You know those movies you loved as a kid? Like the ones you still have at the top of your closet on VHS that you can’t bear to toss? I was super excited to introduce my kids to one of my favorites, "Home Alone," which came out when I was 9. It’s a kids’ movie, right? There can’t be anything bad in it, right?
My kids (ranging in age from 4 to 9) were anxiously awaiting the start of what I told them was “one of the best kids movies of all time.” Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far. Within the first five minutes, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) was unbelievably rude to his onscreen mom. The words “jerk” and “idiot” flew back and forth between siblings. The final moment of truth came when Kevin’s older brother asked his cousin if, “French babes shaved their pits.”
Momma is shuttin’ this movie down, kiddos.
As I delved deeper into the movies of my childhood, I discovered that many that we remembered as “kids' movies” were actually chock full of expletives and inappropriate jokes. (Incidentally, I also learned that PG-13 ratings were introduced in 1984 only after parents complained about the horrifying heart-ripping scene in "Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom," rated PG.) Indeed, guidelines have become stricter nowadays, so the PG movies of yesteryear may seem a tad inappropriate for the young audiences of 2018.
With that in mind, I sought to find movies from my childhood that are not only worthwhile for my kids to watch, but clean enough to show my 6-year old. Here are my top five:
'A Little Princess'
A cinematographer’s masterpiece, "A Little Princess" is an engaging film for kids and adults alike. The movie tells the story of a young girl whose father puts her in a boarding school while he goes to fight in World War II. The movie does have a scary scene or two showing the father away at war. My daughter was actually moved to tears in the final scenes in which the daughter reunites with her father — and then immediately asked to watch the whole movie again. It’s a beautiful movie with a heartwarming message.
'Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey'
The 1993 movie is a remake of 1963’s "The Incredible Journey." It features three animals trying to find their way back from a ranch in the mountains to San Francisco. The animals are narrated by Michael J. Fox, Sally Fields and Don Ameche. It’s hard to believe that a movie entirely framed around animals that talk would be engaging, but it was and still is remarkably endearing. Your princess fanatics may balk at the first five minutes without a castle in sight, but after that, they’ll be glued.
Released in 1995 (on the heels of "Homeward Bound"), "Babe" tells the story of an orphaned pig adjusting to his new life on a family farm. Once again, it’s mostly an animal movie narrated by people. It’s a rollicking good time, good old-fashioned fun that your kids are sure to enjoy.
'The Parent Trap'
This '90s remake of the '60s classic with the same name will make you remember how sweet Lindsay Lohan was as a kid. Twin sisters discover each other's existence and then switch places in an effort to get their parents back together. Such a great premise and so fun to watch.
A touching tale of friendship, "Air Bud" tells the story of a dog found by a lonely boy whose father has recently died. He names the dog Buddy, and as the manager of his high school basketball team, soon finds out that Buddy can play basketball. As a teacher, this was my go-to movie for class parties. It’s sweet and innocent, but still action-packed.
Don’t you love stand-up-and-cheer sports movie? "Cool Runnings" is about an unlikely bobsled team from Jamaica. Coached by disgraced gold medalist Irv Blitzer (played by John Candy), the team ends up going to the 1988 Olympics. The movie is totally “clean” — not even so much as a kissing scene or a stray sexual innuendo (like we have in "The Mighty Ducks," another awesome '90s sports classic that can wait till your kids are a tad older). There are a couple instances of the word “hell” and the word “bad—s” but theoretically you could fast forward through that one scene. Loved it then, love it now.
And because there are no animated features on this list, here are my Top 13 animated movies for kids from the '90s. I’m sure your kids have already seen most of these, but they bear repeating nonetheless:
- "Beauty and the Beast"
- "The Lion King"
- "Toy Story"
- "A Bug’s Life"
- "The Secret of Nimh"
- "The Little Mermaid"
- "The Land Before Time"
- "The Rescuers"/"The Rescuers Down Under"
- "An American Tail"
Got any movie recommendations from when you were a kid? Share them in the comments below!