Kids love monsters. The problem many parents and caretakers face is that kids want to watch gory, graphically violent horror movies, especially when their friends are all talking about Jason, Chucky, Freddy or other horror movie stars. But there are other options for movies that are much more kid-friendly. Here are some movies that feature strange monsters that were made for kids or made in a simpler time when films were more family oriented.
Monsters, Inc. Although just as fun for many adults as for the kids who watch it, this Disney/Pixar film stars the voices of Billy Crystal as Mike and John Goodman as “Sulley,” two lovable monsters who work at a factory which powers an alternate reality monster city by scaring children. When Sulley, considered one of the top scarers, befriends a human child, chaos ensues. Warm and funny, but with lots of monsters, this film is a delight for kids, monster fans, and those who fall into both categories.
Seventh Voyage of Sinbad This stop-action animation classic from producer Charles Schneer and stop-action animation wizard Ray Harryhausen is a genuine classic that stills has the ability to mesmerize both kids and adults alike more than fifty years after its release. The terrific monsters featured in this wonderful film include a cyclops, a dragon, a giant two-headed roc, and more. It’s available on DVD and Blu-Ray and occasionally still show on TV.
King Kong (1933) The classic giant ape movie from Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack is really best remembered for the innovative stop-action animation effects from special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien. The score by Max Steiner is also terrific. Although an old movie in black and white with a slow start, kids of any generation are always amazed once the dinosaurs and Kong himself appear. The second half of the movie is non-stop monster excitement at its best.
Shrek and sequels There have been four Shrek movies to date and each tale of the sympathetic ogre and his talking donkey friend is worth watching. Although some of the humor is more geared to adults than kids, these animated family favorites won’t frighten even the most timid of kids, making them great choices for parents and kids alike.
Scooby Doo (any) A perennial kids favorite since its debut in 1969, the characters of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and the Great Dane Scooby Doo solve mysteries involving every kind of monster, ghost, alien, robot, or creepy crawler that one can imagine. From Pterodactyl ghosts to creepy pirates to spooky robots, Scooby has been an enduring icon of (not too) scary fun for more than forty years.
Wallace and Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit This delightful animated film features a giant garden-devouring menace which threatens the annual local vegetable contest. To reveal any more would be a disservice. The movie took over five years to make and has many jokes for grown-ups that can be easily missed on a first viewing. For example, the sticker in the rear window of Wallace and Gromit’s van reads, “Eat more cheese. Ask me how.”
King Kong vs. Godzilla Actually any of the first fifteen Godzilla movies, known as the Showa series after the 124th emperor of Japan who ruled during the period when Godzilla movies were aimed at family audiences (except for the first one, Gojira, which was more of a commentary on the use of atomic weapons to end WWII.) This was the first of the Godzilla movies to be filmed in color and widescreen. Although there has been a long running controversy over who was supposed to win and whether the ending was changed for American release, this movie has a great appeal for monster fans, or anyone who likes pro wrestling style giant monster battles. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) and Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) are other Showa Godzilla films with a lot of monster action.
Pete’s Dragon This 1977 Disney movie combined live action with animation almost a decade before Roger Rabbit. A great one for giant lizard fans, and who doesn’t love giant lizards?
The Valley of Gwangi This 1969 cowboy versus dinosaur film was produced by Charles Schneer and features animation from the master, Ray Harryhausen, the same team that produced The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (see above), Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, and many more. This story of a captured Allosaurus wreaking havoc after its capture was underappreciated in its time, perhaps due to changing interests and the social upheavals in the late 1960’s. It was originally conceived in the 1930’s by King Kong’s Willis O’Brien as Valley of the Mists, a proposed follow-up to King Kong. Some of the same motifs and concepts were used in The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956), another cowboys versus dinosaurs film.
There are certainly many other fine monster movies that the whole family can enjoy, but hopefully this brief list has given you a starting place. Have fun and don’t let the monsters get you!
Harryhausen, Ray, and Dalton, Tony. Ray Harryhausen, An Animated Life, Aurum Press, 2003
Turner, George E., Price, Michael H., and Harryhausen, Ray, Spawn of Skull Island, Luminary Press, 2002