The Best 80’s Movies for Kids

The 80’s is my favorite decade {followed closely by the 70’s} and it was a great time for movies in my opinion.  My favorite?  “On Golden Pond, ” and it still is.   I loved it from the moment I saw it when I was in 4th grade and I went to the theater four times to see it.  I was so enthralled by Jane Fonda’s hair, I even mistook a jalapeno for a nacho chip in the dark movie theatre.  And Henry Fonda won the Oscar for Best Actor for portraying Norman Thayer.  It’s good stuff.

the Best 80s Movies for Kids

With the invention of the PG-13 rating in the 80’s it creates a grey area for a lot of these films, so I included some of them anyway and you can use your judgement.

Here are the best 80’s movies for kids {unless noted, all are available on Netflix via streaming or DVD:}

My Favorites:

  1. Xanadu – This movie is cheese central, but how can Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and roller skates be wrong?
  2. Uncle Buck – John Candy stars as the lazy, carefree uncle who comes to take care of his brother’s kids one weekend.
  3. Popeye – Robin Williams stars in this live action version of the muscular sailor.
  4. The Black Stallion Returns – This sequel has the champion stallion being pursued by his “true” owners.
  5. Herbie Goes Bananas – Pete inherits the VW Beetle from his uncle and takes it across Central America to enter it into a race.
  6. The Little Mermaid – Ariel seems to have it all, but she dreams of life on dry land, so she can use her dinglehopper to comb her hair every day.
  7. The Fox and the Hound – Tod the fox and Copper the hound dog are unlikely best friends.
  8. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back – Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are all back in this sequel to the original.
  9. Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi – Ewoks, Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo in carbonite.

The Classics:

  1. E.T. – Elliot stumbles upon a creature in his backyard and he must help him get back home.
  2. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – Starring Han Solo as Indian Jones and the first in a series.
  3. The Goonies – When two boys find a treasure map, they bring some friends along to help them find it.
  4. Back to the Future – Marty McFly travels back in time to save his good friend Doc, but finds trouble when his mom is attracted to him and his Calvins.
  5. The Karate Kid – Daniel is new to Southern California and quickly finds himself the target of bullies.  With the help of Mr. Miyagi, Daniel trains with the martial arts master to defend himself.
  6. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – Inventor Wayne creates an experimental shrink ray machine and it accidentally shrinks four kids.  Sets from this movie are at the Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida.
  7. The Princess Bride – This fairy tale is full of adventure and memorable lines.
  8. Big – Tom Hanks stars as Josh Baskin, a 12-year-old who makes a wish that he were a grown up.
  9. An American Tail – Fievel Mousekewitz leaves Russia for America when his home is destroyed by cats.
  10. Annie – The original and the only one you need to see.
  11. Troop Beverly Hills – Shelley Long stars as a Beverly Hills housewife who decides to become troop leader to her daughter’s Wildreness Girls troop.
  12. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure – Pee Wee embarks on an adventure to save his beloved bicycle.
  13. The Secret of NIMH – A widowed mouse must find a new home for her family before a farmer plows the field.
  14. The Adventures of Milo and Otis – A cat and a dog on an adventure when they leave their home.

For older/mature kids:

  1. On Golden Pond – A teen with a need for an attitude adjustment, a daughter with a need to prove herself to her father, and Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda.  No brainer.
  2. Overboard – Goldie Hawn is a rich socialite with amnesia.  Kurt Russell is a widower with 4 boys looking for a mother.  Hilarity ensues.
  3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Bueller, Bueller, Bueller.  My friend’s sister’s cousin said he took the day off.
  4. The Cannonball Run – This cross country road race stars Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett and Roger Moore.
  5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – I skipped Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom and you can, too. Instead jump ahead to this one where Indiana and his father are on an adventure in search of the Holy Grail.
  6. Superman II – Superman fights terrorism and three aliens dressed in all black.
  7. Gremlins – The Gremlins wreck havoc on Christmas Eve.
  8. Footloose – Put on your Sunday shoes, this movie will have you dancing in your living room.
  9. Beetlejuice – When Barbara and Adam die in a car crash they find themselves unable to leave their home.  When new owners move in, they decide to try and scare them away with the help of Beetlejuice.
  10. Ghostbusters – Before you go see the reboot this summer, make sure you watch the original.
  11. Field of Dreams – If you build it, he will come.
  12. Splash – Before Ariel and Prince Eric, there were Madison and Allen.
  13. Three Men and a Baby – Three New York City bachelors find themselves parents to a baby girl left on their doorstep.
  14. Who Framed Roger Rabbit – In 1988, this film which marries animation and live action, caused a stir with it’s crazy cast of characters.

It can be difficult to find the right films to watch with your kids. I’ve come up with the best lists of movies by decade. I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you think I forgot something or if you think one of my choices is a poor one:) You can check out other posts here:

The Best 70’s Movies for Kids

The Best 90’s Movies for Kids

The Best Movies for Kids 2000 – 2009

Also, Wikipedia has an extensive list of films for children and families here.

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