Live-Action Kids Films

A look back at some of my favorite childhood films
October 13, 2010
I've been struggling with trying to find a good topic for my first Retro Junk article. I know "favorite" lists are a tad unoriginal, but I need something I can feel comfortable writing at length about, so here goes.....

As a kid growing up in the 80's and early 90's, I was always more partial to live-action movies over animated ones. While I did enjoy animated movies, I found it much easier to loose myself in live-action. It's funny when I look back now, I realise that even then I used movies as a form of escapism. Part of me also wanted to be an actor as a kid. I remember fantasising about being on-set with a huge animatronic Falkor, or doing fun stunts like in The Goonies.

So with that being said, here's my list of my favorite live-action kids films (in no particular order):

The Goonies (1985)

What little boy didn't want to go on an awesome adventure with all his friends? The Goonies was like the ultimate fantasy for me as a kid. I also identified with with the characters, being a bit of an outsider myself.

*Note: If you enjoyed The Goonies as much as me, and want a more adult-oriented movie with a similar story and style - check out Stand by Me (if you haven't already).

The Neverending Story (1984)

Another story that I identified with on a personal level, because of its theme of an outsider who learns to overcome his shortcomings, and goes on to save the day. Although ALL the sequels sucked, the original Neverending Story was an imaginative, visual masterpiece.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (1990)

I loooved all things TMNT as a kid, and when the live-action movie came to our small local theater, I lost my mind. Although I left that night a bit disapointed by the dark tone of the film (which was common at the time, but this was even darker than most), I'm thankful for that very same aspect now. The original film is still one of my all time favorites to this day, and still holds up to other adult-oriented feature films based on 80's and 90's cartoons being realsed now like Transformers and G.I. Joe in my opinion.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

I consider the original my favorite of the series now, but The Secret of the Ooze held that distinction as a kid. Although, even back then I was disapointed at the absence of Casey Jones. It's amazing how far the franchise fell in the next few years (which is why TMNT 3 isn't on this list).

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982)

Even as a kid, I looked to the stars believing there was more out there that what we know. And being a kid that believed in aliens, how could I not love a movie about a kid who befriends one? This was also another movie which featured a main character who was about my age, and an outsider.

Ghostbusters (1984)

I don't know if the original Ghostbusters was technically intended as a kids film or not, but what kid growing up back then didn't see it? Want proof? Look at all the kids merchandise and cartoon series that followed. I had a few somewhat morbid fascinations as a kid (ghosts, the classic Universal Monsters, ect.), so Ghostbusters was right up my alley. This is another film that remains one of my favorites to this day.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

Although not as good as the first, Ghostbusters II is still a pretty darn good, and quite under-rated flick. Dr. Janosz Poha is a pretty annoying character, but the movie makes up for it by delving further into the personalities of the Ghostbusters, themselves.

Gremlins (1984)

Like Ghostbusters, I'm not sure if this was originally intended for children, or not. But, like Ghostbusters, what kid growing up at the time didn't see it? The scene with Billy's mother alone in the house as the Gremlins first hatch, accompanied by the Christmas song "Do You Hear What I Hear?", is still one of the creepiest in film history in my opinion.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

Like Ghostbusters II, the sequel to Gremlins was somewhat more "family friendly". Although the movie isn't the greatest, and I find its self-parodying style a bit strange, I still enjoyed it a lot as a kid. I also thought that the "Lightning Gremlin" was cool as hell.

Big (1988)

A movie about another common childhood fantasy - being a grown up. But like most of us once he did grow up, he longed for his youth back. Big was a brilliantly written story, brilliantly brought to life by an emotional preformance from Tom Hanks in one of his first breakout roles. It also features one of the most memorable images of the 1980's - the giant piano scene.

Home Alone (1990)

Although I dispise the sequels, the original Home Alone was great! Yet another film about a common childhood fantasy brought to life - having free reign over your home. And again, also another story of a kid who was an outsider. It's a shame this is one of the last real John Hughes gems we got.

Hook (1991)

So imaginative. So fun. Why Hook was panned by critics and fans alike was, and still is beyond me. Spielberg is a visual genius, and Robin Williams is brilliant at playing venerable charcters, with a child-like innocence.

Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Another very imaginative story about an outsider. This time, he not only befriends an alien - he befriends an alien spaceship that he gets to pilot! So he misses a few years, so what? I would say the same now as I would have then - sign me up!

Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

I loved fellow Canuck Rick Moranis as a kid (and I still do). His cooky characters in movies like Ghostbusters and Honey I Shrunk the Kids made me laugh as much then, as they still do now. This was also another movie that made me think about how much fun it would be to be a part of something like it - to walk through the huge sets, and see the animatronic insects. It would be like going to Disney World everyday! I did get to go to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids attraction at Disney a few years later, which was pretty awesome.

So there you have it, my very first Retro Junk article! I hope you enjoyed this trip into my childhood.
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