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  • Writer's pictureTracy Tristram

20 classic family films for your next movie night with the kids

Sometimes we just want to stay home, snuggle on the sofa and watch a movie with the kiddos. And while there are tons of new blockbusters to keep us busy with, we think that it's high time we introduced the kids to the films we loved from our own childhood. We're talking classic family films that never get tired, and are perfect for the young AND the young at heart...

1. The Incredible Journey (1963)

classic family films for your next movie night
A pretty pawsome movie, we think.

Sure, in real life it's unlikely that two dogs and a cat would get very far without a fight or without being distracted by something smelly or shiny, and it certainly seems highly implausible that they would make it across an entire country together, but hey, that's Disney magic for you. Follow three furry heroes: Luath the Lab, Bodger the Bull Terrier and Tao the Siamese puss as they set off on, well, an incredible journey.

2. The Neverending Story (1984)

classic family films for your next movie night
Another one of our early crushes: Atreyu!

This epic fantasy journey has everything a classic family film needs: villains, royalty, dragons, strange realms, plagues, destruction and a whole heap of weirdness. Plus it has one of the best movie theme tunes EVER (we challenge you not to be singing it right about... now). The whole story is based on the fact that a kid was told not to do something, so he did it anyway: something we related to as children when we first saw it, and something we definitely relate to now we're parents! Warning: Artax the horse in the swamp... saddest movie moment ever.

3. Jumanji (1995) 

classic family films for your next movie night
We'll stick to Monopoly for our family board game adventures, thanks.

The recent Jumanji reboots are pretty decent, but you can't beat the classic 90's version of Jumanji starring the late but great Robin Williams. Kids will love the tale of a board game that spits out everything from piranha plants to natural disasters, animal stampedes to homicidal hunters. Expect plenty of belly laugh moments along the way.

4. Annie (1982)

classic family films for your next movie night
Prepare to have the soundtrack in your head for days. Weeks, even.

For toe-tapping tunes that will stay with you for years, Annie, the story of an orphan who looks set to make good if she can wriggle free of a bunch of villains on her case, is a deffo a classic that never gets old. If you do fancy a more modern take on the story, try the 2014 remake starring Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, and Quvenzhané Wallis.

5. Star Wars (1977)

classic family films for your next movie night
It was all about Leia and Solo for us: sorry, Luke!

The original Star Wars trilogy may seem a little cheesy these days, but we still love the intergalactic adventures of the first movie. Princess Leia was absolutely one of the best kickass princesses EVER, plus Darth Vader surely has to be one of the stand out villains of all time. Warning: the kids WILL chuckle at the 'special effects'. They were pretty cutting edge in their day, but now? Not so much.

6. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982)

classic family films for your next movie night
Tissues at the ready for this tear jerker.

It might be 40 years since E.T., the cutest alien ever, hit the silver screen (way to make us feel old), but the movie is as charming today as it was four decades ago. Will E.T. make it home? Will Elliot survive? How did mum not notice an alien in her kid's closet? Watch it with your own little cuties to find out. It's a story of single parents, not-quite-fitting-in, innocence lost (and re-found) plus plenty of emotion to make your heart swell and your goosebumps spring regularly into action. Also, you will cry.

Now, if only we could get our own bikes to fly, getting into town would be so much easier...

7. Ghostbusters (1984)

classic family films for your next movie night
Who you gonna call?

This hysterical caper is as funny now as it was back in the 80's and features a bunch of friends battling the ghosts (and the inspector for the Environmental Protection Agency!) of New York. It may be a little too much for very small movie-watchers, but it's all so silly, it's really not scary.

8. Watership Down (1978)

These bunnies have every right to look terrified...

Full disclosure: Despite being an animation, Watership Down is a tad too disturbing for very small tots (and even for some grown-ups!), so use parental powers to veto this one if you have kids likely to be scarred for life by General Woundwort: the most terrifying bunny EVER (even more frightening than Frank from Donnie Darko, we reckon).

Netflix released a four-part, CGI version in 2018 which, while not as good as the original, is, we think, less unnerving!

9. Back the Future (1985)

classic family films for your next movie night
Expect demands from the kids to trade your family car in for a DeLorean.

Even if the kids don't quite get the whole space-time continuum (we still don't), Marty McFly and his time travelling escapades remain one of our all-time classic film faves. If your kids love the first stint (they will) then binge-watch the whole trilogy. Did 2015 actually look like it was supposed to when we saw it in the future, but are now seeing it in the past? Brain ache.

10. The Jungle Book (1967)

Disney's original take on Rudyard Kipling's 1892 novel is a jaunty 78-minutes of musical mayhem, fun characters, retro animation and a feel-good factor that's off the chart. Yes, there's the 2016 live-action remake, which has its own charms, but the 55 year old version still knows how to swing.

11. Home Alone (1990) 

classic family films for your next movie night
Every kid's hero in the 90's: Kevin McAllister!

Cheeky, heartwarming and filled with lots of hilarious twists and turns, when 8-year-old Kevin gets left home alone, instead of calling the police for help, he decides to terrorise a team of hapless, would-be burglars instead. Kevin’s courage and seemingly bottomless bag of tricks make for some hilarious antics and will guarantee plenty of laughs around the living room. It's too good just to save for Christmas.

12. The Goonies (1985)

classic family films for your next movie night
The truffle shuffle... a childhood classic right there.

Made back when kids' films were still allowed to be a tad risque, this film raised a whole generation who shuffled their truffles thanks to a group of utterly lovable friends who go in search of pirate treasure. Starring Cory Feldman, Sean Astin and Josh Brolin, this movie is a little bit Pirates of the Caribbean, a little bit Indiana Jones and a whole lot of caper. We'll never understand why there wasn't a Goonies II!

13. Big (1988)

When 13-year-old Josh Baskin wishes to be bigger via a dodgy looking fortune-telling machine, he's rather surprised to wake up the next morning as a 30-year-old! This Tom Hanks classic never gets old, and is a great reminder to our kiddos that they shouldn't be in such a hurry to grow up!

14. Mary Poppins (1964)

classic family films for your next movie night
Even with soot all over her face, Julie Andrews was sooo pretty!

This musical movie is practically perfect in every way, and is as adorable now as it was back when we were kids and desperately wanted to jump into chalk drawings and end up in magical places. If it's a hit in your house, follow it up with the more recent sequel, Mary Poppins Returns (2018).

15. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

classic family films for your next movie night
Gene Wilder: the best Willy Wonka of all time.

Others have tried, but Gene Wilder's genius performance as Willy Wonka is unbeatable when it comes to Roald Dahl's mad-as-a-hatter candy maker. It's also a good reminder for kids that getting what they want all the time doesn't always pan out so well... An awesome movie that is definitely your golden ticket to a fabulous afternoon on the sofa.

16. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

classic family films for your next movie night
Indiana had that smouldering look thing down to a fine art.

There might be four Indiana Jones movies, but this one is our fave of them all! Harrison Ford is utterly dashing throughout his escapades in India, where he's tracking down an ancient stone for a remote village where all the kids have disappeared. Evil priests, black magic, monkey brains for dinner and his hilarious love interest, Willie, seal the deal in this family fave that never fails to please. The other three films in the series are also well worth a watch to extend the Indiana fun.

17. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

classic family films for your next movie night
That wicked witch still scares us now!

Not just one of the greatest kids' films of all time, but one of the greatest movies ever, full stop! From its kaleidoscopic sets to its iconic score, its scary villains to the amazing 16-year-old Judy Garland as Dorothy, this is a family movie that might be over 80 years-old, but is still as relevant today as it was way back when our grandparents, heck, our great grandparents even, were at its opening in the cinema just two weeks before World War II broke out!

18. A Little Princess (1995)

If you're a fan of the Frances Hodgson Burnett tome, this faithful adaptation by director Alfonso Cuaron (he of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban directing fame) will definitely put a smile on your face. It tells the tale of a wealthy little girl who is sent to boarding school in New York when her dad is sent off to war, and it really is utterly delightful.

19. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

classic family films for your next movie night
Who else sings "Beautiful Briny Sea' every time they get in the water with the kids?

This live-action-animated-hybrid of a magical movie follows wannabe witch, Miss Price, (Angela Lansbury) as she teams up with three cute little evacuees and the head of her witchcraft training correspondence school, Emelius Brown (David Tomlinson) to defeat an invasion by wartime enemies. It's over two hours long, so if you have little fidget pants in da house, it might be wise to watch it in two sessions.

20. The Princess Bride (1987)

classic family films for your next movie night
Whatever happened to Cary Elwes aka everyone's first crush, Westley?

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." If these lines don't transport you straight back to your childhood, did you even have a childhood at all? Ah, The Princess Bride: rollicking sword fights, fairy realms, masked pirates and a kidnapping on the eve of Princess Buttercup's wedding by everyone's first crush - 'farm boy', Westley. Sigh.

Now, go make the popcorn and snuggle up for your classic family film pick!

Like this story? Here are even more ideas for the weeks ahead:

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