The 25 Movies I'm Most Excited to Show my Kids
I admit without the slightest bit of shame that I look forward to living vicariously through my children as they enjoy some of the things I enjoyed as a child. We’ve already made great use out of the many boxes of picture books and board games rescued from my parent’s attic, and we’ve watched many classic cartoons together, but don’t we all have things we want to share with our children that require a little bit of waiting too?
Like I said, my son has already seen several movies I would put on an essential childhood movie list, but this is a different kind of list. This is a waiting list. Our children are currently 5 and 2, and therefore not yet old enough to experience the vast majority of movies I’d like to show them. So in order to pass the time while I’m sitting around waiting for my kids to age about three to eight years, I thought I’d write about those movies I’m most excited to (eventually) share with my kids.
In this list are some of my favorite movies, and they all certainly fill me with nostalgia. This, of course, is the reason I’m so eager to share them with others, but my wife is a self-professed movie hater. We thought long and hard about what to do about this, and we decided that the best course of action was to have two children. So one day I might be lucky enough to have a movie partner.
The reason my kids can’t watch these movies yet might be obvious - like the content is far too mature - or they might just not be old enough to fully appreciate them yet. My criteria for this list is simple - the films are listed in the order of how excited I am to share them, and how deeply my heart would shatter if my kids don’t love them. No pressure, future kids!
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. The links of movie titles and their images will lead you to view the listings for digital and physical copies of the films on Amazon.com.
Year: 1993 Rating: PG Director: Steve Zaillian
Still the best movie ever made about chess, although there have been a couple really good ones recently - The Dark Horse and Queen of Katwe. Searching for Bobby Fischer captures the excitement of chess tournaments and the electricity of blitz games better than anything I’ve ever seen. But what makes this movie really special is what a sweet soul Josh is. He refuses to hate his opponents the way his coach wants him to, and he asks his mother if his homeless friend in the park can sleep on his top bunk. I also can’t think of a better portrayal of a father/son relationship being pushed to the limits by competition. The moment Joe Montagna realizes he’s gone too far pushing his son is enough to bring me to tears every time. More than anything I want to share this film because of how great a role model Josh is.
How long I have to wait: About 2 years.
24. Pan’s Labyrinth
Year: 2006 Rating: R Director: Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro is a director who has made several things I’m going to want to share with my kids as they get older. In fact, we’ve already watched some of his cartoon Trollhunters on Netflix. But Pan’s Labyrinth is by far the del Toro work I am most excited to share. It is so hauntingly beautiful it’s ridiculous. What you usually hear - a fairy tale for adults - is the perfect description. The character creation and the storytelling is incredible. The film is scary and touching and full of del Toro’s very peak of imagination. The music is beautiful too which is always a huge selling point for me in movies. I’ll have to wait quite a bit longer to share this fantasy film with my kids, and it’s going to be so worth the wait.
How long I have to wait: About 8-10 years.
Year: 2004 Rating: R Director: Michel Gondry
I went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind three times in the theatre by myself. And going to see movies alone wasn’t exactly common practice growing up. Charlie Kaufman just has some of the most amazing screenplays. Another favorite is the movie Adaptation. This movie is probably my favorite love story ever told, which is why I know I’m going to want to share it with my kids when they grow up. It really makes you ponder the effect your relationships and your memories have on your life. It might be one of those works of art that you need to experience at the exact right time in your life, like Catcher in the Rye, so I’ll be lurking in the shadows for years waiting for one of my kids to have a tough breakup or two. Jim Carrey is at his very best in this movie in my opinion and still deserves more and more credit.
How long I have to wait: About 20 years until my kids start dating.
Year: 1995 Rating: R Director: Mel Gibson
“I love ya. Always have.”
Need I say more? I have a soft spot for epic movies like this with love stories and war and great music. I’m actually a bigger fan of the setup in Braveheart than the second half - I love the love story and everything that drives him to war. One of the most touching scenes in cinema history for me is when the little girl gives William the flower after his father dies and they just look at each other. And then he returns the flower to her all those years later. This is the type of emotion and love that makes me tear up and I look forward to sharing scenes like that with my children.
How long I have to wait: Probably 7 or 8 years at least.
Year: 1990 Rating: PG-13 Director: Tim Burton
Tim Burton has seemingly spent his entire career making sure that dads will be excited to share all of his movies with their kids. What an incredible filmography he has, and of course his A Nightmare Before Christmas is an annual tradition in our house. My kids aren’t ready for Edward Scissorhands yet though, because there is just a little bit of mature content and violence. Edward is a big sweetie though, and a wonderful role model for innocence and kindness. This is another fairy tale for adults on this list, and another good love story to boot. Tim Burton’s cinematography and set designs are perfect for an imaginative, dream-like, fairy tale like this. I know my son is going to freak out (in a good way, hopefully) about those scissor hands. If I time it right, I know this movie will have a big impact on his imagination.
How long I have to wait: I think about 4 or 5 years.
Year: 1995 Rating: G Director: Alfonso Cuarón
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of these films have good role models, and A Little Princess is certainly no exception. This little girl is the absolute best. A Little Princess is the ultimate champion of the imagination. And she’s kind to absolutely everyone, even the maid who lives in the attic. Sara loves to tell stories, and her kindness and her imagination quickly endear her to all of the other children in the boarding school she’s placed in as her father goes to war. This movie is an emotional rollercoaster, as Sara loses her father in the war, and is reduced to working as a maid for the evil headmistress. Sara remains positive and kind and insistent throughout the film that all girls are princesses. I hope both of my kids can learn a thing or two from Sara.
How long I have to wait: Not long at all! Maybe just 2 years to appreciate it fully.
Year: 1985 Rating: PG Director: Tim Burton
We are huge fans of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and in our article about it I compared him to Mr. Rogers as a role model. But Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is just the tiniest bit more mature in its humor. We’ve actually watched a few scenes from this one already, but we’re a few years away from fully appreciating the different kinds of humor here. And the kids are certainly not ready for the scary scene with Large Marge. But Pee-wee is such a joy and our son already loves him so much I can’t wait to watch this one together with him in its entirety.
How long I have to wait: Probably just a few years to be ready for Large Marge.
Year: 2004 Rating: PG Director: Jared Hess
Here’s a good example of a movie I want to share with my kids to make sure they know what good, quality humor is. It’s a very awkward deadpan humor that is brilliantly delivered and so endearing. Another good movie for sharing this kind of humor with my kids will be Hot Rod or Wet, Hot, American Summer, but Napoleon is (once again) just an awesome character for people to learn something from. He is so innocent and awkward and kind.
“I see you’re drinking 1%. Is that cause you think you’re fat? ‘Cause you’re not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.”
The entire film can be used as one giant lesson in empathy and being true to yourself. The scene where he shows off his dance moves on stage in front of the entire school is one of the best ever.
How long I have to wait: Probably 4 years to appreciate the awkward humor.
17. Home Alone
Year: 1990 Rating: PG Director: Chris Columbus
It’s not that I’ll be crushed if my kids don’t like Home Alone, I’m just very excited to share it with them because I know they’ll love it. We’ve read the Home Alone picture book already, and it spawned an absolute obsession with booby traps for our son. After he learned about booby traps, we’ve been tying strings to falling blankets and laundry baskets ever since. We’ll draw out our sketches of future booby trap plans and then put them into action. My son is going to go crazy for this movie in a few years, and I look forward to sharing it with him. We won’t be ready for it this Christmas because of the few various mature scenes - the adult magazines, the shooting scene, the way the kids talk to each other - but maybe we could do the Home Alone I and II double feature in a few Christmases.
How long I have to wait: Probably just 2 or 3 years.
Year: 1992 Rating: R Director: Michael Mann
Here’s another one of those great epic movies about love and war that I’m a real sucker for. And my goodness is the music good in this one. This just so happens to be a movie that my father introduced to me, and I look forward to the day I can introduce it to my son so he can be Daniel Day Lewis when he grows up. He’s already got the cool long hair. What a love story this is. And there is a lot of manly honor in this movie too. That might sound cheesy, but I think there are incredible lessons for kids about honor in The Last of the Mohicans. One small scene that was burned into my memory comes in the very beginning. They shoot a deer while hunting, and then proceed to make a very big deal about kneeling next to it in sadness and thanking their brother deer for his sacrifice. It’s almost a throwaway scene, but it shows how they honorably live truly connected to their world. Of course this has little to nothing to do with the movie, but, as an animal lover and a vegetarian, it just makes me love these guys even more.
How long I have to wait: Eek, probably 7 or 8 years for the war scenes.
Year: 1986 Rating: PG-13 Director: Frank Oz
Little Shop of Horrors has it all as far as I’m concerned. We’re starting to get to the part of the list where my heart will break a little if my kids don’t love it. I mean, get real, it’s a musical-horror-comedy. A musical-horror-comedy, people! And the music is really, really good! Rick Moranis and Steve Martin are hilarious - really classic performances. Steve Martin’s introduction song about being a dentist is amazing. Audrey II is funny, but frankly very terrifying. It’s a very scary concept what’s going on here, feeding a plant people. But somehow it all still feels so lighthearted and fun. How do they do it? That all makes it very hard to determine when a kid is ready to watch this movie. I definitely saw this one when I was pretty young, and I remember going to see a high school production of it when I was little as well. We might just have to play a wait and see approach with this one, and see how they handle other scary things.
How long I have to wait: I’ll say 4 years.
Year: 1986 Rating: R Director: James Cameron
Alien might be more critically-beloved, but for my list I have to skip straight to James Cameron’s sequel. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a sucker for Cameron’s big budgets and big sets and giant mechs and scarier monsters. There are actually many James Cameron movies I’m very much looking forward to showing to my children. But Aliens is the top one because I love to be scared. I mentioned earlier that my wife is a self-professed movie hater in general, but she hates horror movies more than anything. As a fan of spooky things, this means I am in desperation mode trying to mold a young, horror-movie buddy out of one of my two kids. Ripley deserves a place on this list because the imagination and design that went into this universe is some of horror’s very best.
How long I have to wait: A long, sad 8 or 9 years I suspect.
13. The Lost Boys
Year: 1987 Rating: R Director: Joel Schumacher
There are quite a few vampire movies I’d like to share with my kids - Let the Right One In, Fright Night, Nosferatu - but The Lost Boys fills me with the most nostalgia. Once the Frog Brothers show up, you know this is going to be a pretty awesome movie. It’s almost like a kids gang adventure movie like Stand by Me, The Goonies, or, more recently, Stranger Things, except with very scary vampire stuff. We’ve got Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and music by The Doors. And there is a very awesome build up to the grand finale - like in Home Alone - where they know the bad guys are coming and they have to prepare the house to defend themselves. That’s good entertainment right there!
How long I have to wait: A hard 7 or 8 years for the violence.
12. Groundhog Day
Year: 1993 Rating: PG Director: Harold Ramis
My very favorite Bill Murray movie. What a lovable curmudgeon that Phil Connors is. Phil is stuck reliving the same day over and over until he gets it right. Many movies have used this premise now, but none does it better than Groundhog Day.
Officer: Now you can go back to Punxsutawney. Or you can go ahead and freeze to death. It’s your choice. So what’s it gonna be?
Phil: I’m thinking.
There’s actually a Disney Christmas cartoon we’ve already seen that uses this plot with Huey, Dewey, and Louie reliving Christmas until they get it right - so I know it won’t be a new idea anymore for my kids, but I still think it’s an incredible lesson for children, and for all of us. “Getting it right” of course means to stop being so narcissistic and to start thinking about the feelings of those around you. Bill Murray does an incredible job playing the best narcissist ever. It’s a hilarious role that morphs into a wonderful love story.
How long I have to wait: Just 3 or 4 years to fully appreciate the humor.
Year: 1975 Rating: PG Directors: Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones
My dad shared this one with me, and I consider it my civic duty to successfully pass on the humor of Monty Python to the next generation. If I fail in my mission, will I have failed as a father? Perhaps. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. My hopes are high though, because both of our kids are pretty goofy - and pretty smart as far as 5 and 2 year-old’s go. I think they’ll get it once they see those men pretending to ride horses with someone banging coconuts behind them. I’m confident they’ll understand the hilarious absurdity of the Black Knight who refuses to yield after losing all of his limbs. Will they grow up quoting the questions asked on the Bridge of Death, or the directions for the Holy Hand Grenade? Let’s just say I don’t want to imagine a world where they don’t.
How long I have to wait: About 4 years to be ready for some of the jokes.
10. Star Wars
Year: 1977 Rating: PG Director: George Lucas
Star Wars ranks high because I’m excited to share it and not quite as much because my heart will break if my kids don't like it. Like Home Alone, I’m already incredibly confident it’s something my son will absolutely love when we watch it. He already knows most of the story here too, because, again, we’ve already read about it in a picture book. I’ve also developed a habit of pretending to be Emperor Palpatine or Darth Vader and asking my son to join me on the dark side. Whenever he acts mean or grumpy I immediately say, “Good, good! Join me on the dark side! Give in to your anger!” This makes him stop immediately and say “Never!” Feel free to use this tip yourself. Anyways - of course this will be a big moment when we watch the first trilogy together. It’s the fantasy adventure story to build love for fantasy adventure stories.
How long I have to wait: Maybe just 1 or 2 years.
9. Harry Potter
Year: 2001 Rating: PG Director: Chris Columbus
I grew up with Harry Potter as they were being released. I’m not the biggest potterhead around, but I like to think I love it as much as most. I have to wonder if anything that big in the world of books will happen again in my lifetime. We would go to gigantic midnight release parties for every book at Hastings or Barnes and Noble. Unfortunately our kids won’t experience that hysteria for the books, but that doesn’t mean they’ll love them any less.
I actually think the movies did a really wonderful job creating the world, and of course the cast is amazing. I think every book and movie grows in maturity along with the children, which makes it a little hard to peg down an appropriate age for the entire collection. The Battle for Hogwarts in the final film is incredibly exciting. I don’t think we technically have to wait to begin sharing these with our son anymore, despite the scary parts. But we don’t plan on watching the movies until after reading all of the books, so most of our waiting time will be because of that. We’re currently reading the new illustrated versions out loud to our kids, and we’ll be ready to watch the movies after we’re done.
How long I have to wait: Maybe 2 years just to be done with all of the books.
Year: 1988 Rating: PG Director: Penny Marshall
Big just screams to be on a list like this. It simply has to be shared with a kid. You almost have to be a kid to fully appreciate this movie. Of course the timing is tricky because of the mature content - a little bit of language and sexual situations - but I’m pretty sure I saw this one when I was about 10. In Big, Josh makes a wish to be big, and his wish is granted. He wakes up looking like Tom Hanks and scares his mom to death so he runs out the door. He’s then forced to get his own place and get a job. But he’s still a kid at heart and that proves to be a wonderfully useful thing. There’s almost a Zen philosophy in this film on the meaning of life and happiness, and I think if it’s timed right and experienced in pre-teen years it can still leave a lasting impression. Who didn’t want a giant floor piano after watching this movie?
How long I have to wait: Probably 4 years.
Year: 1993 Rating: PG-13 Director: Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg at his very best. This is certainly in the running for one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a one-of-a-kind adventure film that I really can’t wait to put on the big screen and watch together. Jurassic Park is so well made and it holds up so well in large part because of the animatronic dinosaurs. It’s too bad some of today’s directors don’t notice how good 1993’s Jurassic Park still looks. I got a VHS copy of Jurassic Park for Christmas when I was about 8 years old. It seems that I turned out more or less okay, so by my calculations we only have about 3 or 4 more years to wait for this one. Once I’m certain it won’t give them nightmares for the rest of their lives, I’m going to blow their minds with the coolest dinosaur celebration ever.
How long I have to wait: 4 or 5 years
Year: 1985 Rating: PG Director: Robert Zemeckis
It’s funny how many of my favorite movies I’m introducing to my kids through picture books based on the movies, but here’s another one. We just bought a picture book for Back to the Future. My son wants to be an inventor when he grows up, and for years now he’s said he wants to invent a time machine. His grandfather is an engineer and he often asks if Poppy can invent things too. “Can Poppy make a time machine?” Suffice it to say, I am 100% sure he is going to love this classic movie about a time machine. I can already imagine how cool he’ll think it is that Marty is fading from the picture like he was never born unless he gets his parents to fall in love. And every kid should like Huey Lewis and the News. Some sexual situations and language will make us wait just a little while longer, but we are definitely in heartbreak territory now if this movie doesn’t blow them away.
How long I have to wait: 3 or 4 years
Year: 1984 Rating: PG Director: Joe Dante
I love Gremlins! One of my favorite Christmas movies of all time certainly. Gremlins made the top 5 on this list because I am absolutely dying to show it to my son, but it’s just too violent. Interestingly, Gremlins was the cause of the invention of a PG-13 rating in the Summer of 1984, because parents protested that it was far too scary for the PG rating it earned. I love sweet little brave Gizmo, and I love the rules of making sure he doesn’t get wet and not feeding him after midnight. I’m also a big fan of the sequel and the scary spider gremlin. In fact, we have a picture book from my childhood that focuses on Gizmo fighting the spider gremlin with his little bow and arrow, so the world itself won't be new to my son. When I was young I had some plastic figurines of different gremlins from the films - there’s just so much nostalgia here. We’ll be watching this one the very day I decide my son is ready for the scares.
How long I have to wait: Maybe 4 or 5 years.
Year: 2001 Rating: PG Director: Hayao Miyazaki
I would certainly call Spirited Away the best animated film of all time. Hayao Miyazaki is one of our favorite directors, with the most impressive filmography I’m aware of. Just hit after hit of beautiful, captivating films that leave an impression. The art is stunning and the music is so perfect and beautiful. I absolutely love little Chihiro in this movie. She is the spunky, hard-headed, brave girl that I can imagine my own daughter growing up to be. The spirits in Spirited Away are dreamt up by a genius, and the main cast of characters are so beloved you get so invested. There’s so much love in this film - you can feel how deeply they all care about each other in this film. There are times I want to cry and there’s the incredibly scary moment Haku first shows up on the bridge and tells Chihiro to run as the spirits start to appear for the first time. The hair still stands up on the back of my neck. And almost every single frame of this movie is something I would happily screenshot and hang up on my wall. I can’t stand how good this movie is.
How long I have to wait: Just 1 or 2 years.
Year: 1984 Rating: PG Director: Wolfgang Petersen
The Neverending Story wins my award for most nostalgic film. This one burrows deep to the core of my nostalgia mainframe. Fantasia is an absolutely wonderful world full of memorable characters, but it all begins in Mr. Koreander’s bookshop. Bastian finds The Neverending Story in the store, and, by reading it, he becomes a part of the story. The Neverending Story is originally a children’s book from Germany. It is often printed in two colors of font, one color for when they’re in Fantasia and Atreju is trying to defeat The Nothing, and another color for when they’re back in the real world and describing what Bastian is doing. The message about the power of a child’s imagination that it tries to deliver to readers and viewers is a powerful message, and an important one. The zany, beloved characters and the exciting adventure appeals to the kid inside me, and the heartwarming message about children’s imaginations fighting The Nothing appeals to the father.
How long I have to wait: Just 1 or 2 years to fully appreciate it and be ready for the depressing Artax scene.
Year: 2001 Rating: PG-13 Director: Peter Jackson
Just like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings is another series we’ll make sure to read first before we see the movies. But we certainly have more time to wait for this one because of the violent war scenes. These movies are masterpieces. I think they’re the best movies ever made. I thought every single one deserved to win best picture. I will for the rest of my life remember that The Fellowship of the Ring came out in 2001 and A Beautiful Mind beat it for best picture - and I don’t have any business knowing that. I don’t have a single other thing about The Academy Awards memorized. That’s how lame I thought it was that it didn’t win. Holy smokes are these films well cast. And holy smokes did they deserve to win all the Oscars they did for The Return of the King. The costumes, the cinematography, the music - it’s all drop-dead amazing. I cried three different times in the theater during The Return of the King and I never wanted it to end. Ever single fake-out fadeout ending towards the end I’d say “No, no, no, not yet!” When Sam says, “Well, I’m back”, it all felt perfect. Just like when I wrapped up the books for the first time.
How long I have to wait: An excruciating 5 years or so for the battles.
Year: 1987 Rating: PG Director: Rob Reiner
The Princess Bride is still my favorite movie. It’s been that way for a long time. This is another one my dad shared with me as kid. I knew a long time ago it was a special film that I would want to share with my non-existent children and grandchildren. One day I would be Grandpa reading to Fred Savage in his bed. I don’t think our kids will be as reluctant as he was though. This is the fairy tale movie. This is the adventure story about the prince that saves his princess. This is the movie about storybook love.
Ultimately it’s a film about true love, but all of the side stories and adventures are memorable in their own right. The shrieking eels, the Fire Swamp, the rodents of unusual sizes, the Cliffs of Insanity, the exciting and funny trials against Inigo, Fezzik, and Vizzini - it’s all gold and I’ll never forget a bit of it as long as I live. There are, of course, also many memorable lines fit for a good t-shirt:
“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
“No more rhymes now I mean it.” “Anybody want a peanut?”
“Goodnight Westley. Good work. Sleep Well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”
One day I plan to sit down with my kids and toss a present in their lap. Inside will be The Princess Bride, and I’ll modify what Grandpa said to Fred Savage a little:
Kids: A DVD?
Me: That’s right. When I was your age movies were called DVDs. And this is a special DVD. It’s the movie my father used to show to me when I was your age and now I’m going to show it to you.
Kids: Got any sports in it?
Me: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…
Kids: Doesn’t sound too bad. I’ll try and stay awake.
Me: Oh. Well thank you very much. That’s very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.
How long I have to wait: About 2 years.
Did we miss any of your favorites? What do you think, is it too much pressure to say “are you ready to watch one of the best movies ever?” How subtle do we need to be here? Let us know what movies you’re patiently waiting to watch with your kids in the comments.