by Sam Aberdeen
I guess I should start this list with a disclaimer: everyone had different childhood experiences, and the movies that accompanied them. Some fondly remember films from the 70s and 80s, while others grew up experiencing the joys of the 90s and early 2000s. Whatever your childhood movie-going experience was, we can all agree that they still deliver a blast of nostalgia. My list might have a tinge of bias in that regard, but I’ve taken into account new and old childhood classics that resonated with myself and many others.
The Neverending Story
Regardless if you were born in the 80s or as early as last year (to that I say, welcome, genius baby reader), you might’ve come across the nostalgic punch to the gut that is The Neverending Story. The first film released in 1984, and has since spawned several sequels to create a saga of childhood classic films – with varying degrees of quality. However, the original movie will forever be fondly remembered.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeFni9dOv7c
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is a staple when it comes to nostalgic childhood movies. The dinosaur-filled adventure on an island expedition gone wrong is a classic in cinema, but its quality till today remains gloriously timeless. Featuring breath-taking visual effects that were way ahead of their time and a batch of lovable characters that included Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park is still an unmissable ride that kids and adults alike can appreciate.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWBKEmWWL38
Disney Pixar might be a juggernaut of animation in Hollywood now, but back in the mid-90s, they had just got their footing with Toy Story. Of course, we remember the charms of Buzz Lightyear and Woody in ground-breaking 3D animation, but more importantly, the lessons this film taught us about friendship and belonging. It’s a message that’s still applicable today, and many can learn from Pixar’s subtle yet brilliant storytelling and themes.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-PjgYDrg70
I personally blame (or thank?) Gremlins for my life-long obsession with horror movies. This 80s cult classic seamlessly blends ingenious comedy with a tinge of great horror, led by the adorable yet sinister titular monsters. It’s astonishing that Hollywood, in an age of remakes and reboots, haven’t touched Gremlins yet, but then again… I’d rather not have them tamper with this particular one.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd20j2Hb-0Y
The Lion King (1994)
Sadly, kids today’s first experience with The Lion King might be the recent soulless live-action remake, but back in the 90s, this animation classic defined an entire generation. The unforgettable tale of Simba, Mufasa and Scar is a family tragedy that quite literally has Shakespearean roots (for those unfamiliar, it’s based on Hamlet). Most importantly, it’s held up by the best music Disney has ever produced.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFzVJEksoDY
You’d have to walk thousands of miles to find someone who has not heard of the Looney Tunes. In the 90s, amidst the craze of famous basketball legend Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny and friends teamed up with the sports star for an odd blend of animation and live-action. All things considered, it still holds up. This galactic basketball showdown is a blast to watch, even though it’s often forgotten about when nostalgic movies are brought up.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKNy-MWjkcU
Make no mistake: Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla is a terrible movie. However, I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t my entry point into the world of Godzilla and giant monster movies. This retelling of the Japanese classic (or more accurately, Americanized version) is your traditional “giant monster destroying a city” tale, but for the time, the visual effects were very impressive and Godzilla had a cool design. Well, until 2014’s behemoth towered over this little iguana.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt6bMHUoE6I
I’m cheating a bit here by including the entire Star Wars saga, because it actually encompasses over three generations. Whether you got into the original 70s and 80s epics, or the prequel trilogy (like I did, tragically) then you’ll have different experiences with the Star Wars universe. However, when seen as a wholly fulfilling space opera, there’s just so much to geek over. It’s no wonder Disney can’t let go of that nostalgia.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6aVWMb3J5M
Going back to simpler times, Home Alone definitely deserves a mention when talking about movies that practically defined our childhoods. The idea was cool for the time, telling the story of a kid who has to defend his home from burglars on Christmas Eve. Many sequels were made, but none could come close to capturing the lightning-in-a-bottle that was the original.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEDaVHmw7r4
Men in Black
Finally, we’ve got a Will Smith movie on this list. For many, Smith was practically all over their childhoods, whether it was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Independence Day or Wild Wild West (we’d rather forget about that one). However, Men in Black was my first real experience watching the Fresh Prince kick some alien behind with Tommy Lee Jones. Will Smith even composed the film’s now legendary theme music. Thank me later when it gets stuck in your head.
See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Q4mhYF9aQQ