20 Movies from the 80s Your Kids will Love

COVER

You have a few important jobs as a parent.

There’s feeding, clothing and protecting your child from physical harm, of course. And (very) close behind these things is ensuring you don’t allow your children to think that Beverly Hills Chihuahua represents what good cinema is all about.

Over the past couple of months, Flea and I have been on a mission – to see, and rate, our top 20 movies from the 1980s, when (imho) some of the finest movies known to mankind were created.

Our list excludes some well-known titles which are still a bit too old for Flea – there’s no Say Anything, Pretty in Pink or Breakfast Club, for example. And I’ve excluded those films that I loved, but which bored Flea to tears (War Games, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Labyrith). And because I’m a purist, I’ve excluded a few movies made in the 80s and released in the 90s – most notably Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

But overall, I think we’ve covered most of the classics for kids. It should be said that there was a lot more tolerance for swearing in the 1980s – many of the movies listed below include the odd profanity, even those aimed at quite young kids – I’ve tried to indicate where this is the case. But most of these are suitable for 9/10 year olds with just the occasional, “Look, there’s a squirrel” moment to distract kids from what’s happening on screen.

Top 20 1980s Movies to See with your Kids

1. The Goonies  

the goonies

The Goonies is Steven Spielberg’s epic story of a group of misfits who embark on a treasure hunt to save their neighbourhood from evil developers. It’s a can’t miss 80s movie because of the Truffle Shuffle, the gorgeous blend of coming-of-age drama and comedy adventure, and the little tear I always get when it comes to the line, “We’re all Goonies.” Sniff.

 

2. Adventures in Babysitting

adventuresinbabysitting

This movie is one of those films that shouldn’t entertain kids as much as it does – but Flea finds it hilarious. There’s quite a bit of swearing (including one ‘f’ word) and one mention of Playboy but if you can gloss over those things, your kids will LOVE this movie. Basically, the babysitter ends up having to go to into the big city with her charges – two teenage boys and a small, superhero loving girl. There are crazy car chases, gang fights and a finale on the sloping roof of a skyscraper. It’s brilliant.

 

3. Big 

big

12 year old Josh is sick of being small – too small to get the girl, too small to ride the roller coaster, too small to be great at sports. So he wishes to be big – and turns into Tom Hanks. This movie is a fab comedy mixed with a warm coming-of-age tale, and there are a few killer scenes. When I was 12, I *so* wanted to live in Josh’s New York apartment (trampolines and vending machines? Yes please!) and who wouldn’t want to stick their head out of the top of a Limo while listening to Billy Idol?

 

4. The Lost Boys 

lostboys

This is a teen movie, so there’s a bit of pretty mild swearing, but for the most part it’s child friendly. Although, I did cover Flea’s eyes for the one gruesome scene, where the kids around the campfire get eaten by Kiefer Sutherland and his team of bad boy vampires. Flea loved the brilliant Frogg brother vampire hunters and Corey Haim as the innocent younger brother: “My own brother, a blood-sucking vampire. You wait till Mom hears about this!” I love Jason Patric. That is all.

 

5. ET 

ET

Some movies are so good that you totally overlook the dodgy 1980s effects – and this is a perfect example. ET might look a bit gross (especially to adult eyes) but Flea was completely captivated by the notion of finding a friend and saving them. Add flying bikes, chases and space ships to the mix and you’ve pretty much got kid movie heaven. And if you don’t cry when Elliott says, “We can grow up together, ET” then you’re dead inside.

 

6. The Princess Bride

princessbride

I simply can’t imagine raising a child who doesn’t get it when I tell them, “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” Basically, The Princess Bride is the funniest, most amazing film EVER made, and if you don’t fall in love with Cary Elwes, then you don’t deserve to live, in my opinion. The rodents of unusual size, saving a mostly dead person, climbing the cliffs of insanity — it’s all just brilliant.

 

7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 

ferris

This is one of my all-time favourite movies, and it’s my go-to movie therapy when I’m feeling low. Kids will love this story of the charming bad boy who everyone loves, and the evil headmaster who can’t bring Ferris down. There are tips on faking illness to get out of school, kick-ass Beatles tunes and a Ferrari gets trashed. It’s just brilliant. And if nothing else, your kids need to know that “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!” 

 

8 Gremlins 

gremlins

This one makes my top 5 Christmas movies – Every. Single. Year. What kid wouldn’t be enchanted by the idea of a cute, fluffy pet that sings and talks – but unexpectedly turns into an evil monster when fed after midnight? One note of caution – there’s a sad story in this movie that explains how Phoebe Cates’ character realised there’s no Santa, but we glossed over this with a, “Well, would you believe in Santa if that happened to YOU?” (you *so* wouldn’t). Gremlins is dark, funny and festive – it’s good viewing year-round, but best served during Christmas.

 

9. An American Tail 

americantail

Watch this one at your peril – it’s like having every single heartstring pulled at once. By the time tiny mouse Fievel has lost his family, washed up in America and found a corner to sing, “Somewhere out There” you’ll be in bits. Guaranteed. But Flea loved rooting for the mice against the evil cats, and singing along with the terrific score.

 

10. Flight of the Navigator

flightofthenavigator

If you missed it, this is the story of David, a kid who goes missing, only to be returned home eight years later – exactly the same age as he was when he left. Abducted by aliens and returned to the wrong moment in time, David is effectively kidnapped again by government scientists and has to escape, and navigate a talking spaceship home. Flea loved the adventure here, and the intriguing premise of not growing up – and the cute, small alien creatures didn’t hurt. This one’s properly family friendly, with lots of fun music, to boot.

 

11. The Fox and the Hound 

foxandhound

This is the only Disney movie on our list, and I love it because it’s got a bit of edge to it – it’s the story of a doomed friendship between a fox and a hound. Featuring Kurt Russell and Mickey Rooney, it’s a cut above most of the 1980s animated movies. But it’s sad at the end. Just a friendly warning.

 

12. Beetlejuice 

beetlejuice

If you’ve got a kid who likes to be scared (Flea is definitely one of those kids), then Beetlejuice is a great comedy – gross, raucous, anarchic and just scary enough for older kids to get a kick out of. Winona Ryder is amazing as the depressed goth teenager who can’t stand her family, and the songs definitely stand the test of time.

 

13. Ghostbusters

ghostbusters

Another movie where the basic effects just add to the charm, Ghostbusters is the tale of three nerdy scientists who save New York from a badass ghost who wears a lycra bodysuit (hey, it was the 80s). Kids love the slime, the cool lasers, and the humour, which is mostly childish, and entirely brilliant. And there’s never a bad time for a hearty chorus of, “Who you gonna call?” 

 

14. Back to the Future 

backtothefuture

I have a theory this movie – with its cringe-inducing Mom/Son smooching scene – would never get made today but that would be a tragedy. This is the movie that made me covet a red gilet and a skateboard, so I could be just like Michael J Fox, and Flea’s now pretty much in the same place. There’s time-travel, a cool car, rock and roll music and the dazzling notion that your parents used to be complete nerds. It’s a winner.

 

15. The Neverending Story 

neverendingstory

Sure, the creature effects are a bit basic by 2014 standards, but the idea of a book that comes to life and absorbs you – that’s about as timeless as stories get. This is the tale of Bastian, a young, shy boy who finds a magical story about a world that is slowly dying because human children have stopped using their imaginations. It’s all about the power of books, and stories, and imagination and it’s just lovely. Flea must have watched this movie 20 times over the past three or four years, and still sits entranced, through the whole thing.

 

16. The Outsiders 

theoutsiders

My reason why your kids should watch this exciting drama starts and ends with this: “Stay gold, pony boy.”

 

17. Dirty Dancing 

dirtydancing

Because nobody puts Baby in a corner. It’s a love story, but Flea loved the dances, the songs and the finale performance more than any of that. The illegal abortion storyline still goes over her head, but you might want to make a note if you’re watching with older kids.

 

18. The Karate Kid 

karatekid

You know that thing where they make a new version of a movie and your annoying parents make you watch the original because it’s way better and doesn’t have a creepy Mini Will Smith in it? Yeah. That. Wax on, wax off, kids.

 

19. Little Monsters 

littlemonsters

This movie is genius. Every kid knows that there are monsters living under the bed and in this movie, they come and say hello.  Little Fred Savage becomes best friends with the Boogeyman, and it’s all fun and games until the monsters kidnap Fred’s little brother. This one’s a lovely adventure story with lots of laughs and a properly scary idea – if they can’t rescue the boy by morning, he’ll be lost to the monster world for ever!

 

20. D.A.R.Y.L. 

daryl

If the 80s did one thing brilliantly, it was giving kids the opportunity to watch kids who looked just like them have the most incredible adventures – Space Camp, Explorers, Project X, War Games etc. One of our favourite movies in this genre is DARYL, a story about a boy who is actually a cyborg, created by the military to be a super data-analysing life form. DARYL escapes from his prison, spends time with a regular family, plays video games – oh, and steals a fighter jet. It’s properly exciting and scary, with the odd sad moment. Two thumbs up.

 

So those are our top 20 movies from the 1980s – did we miss any of your favourites? 

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.

21 Comments

  1. 30th December 2014 / 10:05 pm

    As you wish!

    The Princess Bride is simply the best film ever made. Thank god my daughter is as obsessed with it as me. She is also a big Labyrith fan though so I am surprised your daughter didn’t enjoy it. The ‘Owl Man’ as she likes to call David Bowie is regularly on our screen.

    Great roundup. I have added lots to our list xx
    All about a Mummy recently posted..My Sunday photoMy Profile

    • 31st December 2014 / 10:13 am

      I agree with you 100% about the Princess Bride – but Labyrinth, not so much – Flea got a bit bored and I’m always a bit weirded out by David Bowie 🙂

  2. 30th December 2014 / 10:34 pm

    I can’t believe she didn’t love Labyrinth! It’s the best film in the world. You’ll have to keep trying it and hope it grows on her. My girls thankfully adored it.
    Never seen Little Monsters or the Outsiders so going to try and watch those this week.
    Yet to watch Beetlejuice with the kids. Bought it a while back and watched it again as couldn’t remember it all. Glad I did. He’s a right creepy perv in it!
    a field somewhere recently posted..Best family festivalsMy Profile

    • 31st December 2014 / 10:13 am

      Ah, the Outsiders is a bona fide 80s classic! Stay gold!

    • 1st January 2015 / 6:59 pm

      My pleasure 🙂

  3. 1st January 2015 / 3:28 pm

    80’s movies were the best! Such a great list and a couple I haven’t even seen. Happy New Year! x
    Donna recently posted..New Year = New Blog!My Profile

    • 1st January 2015 / 6:58 pm

      New year, new blog – very exciting!

  4. 1st January 2015 / 4:06 pm

    This is a fantastic list! It’s made me nostalgic just reading it. Funnily enough we’ve watched a few of them recently, including ET and Big with our three year old. I’d suspected he might not be that interested so was amazed at how much both films captivated him – although I’d forgotten quite how much swearing is in Big!
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    • 1st January 2015 / 6:57 pm

      It’s amazing how swearing was much more tolerated across the board, isn’t it?

  5. 2nd January 2015 / 6:59 pm

    Ooh love this list, I’ve watched many of these loads of times and can quote large sections from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’. I’d also like to add ‘Stand by Me’, a great for a film about friendships and the soundtrack is brilliant for playing in the car, (plus it has the gorgeous River Pheonix at his best).
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    • 2nd January 2015 / 7:14 pm

      Oh, yes, great recommendation!

  6. 4th January 2015 / 12:53 pm

    Happy New Year ! this is the kind of list I was looking for! I have 2 lovely girls , one is 12 the younger one is 6. Surely some of these would be suitable for both. thanks a bunch 🙂
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    • 5th January 2015 / 9:39 pm

      OH definitely! Big, for sure, and probably Neverending Story, too.

  7. 4th January 2015 / 9:09 pm

    I was like, where is Bugsy Malone reading this then realised I watched it in the 80’s (I was born in 1980) but it was made in 1976!

    Spot on with this list, I would just add Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Karate Kid, Honey I Shrunk The Kids (mostly for manipulation purposes 😉 ), Bill and Ted films and Back to the Future.

    We watched Home Alone (I know-90’s) over Christmas and my eldest son thought it was the best film ever made, so amazing reliving great cinema with your kids isn’t it?!
    Honest Mum recently posted..Our Festive Family TimeMy Profile

    • 5th January 2015 / 9:40 pm

      Karate Kid is on there! But definitely agree on Home Alone – so much fun, Flea was giggling at it again on TV last night.

    • 9th January 2015 / 11:15 am

      I adored Police Academy but when I showed Flea the trailer recently (as part of this project) I was struck by how not funny it seemed. Some things are best left in the 80s, maybe…

  8. Daisy
    23rd February 2015 / 8:35 pm

    Can’t believe you didn’t include stand by me with staring River Phoenix – Great Film!!!

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