Our good friend Adam Landers wanted to know what my favorite live action children’s movies of the 90s and the 80s were. In a previous post, I revealed my Top 5 90s Children’s movies. In my opinion, as great as those 90s movies were, the children’s films of the 80s are far superior. Now, for all of you amazingly above average readers out there, I give you my Top 5 80s Live Action Children’s Movies!
5. Labyrinth (1986)
This British-American classic, superbly directed by the late, great Jim Henson, stands tall above many of the 80s’ greatest films. It is very tough to choose a favorite between this film and 1982’s The Dark Crystal, but David Bowie’s performance as the Goblin King cements it as my obvious choice. A delightful and fantastic script from Terry Jones, along with brilliant creations from Henson, solidify this film as one of the greatest works of children’s fantasy of all time.
4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
I dare you to find a child of the 80s that did not adore this film from blockbuster director Steven Spielberg. Melissa Mathison wrote a very charming screenplay centered around the friendship between an alien stranded on Earth and a lonely boy named Elliot. The humanity that was captured in this film, enhanced by sensational special effects by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren, is rarely equaled in films to this day. Plus, this film helped me, as a young child, develop a slight distrust for the government and an insatiable appetite for Reese’s Pieces.
3. The Goonies (1985)
Chris Columbus is most likely the greatest writer of children’s fantasy that the film industry has ever seen, and his ability is at it’s sharpest with this film. Directed with precision by the great Richard Donner and produced by Steven Spielberg, this movie highlights an amazing story, cast and sense of adventure. This film truly captures the feeling of youthful adventure, when every day felt like an epic undertaking that ended with the perilous setting of the Sun. The cast, featuring Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and Corey Feldmen, lift this movie to the highest heights of children’s cinema.
2. The Monster Squad (1987)
As a child growing up in the 80s, as well as a rabidly fierce Universal Monster fan, I felt like this movie was made just for me. To say that I adored this movie would be a massive understatement, for there was a certain level of worship involved. Fred Dekker and Shane Black, yes, Lethal Weapon’s Shane Black, wrote this horror/comedy/adventure that left me absolutely thrilled and wanting more. Seeing Dracula and the rest of the monsters being battled and defeated by a bunch of kids, who were monster nerds as well, was very inspirational and relatable to me as a six-year-old. I still enjoy this film today and laugh every time it is revealed that the Wolfman does, indeed, have nards.
1. Gremlins (1984)
This is one of my favorite films in the history of cinema. Written by the aforementioned Chris Columbus and directed by the clever Joe Dante, this movie is the perfect balance between horror and children’s fantasy. Incredibly funny and surprisingly scary, this film dominated pop culture for years and spawned a hilarious and satirical Looney Tunes-esque sequel. This tale of a friendship between a small town young man named Billy and a mysterious Mogwai creature, reveals the danger and mischief behind what we may perceive as innocence. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is the perfect icing on this frightfully funny cake!
Children’s films dominated the 80s, a time when more and more families were making regular trips to the theater. This is obviously evident in the talent behind these films. Names like Speilberg, Dante, Columbus, Henson and Donner reveal to us the level of genius that was invested in these pictures. The 80s were the Golden Age of Kid’s Fantasy in film and filmmakers today could learn a lot from these kid-tested, mother-approved moneymaking machines that dominated their time.
As always kiddies, please remember, the government and David Bowie want your alien friends and babies for science and sorcery, Wolfman’s got nards, never feed a Mogwai after midnight and Goonies… Never. Say. Die.
-Rockin’ Robbie Billups