100 Movies From 1975–2005 That Every Kid Should/Could See (Part TWO!)

Since I now have an abundant of free time lately with my family, it’s a good time to think about some classic films that my kids should see from my past childhood. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of seeing Frozen 2 for the 16th time or watch their brains melt from the countless hours of iPad watching. I’d much rather introduce them to movies that are either culturally relevant, historically interesting or even more technically superior and, well, better written movies. I chose 100 for this list but a lot of these picks are part of franchises and have sequels and prequels or spin-offs that could also be decent choices. This list is from 1975 to around 2005 which is right before my kids were born (truth is I also couldn’t think of much past 2005 anyway that is worth showing them) and it’s mostly personal choices of flicks I enjoyed at various stages in my development as a film connoisseur. The list will be in chronological order to make things easier to list for me. And I will also point out age ratings since there will be more mature content in some of these choices. I also didn’t mention any animated movies or movies that are only aimed for children—This list is mainly adult or teenaged geared movies since Gen Z kids are nearing, or close to, 10-years of age now. Quick tangent—are you like me and have some strange apprehension to showing the same movies to your kids at the same age you saw them? Like, by the time I was 10 I saw Die Hard, Nightmare on Elm Street and Full Metal Jacket but oddly enough I balk at the choice for my own kids even though I turned out OK (mostly). So take that into consideration when choosing any of these 100 choices while under quarantine and decide to pop on say, Silence of the Lambs for your 7-year-old.


Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

Like, Star Wars, what needs to be said to convince you or y(our) kids that this is a franchise that should be watched and enjoyed multiple times in a lifetime. The gold standard of modern action-adventure movies. One of the most loved action heroes in film history. The hat. The whip. The iconic John Williams score. What more do you need? I could watch any of the Indiana Jones movies once a week (well maybe not Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). 




An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Age appropriate: 13-ish

OK, I can understand if this is a tough sell but hear me out. One of the best horror-comedies to ever be made. As funny as it is scary and that’s a rarity in today’s filmmaking. Practical Special Effects that are STILL better than any computer generated effect today. I’ve seen this since I was 4 or 5 and it didn’t screw me up.  There is a sex scene but to the music of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” so it’s very classy. Oh right, there is a werewolf massacre at a porno theatre too. Again, how was I allowed to see this while still in elementary school?



Clash of the Titans (1981)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

Kinda cheesy, kinda out-dated too but one of my personal favorites as a kid. Not too many Greek-mythed action adventure flicks out there and even the newer ones (Percy Jackson series anyone?) pale in comparison to the thrills and chills of this flick. The Ray Harryhausen creature effects still hold up today in my opinion. It’s a great story with great monsters and you can’t go wrong watching this as a family. Young kids, especially boys, should have fun watching this.



Time Bandits (1981)

Age appropriate: 7-ish

An unconventional choice but I always had fun watching this Terry Gilliam film that seems geared to children but has a lot more going for it for a family viewing. It has Monty Pythonesque style humor (naturally) and is very quirky and different than most of the films on my list. This film veers into arthouse territory and I still enjoy its unusual tones. But what’s not appealing to kids than a young boy jumping around various timelines with a gang of thieves that also happen to be little people? 




E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

As you can see there will be a ton of movies with the name Spielberg attached to it in some capacity and for a very good reason—he’s the best filmmaker of my generation. He may have some more adult-themed movies like The Color Purple or Empire of the Sun (also great choices for older kids) but the ones that are for most ages are some of the most iconic and revered movies of the last 40+ years. E.T. is absolutely of no exception. There should be zero reasons for not showing this film to your kids.




Poltergeist (1982)

Age appropriante: 7-ish

On the other hand, Spielberg can be bold and dark as well. Despite me having a very strong fear threshold when it came to movies, Poltergiest had some scenes and elements that still get under my skin to this day. Which is a very rare and good thing! It’s still one of my favorite horror movies and while I wouldn’t recommend it to under the age of 7, I would still not blame you for waiting longer. However, it’s a fantastic movie anyway with great effects, scares and humor. I wish they made more horror movies like this. Again, another movie I can’t wait to show (and spook) my kids.



The Dark Crystal (1982)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

One of my favorite attributes to 80s filmmaking was the way a film can be scary or sinister, yet still be geared to a younger audience. Case in point: The Dark Crystal. Henson and company never was afraid to give their films a somewhat terrifying element to them. I feel, today’s films don’t do that enough. And The Dark Crystal has a great world-building story or myth to it and is still a fun movie to watch. Honestly, I tried the new Netflix series and I wasn’t that into it. It being a multiple chapter TV series may have hindered it for me since it seemed to drag on too much but it still looked great. Maybe I’ll get back to it but from what I saw it didn’t hold a candle to the original movie.



Creepshow (1982)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

Still a fun horror film. For those who don’t know, this is a movie with short story segments in the vein of the old EC horror comic books and frankly, there has been many attempts to do the same and Creepshow is still the best one to do it with a nerve unique style to it. It’s another horror-comedy which most of the humor is in spite of its cheesy and over-the-top scares and twists. It was always one of my favorites to watch and it’s also a pretty safe (meaning no nudity and not a lot of foul language) choice. Also I should mention this is a great way to introduce Stephen King to younger audiences.



A Christmas Story (1983)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

Yeah this is another no-brainer and will I can understand some criticism that it’s overrated or overexposed (24-hour marathons) it’s still the gold standard of holiday movies with a ton of iconic and memorable scenes. In fact, since this movie came out it has revolutionized Christmas traditions. I see a lot of fishnetted leg lamps in bay windows as decorations every December for instance. It’s up there for Christmas movies as any Scrooge movie or Peanuts’ special. Chances are your kids have already seen it or have seen some of it but it still makes me happy to watch it every holiday season.



National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Age appropriate: 7-ish

Like Caddyshack, this is another example of a great 80s comedy that stands the test of time and could be enjoyed each and every generation. It feels like a sitcom because well it more or less is. The situation is a family’s trials and tribulations on a seemingly simple road trip to enjoy a vacation but nothing goes right, tensions rise between family members and in the end, all works out. While you can skip the European and Vegas installments of the Vacation franchise, I doubt I have to remind you how great the Christmas movie is. Another example of transcending the holiday tradition. But the original Chevy Chase vehicle is still an entertaining film with memorable scenes and scenarios that still is fresh to any family today. 


The Terminator (1984)

Age appropriate: 10-ish

While this is a rough R-rated action flick and one of the more mature choices on this list, I still think it’s an iconic and significant movie that our kids should see. And its a great way to introduce Ahnuld as well. But it’s a great sci-fi story with a great twist at the end and special effects that still hold up. If anything, this should be viewed just as precursor to the exceptional first sequel that excels better than it’s predecessor. I love both films but the first one does have a somewhat dated feel to it.




A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Age appropriate: 10-ish

An exceptional slasher flick, A Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t feature a masked maniac chasing after scantily clad teens in the woods. It has a very original and interesting killer in Freddy Krueger stalking and killing teens in their dreams. And these aren’t some dumb random kids but the kids of the parents that (justifiably) killed him. It’s very nuanced and clever and Freddy actually speaks, teases and taunts his victims. He gets more wise-cracking and corny as the franchise goes along but it was always a tough call to what movie serial killer I enjoyed more, Freddy or Jason. (Like I said, I turned out fine!)



Ghostbusters (1984)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

Another fine example of a horror-comedy and probably the easiest choice in that particular genre. I don’t need to rehash how this is easily one of the best comedies of that era. I also don’t need to wax poetic at the tremendous acting and special effects of its time. It’s a bona fide classic and if I were make a list of just the top ten movies that needs to be seen for you to be a functional human being this is easily in that list.




Gremlins (1984)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

I love the 80s. All these movies are such genre-bending classics. Gremlins too, is just as entertaining and fun to watch at any age because it’s equally funny, charming and scary all at the same time. There are funny cute scenes with Gizmo and sure-fire terrifying scenes involving Stripe and his vicious gang of lizard muppets. Perfect family horror fun.




The Karate Kid (1984)

Age appropriate: 7-ish

Like what the Rocky franchise did for boxing, The Karate Kid did for martial arts. (fun fact: Same DIRECTOR!) However, I feel The Karate Kid is better in terms for younger viewers, not so much because it features teenagers as the main focus but because of the teacher. Mr. Miyagi is undoubtedly the best teachers/mentors in film history. I recently introduced this franchise (as well as the equally engrossing and entertaining TV series) to my 8-year-old and she is now obsessed with this franchise. And watching it with her I fell in love all over again with Pat Morita’s inimitable performance. This is one you and your kids shouldn’t miss.



The NeverEnding Story (1984)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

Not one of my favorites and one I don’t hold that dear to my heart but I totally will recommend it to show younger viewers because it is a decent action fantasy movie. I watched it a couple of years back after a long absence from it and I can understand if it’s not an easy watch, but it also crosses the line between scary, creepy and funny in some scenes and for that I can totally respect it for. It has a lot going for it that I forgot, like the “Nothing” and the confrontation scene with it and Atreyu. Also can’t mention this movie without the death of Atreyu’s horse scene. Lots of decent adventure scenes—a well-rounded quest movie for kids. 


The Breakfast Club (1984)

Age appropriate: 13-ish

Can’t have an 80s film discussion without including the king of teen-angst John Hughes and what better film to usher that discussion than The Breakfast Club. Truth be told this is one of those films that has somewhat soured a bit for me as I grew older. The whining and complaining and daddy/mommy-issues are way too melodramatic for me as an adult. Granted the first half is still teen comedy gold, save for the occasional John Bender sexual assaults and verbal abuse. But as a kid this movie as a whole was perfect to me. But I think teen-aimed movies, songs and even books will stop being profound to you as you grew up. It’s like “The Catcher in the Rye.” Brilliant book when you’re 16 but read it as an adult and you want Holden Caulfield to get hit by an express train he’s so annoying. 


Back to the Future (1985)

Age appropriate: 7-ish

Here it is. The most absolute desert island, must-see, bible-worthy film that everyone has to see. It should be included in middle school curriculum it’s so important. Sure, Star Wars is monumental to film history but Back to the Future is the only movie I consider flawless in every way, shape and form. The most brilliantly, clever screenplay ever. Every time I try to find something wrong with it, I find the solution. It’s fool-proof and entertaining as hell. Conceptually amazing and exciting and we’re just talking the first film. Coupled with the the other 2 sequels and you have the crème de la crème of filmmaking. This film still makes me laugh, tear up, on the edge of my seat and inspires me. Top Ten? Nope, top three!  I already showed this to my girls and they loved it. The only scary thing about this movie is this film is now older as the time leap that Marty takes (30 years)!


Legend (1985)

Age appropriate: 7-ish

Like The NeverEnding Story this is a wild card. This forgotten gem of fantasy storytelling is actually very sparse on plot and but makes up for in philosophy and theme. The special effects and acting ain’t half bad but major kudos to Tim Curry as the Lord of Darkness. Set and costume design are also top notch. It flirts with sexuality and uses fantasy elements, like the unicorns, as going through puberty and sexual awakening but all that is metaphorical and will go over all the younger viewers’ heads. It’s an interesting flick and I believe it’s still entertaining. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it myself but I’m very excited to watch this with my girls.


The Goonies (1985)

Age appropriate: 7-ish

The most archetypical kids on a quest movie filled with Indiana Jones style action and adventure as well as potty humor. But it also has its lasting charm and endearing cast of characters. It’s still one of my most beloved movies. If today’s kids don’t find this movie a fun experience than I truly give up. Goonies never say die!





Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Age appropriate: 5-ish

This movie is still a laugh riot. And you would’ve assumed 35 years ago that it would be easy to forget about it. Wacky, childish, off-kilter and sometimes sinister, Pee-Wee is timeless. My kids actually liked this movie a lot and even loved his TV show, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse so even by today’s standards his quirkiness and impish demeanor still works. I may love this movie more now than I did as a kid.





Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the glorious 80s!

6 thoughts on “100 Movies From 1975–2005 That Every Kid Should/Could See (Part TWO!)

  1. Tim Curry as the Lord of Darkness in Legend was really scary to me when I was little. I think maybe because the horns were so disproportionately large? They conveyed way more evil than my brain could even fathom.

    Liked by 1 person

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