* Most of these films are suitable for younger children too, just at this age they will understand the story plots a bit more.
Abbott Costello Meet Frankenstein ( 1948 )
Now this is a very educational film. Every all-American boy has to get his monsters memorized, and why settle for one when you can see them all? Abbott and Costello encounter the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Dracula and even the Invisible Man in this rollicking fun monster mash. Another great Abbott and Costello classic : Hold That Ghost!
Against All Flags ( 1952 )
A pirate film. In Technicolor...with Errol Flynn. And Maureen O'Hara. Need we say more? If you want a plot, it's about a Royal Navy sea captain who fights against the pirates of Madagascar who are out to capture a princess in order to collect a royal ransom. This film you must surely follow up with other black and white Flynn classics, such as The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms ( 1953 )
It was a toss-up whether to spotlight this sci-fi flick or one of the hundred others that were made during the 1950s ( notably The Thing or The Day the Earth Stood Still ) but The Beast won out because he's such a lovable looking ghoul. Like Kong you can't help but pity him during his climatic demise.
Captains Courageous ( 1937 )
Another Rudyard Kipling classic. Little Freddie, a spoiled rich kid, takes a queezy step backwards on a swaying ocean liner and gets tossed overboard. He's later picked up by a passing fishing schooner and learns lessons of patience, love, labor and teamwork. A true winner.
The Fly ( 1959 )
"Help me! Help me!" A scientist experimenting with transposing, accidentally switches his head with that of a fly. Now he has to stay in hiding with his fly head until his wife and son find the fly that bears his head. Good luck trying to catch a fly! This film will get your kids to reconsider the life of a poor bug before they squash 'em so quickly. Have them hunt for the elusive white-headed fly and it will keep them busy outdoors for hours. Who needs Wii when you got Flii?
The Great Locomotive Chase ( 1956 )
An underrated Walt Disney classic. Follow the truth life adventure of James J. Andrews as he and a group of Union Army men commandeered a train and headed northward to Chattanooga, Tennessee wreaking as much havoc as they could along the Confederate route. This film could be followed up with another Fess Parker classic, Davy Crockett. Or, it's a great start into studying the history of the Civil War.
King Kong ( 1933 )
It's Beauty and the Beast, shuffled up and shaken a bit. There's a very important lesson to be learned hiding within this film : blondes may have more fun but they sure let their hair get themselves into mischief. Willis O'Brien, one of the first special effects maestros outdid himself with this film. The remake may have loads of cool CGI effects, but this film got handmade heart.
Knights of the Round Table ( 1953 )
Medieval history always gets passed over quickly in public school education and yet some of the best stories come out of that era. Notably King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. These legends come alive in this Technicolor spectacular starring the heart-melting Robert Taylor. You can follow this up with Ivanhoe or The Vikings.
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad ( 1958 )
Sinbad finds himself in peril when he undertakes a voyage to Colossa Island to find the anecdote which will help restore a princess to her normal height. You see, an evil sorcerer shrunk her to the size of a chipmunk. While on the island Sinbad encounters a fighting skeleton, a fire-breathing dragon and the menacing Cyclops. Great fun! Another great Harryhausen adventure - Jules Verne's Mysterious Island ( 1961 ).
Shane ( 1955 )
Our only western film on this list. Shane is different from other westerns in that it is practically told from the perspective of a young boy. He views the guest that comes to stay at his parents ranch as a hero and comes to honor the same values that Shane holds. A wonderful film.
The Time Machine ( 1960 )
Boys can follow George Wells as he journeys forward into the future and discovers a world very much unlike the one he left. In 1960 the giant fruit and vegetables the Enouch eat for dinner truly seemed bizarre....but today they are not all that much bigger than what we can find in a supermarket. The age of genetically nuked-fruit is here!
Treasure Island ( 1950 )
"Arrrgh....now who be amongst ye to speak up and say this here pirate film ain't suitable for cheeldren?" Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure tale comes to life in this Walt Disney remake of the Jackie Cooper/Wallace Beery original. This was Disney's first full live-action film. It stands the test of time and is great entertainment for all ages.
The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer ( 1948 )
Just what is it about this film that makes it so entertaining? This movie introduced my sister and me to Myrna Loy and it was a "my first classic film" favorite among many of our friends. A timeless story, Cary Grant and Rudy Vallee, a witty script and great comedy make it an all around winner.
Harvey ( 1951 )
Elwood P. Dowd finds himself in a pickle when his sister and niece intend on sending him to the looney asylum because he talks to a giant rabbit. What's so strange about that? We only catch a glimpse of Harvey as a shadow, but nevertheless he becomes as real to us as he is to Elwood. This Henry Koster classic has loads of laughs and is hare-raising good fun.
Bringing Up Baby ( 1937 )
Katharine Hepburn and her pet leopard "Baby" systematically strive to drive Cary Grant nuts in this screwball comedy. If you've never seen a screwball before, then this is the one to see. It was made at the the height of the genres popularity and - along with Topper - established Cary Grant as a star.
A Date with Judy ( 1948 )
Elizabeth Taylor is so cute in this movie! Jane Powell was adorable too but honestly, who could top Liz when it came to elegant charm? We don't remember the plot but just writing this listing makes us want to see it again and bring back those childhood memories. It was in color and the Brazilian bombshell Carmen Miranda was in it....that we remember.
Little Women ( 1948 )
Another great Elizabeth Taylor movie. Louisa May Alcott's stories of her life growing up turned into the popular Little Women series and in 1933 RKO made the first filming of the stories starring Katharine Hepburn. That was is great film and well-worth watching, but if you have girls that never saw a black and white film before then it would be better to get their feet wet with this version. Besides...this one has the handsome Peter Lawford as Laurie.
The Major and the Minor ( 1942 )
Ginger Rogers masquerades as a young girl on a train to avoid paying full fare, and finds that she must keep up the farce in order to save the reputation of a handsome Major. This was one of Billy Wilder's early comedies and one of Miss Rogers dramatic/comedy films that she did without her partner, Fred Astaire. It was later remade as You're Never Too Young with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin ( one of their better films ).
National Velvet ( 1944 )
Girls and horses...it's an age-old love affair. There were countless great horse films made during the 1940s and 50s but National Velvet ranks among the best ( check out our post on winning horse-themed movies ). And once again...it stars Elizabeth Taylor.
Roman Holiday ( 1953 )
Ah yes, a princess story. Who can resist those either? In this one the charming Audrey Hepburn plays a princess who is tired of being a princess and decides to run away and see what it is like to be a regular gal for a change. A reporter spots her but decides to play along to get the scoop of his lifetime..and of course he falls in love in the process.
The Parent Trap ( 1961 )
One of Walt Disney's best! With the help of the split-screen technique, Hayley Mills plays dual roles as twin sisters who were separated at birth and then meet up again years later as teenagers during summer camp. They then decide to put their heads together and scheme up a way to reunite their divorced parents. Brian Keith ( who later played Uncle Bill in Family Affair ) plays papa to the gals, while the volumptous Maureen O'Hara acts as mother.
Top Hat ( 1935 )
What would a classic film list be without a Fred Astaire film? He made eight films with Ginger Rogers and this one many consider to be their best. All of their films make your tootsies want to tap and transport you to the reckless society days of the 1930s.
Pagan Love Song ( 1950 )
Esther Williams started off as a champion Olympic swimmer and ended up becoming one of MGM's most beloved stars. All of her films are really good launching pads for introducing girls to classics, but this one in particular tickled our fancy. Don't neglect On An Island With You however. They both will make a splash with your children.
Meet Me in St. Louis ( 1944 )
The delightful Tin Pan Alley tune "Meet Me in St. Louis" became the basis for this Sally Benson musical starring Judy Garland. This film was made during MGM's prime and was one of those magical projects where all the elements came together just right....setting, actors, score, script.
Three Smart Girls ( 1936 )
Deanna Durbin shines as the youngest of three sisters who try to reunite their divorced parents. It's pretty much an earlier version of The Parent Trap...with some operatic songs thrown in. This was Durbin's first major motion picture and she was such a hit that she was put in a string of popular musicals as a solo star....after a sequel to this was made of course : Three Smart Girls Grow Up.
Down Argentine Way ( 1940 )
This is one delightful musical! It instantly transports you to the gaiety and glamour of South America. Betty Grable ( the famous G.I pin-up gal ) goes south of the border to purchase a race horse and ends up falling in love with that debonair cavalier, Don Ameche. Sighhhh. Another great musical worth checking out - Two Weeks With Love ( 1950 ) with the effervescent Jane Powell.
For Both Genders
Annie Get Your Gun ( 1950 )
This is one rootin' tootin' fun musical. Betty Hutton has tons of appeal and her high-energy acting never tires. The movie isn't entirely historically accurate, but when you got Technicolor, great songs and a great story..who cares.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks ( 1970 )
Bedknobs and Broomsticks often gets the wrap from hard-core Disney affeciados as being a sub-par extraganza made in the wake of Mary Poppins success. True, the story rights were purchased in the event that P.L Travers would not allow Disney to make Mary Poppins, but the film should be recognized as the entertaining spectacle that it is. Angela Lansbury is delightful as the apprentice witch, Eglantine Price,and the London evacuee children are a lovely addition.
Bye, Bye, Birdie ( 1963 )
Conrad Birdie! Conrad Birdie! Bye Bye Birdie has attained a cult following ever since its introduction on Broadway in 1960. The events in the movie are based on the heartbreak that girls across America felt when they heard that Elvis Presley was being drafted into the Army. Conrad Birdie is such a symbolic character that he could represent any one of the popular singers of today that make little girls swoon. Go, go! See, see! Buy, Buy, Birdie!
Who never went through a day in college and didn't wish he had a computer for a brain...one that would just sputter out the correct answers without any mental effort? Well, Dexter Riley got such a wish granted and it came as a "shock" to him and his friends. This film was released during the dawn of the computer age and was such a popular hit when it came out that it was quickly followed up with two other college-campus sequels Now You See Him, Now You Don't and The Strongest Man in the World, both just as entertaining.
Condorman ( 1981 )
Condorman is a forgotten gem from the hidden vaults of Walt Disney. It's about a comic book writer who gets recruited by the CIA to help defect a Russian spy. This action-packed flick features exotic locales, some great special effects, a spunky score ( by the marvelous Henry Mancini ), and scenes of a comic book illustrator at work...what more could you ask for in a film? Did we mention that there's an evil villain with a black patch over his eye?
The Court Jester ( 1955 )
When Danny Kaye burst into the movies, there was no comedian like him before, and none have been able to fill his shoes since. This classic has Danny in a medieval setting, acting as a minstrel to the Black Fox, a Robin Hood like character who attempts to restore the throne to its rightful heir. The back-to-back antics are sure to amuse the wee ones and Danny's "the pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle and the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true" routine will be sure to tickle their funny-bone.
Father Goose ( 1964 )
A drunken loafer is shanghaied into service working as a plane-spotter for the British Navy. One of his reluctant rounds of duty includes rescuing a French schoolteacher and her group of students - all girls. For every plane that "Father Goose" ( Cary Grant ) spots correctly he gets a clue to the hiding place for his next bottle of booze....much to the dismay of the schoolteacher, played with humorous charm by Leslie Caron.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken ( 1966 )
Hard-working typesetter Luther Heggs gets the scare of his life when he is assigned to spend the night in a haunted house. It's a good thing he is a man with lots of spunk, for seeing an old organ stained with blood - that even Bon Ami couldn't remove - would scare many a person. Keep an eye out for the scene where Luther eats the bowl of chicken soup standing upright.
In Search of the Castaways ( 1962 )
Don't pay attention to the rich black and white photo seen above, this film is actually in glorious Technicolor and boasts a wonderful cast featuring Maurice Chevalier and the inimitable Hayley Mills. They are off on an adventure to the far corners of the world in search of their missing father, a sea captain.
Laurel and Hardy/The Three Stooges
Nyuck, Nycuk, Nyuck! These two slapstick comedy teams never grow old and remain entertaining for all ages....from 2- 200 ( do you know any 200 year olds? ). Be sure to check out Laurel and Hardy's Academy Award winning short, "The Music Box". As for the Stooges, ANY of their short films are great for lifting ones spirit. This is highly recommended sick-in-bed viewing and will teach the young'uns a wealth of idiocy.
The Love Bug ( 1968 )
What's not to love about Herbie? He's a smart, groovy painted, slick little automobile. It is a VW Beetle but you're not supposed to know that judging from the dialogue in the movie. Marble-mouthed Buddy Hackett is an especially appealing character.
The Nutty Professor ( 1963 )
Jerry Lewis got his start as the other half of Martin/Lewis comedy team during the 1940s and 1950s. When Dino decided to go solo, Jerry was left on his own too and plunged into making films with himself as the star. Most of these films were pretty thin comedies, but The Nutty Professor is a highlight among them. Another one worth checking out is The Family Jewels.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers ( 1954 )
Bless your beautiful hide for sitting to watch this film! It's a classic MGM musical during the days when the studio was beginning to shift its focus. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers combined brilliant dancing, unique sets and a fantastic score into a glossy colored package that made it irresistible to watch and it set a standard for future musicals to come.
The Shaggy Dog ( 1959 )
We were going to include The Absent-Minded Professor but then that big shaggy dog just won us over. This is another one of those films that include a memorable lesson - watch what you touch. You may just wind up with the worst hair day of your life.
Singin' in the Rain ( 1952 )
After watching Singin' in the Rain you'll never be able to walk in a rain storm again without thinking of Gene Kelly. And believe you me, that is a good thought. Even though that may be the most popular number from this classic musical, I have a certain special fondness for "Good Mornin'" because our dad use to wake us up for school singing that song and doing acrobatic jumps on the bed like Donald O'Connor. How inspiring certain films can be!
The Sound of Music ( 1965 )
The hills are alive with the sound of Julie Andrews. This really is her film entirely, even though the kids do get some nice scenes. She's just a force when she is on screen and it is hard to NOT like this movie ( although our uncle absolutely hates it...but he never was a good judge of film ). Be prepared to see your kids do lots of spinning after watching that opening scene.
Star Wars ( 1977 )
The film that launched a thousand spoofs. George Lucas' epic sci-fi adventure was a ground-breaking film that completely revolutionized space flicks to come. It was also decades ahead of its time and we have yet to see some of the great technical equipment it showcased. Where are the video-holograms and deadly light sabers? If you can make heads or tails out of all the sequels, by all means follow them up.
The Ten Commandments ( 1956 )
Another film that we had our doubts about including ( because of its length ), but since it plays on ABC every Passover, why not? With each subsequent year it gets crisper and more bold in color. If your son/daughter has not gone to Sunday school yet then maybe this movie will inspire them to attend. Moses has a way of gathering followers.
That Darn Cat! ( 1965 )
Just look at all those paw prints! You can tell that DC is a mighty special pussy cat. Can you guess that he is a special agent working for the FBI? In this comedy classic he is on the trail of a gang of bank robbers who have kidnapped the local bank teller. This movie is one of our all-time favorites and it really gets you into the "lets capture a spy next door" feeling. If you didn't recognize Hayley Mills in the above photo, then shame on you. Dean Jones also plays the lead in The Love Bug, so that's a good movie to show as a double-feature.
The Three Musketeers ( 1948 )
"One for all, and none for one!" Alexander Duma's really knew how to write a rousing good story. In this film D'Artagnan joins up with the legendary group of musketeers to help save the queen of France. Gene Kelly is splendidly acrobatic as the charming D'Artagnan. Keep an eye out for the master villian, Vincent Price, as Cardinal Richelieu.
White Christmas ( 1954 )
Christmas just isn't Christmas when you don't watch White Christmas. If you haven't seen it yet, then I'm going to put a lump of coal in your stocking. Der Bingle sings the jingles to perfection in this jolly good Irving Berlin musical.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ( 1971 )
Willy Wonka was never one of our childhood favorites but it is a memorable classic for many others. Wonka's wild personality, the cast of colorful characters and the beautiful Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley score combine to make it a unique film from the early 1970s. This film launched Gene Wilder into stardom.
The Wolf Man ( 1941 )
And finally...The Wolf Man, a great introduction to the Universal Horror Classics series which includes The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. We think the The Wolf Man is the most tame of all the films and appeals to both boys and girls.
What do you think about our selections? Which films have you shown to your children? Which have they enjoyed most?