I recently wrote a post about some movies I consider "classic" family movies, that every kid should see. Today, I thought it might be fun to make a list of some of the best films of the 1980's, since parents of my generation have a soft spot for them, but the next generation might have missed them. These are not movies I consider "must-see", but they are fun.
The first section here is movies I consider "Family Friendly". A quick definition of what I consider "family friendly" viewing: Movies with zero sexual content, minimal swearing (no words above level 2 max), and violence that is contained to cartoon-ish at worst. No gore, no terror/horror and no nudity. Movies that you could watch with what my dad calls "small fry". Quick caveat: It's been years since I saw some of these movies, so please forgive me if I recommend a film that turns out to have some content worse than what I'm describing here. PLEASE let me know and I'll update this post accordingly.
"Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" 1985- I still get such a kick out of this movie. There is one startle-scare when Large Marge shows Pee-Wee her alien face, but otherwise, this one is pretty mild.
"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" 1982- I was 10 years old when this movie came out, and I cried through the whole thing. But I loved it. It might be too much for the very youngest kids, but it's good fun for everyone else.
"The Secret of Nimh" 1982 - This animated movie based on the book by the same name is enchanting and exciting and I always was fond of it as a child.
"Honey I Shrunk the Kids" 1989- This Rick Moranis movie was much better than any of its sequels (surprise, surprise) and has a lot of good, clean laughs.
"A Christmas Story" 1983- A holiday viewing must, the story of Ralphie, his best friends, little brother and parents' 1940's era Christmas is a modern classic. Funny, heartwarming and quotable. (Arguably, the leg lamp is sensual, but way over the heads of kids, in my opinion.)
"Annie" 1982- This version of the energetic, funny musical is great viewing for everyone. Even my sons found themselves drawn in to this story about girl orphans.
Interestingly, I find myself unable to add many of my own personal favorite '80's movies to that list, because they violate my own "family friendly" requirements. The movies on this second list are fun, but considering the more mature material, they are less heartily recommended for young families. Adults and teens, though, might enjoy the following:
"Little Shop of Horrors" 1986- A little scary-good fun, a man-eating plant, great songs, and a role made for Rick Moranis, this one is wonderful except for the plant's cuss and dirty-mouthed song toward the end.
"Back to the Future" 1985- Such a fun movie. Time travel, comedy and Michael J. Fox. Awesome! But quite a bit of cussing and an attempted assault may mean not for your young ones.
"Better off Dead" 1985- This movie has so many great, funny moments and many quotable quotes ("I want my two dollars!!"), but also a teenagers-in-the-backseat-of-a-car scene and some cusses.
"Ghostbusters" 1984- A great first ghost movie, but with one sensual (sexual??) ghost and buster scene, it proves uncomfortable with kids. Too bad. (I would recommend pre-watching and then fast-forwarding through it if you want to watch it with your kiddos.)
"The Goonies" 1985- I was surprised by the inappropriate material in this one. Surprised when I showed it to my tween sons and some neighbor kids. You should have seen me run up to try and cover the screen during one particular scene involving a statue. We have a huge TV. It wasn't very effective. Too bad, because this is a fun Spielberg kid-adventure movie, otherwise.
"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" 1986- I love this movie. Even now. Even though it is very cussy. Even though there is some mild sensuality. I still love it. It's that good. It's the movie that made America fall in love with Matthew Broderick. Just be warned, if you haven't seen it in years. Watch it before showing the kids.
"Gremlins" 1984- Scary, a bit gory, an adventure for older kids. I mostly just remember being scared and wishing I had a Mogwai.
"Stand By Me" 1986- This is the only R-rated movie on my list. Though, by today's standards, that rating is a tad harsh. However, this movie is NOT for young kids. I would show it to older teens, but not kids under 16. The subject matter is tense, and it earned its R with profanity, violence, and sexually suggestive material, as well as kids smoking and drinking. But those amazing kids! Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and a chubby Jerry O'Connell give unbelievably great performances. Based on a story by Stephen King, it is equally touching, heartwarming, and heartbreaking.
"Raiders of the Lost Ark" 1981- Harrison Ford defines the role of Indiana Jones. If your kids haven't seen this, it's a great adventure movie, with some good laughs. Violent, though, and the face-melted nazis at the end are pretty scary for younger kids. Also some language.
"Amadeus" 1984- This is one of my favorites, due in large part to the amazing score, consisting of Mozart's exhilarating compositions. This is a fictitious story, but still very entertaining. Language, sensuality and a dramatic story make this not for younger kids.
"Karate Kid" 1984- Cute little Ralph Macchio learned "wax on, wax off" in this iconic '80's movie. Swearing, violence and marijuana use mean it's probably best for older kids and adults.
- This movie is a mixed bag. It appears to be aimed directly at children, and has many Tex Avery-style gags, some very funny bits, but some of the dialogue is innuendo-heavy, and the seductive, exaggeratedly-sensual character of Jessica Rabbit nudges the boundaries of appropriate for all kids. Much of that goes over the heads of little kids, but there is also quite a bit of cartoon violence and some mild language. Still... It's an entertaining movie and a fantastic blending of live action and animation.
Share your favorite '80s movies in the comments section!