A Dozen Non-Animated Kids Movies the Whole Family Will Love
Finding animated kids movies your youngest children will love at the local video store or on your favorite streaming video service is usually pretty easy. The choices provided by the Walt Disney Company alone are nearly mind-boggling. But what about something that might be a little more interesting to the older kids or even the whole family without the cartoon characters while still maintaining that childhood innocence and sense of wonder? Here is a look at a dozen non-animated kids movies that the entire family can enjoy!
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Released in 1982, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is one of the most beloved stories of all time. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie stars Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote and, more or less, introduced the world to Drew Barrymore who played 6 year old Gertie in the film. The story is inspiring and uplifting without being preachy and, most importantly, while still being immensely entertaining. Kids love it and mom and dad will have a hard time not getting a little choked up, whether reliving memories of seeing the film as a child or feeling the moving impact of it for the first time.
The movie, which won four Oscars as well as more than three dozen other awards, tells the story of a stranded extraterrestrial who misses his ride home and has to elude capture by the authorities with the help of a young boy. E.T. develops a love for Reeses Pieces as well as the family that helps him find his way home despite having to quite possibly risk their own freedom to do so. A great story with a fantastic moral, this film is easily a kids classic.
Where They Are Now:
Drew Barrymore went on to become a major movie star in films like Poison Ivy, Charlie's Angels and 50 First Dates. Henry Thomas did not achieve Drew's level of fame but has become a well-respected actor with an impressive resume including Suicide Kings, 11:14 and Fire in the Sky. E.T. was last seen heading home but is rumored to possibly be swinging back by Earth to hook up again with Gertie.
Please Note: This film is rated PG for a reason, most notably some rude language and a scene or two that might upset young children. So keep this in mind before watching with really young children.
When bumbling burglars harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) decide to break into the McCallister home while they are away on vacation, they do not expect to find that young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) was accidentally left behind. Despite Harry's steadfast determination and Marv's less assured but devoted desire to help Harry succeed, the two would-be thieves meet their match in the 8-year-old home guardian. While his mother (Catherine O'Hara) fights her way back home to rescue her "helpless" child with the help of polka band member Gus Polinski (John Candy), Kevin outwits the home invaders at every turn with a series of booby traps and healthy dose of childhood sarcasm.
Home Alone is currently the sixth highest grossing comedy of all time, but if adjusted for inflation, it would be number one with a tremendous lead over its nearest competition.
Please Note: This movie is rated PG and though the criminals may very well deserve the things young Kevin does to them, it may still not be something you want your youngest kids to witness.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Though many of today's kids may be more familiar with the Johnny Depp / Tim Burton re-titled remake (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) that film can be a little daunting for some younger children. In this 1971 original, Willy Wonka as portrayed by Gene Wilder comes off as more of a misunderstood childlike eccentric than Depp's pasty-skinned reclusive weirdo. When young Charlie gets a golden ticket and makes it inside the mysterious chocolate factory along with four other youngsters, the adventure begins that will lead the lad to a prize beyond belief. And there can be no better tour guide than Wilder's wacky Wonka to take you on this wonderful trip.
What They Changed in the Remake:
The two Willy Wonka films have a lot in common and really very little was changed other than fancier special effects and some sexual innuendo being thrown in, some of which seems to bring Willy's sexual preferences into question when he declines to talk about a room full of pink sheep. In reality, however, this scene is an inside joke to Depp's starring role in the Ed wood biopic. Wood had a fondness for pink agora sweaters.
Please Note: This film is rated G and is definitely milder than the PG rated Depp / Burton film, but some older children will most likely prefer the edgier new version.
Jumanji is the name of the game in this fantasy flick that features a board game that brings to life the adventure it holds inside its box. Two young children, Peter (Bradley Pierce) and Judy (Kirsten Dunst) find themselves trapped in that adventure along with Alan Parrish (Robin Williams), a man who has been trapped in the game since playing as a child 26 years before. As wild animals rampage through their suburban lives, the kids must finish the game or face the consequences.
Where The Kids Are Now:
This film is considered one of a trto of films that launched the career of Kirsten Dunst with first two being Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles and Little Women. She went on to build a very successful film career that continues to this day. Bradley Pierce never really hit the big time on the big screen but worked fairly steady on television until switching to voice acting and then finally seeming to retire around 2008.
Please Note: This movie is rated PG but overall has very little objectionable content. the PG is for the somewhat intense action scenes and probably a little rough language.
The Never-Ending Story
While Wolfgang Petersen is best known for action filled epics such as Das Boot, Troy and Air Force One, his contribution to kids film was 1984's The Never-Ending Story. In the movie, young Bastian finds himself taken away to a magical realm known as Fantasia by an ancient storybook that makes him an integral part of an amazing story. The boy soon finds that the characters in the story are relying on him to bring their story to a successful conclusion. Will Bastian manage to rise to the challenge and save Fantasia? Well, you probably know the answer to that but the film will still keep the kids in suspense!
Did the Story Ever End?
The Never-Ending Story had two sequels though neither was able to match the thrill of the original. And, of course, somewhere out there, we can be sure Fantasia still thrives.
Please Note: This film is rated PG but only do to the excitement it can generate. Bastian is a worthy hero and a good boy so do not worry -- he is very well-behaved.
The Sanderson sisters -- Winnie (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) -- were witches in Salem, Massachusetts, who sucked the life out of a little girl to regain their youth and turned her brother into an immortal cat. They were hanged for their crimes but Winnie cast a spell to resurrect the sister three hundred years later. When Max (Omri Katz) accidentally brings the three sisters back to life, he joins forces with a friend, a young girl and Thackery, the immortal cat to end the witches' evil reign.
Is It All Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus?
This movie has some great special effects and plenty of flashy visuals, but the main strength of the film is the engaging plot and the antics of the witchy women.
Please Note: There is a lot here for parents to be concerned about including that young girl getting the life sucked out of her by witches, books bound in human skin, bodies rising from the grave and a very flirtatious witch. But it all done a bit tongue-in-cheek and most parents will find little to be concerned about unless the kids are younger that eight or nine.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
When nutty inventor Wayne Szalinski actually succeeds in creating a machine to miniaturize objects, no one expects his creation will accidentally shrink his two kids and a couple of their neighborhood friends. When the tiny children are accidentally thrown out with the trash, they must make their way back to the house through the treacherous jungle of the Szalinski's backyard. What follows is an adventure full of huge thrills and enormous dangers as the kids battle giant insects, brave sprinkler-induced flooding and try to escape lawnmowers the size of several football fields.
Could Kids Survive Being Shrunk?
Well, no, they could not. I do not understand the science of it, but basically they would be unable to breathe or digest food. There is also some theory that there weight would remain the same causing them to sink into the soft lawn. Fortunately, movies allow us to suspend our disbelief, so we can overlook these points and just enjoy the movie.
Please Note: This film gets a PG rating due mainly to the scary giant insects and probably because there is some discussion in the film of problems in the marriage.
Baby's Day Out
This film is about as close to a live action cartoon as you will find. It tells the story of adorable Baby Bink and three inept kidnappers -- Eddie (Joe Mantegna), Norby (Joe Pantoliano) and Veeko (Brian Haley) -- who attempt to abduct and hold the Binkster for ransom. He gets away and makes his way home through the city while the bad guys manage to run into one hilarious calamity after another, outsmarted by the toddler at every turn. It is like Baby Herman from the Roger Rabbit movie and cartoons without the sour disposition.
Why They Say the Movie Flopped:
This movie pretty much bombed at the box office recouping less than half its $48 million budget. The general consensus was that cartoon hi-jinx just do not translate well into live action. I disagree. This movie is a classic!
Please Note: This movie does include a lot of "cartoon violence" so use caution if flaming crotches and falling pianos are cause for concern.
Babe is the story of a piglet who comes to Farmer Hoggett's farm and is soon chosen to be fattened up for Christmas dinner. But Babe soon decides to become a sheepherder and shows such promise that Framer Hoggett begins to train him with hopes of entering the annual sheepherding contest. Despite the disbelief of his wife and the ridicule of his neighbors, Farmer Hoggett and babe turn out to be an unbeatable team.
Will Pork Chops Ever Be the Same?
Babe is such an adorable little pig who comes so close to ending up on the dinner table that you might find it hard to enjoy pork chops, barbeque or bacon for awhile after watching this film.
Please Note: Babe is considered by many to be one of the best kids movies of all time and it is rated G. (Get a feeling there is a "but"?) But there are some things in the film to be concerned about with young children. For one thing, there is a lot of discussion regarding animals being raised for food. Also, Christmas is spoken of as a particularly bad time to be a tasty farm animal. And there is a scene where a sheep is killed by wild dogs.
Casper the Friendly Ghost was one of my favorite non-superhero comic book characters of all time so I was thrilled when they announced a live action movie. I was even more excited when it was announced Christina Ricci who had done such a phenomenal job portraying Wednesday Addams in the Addams Family movie would be starring in Casper. When the movie finally hit the big screen in 1995, it was like I was magically transported back to my childhood as Casper and the Ghostly Trio came to life through the magic of modern cinematography. It is a great story with a fantastic lesson to be learned while featuring ghosts that are creepy yet not scary enough to upset most children. It is the perfect ghost story for the whole family!
How Does It Compare To the Comic?
If you are a fan of the old Harvey comics, you will not be disappointed in this film. It does a great job of portraying the innocence of Casper and the mischievousness of Fatso, Stinky, and Stretch without coming off as dated or unrealistic.
Please Note: Casper is rated PG and this is probably due to the fact that Casper is a boy who becomes a ghost which can be a disturbing topic and death is touched on several times in the movie. Also, the Ghostly Trio are pranksters that may put ideas into your youngsters head and they even take the dad to a bar for drinks.
Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner brought many great films to the big screen and The Goonies is definitely one of their best. In an effort to save their neighborhood from a developer that wants to turn it into a golf course, a group of friends who call themselves The Goonies go on a treasure hunt to find "One-Eyed" Willy's hidden fortune. The kids must take on a family of thieves but find an unexpected friend along the way.
Is This Too Scary For My Child?
The best answer to this question is probably that if all the stuff listed in the "please note" section below does not stop you from letting your child view the movie, then it is not likely to really be frightening to the child.
Please Note: This movie is rated PG and is definitely aimed at older children. Among the things that may be troublesome to some parents are numerous corpses in various states of decay, a young boy stealing peeks up a young girl's skirt, a man who threatens to puree a young boy's fingers and liberal use of mild profanity throughout the film.
Even though I am writing this article as summer rapidly approaches, I thought I would include one Christmas movie just because a little holiday cheer is always a good thing. My favorite kids oriented holiday film is without a doubt 2003's Elf starring Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel and James Caan, not to mention the always incredible Bob Newhart. Directed by Jon Favreau, the film focuses on a human who was raised by elves at the North Pole as one of their own. This elf, Buddy, copmes to the city to find his human father and spread elf cheer along the way. While his father is less than thrilled to have Buddy come into his life, by the end of the film lessons are learned all around and everyone ends up with the most precious Christmas gift of all -- the gift of love.
The Best Part of This Movie:
Zooey Deschanel's shower serenade doing an amazing rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Will Ferrell.
Please Note: As with any Will Ferrell PG rated film, there are probably a few bits that might concern some parents, but overall this film has a very positive message that is suitable for most children except the very youngest.
More by this Author
John Hughes was more than a director, more than a writer, and even more than a legend. No one defined the 80s more thoroughly through films that will forever be remembered by fans.
Leslie Nielsen, though known as a great comedic actor, began his career as a dramatic actor. In all his roles, his skill was unquestionable. This is a look at my personal favorites of his many great characters.
Beauty can be found almost anywhere in nature and that includes the webby world of spiders.