Homeschooling is a drag, but your children’s cinematic education starts with this array of throwback films they’re going to love and for you to enjoy … second time around.
The Goonies (1985, PG)
The Goonies is without question an absolute must. A story of friendship, adventure, comedy booby traps, bants and a celebration peoples’ differences – long before it was PC. Mikey, Chunk, Mouth Devereaux, Stef, Data Wang and Brand go in search of treasure to solve their families’ financial strife and attracting the attention of a family of criminals. The Cyndi Lauper soundtrack ticks a box too.
E.T.: Extra-Terrestrial (1982, PG)
Steven Spielberg’s classic was considered one of the greatest sci-fi films for its time. Elliot’s encounter with alien life, the hoody-wearing ET in his bike basket, “ET phone home” line and John Williams’ epic music. There won’t be a dry eye in the house. An Eighties magic moment.
Beetlejuice (1987, 12A)
This 1997 film became the surprise lockdown hit and is now one of Netflix’s most-watched movies right now. Why? It’s perfect quarantine viewing about a couple who are living in enforced isolation filled with ghostly hijinks and an unfortunate run-in with creepy bio-exorcist Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton). It all feels very 2020.
Ghostbusters (1984, 12A)
Fire up the proton pack, and wipe that slime off your face, Ghostbusters is a cult classic. The special effects guys at the time were let loose in the sweet shop, Dan Ackroyd (he wrote the script) and Bill Murray have some witty one-liners, the soundtrack is infectious and we all love a boiler suit.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, 15)
“Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…” You can’t throwback to the 80s without seeing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It may be the decade style forgot, but it’s a cinematic goldmine. John Hughes’s teen movie classic tells the story of one Ferris Bueller (starring a young Matthew Broderick), a carefree teen who just doesn’t want to go to school today. But the principal (played by Jeffrey Jones), isn’t going to let that fly, and he’s out to spoil Bueller’s perfect day.
Stand By Me (1986, 15)
Long before Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s 1986 film Stand By Me combined youth, nostalgia and corpses for an iconic coming-of-age story. With a retro soundtrack, this tale (based on Stephen King’s novella) is of four boys in search of a body in the woods. It takes them from the naivety of childhood to the sometimes ugly truth of being a grown-up.
Gremlins (1984, 12A)
Off the chart cuteness – don’t get him wet, keep him out of bright light, and never ever feed him after midnight. What’s happens if you do… Gremlins.
Back To The Future (1985, PG)
Fire up the DeLorean, and go Back To The Future. The gold standard of family adventure films was a career-defining moment for Michael J Fox who plays Marty McFly. Marty forms a strange bond with an old scientist, almost kisses his mum when he goes back in time and has one of the best theme tunes EVER.
The NeverEnding Story (1984, U)
The Neverending Story is literally about a kid sitting in an attic and reading all day, creating a bonkers world with a luckdragon, busty, laser-shooting Sphinx statues and Limahl and his flowing blond mullet singing the title track.
The Princess Bride (1987, PG)
The Princess Bride is a movie that’s been covered in unicorn dust, popped on a pedestal and caused a social media meltdown when it was suggested it would be remade. It’s a love story set in a fairytale within its own self-aware artificiality.
The Karate Kid (1984, PG)
This is one way of sharing chores in lockdown – 1) Watch The Karate Kid; 2) Tie a bandana around your kids’ heads; 3) Make like Mr Miaggi and get them dusting like they’re training for their next bout. A lesson in resilience and perfecting skills. I’d almost call it educational.
Mrs Doubtfire (1993, PG)
A divorced father dragging it up as a kind Scottish nanny to continue seeing his kids. Mrs Doubtfire is one of the late, great Robin Williams’ most enduring roles and introduced his talents to children, bringing humour, humility and heart to the role. It’s a family film night regular for good reason.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, PG)
Johnny Depp’s weird and wonderful Willy Wonka film with its stupendous special effects is a brilliant remake, but you have to watch the 1971 original. Gene Wilder is an oddball with a lot less make-up, the little people casting agency made a mint and some of the scenes were so trippy, the entire crew was probably high as a kite throughout. I mean there’s a spinning chicken in the chocolate river tunnel scene. A ‘Just say no’ campaign, right there.
Grease (1978, PG)
We’re hopelessly devoted to Grease – a movie musical that was the soundtrack to our youth. John Travolta’s smouldering Danny Zuko, Olivia Newton John’s transformation from sweet to sexpot Sandy and an unhealthy obsession with the Pink Ladies – Frenchie’s pink hair and Rizzo’s sassiness. Sing-a-long and don’t mention the fact the cast is old enough to be the Rydale High’s teachers.
Airplane! (1980, 12A)
Surely you can’t be serious. ‘I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley.’ Airplane has the best one-liners ever and regularly cited as one of the greatest comedies on the planet. Starring Leslie Neilson as Dr Rumack, Julie Hagerty as the ditzy flight attendant, Robert Hays as traumatized war vet Ted Striker and a blow-up pilot, your kids may think the production values are lame, but it’s all part of its charm. A must-watch, rite of passage movie.
Edward Scissorhands (1990, PG)
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have long been a match made in horror heaven but it all started with Edward Scissorhands – about a gothic robot with knives for fingers plonked into Stepford Housewives-style pastel suburbia where the bored housewives have the hots for their freakish new resident and a bittersweet romance between Edward and Kim (Winona Ryder). It’s as fun as Burton’s other films but with the heart to match. Also good for hairdressing tips in lockdown.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988, PG)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – a mix of cartoon and live-action – felt truly groundbreaking in 1988. Starring Bob Hoskins as private detective Eddie Valiant, the film is set in 1947 Hollywood where cartoon characters and people co-exist. His job to exonerate Roger Rabbit who is accused of murder. Fun fact: curvy cartoon redhead Jessica Rabbit was once voted the sexiest screen siren, beating Marilyn Monroe to the top spot. It doesn’t take Freud to unravel that one.
National Lampoons Vacation (1983, 15)
While we’re holidaying nowhere right now, you can live vicariously through the Griswalds and thank your lucky stars this isn’t you right now. Since 1983 Ad exec Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) has come to represent all dads – well-meaning but calamitous. Laser-focused on taking his family to Wally World, this becomes less a vacation and more of a descent into a peculiar hell. Suddenly the tent in the garden looks more appealing.
Don’t see your favourite here? EEK! Pop them in the comments below so we can create the ultimate rite of passage film library.