Michael Wermuth, Jr. – Today I thought I’d list a number of children’s/family films that most kids should see and probably have (especially depending on when they were born). They don’t have to actually like the movies, they just need to see the movies by the time they are pre-teens. I’ve tried not to be biased here, and there are some movies that I thought about listing but then changed my mind about (and there’s quite a few kids movies that I really like that are not on this list because I don’t think they’re essential enough, if at all).
Animated Disney Movies (at least five of them):
It goes without saying that the majority of Disney’s animated films are essential viewing for children. It may be hard for the kids to have seen every animated Disney film (well, maybe not that hard, since they’ve all been available on various video formats). I feel like children should see at least five Disney films in the Disney animation canon and/or Pixar films.
I also don’t feel like every animated Disney/Pixar film is necessarily essential, so here’s a list (within a list) of what I think are the most essential Disney animated films. Some of your biggest favorites may be missing, but then again, so are some of mine.
Essential Disney Animation Canon: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Meet the Robinsons, Tangled, and Frozen.
Essential Pixar: Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, Cars, Wall-E, Up, and Ratatouille.
One of Disney’s biggest achievements is this film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, with many great songs, great special effects, and a memorable animated sequence. Though really young kids might get bored with how long the movie is (I did the first time I saw it… It seems like it is really long for a childrens movie from the 1960s).
Based on the book, Old Yeller is about an old yeller dog who comes into the lives of a family whose father was gone on a cattle run. Of all the fully live-action Disney movies, I feel this one is most essential for kids. Well, unless you think they won’t like the ending.
Muppet movies (except maybe Muppets From Space):
I feel like kids should see at least one of the theatrical Muppet movies (well, I don’t think Muppets from Space should be considered essential viewing, but then again, maybe they’ll like that one better if they haven’t seen much Muppets). Which one should they watch first? Well, if they haven’t been exposed to the Muppets before, then The Muppet Movie or The Muppets should be the first one they watch. If they like adventurous, action-packed films, then The Great Muppet Caper, Muppet Treasure Island, or Muppets Most Wanted should be viewed first. If it’s humor they’re interested in, then The Great Muppet Caper or Muppets Most Wanted. If they’re interested in movies about show business (would a kid have such interest?) then The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, or The Muppets. If they’re interested in movies based on classic stories, then The Muppet Christmas Carol or Muppet Treasure Island.
The Wizard of Oz:
The classic 1939 film of the book is considered the definitive movie adaptation (in fact there’s hardly been any other straight-forward movie adaptations of the book). This is something every kid should see (though I do know one kid who hasn’t).
The Land Before Time:
This movie features five dinosaurs on their journey to the Great Valley, a land with plenty of green foods for leaf eaters to eat. This movie is a classic, and has gone on to spawn many direct-to-video sequels aimed more at children, with many songs and more humor, the quality of the sequels varying (I have only seen the first few sequels, and I must say that II and III are good, IV and V not that good), as well as a television series. This movie was directed by Don Bluth, who was responsible for a number of other animated children’s films that should be on this list, including The Secrets of Nimh, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and An American Tale.
A Christmas Story:
One of the best Christmas movies of all-time is this film set in 1940, about a kid who wants a Red Ryder B.B. gun for Christmas – which various adults tell him would cause him to shoot his eye out. But in addition to that main plot, there are also many small plots (in fact I feel there are long gaps that don’t involve the gun) as well. It’s hard to find a line from this film that people don’t quote, and it’s a great movie to watch all day on Christmas.
Home Alone I and II:
The first two Home Alone movies are great. I don’t think there are any children of the ‘90s (and maybe 2000s) who have never seen these two. These movies, starring Macully Culkin as Kevin, a kid who mistakenly gets left alone when his family goes on vacation and has to fight off robbers, are great slapstick fun. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern put in great performances as the Wet Bandits.
A recent movie, Despicable Me has been a fairly insane hit. I’m surprised at how much I liked it. And pretty much everybody knows about the Minions by now.
Babe is a movie about a pig who after helping save a flock of sheep is made into an honorary sheep dog by his farmer. It’s a funny, wonderful movie with great characters (including Ferdinand the Duck and a trio of singing mice), a nice plot, and some funny scenes (such as when the granddaughter cries when she finds that her grandparents made her a doll house for Christmas, as opposed to getting her the house she saw in the commercials, or when Babe hums “Jingle Bells”, or when one of the puppies comments that Babe would wet the bed).
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:
Well, if you’re not a kid anymore and haven’t seen every movie I put on this list, then don’t feel bad, because I haven’t, either. This is one that I haven’t seen, but it seems like such a classic. I have seen the remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is good and close enough to essential status as well.
The Never Ending Story:
Okay, so here’s another one I consider essential that I haven’t seen, I don’t think (I know once at school they played one of these films, can’t remember which one and I don’t remember actually paying attention to it), but it seems like this is an essential film for children of the 1980s
The Sound of Music:
Wow, another essential one that I haven’t seen. I must live in a cave or something (at least it’s a cave with an internet connection). But many of the songs from The Sound of Music are memorable.
And those are among the most essential movies kids need to see. Your kids should see all or most of these. And if you haven’t seen any of these movies as kids, then your childhood must have been sad.