaky little voices as they search for each other brings tears to my eyes. Is that something you’re willing to risk missing?
2. Back to the Future (1985 – PG)
Even though it’s rated PG, this film has some bloodshed and foul language, so I’ll hold off on showing it to my little children till they’re a bit older. They’ll probably scoff at the futuristic predictions of the past, but I hope they enjoy it as much as I did. Meeting your parents as teens, good defeating evil, and Marty McFly playing his guitar while time travel is taking place — what’s not to love?!
3. Big (1988 – PG)
In the 1980s, did every kid dream of owning a big keyboard so they could play chopsticks like Tom Hanks in the film? How many times have you visited a fairground machine and wished to be a giant, only to be disappointed when your desire was not granted? In this film, there are a few more mature themes, so I’ll wait a few years before presenting it to my children—but it’s an outstanding classic that I can’t wait to share with my kids.
4. ET: The Extra Terrestrial (1982 – U)
Three million light years from home, a young alien is found by Elliot and Gertie, a 10-year-old boy and girl who become friends with him. At first, it looked like the bikes were taking off in the air. Then, ET calls home and appears to die before resurrecting. This is pure genius! The youngsters saving the day in a movie are always a hit with kids.
5. Flight of the Navigator (1986 – U)
In the 1980s, aliens were a huge topic of conversation. David, a 12-year-old boy, falls into a ravine and is knocked unconscious by the force of the fall. When he wakes up, he comes home to discover that he had been away for eight years and that his family had assumed he had died. He was taken hostage by extraterrestrials, it turns out.
6. Ghostbusters (1984 – PG)
Who do you call if something odd happens in your neighborhood??” Ghostbusters!” From the middle of the 1980s on, this was the music of every school disco. The first time I saw it, I was a little terrified, but as a bunch of paranormal scientists set up a business to capture spirits, it turns out to be quite humorous. Now that it’s being remade with an all-female cast, it’s a perfect opportunity to show the original to a new generation of children. As a whole, “I ain’t terrified of no ghost!” suddenly rings true.
7. The Goonies (1985 – 12)
It’s a fantastic coming-of-age story about kids trying to defend their neighborhood from unscrupulous property developers by seeking for missing pirate treasure. Chuck and his Shuffle Truffle and Sloth, with the immortal words “Hey you guuuyyyyss!” are two of the film’s most memorable characters. This movie is fantastic! It’s a true classic in the making. Seeing that it received a 12 rating startled me. I’d give it a 9 or 10 out of 10 despite the fact that there are some scary moments.
8. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1989 – U)
Rick Moranis plays an inventor whose shrinking machine doesn’t seem to be working until one day when he shrinks his children and their friends in a bizarre encounter. Without even realizing what has happened, he sweeps them up and dumps them in the trash where they are at risk from the lawnmower to massive insects. Even though it may look a little out-of-date now, it’s a wonderful family film.
9. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981 – PG)
I have to admit that as a child, I wasn’t a huge admirer of Indiana Jones. Was it wrong of me to confess that? Is this the beginning of a prank from Indiana fans? The moment I told Cardiff Daddy that I was writing this essay, this was the first movie he thought of, and he insisted that I include it in the article itself. It’s a classic, for sure. Race against Nazis to find the Ark of the Covenant in this action and adventure film that features Harrison Ford in his iconic fedora. Now that I’m a grown-up, I can’t wait to see this. What did I know in the 1980s about such a phenomenon as the highest-grossing picture of all time?
10. The Karate Kid (1984 – PG)
It’s “wax on, wax off.” Back in the 1980s, people used to use these four phrases all the time. Surely, my elementary school playground was not the only one filled with youngsters flailing their hands around and uttering the phrase. The Karate Boy is a classic film about a new kid in town who is bullied by a karate gang because he is dating one of the group’s ex-girlfriends. In order to compete against the mean kids, Mr. Miyagi, an elderly master of the martial arts, takes him under his wing and begins teaching him the technique of karate. I re-watched the last combat sequence while writing this essay, and it was just as emotionally gripping as I remembered..
11. Labyrinth (1986 – U)
For me, it’s an all-time favorite. I’m in awe of this. My kids haven’t seen it yet since they’re afraid of a goblin king taking a baby, as well as the sight of David Bowie in tights with that bulge! However, they’ve seen the YouTube video of Dance Magic Dance numerous times and find it amusing.. Cardiff Daddy told me not to include this film since he’s still afraid of it, and I followed his advice. When we have to see it again with our three children, I hope he gets over that first!
12. The Land Before Time (1988 – U)
Toss out Jurassic Park and its sequels. This is the best dinosaur movie I’ve ever seen. Littlefoot, a young Apatosaurus, whose mother was killed, tells this story. A plague and starvation have taken hold of the planet, forcing him to flee to refuge in the Great Valley. In this heartwarming tale of friendship and bravery, he makes lots of new dino pals along the way.
13. The Little Mermaid (1989 – U)
The picture came out when I was 11, and I probably felt I was too hip for Disney movies. I was wrong. Then again, there’s still time. Now that I have three young children (all under the age of 12), I can indulge my lifelong passion for Disney animated features. My kids have previously seen this film — many times – on this list. I like Ursula’s song Poor Unfortunate Souls, sung by the evil sea witch, over the more popular ones like Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl.
14.Little Monsters (1989 – PG)
Besides me, was there anyone else who was smitten with Fred Savage? His performance in The Wonder Years and this film both impressed me. He portrays Brian, a young boy who recently relocated to a new city. There are no rules in this world, and no parents to instruct you what to do. Brian keeps getting blamed for things he did not do, and it turns out these things are being done by Maurice, the monster under the bed. As Brian transforms into a monster and the monsters capture his little brother, it gets a little scary, but as with all classic 80s movies, the kids come to the rescue. I’ll have to wait a bit before I can see this again because it’s only available as a costly US import.
15. The NeverEnding Story (1984 – U)
Cardiff Daddy has just informed me that he has never seen The NeverEnding Story. Honestly, how could that even happen? The story of Bastian, who flees his school bullies by disappearing into the fantastical world of an ancient book, is a timeless classic. Fantastia, ruled by the Childlike Empress, is on the verge of collapse. At first Bastian is summoned as a boy warrior, Chiron, to discover a cure – but it becomes clear that only he can save the Empress.
16. The Princess Bride (1987 – PG)
While watching this film as a child, it didn’t occur to me just how much fun it was until recently. When I was a youngster, my favorite princess was Princess Buttercup, and I loved stories about her being kidnapped and rescued by pirates. I recently rewatched it, and it’s still as entertaining as the first time around. In addition, Fred Savage plays a role in the story, which depicts a grandfather narrating a story to his ailing grandchild. It’s well-known that I had a crush on him in the 1980s.
17. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980 – PG) and Return of the Jedi (1983 – U)
In 1977, the original Star Wars was launched; therefore, it does not appear on this list. However, the sequels most certainly do. Iconic characters, such as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vedar feature prominently in some of the most significant films ever filmed. In the coming years, I’m sure Cardiff Daddy will look forward to watching these films with our three little children. The light saber Little Man O received at the age of 334 has already won him over. His reaction to seeing the films for the first time will be priceless to me.
18. Teen Wolf (1985 – PG)
What ’80s youngster can forget Michael J Fox mid-game werewolf transformation in his yellow basketball kit? Scott, the character he played, went from being an outcast in high school and on the basketball team to becoming a standout player and a fan favorite. He quickly learns, though, that his previous self wasn’t all that horrible after all.
19. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
This was a movie I remember seeing in the theater. For its time, the combination of animation and real-world action in this picture was groundbreaking and unlike anything I had ever seen before. Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a detective in ToonTown, investigates whether Roger Rabbit killed his love rival, Martin Acme, and finds a series of scandals that threaten the town’s existence. As a mother, I have two minor gripes with this film. There is no question mark in the title, and I’m worried about what my kids will think of Jessica Rabbit and her inflated figure.
20. Willow (1988 – PG)
Since then, I haven’t watched this movie. Probably for many years. But I remember how much I liked it. I didn’t care that it was made by George Lucas and Ron Howard when I first saw it. The utilization of groundbreaking special effects did not help. As a fan of adventure and peril, I couldn’t get enough of The Sorcerer’s Child. It’s incredible to see Warwick Davies and Val Kilmer so young in a picture that had a profound impact on both of their lives and careers.
21. The Worst Witch (1986 – U)
As a result, I was hesitant to include this film on my list for fear of being exposed as a liar. Even yet, it’s all right since it’s my blog and I adored this as a kid, so it’s all right here For those who haven’t read the novel by Jill Murphy that follows Mildred Hubble and her friends at Miss Cackle’s International Academy for Witches, the movie is a faithful adaptation. However, no one I’ve questioned remembers the film! Before discovering it on YouTube, I began to doubt my recollection. Totally! My recollection of the theme tune, Growing Up Isn’t Easy, was spot-on.