You know what’s crazy? My kids love King Kong. And I don’t mean the one from the most recent movie, Kong: Skull Island (that King Kong actually scares my daughter). No, I mean the old, 1933 stop-motion King Kong. The one that’s in black and white. I thought my kids would think the old King Kong was boring, but they were enraptured, especially my son. What also shocked me was that my kids love Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Space Jam. I couldn’t believe that my four-year-old daughter and my three-year-old son could love the same movies that I loved growing up.
This of course opened the flood gates for me. I went through my memory banks and came up with a whole list of possible movies that I wanted to show them. Some, like The Goonies and Back to the Future (I probably should have started with the futuristic second one rather than the first) crashed and burned. But some other ones, like the ones below, actually got them really excited, and I’m happy to share them with you.
King Kong (1933)
As mentioned earlier, my son loves King Kong. Especially the scene at the end when King Kong is at the top of the Empire State Building swatting at airplanes. For those who don’t know, the story is about a giant gorilla stolen from his home on Skull Island and put on display, only for the giant gorilla to break free, steal away with a woman and run amok through New York City.
Kids will love it because, duh, giant monster in the city. That said, there are some scenes that made my son cheer and my daughter cover her eyes, like when King Kong wrecks a T-Rex by snapping its jaw apart. Also, my kids were a little bored at the start of the movie, so I had to keep their attention by explaining the plot of the director, Carl Denham, wanting to go to Skull Island in the first place. But once they actually got there, my kids loved it. The King is here!
Is there a plot? Sure, but my kids didn’t care. The story is about an underwater civilization that gets pissed off because of nuclear testing above them that causes aftershocks, so they send up Megalon to destroy mankind. Megalon is pretty cool, but again, the stars of the show are Godzilla and Jet Jaguar. Everybody’s favorite scene --including my son’s-- is when Godzilla slides on his tail. Kids will love just how bonkers it all is if they haven’t already been spoiled by CG and can appreciate people in rubber suits.
Clash of the Titans (1981)
I was surprised with how receptive my kids were to Godzilla, so I moved onto Mothra, but they found that boring. So I went to Clash of the Titans next, which tells the story of a man named Perseus who has to save a princess after Zeus releases the Kraken to destroy the city of Argos. It’s also Greek Mythology, so I could pretend that my kids were actually learning something.
My kids loved the stop-motion Kraken, but be warned. Both my children were terrified of the Medusa scene. Also, there is some brief nudity early on in the movie that I completely forgot about and I had to quickly fast-forward through. So don’t make the same mistake that I did and watch it in advance!
Batteries Not Included (1987)
The first movie written by The Incredibles Brad Bird, *batteries not included was actually the first film my parents brought me to the movie theater to see. It tells the story of tiny alien space ships that help some tenants keep their home from being knocked down.
My kids liked it, but I was actually surprised with how violent it was at times. There are some tough guys who try to get the people to leave their home by force, and you might find this material kind of sketchy to show your children, depending on their ages. But it’s a fun film all the same, and the “Fix-It’s,” which are what the aliens are called, are super cute, even today.
Short Circuit (1986)
Johnny Five is alive! Short Circuit tells the story of a robot struck by lightning that becomes sentient and starts to wonder about the world. My daughter really liked this one, especially the scene when Johnny Five is reading books really fast at the book store.
Kids will like Johnny Five since he has so many expressions, and his wonder at the world is fun to experience with them. My kids didn’t really understand the Cold War stuff mentioned in the beginning, but if you have older kids, you could maybe talk to them about it. Make it a history lesson.
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
I stumbled upon showing my kids Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure by accident when I started doing the Pee-Wee dance in front of them and they asked me what it was from. The plot of the movie is paper-thin. Pee-Wee loves his bike, but it gets stolen, and he goes on an adventure to get it back.
My daughter loves this movie, especially the zany intro. It’s just such a weird movie that my kids are both confused and curious about what kind of “adult” Pee-Wee actually is. But there are some scary moments that I skip past, like the nightmare part and the Large Marge scene. But otherwise, it's great fun.
Yes, there is some questionable material that you MUST fast-forward, like the duck boobs scene, but my kids really liked Howard since he’s a talking duck who fights aliens. Plus, when he plays the guitar, he does a literal duck walk. Many kids will probably hate this movie since it's pretty cheesy, but for some kids, it might be right up their alley.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
I feel like watching The NeverEnding Story is a rite of passage for kids, but I think it may be a little too scary for my young ones, especially the G’mork scene. But for the older set, the story is about a book-loving kid named Bastian Balthazar Bux. He stumbles upon a book and is soon drawn into the story about a boy named Atreyu in the world of Fantasia. Fantasy adventure ensues!
I didn’t show my kids The NeverEnding Story, but I did show them Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which my daughter really likes, maybe since it has a female protagonist in Jennifer Connelly’s character. It’s the story of a girl who has to rescue her baby brother from the Goblin King (who my daughter thought was a girl until she heard David Bowie sing).
I don’t really think there’s anything questionable in this movie (unlike The Dark Crystal), and the puppets are really fun, as is David Bowie as the Goblin King. It doesn’t hurt that I used to sing "The Magic Dance" to my daughter when I used to walk her around the house when she was a baby, which might be why she likes the movie so much.
Space Jam (1996)
The Tune Squad, baby. Space Jam is the reason my kids know who Michael Jordan is. It’s also how they know Bill Murray. Space Jam is basically about the Looney Tune characters recruiting Michael Jordan to their basketball team to beat some monster aliens. What more could kids possibly want?
My kids love seeing the Looney Tunes characters interacting with humans, and the basketball action is zany and fun. And what’s crazy is that I’ll actually get to take my kids to see a Space Jam movie in the theater someday. Space Jam 2 can’t get here soon enough!
And that’s pretty much it for now. I’ve also shown my kids Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and parts of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, but this article was getting a little long and I just wanted to give you a few selections from your own past that you might want to introduce to your children. And remember, even though you probably saw many of these films back when you were a kid, watch them again and don’t make the same mistake I did with Clash of the Titans. “Kids” movies were a lot different when we were growing up, so keep that in mind, and enjoy!