Remember the days when Madonna ruled the airwaves, children clamored for Cabbage Patch Kids and neon scrunchies were all the rage? A simpler time when we all just wanted to be rad and totally awesome? That's right, we're talking about the '80s! In celebration of the 35th anniversary of one of our favorite 1980s films, "The NeverEnding Story," on July 20, 2019, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at our fave kids' movies from the decade. 1984's "The NeverEnding Story" follows a boy who finds a magical book about a young warrior tasked with stopping a dark force called the Nothing from destroying the mystical world of Fantasia. The German fantasy flick, which grossed more than $100 million worldwide, is a must-see! Keep reading for more…
"The Goonies" is arguably the best kids' movie of the '80s. The Steven Spielberg-directed flick, which follows a group of youngsters on a mission to find a long-lost treasure in hopes of saving their home, truly defined a generation. In 2017, the 1985 film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Many consider "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" — which makes our list thanks to its timeless story of friendship — one of the greatest movies of all time. The 1982 Steven Spielberg-directed film follows Elliot, a young boy who befriends an alien stranded on Earth. Elliot and his siblings work to get E.T. back to his home planet, all while avoiding the government. "E.T." — which grossed nearly $800 million on a $10 million budget — was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1994.
Aw, the '80s movie that taught us all about true love! "The Princess Bride" tells the story of farmhand Westley who must rescue his love, Princess Buttercup, from the evil Prince Humperdinck. Along the way, he encounters quite a few fascinating and sometimes mythical characters. The 1987 flick starring Cary Elwes and Robin Wright has adventure, romance, fantasy and more — all contributing to its induction into the National Film Registry in 2016.
One of the most popular and beloved animated films of all time, "The Little Mermaid," hit theaters in 1989. The phenomenal Disney movie follows teen mermaid Ariel, who dreams of becoming human, as she falls and makes sacrifices for land-bound Prince Eric. "The Little Mermaid" is often credited for starting the Disney renaissance era thanks to its critical acclaim, strong storytelling and out-of-this-world vocal numbers. In fact, the movie was so popular that a live-action remake is in the pipeline!
"The Land Before Time" was so entertaining, most kids didn't even notice they were getting an education too! The 1988 film tells the story Littlefoot, a young "Longneck" who is orphaned and must flee famine in search of the Great Valley with his dinosaur friends, Cera, Ducky, Petrie and Spike. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg (he really is the king of the '80s, isn't he?) and George Lucas, "The Land Before Time" spawned 13 direct-to-video sequels, a television series and a heap of merchandise.
"A Christmas Story" is not only a great '80s kids' movie — it's also a great Christmas movie, comedy, family-friendly film and more. The 1983 flick follows Ralphie Parker, a young boy who's busy dodging bullies, bonding with his parents and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a "Red Ryder air rifle." "A Christmas Story" has become so popular over the years that TNT or TBS have aired 24-hour marathons of the film — 12 consecutive airings on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — every year since 1997!
"The Karate Kid" (aka the reason we all begged our parents to take martial arts classes) is one of the best '80s flicks ever. The 1984 film follows Daniel LaRusso, a teenager who learns karate from Mr. Miyagi in order to defend himself and compete in a tournament against his bullies. "The Karate Kid" was not only a critical and commercial success that grossed $91 million but a vehicle that made Ralph Macchio one of the major teen heartthrobs of the decade.
No '80s kids' film list would be complete without "Back to the Future." The sci-fi flick, which was made by Steven Spielberg's production company, is truly one of a kind. Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly, a teenager who accidentally travels back in time from 1985 to 1955 and meets his future parents. Christopher Lloyd co-stars in the film as eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown, inventor of the time-traveling DeLorean car. "Back to Future" was so popular that it became the highest grossing film of 1985, earning $381 million worldwide. It also spawned an entire franchise including two sequels, an animated series, a theme park ride, several video games and comic books and an upcoming stage musical.
Our love of sci-fi continues with 1986's "Flight of the Navigator," an adventure movie classic that all kids enjoyed. The film follows David Freeman, a 12-year-old boy abducted by an alien spaceship who returns eight years later to unravel the mystery. "Flight of the Navigator" was loved by critics and audiences alike who praised the film's special effects, strong performances and family-friendly sci-fi elements.
What's not to love about adorable Fievel Mousekewitz? We couldn't get enough of "An American Tail" back in 1986. The animated film, which was made by — you guessed it — Steven Spielberg's production company follows mouse Fievel and his family as they emigrate from the Imperial Russian territory of Ukraine to the United States seeking freedom. Produced on a $9 million budget, "An American Tail" brought it in a whopping $84 million at the box office.
Years before live-action films dominated our movie screens, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" broke the mold with its live-action/animated storytelling. Set in Hollywood during the late 1940s, the movie follows a private detective who must exonerate cartoon character Roger Rabbit, who's accused of murdering a wealthy businessman. Steven Spielberg executive produced the fun animated flick that went on to win three Academy Awards and gross more than $329 million at the box office. A must-watch!
How endearing was Tom Hanks in 1988's "Big"? We couldn't get enough of his spot-on child-like performance in the film, which follows a young boy who makes a wish "to be big" and is then aged to adulthood overnight. Critics and audiences adored its sweet and funny writing as well its charming performances, which all added up to a $151 million box office gross.
"Gremlins" was definitely one of the most frightening kid-friendly films of the '80s — so much so that the Motion Picture Association of America created the PG-13 rating in response to the movie. The comedy-horror flick tells the story of a young man who's gifted a strange creature as a pet that then spawns other creatures that transform into small, destructive, evil monsters. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, "Gremlins" grossed over $153 million and spawned a sequel, a novel, several toys and video games and an animated TV series set to debut on the streaming service HBO Max in 2020.
Pee-wee Herman was a staple of our childhoods, thanks in part to 1985's "Pee-wee's Big Adventure." The first of two Pee-wee Herman films, "Big Adventure" follows Pee-wee (played by Paul Reubens) as he searches the nation for his bicycle. The movie — Tim Burton's full-length directorial debut — is widely considered a cult classic.
A dark puppet film directed by Jim Henson? Sign us up! "The Dark Crystal" was one of the "Muppets" creator's darkest family films, which of course made kids love it that much more. The 1982 flick tells the story of Jen, an elf-like "Gelfling" on a quest to restore balance to his alien world by repairing a powerful but broken gem. Praised for its plot and characters, "The Dark Crystal" has transformed into a hugely popular cult classic over the years.
"The Fox and the Hound" was a tear-jerker for kids and adults alike. The 1981 Disney film follows a red fox named Tod and a hound dog named Copper, two unlikely pals who struggle to remain friends as their instincts and society's expectations drive them apart. In the end, the two friends realize that they must love each other from afar (how deep is this messaging, guys?!). "The Fox and the Hound" is not as celebrated as many of its Disney counterparts, but it's a film that's not to be missed.
"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" is definitely one of our all-time faves! The 1989 comedy flick follows an inventor who accidentally shrinks his and his next door neighbors' kids and throws them out with the trash. The children must journey through their backyard to return home while fending off insects and other challenges. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" was an unexpected blockbuster back in '89, grossing $222 million worldwide and becoming the highest grossing live-action Disney film ever, a record it held for five years.
"Labyrinth" starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly is a fantasy musical directed by Jim Henson and executive produced by George Lucas! The 1986 film tells the story of a 15-year-old girl on a quest to reach the center of a fantasy maze to rescue brother Toby, whom she wished away to Jareth the Goblin King. The film sadly didn't perform well at the box office but many '80s kids have learned to appreciate it over the years: "Labyrinth" is now considered a cult classic.
"The Secret Of Nimh" is one the best '80s kids' movies thanks to its exquisite animation, character development and dark and mysterious yet charming storytelling. The 1982 flick tells the tale of a widowed mouse who seeks the help of highly intelligent rats to move her children out of their home before a local farmer starts plowing the field. Directed by Don Bluth, "The Secret Of Nimh" brought in more than $14 million at the box office.