Best 80’s Movies For Family Movie Night

Goonies never say die!

Like millions of families all over the world, over the past year, my wife and kids and I spent most of our time at home. We’re parents of three boys, ages nine, seven, and five.  

As you could imagine, we’ve had a lot of time to bond. One of our favorite family activities is our Family Movie Night, which we enjoy three, sometimes four times a week.  My boys and I take turns choosing which movies to watch.  They’re rather predictable, almost always going with either a Pixar or Dreamworks feature, a Marvel installment, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies, or their favorites, Sonic the Hedgehog or Speed Racer

I on the other hand, suggest films I remember watching when I was around their age.  

Having spent most of my childhood in the ‘80s, I maintain that the decade had the most notable films in history across several genres. It had the best teen flicks, most iconic action-adventure blockbusters, and most endearing family-oriented features. Family films back in the ‘80s had a lot of heart, and in my opinion, had a purity that today’s movies sorely lack.  The stories were also more imaginative and certainly more original.

Family Movie Night favorites from the 80’s:

1. The Goonies

Without “The Goonies,” we probably wouldn’t have Netflix’s biggest hit, “Stranger Things.”  “The Goonies” is the essential template for a modern-day group adventure that reminds adults of what it means to be young and carefree, and inspires the youth to explore the world around them – and look for treasures that may very well be hidden around every corner.

2. The Flight of Dragons

While the ‘80s cartoon scene was largely dominated by Disney, Don Bluth, and Hanna Barbera, the one animated feature that had the biggest impact on me was a gem from the duo of Rankin and Bass called “The Flight of Dragons.”  This wondrous and colorful tale about magic, friendship, love, courage, and the importance of co-existing with everything and everyone in the world, is as timeless as a dream.

3. Willow

From the mind of Star Wars creator George Lucas, “Willow” is a fast-paced, oft-hilarious, edge-of-your-seat action adventure fantasy that involves a reluctant band of diverse characters who come together to protect a baby.  The eponymous hero of the story is an aspiring village sorcerer who against insurmountable odds, believes in his abilities, rises to every challenge, and finds the magic that thrives in him.

4. The Last Unicorn

Another iconic full-length animated feature from Rankin/Bass, “The Last Unicorn” has everything an ‘80s kid appreciates – exquisite artwork, well-written songs, and a magical tale with a lot of heart.  On a deeper level, “The Last Unicorn” is a reminder that no matter what happens, one will never be alone.  

5. The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story” is a classic 80’s movie among modern classics.  I have to admit though, I don’t remember it being as dark in tone.  Be that as it may, this 80’s film is still an unforgettable experience. It tackles a lot of the more difficult issues such as bullying, abandonment and loss.

6. Labyrinth

The true strength of “Labyrinth” lies in the puppeteer genius of Jim Henson.  It came as a pleasant surprise to us to see our boys, who’ve been used to computer-generated imagery (CGI), stare in appreciative wonder at the live-action puppeteering in “Labyrinth.”  The movie itself teaches everyone about the importance of responsibility and owning up to your actions.

7. The Princess Bride

Much like Fred Savage’s character at the start, our boys balked at all the googly-eyes and kisses Buttercup gave her farm boy, Westley at the beginning of “The Princess Bride.”  But as this swashbuckling, romantic fantasy tale unraveled, through each joke and each iconic line, our kids grew more comfortable with the film, even with the profession of eternal love towards the end.

8. An American Tail

Of all the memorable films from Don Bluth, the closest to my heart is “An American Tail.”  It tells the story of Fievel, a young mouse who gets separated from his family in the midst of migrating. 

Watching it again after decades, it still resonates to me today as much as it did back then.  My boys learned, as I did, three important lessons from the film: one, each member of our family is as important as the next; two, there will always be a home for them with people who love them dearly; and three, a person, no matter how different he or she is, can be a friend.

Did you enjoy the list? What about you?  What are your favorite ‘80s family-oriented films?

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