9 Old-School Family Flicks to Binge With Your Kids

Photo: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock
Photo: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

One of the joys of parenting has got to be sharing your favourite childhood movies with your kids. There’s no better time to bust out your favourite old-school family flicks than during These Days, particularly since your to-watch list may be feeling a little thin after so many months of binging all the shows. So let us add to your list these nine old-school family movies you’ll enjoy watching with your kids.

A little note: Pre-modern-era family films weren’t always so concerned about, like, not being racist or sexist or homophobic. I’ve done my best to ensure these movies don’t spew any hate in the name of comedy, but movies from the 1990s and earlier were made with a different sensibility in mind. If nothing else, use any cringe-y moments as a conversation starter about why we don’t use xyz awful term anymore.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Image: Walt Disney Productions

Nearly all the Disney animated films of old-schooldom are perfect in their own right, so to keep this from turning into a “Let’s talk about Disney cartoons only,” I’m selecting just one to represent the bunch: Sleeping Beauty, my childhood favourite.

What makes Sleeping Beauty stand out in a wildly worthy crowd? Well, there’s the animation: the luscious forests, the nightmare-inducing dragon, the looming castle. There’s the music — I’d put “Once Upon a Dream” up against any song in any Disney movie. And, the very best thing, the three good fairies. Flora, Fauna and Merryweather could get their own show, and it’d be my favourite thing to watch.

How to watch: Disney+

The Parent Trap (1961)

Image: Walt Disney Productions

Hayley Mills nabs both starring roles in the original The Parent Trap, playing twins Sharon and Susan. Their parents split when they’re babies, and Mum and Dad’s brilliant solution to “Who gets the kids?” is to give each parent one, keeping each sister a secret from the other.

The secret’s out when the girls show up at the same camp one summer, and the sisters decide to swap lives so each can get to know her other parent.

The movie is silly and sweet, ideal for kids of all ages, even all those 18-and-older kids. A happy bonus: Its 1998 remake with Lindsay Lohan in the starring roles is just as fantastic as the original, if you’re looking for a double-feature.

How to watch either: Disney+

The Goonies (1985)

Image: Warner Bros.

A favourite among Offspring’s Facebook group (nominated by at least five parents) is The Goonies, a good old-fashioned adventure flick. Our cast of loveable misfits, including future Academy Award nominees Sean Astin and Josh Brolin, follow a pirate map in the hopes of finding some treasure they can use to pay off the developers who want to knock down all their houses.

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

The Last Dragon (1985)

Image: Delphi III Productions

Be warned: Ridiculousness is about to ensue. The young twenty-something hero of The Last Dragon, Leroy Green, wants to be a Kung Fu master as good as his idol, Bruce Lee (get it … Bruce Lee-roy Green?) One night, Leroy rescues a TV star, Laura Charles, from a slimy businessman. Leroy and Laura fall in love, but Leroy has to keep his girl safe from an evil Harlem gang leader, Sho’nuff.

My husband and his brothers grew up with this movie, and he calls The Last Dragon a fable. The moral of the story? Believe in yourself, little Kung Fu masters. It’s an action-comedy with a sweet, playful, campy heart.

Note: The PG-13 rating is due to language and some sexual innuendo, though there’s little direct talk of sex. There is also some cultural appropriation and racial stereotyping of both Black and Asian people.

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Image: Walt Disney Pictures

True confession: I forgot Flight of the Navigator existed until a parent in the Facebook group suggested it. I found this Beach Boys clip, and everything came rushing back when David, the boy navigator, explains music to Max (hey there, Pee Wee!), the robot personae of a spaceship.

“When you think about it, Flight of the Navigator was the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial of its generation,” writes Kelechi Ehenulo, reviewing its Blu-Ray release last year for VultureHound, an entertainment website and magazine. “(It’s) a family-friendly, sci-fi adventure appealing to our reflective, childhood innocence, ‘bad guys in suits’ scares, good, old-fashioned fun with an alien, and an immediate desire to return home.”

How to watch: Disney+

Sister Act (1992)

Image: Touchstone Pictures

This is still a movie I can’t turn off whenever I flip past it on television. Whoopie Goldburg in Sister Act is Dolores Van Cartier, a lounge singer who witnesses a murder, so she goes undercover at a convent. (You know, that ol’ cliché.) Dolores, now Sister Mary Clarence, finds a way to fit in by taking over the choir, turning a bunch of seemingly tone-deaf nuns into a group that excites and reenergizes its struggling community.

Sure, the movie has its problems. As Nora Whelan writes for Man Repeller, a women-focused website, it becomes the job of Sister Mary Clarence, the lone Black nun, to better the situation of all the white nuns around her. But the good far surpasses the bad. Whelan writes:

For one, it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours. The cast, not entirely surprisingly for a group of nuns, barely seems to think about men at all (except for, to quote Deloris, “The Big JC”) … And while in 2018, the Bechdel test can feel like a pretty low bar, I still struggle to think of any other mainstream movie featuring both a Black woman in the top-billed slot and a supporting cast of middle-aged and significantly older women — meek women, fat women, handsome women, deaf women — who have distinct, non-sexualised personalities of their own.

If you love Sister Act, don’t miss its just-as-good-as-the-original Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, introducing young Lauryn Hill. (If you listen to her 30-second “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” duet with Tanya Blount without being moved, you might be dead inside.)

How to watch: Disney+

Jumanji (1995)

Image: TriStar Pictures

1995’s Jumanji is about a board game come to life. A wee Kirsten Dunst and her little brother have to battle rat-sized mosquitoes, hungry alligators and one of cinema’s most lifelike lions (there’s something to be said for pre-digital puppetry). But they have help: from an adorably neurotic Bonnie Hunt and Robin Williams doing what he does best — making you laugh while he breaks your heart.

(Now, I know 2018’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle doesn’t fit my “old-school” qualifier, but if your family loves the original, this sequel-that’s-not-a-sequel is one of the funniest movies of the last five years. Jack Black should always play a teenage girl, and don’t even get me started on the sweet, nostalgic nod to Williams.)

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Space Jam (1996)

Image: Warner Bros.

In Space Jam, a retired Michael Jordan is kidnapped by Bugs Bunny and friends for a game of five-on-five with a crew of puny aliens. Unfortunately, these puny aliens upped their game by stealing the talent of other 1990s basketball stars like Muggsy Bogues and Patrick Ewing, and now each is the approximate size of a house.

For bonus fun after the flick, pull up its soundtrack and boogie to the Quad City DJs and laugh at Chris Rock singing about his “Basketball Jones” with Barry White. (This gal nearly wore out her Space Jam CD in childhood, thankyouverymuch.)

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Cinderella (1997)

Image: BrownHouse Productions

Scholars can’t agree on how many versions of Cinderella exist around the world — including books and movies, it’s somewhere between 340 and 3,000 — but the 1997 made-for-TV Cinderella starring Brandy as the title character and Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother has got to be one of the best.

When the movie came out, it was lauded for its diversity of cast: a Black Cinderella falling in love with an Filipino prince who has a white father and Black mother (hey there, Whoopie!). And never mind the stunning costumes and gorgeous music (did anyone else dance around singing, “In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be?” when they saw Cinderella the first time? Anyone?)

The movie is a remake of the original Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, from 1957. This was the old-school movie I watched with my mum in the ’80s, with the same songs and similarly luscious costumes. Yeah, it’s considerably whiter — again, 1957 — but if your family digs the 1997 version, you might enjoy its sweet grandmother, too.

How to watch: You’ll need to purchase a copy of the 1997 movie (or watch it on YouTube), but the 1957 is available on Amazon Prime Video.

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