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Classic ’80s movies for family movie night



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Kids are getting a lot more screen time these days—heck, parents are getting a lot more screen time these days. Freshen up your movie queue with some of our favorite throwback movies from the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s. Settle back to a simpler time when cell phones didn’t exists, pandemics were reserved for sci-fi, and the family TV was our babysitter and best friend. Make some popcorn, cozy up on the couch, and introduce your family to the movies you loved as a kid.

Disclaimer: While our age recommendations may not always correspond with that of Common Sense Media, every movie on this list was test-watched by families of children with kids as young as 5 years old. Selecting a movie for your family should be up to your personal discretion. Also, some film descriptions may contain spoilers, so proceed with caution.

Credit: IMDB

E.T. is sci-fi for the younger set.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 7 to adult
One of the best sci-fi movies of all time, “E.T.” is told through the point of view of a child and the space alien with whom he forms a close and unbreakable friendship. We love that this movie was largely filmed from an adult-waist-height perspective, prioritizing the perspective of children. This movie pulls at the heartstrings of kids and parents alike, so be ready for a few tears when you watch. There are definitely scenes where kids will be scared, including when the scientists kidnap E.T.—and what happens to him while he’s being held by them—so use your discretion with kids under age 6 or 7.

Rent “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” on Amazon for $3.99

2. “The Princess Bride” (1987)

The Princess Bride

Credit: IMDB

Your kids will love saying classic lines from this cinematic adventure.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 5 to adult
A thrilling tale of romance and adventure, this movie has it all: action, adventure, betrayal, an evil prince, a swashbuckling pirate, a mad genius, a gentle giant, a hot-headed Spanish swordsman and—of course—true love. We love that this story is told under the narration of a grandfather reading the story to a little boy who thinks he’s too old for fairy tale-type love stories, but falls under the spell of the humor, wit, and timeless storytelling—letting kids know that you’re allowed to love fantastical adventures no matter how old you are.

Watch “The Princes Bride” on Disney+

3. “The NeverEnding Story” (1984)

Neverending story

Credit: IMDB

An engaging story about the power of imagination.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 5 to adult
In this sweeping and fantastical story about the power of the imagination and how there is always hope, a book-lover and a weaponless warrior are the heroes of this story. There are some scary parts: a faceless “Nothing,” a terrifying wolf-like foe with glowing eyes, and a beloved horse sucked into a swamp but, overall, kids will hone in more on the message: Just because someone is small doesn’t mean they are incapable of amazing things.

Watch “The NeverEnding Story” on Amazon

4. “The Goonies” (1985)

Goonies

Credit: IMDB

You can’t go wrong with this adventurous search for buried treasure.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 6 to adult
Any kid who likes pirates—which is almost all of them—will love this one. A group of motley outcasts fight to save their town from being demolished and turned into a golf course by hunting down the legendary treasure of a famed pirate who was rumored to have moored on their shores. The ultimate story of the ability of children to band together to save the day, this movie does have a lot of swearing and there are some gunshots fired, but no one is seriously hurt in the movie, and good triumphs over bad.

Rent “The Goonies” on Amazon for $3.99

5. “The Muppet Movie” (1979)

The Muppet Movie

Credit: IMDB

The Muppets at their silliest.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 5 to adult
If you were a kid of the ’80s then you know your kids will never truly understand how important the Muppets were to your cultural development. In this madcap update of “The Wizard of Oz,” complete with the hallmark zingy one-liners and puns that made the Muppets a favorite of Generation Xers, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie take an old Studebaker to Hollywood. On their way, they meet and collect a wacky group of friends and break out into some pretty soulful song and dance numbers. There are some guns and they do eat some frog legs, but overall the more adult content goes far over kids’ heads.

Rent “The Muppet Movie” on Amazon for $3.99

6. “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)

PeeWee

Credit: IMDB

Kids will giggle at the wacky adventures of Pee Wee Herman.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 4 to adult
This quirky cult-classic about a bow-tied man-child and his beloved bike really stands up, and it’s just nuanced enough to appeal to audiences of all ages. Kids as young as preschool will delight in the vivid world of Pee-wee Herman and will find his wacky antics hilarious. But elementary age viewers are the ones who will really relate to Pee-wee’s singular mission of finding his beloved stolen red bicycle. Large Marge is pretty scary, but beyond that this movie is perfect for the whole family.

Rent “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” on Amazon for $3.99

7. “Willow” (1988)

Willow

Credit: IMDB

A mystical, magical, and overall fun movie.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 5 to 12
Filled with sorcery, sword-fighting, and slapstick humor, “Willow” is a great choice for giving young kids a taste of the fantasy genre. This movie is a balance of myth and magic and fast-talking fairies. There are some intense scenes: The foundation of the story is an evil queen who wants to kill a baby, and it features scary wildebeests and battle scenes. However, most conflict is tempered with a touch of humor.

Watch “Willow” on Disney+

8. “Explorers” (1985)

Explorers

Credit: IMDB

A homemade space ship is just the beginning of this fun outerspace adventure story.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 6 to adult
The story of a group of three misfits that make it to outer space on a homemade spaceship, this film is all about believing in your dreams. It stars pre-hearthrob-era River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke, so it’s a fun trip down memory lane for any Gen X mom.

Watch “Explorers” on Amazon

9. “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (1989)

Honey I Shrunk the Kids

Credit: IMDB

This tale of a science experiment gone wrong is loads of fun.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 6 and up
This story features five kids who are accidentally shrunk to a quarter of an inch when their baseball hits a shrinking machine built by one of their dads. When they are accidentally thrown out with the trash, they must venture into their backyard to return home while fending off insects the size of airplanes, crossing mud puddles the size of lakes, and navigating other hazards. And it’s official! Rick Moranis is returning to Hollywood to make the latest sequel in the “Honey, I Shrunk” franchise, so it’s a great time to get your kids up to speed on this classic.

Watch “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” on Disney+

10. “Hook” (1991)

Hook

Credit: IMDB

Captain Hook returns to take revenge on a grown-up Peter Pan in this classic flick.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 8 and up
What happens when Peter Pan grows up to become a corporate lawyer? Thirty years after Peter leaves Neverland to move to America and raise a family, he and his wife and two children return to Grandma Wendy’s house for a visit. Things go awry when Hook returns to seek revenge on old unsettled scores. The Lost Boys get in quite a few scuffles—one dies—and the “boo box” is pretty disturbing, but overall kids will love the adventure, the goofy humor, the excitement, the sword fighting, and the message of being true to one’s self.

Rent “Hook” on Amazon for $3.99

11. “Harry and the Hendersons” (1987)

Harry and the Hendersons

Credit: IMDB

When Sasquatch comes to visit, it makes for hilarious entertainment.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 6 to adult
A Sasquatch takes a shine to a suburban family after they hit him with their car and take him home. Younger kids squeal over the goofy, physical humor and are always charmed by the adorable over-sized, lovable Harry. This is definitely a campy movie, but it has a great message, which is carried out by some pretty terrific actors, like John Lithgow, Melinda Dillon and Don Ameche. There is a fare amount of swearing and the Henderson are a hunting family (if that is problematic for you), but this is really a family adventure that is full of fun and laughs.

Rent “Harry and the Hendersons” on Amazon for $3.99

12. “Annie” (1982)

Annie

Credit: IMDB

Annie has catchy tunes and a sweet story.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 5 to adult
The story of the spunky little red-haired girl still holds up, as do all of the musical sequences that your child will likely be singing for weeks after watching. The ever-hopeful orphan Annie dreams of the day her parents will come back for her and they’ll be able to be together forever. A timeless heroine, Annie kicks aside adversity by breaking out in musical numbers with scores of other little orphan girls. For the most part this story stands up but Mr. Warbucks’s servant “Punjab” might give present day parents a bit of pause with the way the character depicts Indian culture.

Rent “Annie” on Amazon for $3.99

13. “The Dark Crystal” (1982)

Dark Crystal

Credit: IMDB

Older kids and tweens are just the right age for The Dark Crystal.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 10 to adult
This one is for more mature kids, and depends on your child’s tolerance for the creepy. The story focuses on a dangerous and dark world where sinister forces take over. The human-like “Gelflings” are kidnapped and strapped to chairs, and drained of their “essence” with large, scary needles. The villains are creepy, dinosaur-like Skeksis that could cause nightmares in the very small. This movie isn’t for everyone, and surely not for sensitive little ones, but fantasy-loving kids on the edge of tweendom will have their minds blown by the incredible story-telling and puppetry.

Rent “The Dark Crystal” on Amazon for $2.99

14. “The Karate Kid” (1984)

Karate Kid

Credit: IMDB

A great sports movie with an even better message.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 6 to adult
The ultimate underdog movie and—truly—one of the best sports movies ever made, this feel-good flick starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita focuses on the bullied new kid in town who bonds with an elderly Japanese karate master. The two form a father-son friendship where the boy learns karate, and the result is pure 1980’s movie magic.

Rent “The Karate Kid” on Amazon for $3.99

15. “Jumanji” (1995)

Jumanji

Credit: IMDB

When exotic beasts come alive, it makes for lots of wild fun.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 7 to adult
By now your kids are probably pretty familiar with the new “Jumanji” franchise—even if it’s only from film trailers. We recommend you start at the beginning with the movie that started it all. A brother and sister unleash havoc on their home and town when they play a magical board game. The only way for things to return to normal is to play the game to the end, but each roll of the dice the game unleashes crazed monkeys, demonic bats, enormous mosquitoes, and man-eating plants. Kids who love adventure will love this one and it’s always fun for adults who grew up with Robin Williams to get to revisit his genius.

Rent “Jumanji” on Amazon for $3.99

16. “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope” (1977)

Star Wars

Credit: IMDB

The original Star Wars film is the best way to introduce kids to the galaxy far, far away.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 6 to adult
It’s a common parenting pop-culture question: When can I introduce my child to “Star Wars”? With all the games, toys, spin offs, prequels and sequels, most kids are familiar with “Star Wars” these days, but it can be hard to figure out if the films are age-appropriate. We recommend starting at the beginning—at least as kids of the ’80s knew it. This is the least violent and least sinister of all the “Star Wars” movies.

Watch “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope” on Disney+

17. “Follow That Bird” (1985)

Follow that Bird

Credit: IMDB

Big Bird’s journey back to Sesame Street is ideal for little viewers.

Rated G
Best for: Ages 3 to 8
“Follow That Bird” is a cute, warm, and funny movie for the whole family. It tells the story of Big Bird being taken away from Sesame Street by an over-concerned social worker who feels he’d be “happier” if he lived with a family of feathered “Karens” in Illinois. Unhappy in his new home, Big Bird hitchhikes back to Sesame Street. Along his journey back home, he meets a number of oddballs played by the likes of Chevy Chase, Sandra Bernhard, Waylon Jennings, and John Candy.

Rent “Follow That Bird” on Amazon for $2.99

18. “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1975)

With Mountain

Credit: IMDB

A 1970’s classic that’s still fun for today’s kids.

Rated G
Best for: Ages 5 to 8
This is another good one for younger, more sensitive kids. Back when I was a kid, every little girl I knew wanted to be Tia Malone, with her perfect bangs and cool star purse. Older kids might find this 1970’s classic a little corny and a bit outdated, but younger ones will love the suspense and magical powers of Tia and her harmonica-wielding brother, Tony.

Watch “Escape to Witch Mountain” on Disney+

19. “Flight of the Navigator” (1986)

Flight of the Navigator

Credit: IMDB

A sci-fi adventure about a boy’s reappearance after years away.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 6 to adult
After disappearing in the woods by his home, a 12-year-old boy named David returns eight years later unable to remember where he has been or explain why he hasn’t aged at all in the decade that has passed. When a NASA scientist discovers a UFO nearby, David gets the chance to unravel the mystery and recover the life he lost. This movie is filled with enough wit, drama, and humor to entertain everyone from a curious elementary schooler to a jaded teen. Beginning scenes are intense and can be scary for a younger viewer, but they’ll soon warm up to David’s new-found powers, his fantastic flying machine, and the wisecracking robotic commander that accompanies him on his adventures.

Watch “Flight of the Navigator” on Disney +

20. “Labyrinth” (1987)

Labyrinth

Credit: IMDB

David Bowie is at his flamboyant best in Labyrinth.

Rated PG
Best for: Ages 6 to adult
The last feature film directed by Jim Henson, Labyrinth follows the story of Sarah, a teenage girl whose infant brother is kidnapped by David Bowie’s Goblin King, Jareth. Sarah has to follow a maze, populated by strange beings and beasts, to rescue her brother from the goblins’ castle before midnight, or he’ll be turned into a goblin himself and kept in the kingdom forever. For the most part, the themes are pretty tame in this surreal coming-of-age fantasy; if your kid is OK with creepy then they’ll love the imaginative and playful weird alternative world.

Rent “Labyrinth” on Amazon Prime for $3.99

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