- Children 5-8 ( that's what you're reading here )
- Children 9-12
- Teens 13-19
- An Introduction to Silents
This will probably take us over a
Why should you introduce children to classic films? Simple - because why should they be limited to today's entertainment? There is a wealth of great films to be savored and enjoyed. At present, there are roughly 25,000 films easily accessible to the public through online streaming, cable television, dvds, and vhs tapes. Limiting oneself to only what the current media offers is like never reading a book written before the year 2000, or never playing a sport that wasn't invented within the last 15 years. Golly!
This list doesn't read as the "best classic films children should watch"....instead it's a compilation of some of the best films to get your child introduced to classics. Let them discover their favorites on their own. Think of this as a launching pad into the realm of the classic film galaxy.
First off...some basic tips ( take it from a former child ) :
- Start with more recent films and work backgrounds in decades. If your children enjoy 1990s films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and Home Alone already, then start introducing them to the 1980s classics like The Goonies, E.T, Pippi Longstocking, and Ghostbusters, then the Kurt Russell Disney flicks, Star Wars, Freaky Friday...you get the picture. NOTE: If your children are under 7, throw this tip out the window. So long as a classic film is in color, they'll enjoy it.
And that leads us to the second tip :
- Begin with color films. Children might be turned off just because the movie is in black and white. "Eeeeew, what an old movie...was the world really in black and white then?". That's not the best reaction you hope to hear. Once they come to appreciate films from all generations, they'll have plenty of time to get into the black and white films. This doesn't apply to slapstick though...The Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers somehow transpose the realm of color.
Lastly ( and most importantly! ) :
- Never push a film on them because you enjoy it, or just because it is a renowned classic. Introduce your kids to movies that you believe they will like based on their interests. A boy who loves space and rockets will enjoy The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Reluctant Astronaut, and October Sky much more than The Sound of Music or Shane. This doesn't mean you should always limit the movies to their tastes ( heck, discovering a new interest is one of the best qualities of watching a film! ), but when starting out, it is best.
Alright, so 'nuff of the prep-talk...on with the films!
Children 5-8 Years Old
Darby O'Gill and the Little People ( 1959 )
A young pre-007 Sean Connery stars in this classic Irish tale of leprauchens, pots of gold and banshees. Great special effects ( utilizing matte shots by Peter Ellenshaw ) make those little people seem surprisingly real.
Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang! ( 1968 )
This film has it all - eccentric inventors, castles, airships, a deranged king, a wicked child-catcher, a beautiful heroine named Truly Scrumptious, a windmill house, and best of all....the flying car herself - Chitty. What's there not to like? Okay.. it is a bit on the lengthy side.
Like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dolittle has a long runtime but it moves at a sprightly pace ( except during the court sequences ) and features such beautiful location shooting and music that it's hard to resist. Rex Harrison plays an engaging Doctor even if he does seem rather stiff.
Back to the Beach ( 1987 )
My sister and I grew up with this goofy film and loved it to pieces. Watching it a few years ago I realized how risque some of the quips were, but all that stuff eluded us as children ( and we were quite perceptive kiddies ). This film marked a return of the 1960s beach icons Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Pee-Wee Herman, Jerry Mathers, Don Adams and Bob Denver ( Gilligan's Island ) all make guest appearances. It features some great surf numbers too...like Jamaica Ska!, Bird is the Word, and California Sun.
Flipper ( and Flipper's New Adventure ) ( 1963 )
Who can resist a squeaking dolphin? Flipper is the king of the sea, faster than lightning and friends to you and me. Flipper's New Adventure features Sandy on a secluded island with a young Pamela Franklin and it's up to Flipper to rescue them. Note : girls will find a new heartthrob to drool over in Luke Halpin, who was the Zac Efron of his time.
The Incredible Journey ( 1963 )
If dolphins don't appeal to your wee ones, try cats and dogs. In this film, two dogs and a cat take an incredible journey to find their way back home to their owner. Simple story....compelling film. I've never seen the 1995 remake, but that's a children's classic too.
Don't like cats and dogs? How about giant reptiles then? Godzilla films can be enjoyed at any age, but this flick is especially geared towards little Godzilla fans. A young boy comes across a bully everyday on his way to school and during his naps he dreams of the great Godzilla instructing his own son on how to gain courage to fight his enemies. Nice monster mush.
The Incredible Mr. Limpet ( 1964 )
And while we're on the subject of reptiles, here's a fishy flick. Before Finding Nemo there was....Mr. Limpet! Don Knotts plays a mild-mannered fish lover who stumbles into the Atlantic ocean during an outing at Coney Island. He finds he loves being under the sea much more than being on land and becomes a hero by helping the US Navy seek out enemy submarines. There's nothing as stirring as watching a patriotic fish in action.
The Jungle Book ( 1967 )
Oooh, Ooh, Ooooh, Baloooo! One of Walt Disney's most finger-snapping films to watch. A colorful plot, engaging characters, down-right jazzy music and plenty of action make this an all around winner for all ages. It will introduce your children to the world of Rudyard Kipling too. ( Time to bring out Wee Willie Winkie ). Other late Disney animated classics to enjoy : The Aristocats, The Rescuers and Robin Hood.
Spanky, Alfalfa, Stymie, Darla, Spot, Chubby....the ragamuffin little group of kiddies known as Our Gang ( and later The Little Rascals ) have entertained youngsters for over 80 years. If you never heard of them till now, then what box have you been hiding under?
Mary Poppins ( 1964 )
Take a jolly holiday with your children and secretly enjoy this classic for yourself as well. P.L Travers was a hard one to convince when it came to Walt Disney filming her beloved books, but we're sure glad she was won over. Can you tell we like Disney films?
Miracle on 34th Street ( 1947 )
This classic airs every Thanksgiving on television and has yet to lose its charm. Tales of faith have a way of lasting. John Payne counted it as his favorite film. Maureen O'Hara and a young Natalie Wood also star. Interestingly enough, Santa is revealed but there are no elves to be seen anywhere in New York.
Peter Pan ( 1953 )
Pirates, a flying ship, mermaid lagoons, indians, twinkling fairies...that James Barrie certainly knew what children liked best. Make sure you got a stock of pixie dust on hand to sprinkle the kids with when the film is over. You might as well get them started flying at a young age.
Pollyanna ( 1960 )
Girls will love Pollyanna, boys will....roll their eyes? This just isn't a boys flick. An orphan girl gets - reluctantly - adopted by her stiff aunt and annoys her to no end with her "goody two shoes" attitude. But, like a true Disney film, Pollyanna wins her over completely by the end of the picture and comes to realize what a wise little girl landed in her lap. This film teaches a wonderful lesson on always looking for the good in people, and for the good in adverse situations.
The Red Balloon ( 1956 )
A little boy finds a red balloon in Paris and follows it on its drifting adventures. The Red Balloon won the Cannes Film Festival award for Best Short Film upon its release and has been a standard for many short films since.
Pete's Dragon ( 1977 )
An orphan runs away from his foster parents and, along with his invisible dragon friend Elliott, comes to the town of Passamaquoddy and befriends a lighthouse keeper and his daughter. This was one of the Disney Studios weaker films, but when you're young you don't really pay attention to the quality of animation or any of that jazz.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ( 1937 )
The film that launched Walt Disney films into feature-length stardom. With its new digital hi-def transfer it looks stunningly sharp and as fresh as ever. A true classic never ages. Like fine wine it just gets better with time. Other animated Walt Disney classics to enjoy : Bambi, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Dumbo.
The Three Lives of Thomasina ( 1964 )
Meow.....you guessed it...another Disney film. And this one is a darling! The Mary Poppins girl ( Karen Dotrice ) loves her beloved cat so much that when she thinks the pussy dies, she begins to waste away herself. It takes her daddy's prayers and the help of a kindly "witch of the woods" to bring her back to strength.
The Wizard of Oz ( 1939 )
We're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.....Did you really think this list would finish without a mention of The Wizard of Oz?
Coming Soon : Introducing Children to Classic Movies Part 2 - Children 9-12 Years Old