It seems these days that kids are more interested in watching movies and television shows that rely on shock value immediate gratification. The good news is there are plenty of classic films that can broaden any child’s horizons. Many of the selections on this list are based upon books as well-an added bonus for children!
1) The Wizard of Oz
Widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, The Wizard of Oz is beloved around the world. In 1939, when the movie was originally released, it wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, earning just about a million dollars. Still, the film went on to win three Academy Awards and made history as the most watched movie ever, according to the Library of Congress. Children will enjoy Dorothy’s fantastical journey down the Yellow Brick Road with her new friends on their way to the Emerald City. Bright, musical, and memorably ingrained in popular culture, The Wizard of Oz is a special movie that kids will certainly appreciate.
2) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Released in 1971, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a definite classic that kids and adults alike will love. The story is just right for children to help children let their imaginations run free. After all, who wouldn’t love to imagine trying Fizzy Lifting Drinks (in a room without a giant ceiling fan, of course!), taking a bite of Three-Course Dinner Gum, licking fruit-flavored wallpaper, or riding in the magical Wonkavator? The whimsical quality of the art direction and the brilliant performances of the lead actors, specifically Gene Wilder as the titular chocolatier, make this film a must-see for every child (or anyone who is young at heart).
3) Old Yeller
In 1957, Walt Disney Productions released this film adaptation of Fred Gipson’s award-winning novel. Sentimental and well-told, Old Yeller chronicles the story of a poor family and their beloved dog just after the Civil War. The movie is famous for containing one of the most heartbreaking scenes in film history. In fact, I remember the tears that welled up in my eyes as I watched this film as a child, and I doubt I will ever forget that ending scene.
4) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
This groundbreaking movie from 1939 was the very first full-length animated picture in history and the first film to be produced by Walt Disney. Known at the time as “Disney’s Folly” due to the high cost of production and the fact that no one truly believed it would be successful, the movie ended up making four times more money than any other picture that year. Walt Disney even won an Honorary Academy Award for his innovative brilliance. Children will love the infectious musical numbers and lively animation of this true classic.
5) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
E.T. is a more modern classic than the other films on this list, but it still resonates as one of the greatest movies for children of all time. Released in 1982, E.T. is based upon an imaginary alien friend that director Steven Spielberg conjured up as a child. Touching upon the themes of loss and growing up, the movie is full of powerful special effects and enough action and suspense to keep kids interested straight through to the end.
6) Charlotte’s Web
E.B. White’s classic children’s novel comes to life in this 1973 animated feature, presented by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The film follows Wilbur the pig and his barnyard friends, most especially a motherly spider named Charlotte. It is truly difficult to get some of the musical numbers out of your head once you hear them, and the conclusion of the story is both heartwrenching and hopeful.
7) Mary Poppins
Starring Julie Andrews (in an Academy Award winning role) as the effervescent Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke as her larger-than-life friend Bert, this 1964 Disney movie is a dream come true for children who often imagine of leaving their boring lives behind for a world of excitement. Well-known for having a brilliant mix of live action and animation, the film is widely respected and has been re-released several times as part of Walt Disney’s Masterpiece Collection.
8) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Kids will love this lively 1968 story about a magical car that takes an inventor (played by Dick Van Dyke) and his children on a journey that ends up leading them to free an entire village of hidden children. The music numbers are quite memorable, and Dick Van Dyke’s characteristically kooky portrayal of Caractacus Potts is a classic performance.
9) Miracle on 34th Street
This 1947 Academy Award winning film brings a new dimension to the concept of holiday movies. Featuring a young Natalie Wood, the movie considers the authenticity of a Macy’s department store Santa. The American Film Institute lists Miracle on 34th Street as one of the most inspiring films of all time, and children will enjoy watching this movie every Christmas.
10) Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Another Disney movie that combines animation and live action, Bedknobs and Broomsticks stars Angela Lansbury and was released in 1971. The musical aspect and stunning visual effects make this movie a special experience. The idea of searching for a missing part of a magic spell is part of the fun plot that kids will find highly entertaining.
American Film Institute