Little Miss E asked me recently if I liked watching Frozen when I was a little girl. “It didn’t exist when I was a little girl,” I told her to much bemusement. “Okay then Mummy, what were your favourite films when you were little?” she asked me. And so I told her about Labyrinth and The Goonies and An American Tail and so many more besides. It got me thinking about all the brilliant films that were such a big part of my 1980s childhood. Films that were absolute classics back then; films with classic one-liners which have become part of the national lingo; films which might look dated compared to today’s special effects but which were groundbreaking for their time. Films which, now I have my own children, deserve to be watched again.
And so here, in alphabetical order, are 22 films from the 1980s that I want my own children to watch before they leave primary school aged 11. Are there any you would add to my list?
Do your children enjoy any of the films you used to as a child? I’d love to know what you think, either in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page, or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy
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1. An American Tail (1986 – U)
Even as a child this film made me cry, so I know I’ll have no hope now I’m a mum and my emotions are even more heightened than they ever were. I loved this story of Fievel Mousekewitz as he and his family moved from Russia to America in search of freedom. Even thinking of little Fievel getting lost, and he and his sister singing Somewhere Out There in those squeaky little voices as they hope to find each other, brings tears to my eyes. Are you brave enough to watch it?!
If not, here’s the more upbeat There Are No Cats In America instead.
2. Back to the Future (1985 – PG)
Admittedly, I’ll be waiting until my children are a few years older before I show this one, as even though it’s a PG, there’s quite a bit of violence and unsavoury language in it. They will probably laugh at how people in the past imagined the future to be – but I hope they love it as much as I did. Time travel, meeting your parents as teenagers, good triumphing over evil and Marty McFly rocking out with his guitar – what’s not to love?!
3. Big (1988 – PG)
Did every kid in the 1980s want a giant keyboard so they could play chopsticks like Tom Hanks?! And did you make a wish at every fairground machine to be big and wake up the next morning disappointed it hadn’t happened? Again, there are a few more grown-up themes in this film so I’ll definitely be waiting a few years before introducing it to my children – but it’s an absolute classic that I can’t wait to share with my children.
4. ET: The Extra Terrestrial (1982 – U)
The tale of a lost little alien, three million light years away from home, and his friendship with 10-year-old Elliot and his sister Gertie, is an all-time classic. Those bikes suddenly taking flight; the famous ET phone home scene; ET appearing to die but reviving himself. Sheer brilliance! And what kid doesn’t love a film where the children save the day?
5. Flight of the Navigator (1986 – U)
The 1980s certainly were obsessed with aliens! This film follows 12 year old David, who falls in a ravine and knocks himself unconscious. When he wakes, he returns home to his house – to discover he’s actually been missing for eight years and his family thought he was dead. It transpires he was abducted by aliens.
6. Ghostbusters (1984 – PG)
“If there’s something strange, in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” Ah, the soundtrack for school discos everywhere from the mid-80s onwards. I remember being a bit scared of this the first time I saw it, but it’s actually really funny in parts as a group of ssupernatural scientists set up a business trapping ghosts. They’re remaking it with an all-female lead cast – and so now seems a good time to introduce 2010s children to the original. Altogether now, “I ain’ afraid of no ghost!”
7. The Goonies (1985 – 12)
This is a brilliant coming-of-age adventure story that follows a group of kids as they try to save their neighbourhood from greedy property developers by searching for lost pirate treasure. There are some brilliant characters in The Goonies – such as Chuck and his Shuffle Truffle and Sloth and his infamous quote “Hey you guuuyyyyss!” I love this film! It’s an absolute classic. I was really surprised to see it had a 12 rating. I know it has some scary bits in it, but I’d say 9 or 10 would be more appropriate.
8. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1989 – U)
Rick Moranis stars as an inventor whose shrinking machine does not seem to be doing its job – until one day, a freak encounter sees him shrinking his children and their friends. Not realising what has happened, he sweeps them up and throws them out with the rubbish, where they are at risk from everything from the lawnmower to gigantic insects. It might look a bit outdated now, but it’s a perfect family film.
9. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981 – PG)
I must confess, I wasn’t much of an Indiana Jones fan as a child. Should I have admitted that? Am I about to be trolled by Indiana fans?! When I told Cardiff Daddy I was writing this article, this was the first film he thought of and he told me I had to include it. It certainly is a classic. The fast-paced action and adventure film sees Harrison Ford – in his trademark hat – racing against the Nazis to find the fabled Ark of the Covenant. I’m quite looking forward to watching this now I’m a grown-up. Four Oscar wins and one of the highest growing films ever: what did 1980s me know anyway?
10. The Karate Kid (1984 – PG)
“Wax on; wax off.” Those four words were part of the lingo back in the mid-1980s. I’m sure my primary school playground wasn’t the only one full of kids waving their hands around saying the infamous phrase. An all-time film great, The Karate Kid follows new kid in town, Daniel, who gets bullied by a gang of karate students for dating one of their ex-girlfriends. The wise old martial arts master Mr Miyagi takes him under his wing and teaches him karate so that he can enter a tournament and beat the bullies. I re-watched that final fight scene while I was writing this article – and it was just as emotionally tense as I remember.
11. Labyrinth (1986 – U)
This is one of my all-time favourite films. I absolutely love it. My children haven’t watched it yet as I think they’d be scared of a goblin king stealing a baby, not to mention the sight of David Bowie in tights and that bulge! They have seen the YouTube clip of Dance Magic Dance many times though and think it’s hilarious. Cardiff Daddy told me not to include this film because he’s still scared of it. I hope he gets over that before he has to watch it again with our three!
12. The Land Before Time (1988 – U)
Forget Jurassic Park. This is my favourite film about dinosaurs. This is the story of Littlefoot, a young Apatosaurus, whose mother is killed. He tries to escape the famine and plague that is overtaking the world and make it to the safety of the Great Valley. On the way, he meets a host of little dino friends in this gorgeous tale of friendship and courage.
13. The Little Mermaid (1989 – U)
I was about 11 when this film was released and probably thought I was too cool for Disney films. But not any more! Now I have three kids aged 5.5 and under, I have the perfect excuse to indulge my love of Disney animations. This is actually one film on the list that my children have already seen – many times. Everyone seems to love the most famous songs such as Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl, but my favourite is the deliciously menacing Poor Unfortunate Souls sung by the evil sea witch Ursula.
14. Little Monsters (1989 – PG)
Did anyone else have a crush on Fred Savage? I loved him in The Wonder Years and I loved him in this film too. He plays Brian, a little boy who has moved to a new town. Brian keeps getting blamed for things he didn’t do – and it turns out these things are being done by Maurice, the monster under the bed who introduces him to a world where there are no rules and no parents to tell you what to do. It does get a bit frightening, as Brian starts to turn into a monster himself, and the monsters kidnap his little brother – but as with all good 80s films, the kids soon save the day. I can only find this available as an expensive USA import, so I might have to wait a while before I can watch again.
15. The NeverEnding Story (1984 – U)
Never mind my children watching this, Cardiff Daddy has just told me he has never watched The NeverEnding Story. How is that even possible?! The tale of Bastian, who finds himself drawn into the fantasy world of an ancient book as he hides away from the school bullies, is an absolute classic film. It is set in the land of Fantastia, ruled by the Childlike Empress, who is dying. A boy warrior called Chiron has been summoned to find a cure – but as the story progresses, Bastian himself is summoned into the story and finds only he can save the Empress.
16. The Princess Bride (1987 – PG)
I don’t think I appreciated quite how funny this film was when I was a child. Back then, I was more into Princess Buttercup, and romance and adventure and being rescued from kidnappers and pirates. I watched it again recently and it’s absolutely hilarious – so witty. Plus it has Fred Savage in it as part of the narrative, which sees a grandfather telling his sick grandson a story. And as you all now know, he was one of my 80s crushes!
17 and 18. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980 – PG) and Return of the Jedi (1983 – U)
The original Star Wars was released in 1977 so it doesn’t make this particular list – but the sequels most definitely do! They’re some of the most important films ever made with some of the movie world’s most iconic characters in the form of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vedar. I know Cardiff Daddy is especially excited about watching these films with our three children in the coming years. Little Man O, aged 3¾ already thinks the light saber he was given is the best thing ever. I can’t wait to see his face when he watches the films for the first time.
19. Teen Wolf (1985 – PG)
What 80s kid could forget the sight of Michael J Fox, dressed in his yellow basketball kit, transforming into a werewolf mid-game? His character Scott went from high school and basketball loser to star player and all-round popular guy. But it’s not long before he realises his old self wasn’t so bad after all.
20. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
I remember seeing this in the cinema. It was so unusual for its time and unlike any film I had watched before, combining animation and real-life action. A humorous take on 1940s detective movies, it’s set in ToonTown, and follows detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) as he tries to get to the bottom of whether Roger Rabbit murdered his love rival, Martin Acme, and uncovers scandals that threaten the existence of the town. As a mum, there are two slight things that bother me about this film. The lack of a question mark in the title and what my children will make of Jessica Rabbit and her unrealistically voluptuous body.
21. Willow (1988 – PG)
I haven’t seen this film for years. Decades, probably. But I remember I loved it. The fact it was created by the legendary George Lucas and Ron Howard didn’t mean much to me back then. Nor did the fact that it used ground-breaking special effects. I loved the adventure and danger and the tale of the sacred child destined to end the reign of the evil sorceress. It’s amazing to see Warwick Davies and Val Kilmer looking so young in a film which was a life-changing, career-defining moment for both of them.
22. The Worst Witch (1986 – U)
I wasn’t sure whether to include this film in my list in case it makes me lose all sense of credibility. But hey, it’s my blog and I absolutely loved this as a child, so it makes the cut. Based on Jill Murphy’s book – which Little Miss E is currently reading and enjoying as much as I did as a child – The Worst Witch follows Mildred Hubble and her fellow witches at Miss Cackle’s International Academy for Witches. I adored the film – but no one I’ve asked seems to remember it! I was beginning to think I’d imagined it, until I found it on YouTube. In full! The theme song, Growing Up Isn’t Easy, was just as I remembered it.
* I’ve loved all the responses to this one! So many brilliant comments on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve had a few more suggestions of films to include, again in alphabetical order.
Batteries Not Included
Look Who’s Talking
Return To Oz (I’d left this one off my original list because it absolutely terrified me!)
Santa Claus The Movie
Have you watched, or are you planning to watch, any of these classic 1980s children’s films with your own kids? Are there any you would add to the list? I’d love to hear any I’ve forgotten in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy
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